The Best Ways to Save Big Time on RV Camping Costs

Updated on February 15, 2018
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who understands that my life and my safety depend on the condition of the equipment in my coach.

If you travel a great deal in your RV and want to find the best ways to save a good deal of money on your camping costs, there are many methods you can use to do so.

Although many campgrounds have significantly increased their prices in recent years, anybody who wants to take the time to do some research (and perhaps make a few small sacrifices) can significantly reduce what they pay to camp.

  1. For those who want all the bells and gongs, reducing prices is going to be random and much more difficult.
  2. However, for those who want clean, decent facilities that offer the basics, it is much easier.

My husband and I have been using sound money-saving methods for years.

For example, as recently as a month ago, we stayed in a gorgeous campground and paid $11 per night, while many other people visiting the same area were paying as much as $45 per night.

Over a one-month period, that added up to a savings of more than $1,000!

To get that deal, we used our National Parks Pass and were willing to use a dump station instead of having a sewer hookup at our site. We thought the small sacrifice we made was well worth the money we saved!

Proven strategies that will help you to save money on camping fees when RVing
Proven strategies that will help you to save money on camping fees when RVing | Source

Saving Strategies That Work!

Effective methods you can use to reduce what you pay to camp include but are not limited to

  1. using a good campground guide,
  2. negotiating site prices with facility owners,
  3. joining a good discount camping club,
  4. buying and using National Park Passes,
  5. staying in casino RV parks,
  6. camping in fairground facilities where permitted,
  7. staying at full hookup parks that charge little or nothing,
  8. visiting friend's homes,
  9. avoiding big cities and popular events,
  10. traveling off season,
  11. researching special deals and
  12. camping in one park for long periods of time.

While you may not want to use all of these techniques, using just one or two of them will still save you plenty.

Although there will be times when you cannot avoid paying full price for a campsite, you can use these methods to cost average what you pay to offset the higher fees.

For example, if you must pay $40 for one night, but spend the next three nights camping for free, your 4 day average is $10 per night!

1. Using a Good Campground Guide

My husband and I always use our Good Sam Travel Guide to help us contact and negotiate with campground managers before we leave home so that we know exactly how much we'll have to pay once we arrive.

We also use it to help us

  1. research the areas we plan to visit,
  2. compare the prices of various campgrounds,
  3. look at the amenities each one offers, and
  4. then choose two or three we would like to visit.

Their phone numbers are in this book, so we make some calls and make it a point to speak with the owner, not a clerk.

We tell him or her our plans, that we are looking for a deal and then ask if he or she is willing to give us a better price if we stay longer. We always make it clear to not give us a better price will be a deal breaker.

The beauty of the Good Sam Travel Guide is that it puts you in a good position to negotiate. Using it only costs you a phone call, which is much easier than driving all day to get to a park with the hopes that the manager will be amenable to your request.

2017 Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide (Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide: The Must-Have RV Travel)
2017 Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide (Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide: The Must-Have RV Travel)

This guide costs less than similar ones but provides as much if not more information that helps people to have successful RV camping and travel experiences.

 

2. Negotiating Prices

Many park owners are willing to offer lower prices in return for longer stays.

If you go to the Black Hills, for example, you will pay an average of $40 per night in season. However, at some parks, for a one month stay you will spend only $400. This is a savings of $26.67 per night!

Even if you only want to stay for a week, most places will still give you your seventh night for free.

Much depends on who you are talking to and how much they are hurting for business, but a polite request usually results in a less expensive campsite.

They may say no, but it never hurts to ask. Often this is all you have to do to save some money.

3. Joining a Good Discount Camping Club

Those who join the right camping club can easily reduce their fees by half. However, not all are equal.

Reviews of the Most Popular Camping Clubs tells you which ones will save you the most money.

The club I like best is Passport America.

  • For $44 per year you get to stay at your choice of 1900 member parks around the US that will cut their fees in half in most cases.
  • They also offer deals. I just signed up for an 18 month membership for what I would normally pay for only one year.

The majority of their parks are well located, and many actually are the same ones that more expensive clubs offer.

However, as with other clubs, they have limitations, so always read the fine print before you decide to join.

Using National Park Passes cuts camping costs significantly.
Using National Park Passes cuts camping costs significantly. | Source

4. Buying National Park Passes

National Park camping has become expensive because most facilities charge entrance as well as camping fees plus the cost of using showers and laundry facilities. Fishing licenses there are also extremely costly.

If you plan to visit several different parks during the course of one year, you can purchase a park pass that will

  • eliminate entrance fees,
  • cut camping costs in half,
  • can be used at every National Park in the US and
  • may also be honored by a few states, such as Arkansas.

If you are disabled, these passes cost nothing and never have to be renewed. If you are over 65, you'll pay $10 for one year. Those under 65 will pay $80.

RVing in the Four Most Popular National Parks provides further information on this topic.

*Some state parks, such as those in Arkansas and Florida, either honor national park passes or offer similar deals, so it pays to contact them.

5. Staying In Casino Campgrounds

Casinocamper.com provides information about gaming venues around the country that offer reduced price or free sites.

