How To: RV On A Budget

Last Updated on August 13, 2021 by Christina

The website has a nifty little calculator that compares the cost of vacations. But it shouldn’t surprise you that RV vacations cost less than if you fly in an airplane, stay in a hotel and rent a car.

For example, according to vacation calculator, the cost of going from Detroit to Traverse City in a travel trailer is $892. In a Class C motorhome the cost is $929. Going by car and staying in a hotel is slightly more at $1,127. But when you fly there, the cost jumps to $3,032.

RV Cost Comparison Infographic


No matter how far you travel when comparing travel by RV vs. car, RVing saves you money in lodging and meals. Simply put, campground fees are a lot less than hotel rates, and eating meals prepared by you vs. those from a restaurant are considerably less expensive.

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association — the folks behind the Go RVing campaign — an RV vacation can cost a family of four up to 59% less than other forms of travel. Extra storage space means saving on equipment rentals, too, as you can bring along the bikes, skis, kayaks, golf clubs, ATVs and more.

So RVing on a budget is made even easier because RVs roll travel, accommodations and meals into one package of double-axle goodness.

But there’s more you can do to make it even cheaper.

  1. You don’t always have to go so far away. Camping is fun no matter where you’re at. Sure, it might be more fun, say, at Ft. Wilderness Resort in Walt Disney World. But the cost of gas for the 1,000-mile trip can be a lot less feasible if you’re looking to go camping often.  Instead, we drive to a nearby campground that’s less than 30 minutes away. It’s clean, the campsites are private and spacious and the s’mores taste just as good as the ones we’ve had on the more elaborate vacations.
  2. Go less frequently and stay longer. The most expensive part of RVing usually is the cost of gas. Tip No. 1 helps you not drive as far. Tip No. 2 helps you not drive as much. Instead of three of four weekend getaways each month, just go camping but stay for a week at a time. You’ll still get the same amount of camping nights into your month, but you won’t be driving as much. Make sure the campground is good enough that you’ll be willing to stay for 7-10 days, though!
  3. Skip the tourist traps. The cost of admission to many tourist attractions can send even the most loving parent to wonder whether little Johnny and Susie really need that over-priced go-kart ride. Fortunately, many campgrounds are adding some of those attractions right on the property. Pools, water slides, miniature golf, even go-karts can now be found right in the campground. Savvy campground owners are even adding scheduled activities and live entertainment, meaning you never even have to leave the campground to have a good time.
  4. Skip the restaurants. As we mentioned earlier, one of the overwhelming ways you save money when RVing is on meals. Instead of a high-priced, small-portion restaurant you get to eat as many s’mores as you wish for a fraction of the cost. Or steaks. Or whatever floats your boat.
  5. Get connected. Camping associations, RV clubs and other similar member-based organizations can be a huge money saver. Membership in clubs like Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA), AmeriGo, Escapees, Passport America, Happy Camper Club and many, many more typically mean discounted camping rates at participating campgrounds. Be sure to read the fine print; membership fees vary greatly.

Some other tips:

  • Drink domestic beer and skip the imports;
  • Cook hot dogs over the campfire and skip the filet mignon;
  • Invest in solar panels for your RV and create your own electricity;
  • Turn off the AC and open the windows;
  • Consider being a Workcamper, they get their campsites for free and get paid to help around the campground.

So there you have it; RVing on a budget. I’m sure there’s plenty more ideas, so leave them in the comments.

See you next week when we talk about “How to Identify Harmful Insects & Plants.”

Rick Kessler

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Great Lakes region. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Facebook, Pinterest and the Gr8LakesCamper blog.