As someone who travels very frequently — I spent about a quarter of 2017 on the road — I find myself answering the same question over and over again:
How do you afford it?
And it’s true, traveling isn’t the cheapest hobby in the world. From fuel to food to accommodations, it costs money to get where you’re going. But if you save up a travel budget and learn how to spend it wisely, it’s totally possible to see the world without blowing your savings account.
And for RVers and road trekkers like us, a frugal adventure is even more accessible. With baller discount clubs like Passport America, affordable rentals available through the peer-to-peer market, and the opportunity to boondock on public lands, there are all sorts of ways to make your camping road trip a budget friendly mode of travel… not to mention one of the most convenient, comfortable cheap vacation ideas you can imagine.
So if you’ve been dreaming of the wide-open highway, read on. We’re going to show you how affordable it can be to take on even the most epic road trip.
Road Trip Expenses
So, what are the main costs associated with travel in the first place? By figuring out which line items take the biggest chunk out of your travel budget, you can find better ways to minimize them and save your cash.
No matter how you’re planning to get where you’re going, the most expensive part of travel is usually putting a roof over your head at your destination — even a modest hotel room can easily run you $100 or more per night. Other big expenses include airfare or fuel, food, and sightseeing.
So, how does RVing give you the chance to save on all those costs and more? Glad you asked!
Cost of an RV Road Trip
Whether you’re planning a quick weekend getaway or a summer-long, cross country family road trip, traveling by RV can be a serious boon to your budget. For one thing, you won’t have to worry about shelling out exorbitant hotel room fees every night… or figuring out which of your options is the least likely to have bed bugs.
RVs also give you the opportunity to save money by making your own meals at home, exploring low-cost but high-fun areas like National Parks, and camping off the grid — which has the added advantage of getting you offline, outdoors, and reconnected to nature.
Of course, there are costs associated with the RV itself, whether you rent or purchase. However, you can find amazing RV rental deals on a variety of comfortable, unique rigs on RVshare, no matter where in the country you’re headed. And if you’re in the market to purchase, well, the money you spend on your RV will easily pay for itself in all the incredible adventures it’ll provide you!
How to Road Trip on a Budget
Looking for specific ways to save money on the road? Here are some of our best suggestions.
1. Take it slow.
Trust me, I get it. It’s easy to get carried away with your road atlas and decide you’re going to see everything there is to see.
But if you take your time and explore fewer destinations, you’ll get to more fully relax and enjoy the journey — and you might save some serious cash, too.
That’s because many campgrounds offer discounts to campers who stay for longer periods of time, like a week instead of a weekend. The same goes for your actual rental vehicle; you might save up to 50% on the daily rental rate by keeping the rig for longer.
Combine that with the half-off campsite you’ll get with your Passport America membership, and you’re looking at a seriously cheap stay… and a more complete experience of your destination.
2. Buy cheap fuel.
When you’re RVing, your gas budget might be one of the biggest expenses for your road trip. Motorhomes are wonderful, but they’re not exactly known for being the most fuel-efficient beasts on the road!
Fortunately, modern technology makes it downright easy to be as frugal as possible when it’s time to fill ‘er up. Just download an app like GasBuddy to see the most affordable options in the area — and go the extra mile to get there. When your rig only gets 8-10 miles to the gallon, every spare cent counts!
If you drive a vehicle that requires diesel fuel or need to fill your propane tank, an RV-specific GPS or navigation system can help you find a station that has what you need pronto. If you’re not ready to invest in a device like the Garmin RV 770 NA LMT-S, consider a smartphone app like CoPilot. Whether you use Android or Apple, you can download it onto your existing technology — and at less than $60, you save big!
3. Plan ahead.
Obviously, spontaneity is a huge part of what makes road tripping so attractive. If you decide to take that intriguing-looking left turn at the last minute, nothing’s stopping you.
But it can be helpful to your road trip budget if you’re a little bit of a planner. For instance, if you know you’re going to hit multiple National Parks, you can save cash by purchasing an annual pass, which will get you into all of them for just $80 — Yellowstone alone is $30, for context. (Psst: Don’t forget to have a ranger stamp your National Park passport at each stop!)
Having a sense of your itinerary also allows you to reserve campgrounds ahead of time, which is important if you want to take advantage of your Passport America discount. Here are some other resources that will help you get organized (and excited!):
- 2018 Rand McNally Road Atlas
- Your Guide to the National Parks: The Complete Guide to all 59 National Parks
- Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting
- The Most Scenic Drives in America, Newly Revised and Updated: 120 Spectacular Road Trips
- Road Trip Planner: Vacation Planner & Travel Journal
The Great American Road Trip on a Budget
We hope this post has helped you realize that travel on a budget is completely achievable — not to mention 100% worth it. Enjoy the journey!
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