Some only offer areas where people can dry camp while others offer full hookups and terrific amenities. None require visitors to enter their gaming areas other than to ask permission to stay on their property.

These facilities are very safe because they have 24/7 security. Usually they are well maintained and set up so that campers are housed away from the buildings.

One of the best ones is located in El Reno, Oklahoma. They have ten free full hookup, 50 amp sites that are located on the far edge of their huge parking lot. Beyond the camping area there is nothing but prairie.

If your coach has a washer and dryer, this is a great spot to rest up and do the laundry before continuing on your journey.

6. Using Fairground Facilities

Most small towns usually have fairgrounds that rarely are used but do have hookups. Many allow overnight camping at very reasonable prices, and some are even free.

Ask the locals for information about using these facilities, as some do not want strangers camping on their land!

There are many free campgrounds with hookups in the US
There are many free campgrounds with hookups in the US | Source

7. Staying at Friends' Homes

One of the nice things about traveling in an RV is that you can often park it in the driveway of a friend’s home for a few days and hook into their electricity.

This way, you and they have privacy, but can enjoy quality time together.

You can cook meals for them, visit together in your coach or even take them on short trips in the local area.

Give them a gift or some cash when you leave to make up for the electric you’ve used and save yourself some money! They’ll be happy and so will you!

8. Staying At Free Campgrounds

Most people already know that there are a number of places around the country where people can dry camp for free and happily do so to save money, but would you believe me if I told you that there are also numerous places in the US, with hookups, where you can park your recreational vehicle for free as well?

The truth is that there are, but you need to know their locations.

Taking the time to learn this information is one of the secrets that helps you to reduce what you pay to camp while still having all of the comforts you love!

Freecampsites.net and freecampgrounds.com are good resources for finding spots that are free or cost $10 or less.

Here are some I personally have visited at various times for which I paid nothing unless I wanted to leave a donation. You can find many of them listed in camping guides, but some internet research will provide the same results for you.

  • Santa Fe City Park, Chanute, Kansas,
  • Waylon Jennings RV Park, Littlefield, TX,
  • Lewis Park, Wheatland, WY,
  • Municipal Park, Torrington, WY,
  • Lions Park, Vermillion, SD,
  • Holiday Inn, Ely, NV and
  • City Park, Medicine Lodge, Kansas.

Each of these parks is unique, all have hookups and are located close to town. Most allow at least one night of free camping, but some let people stay for as long as four days.

You can also purchase a copy of Don Wrights highly popular Guide to Free and low Cost Campgrounds. My husband and I have used this little book for years because it is concise, easy to read and is full of great money saving information about inexpensive campgrounds. There are other similar books, but we have found that this one is the most complete and easiest to use.

They only have a small number of sites (the largest being 30), but all are beautiful and safe places to camp.

The Albuquerque Balloon fiesta is popular, but campgrounds in that town double their prices when this activity takes place every year.
The Albuquerque Balloon fiesta is popular, but campgrounds in that town double their prices when this activity takes place every year. | Source

9. Avoiding Big Cities and Special Events

If you really want to save some money, avoid camping in or near big cities and avoid special events like the plague.

The more populated a city or the more popular an event, the more campgrounds charge.

A better choice is to stay at simple and reasonably priced campgrounds that have either partial or full hookups and are located in small towns that are a step away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.

Camping in them will help you to avoid crowds and avoid the need for reservations.

They usually are peaceful, quiet and have play areas available for children. Many also offer opportunities for fishing, hiking and visiting lesser known places of interest.

For example, one we stayed in was located right across the street from the original Laura Ingalls Wilder home and museum.

10. Traveling Off Season

Most people crowd the roads and parks during the summer season because this is when children are out of school.

It is also when all vendors charge more for their services and products.

Therefore, you can significantly reduce your camping costs if you travel just before the end of school or just after it begins.

September and October are very popular travel months for certain venues, but if you avoid them, you’ll be fine.

11. Researching Deals

As noted above, if you want to get good deals, you have to search them out. You’ll find many simply by visiting the websites of parks you think you’d like to visit.

For example, the RV Park at the Coushatta Casino used to advertise 5 free nights if you stayed for five nights. This deal was advertised on their website as well as in the Good Sam Travel Guide.

Also, parks that sell sites often give free nights to prospective buyers. You can find these by doing an internet search for “campsites for sale” and name the state.

We once had a free week of camping in Las Vegas by taking advantage of by doing this!

12. Camping Longer in One Spot

Most people don't realize that the longer they stay in one camping facility, the more money they'll save and the more they'll be able to vacation.

If you can get a deal to stay in a park for $15 per night for one month instead of paying $35 per night average cost when you are moving around, your savings will be high enough to pay for a second month of camping!

Furthermore, you won't be paying for gasoline for that month's travels because you won't be driving your coach!

Usually you get the best deal if you stay a month but each park has its own guidelines, so always be sure to ask before you pay up.

If you’ve got plenty of time for travel and fun, pick a spot that offers many different types of activities, good weather and fine dining.

Do this, and you'll save money and have fun doing it!

The farther away you are from big cities and popular tourist areas, the less you pay to camp.
The farther away you are from big cities and popular tourist areas, the less you pay to camp. | Source

Save and Enjoy

Saving money does not necessarily mean that you have to sacrifice anything. It simply means that you need to take the time to do your homework and plan well.

You can save big on RV camping if you do this and will soon find that your efforts will be worthwhile.

Happy Trails!

Robinson Flat Campground: A Free Camping Spot

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Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Sondra Rochelle

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    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 3 years ago from USA

      phdast7: Answer soon...I have a lot to share with you and want you to have the info before you firm up your plans.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub. So informative, as always. I will answer your email about Alaska. Trying to finish a book chapter right now. :)

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 3 years ago from USA

      tillsontitan: Yes, it has gotten expensive, but I just wrote an article that compares RV travel with other forms of vacationing and according to the experts, it still is a less expensive way to go. From what I have heard, campgrounds in Alaska still are quite reasonable...but the cost of getting there is huge! Nice to see you again!

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 3 years ago from USA

      pstraubie48: Keep those angels coming! I also live in Florida, so maybe we're neighbors??? I hope you get to fulfill your dream because RV travel is really something quite special. You should take a peek at a few of my travel hubs to get a "taste" of it. Thanks for the up vote, but especially for the angels...I am always in need of them!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Great information. People used to camp because it was cheap but as you've pointed out that may not be the case anymore. We camped with a tent, except for Alaska where we rented an RV, and found state campgrounds were always cheaper. Of course that was many years ago so your information is more up-to-date.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 3 years ago from sunny Florida

      This is such helpful information to have. One dream I have is to own an RV so I can travel more and see places that I long to visit.

      No doubt many will be delighted to read of your suggestions.

      Sharing and voting up++++

      Angels are once again on the way to you this morning ps

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 3 years ago from USA

      MsDee I've used many of them...saved a ton of dough!

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 3 years ago from Texas, USA

      A big help to know about the free campgrounds site!

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 5 years ago from USA

      mperrottet: You need to look into getting a membership with Passport America. It's cheap to join and they have 1800 campgrounds nationwide at which you can stay for half price!

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 5 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      With the cost of private campgrounds being so high, we try to limit our stays there. We recently bought a generator, and tried it out for the first time by staying in a Walmart parking lot on the way down to Huntington Beach, SC. It worked out great, and we saved ourselves at least $35.00 - probably more by not staying at a private campground. We primarily stay at state or federal parks - you get so much more for your money, and they are all relatively cheap, although some of them are getting out of hand. Good info - voted up and very useful!

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 6 years ago from USA

      Enlydia Listener: It's amazing how willing people are to pay huge sums to camp when you can do so cheaply or for free in great spots that have many amenities. I've been doing this for years and just love it!

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 6 years ago from trailer in the country

      Hi Timetraveler, this was great information...and I am going to save it. Thanks for renewing my interest in the gypsy life. Blessings.

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 6 years ago from USA

      Believe it or not, we have good friends here (Florida) who are from New Zealand! Small world, huh? Best of luck to you and I hope the info from the article helps you out. There should be many opportunities there for all kinds of work, just as there are here. Please let me know how it works out for you and thanks so much for reading my article! I'll be sure to tell my friends here that we "met".

    • Bungy Bill profile image

      Bungy Bill 6 years ago from Hanmer Springs New Zealand

      Great Hub. My wife and I are hoping to join the Grey Nomads"after the sale of our property and I don't doubt the situation in New Zealand is no different to your own. Having farmed all our lives we are fortunate that we have farming friends around most of the Country & we will be visiting and camping with them a good bit of the time. There is also the possibility of casual work while traveling and camping which does help the budget!!

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 6 years ago from USA

      I sincerely hope these ideas will help you. There is no question that if you do it right, living in an RV and seeking inexpensive camping can make life a lot better for those on limited incomes. Good luck and thanks for reading my hub.

    • profile image

      Sea 6 years ago

      I will try some of your suggestions how that I am retired and living on a limited income.

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 6 years ago from USA

      I didn't used to think RV's were "camping" either...until I took my first trip in one. Good grief...what a difference it was from "the old ways". A lot easier on the back, too! Thanks for reading, the kudos and the sharing.

    • DougBerry profile image

      DougBerry 6 years ago from Abilene, TX

      Congratulations on your HubNugget nomination: https://hubpages.com/sports...

      When I was a kid we only went tent camping. RVs weren't viewed as camping. If you didn't have a rock under your spine, it wasn't real.

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
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      Sondra Rochelle 6 years ago from USA

      You're doing well at those rates, but check out some of the sites I mentioned and you can do better. I have camped for free in places that were NICE and have full hookups and 50 am electric. They're out there, but you do have to do some research to find them. Thanks for reading my article!

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      For years, I have gone camping at a BLM lake to camp. No charge, no amenities, no ranger. It is perfect. I can swim, fish, canoe, and nobody bothers me. Except the occasional cow, there are longhorns grazing there and some are short tempered. Most of the time they stay away from humans but one was rubbing on my sister's tent and knocked it down, with her sleeping in it. LOL

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