How to Save a Small Fortune on Your Camping Costs
If you travel a great deal in your RV but want to find ways to save money on your camping costs, there are at least 8 strategies you can use that will easily save you hundreds of dollars on every vacation you take.
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.
My husband and I have been using sound money saving methods for years.
For example, as recently as a month ago, my husband and I 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 adds 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!
Effetive methods you can use to reduce what you pay to camp include but are not limited to
- negotiating for a campsite,
- joining a good discount camping club,
- buying and using National Park Passes,
- staying in casino RV parks,
- camping in fairground facilities where permitted,
- staying in free campgrounds,
- visiting friend's homes and
- avoiding big cities and popular events.
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!
Negotiate for a Lower Price
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!
- If you only want to stay for a week, most places will still give you your seventh night for free.
- If you are willing to travel off season, you can pay even less. All you have to do is ask!
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.
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.
You should use them to
- research the areas you plan to visit,
- compare the prices of various campgrounds,
- look at the amenities each one offers, and
- then choose two or three you would like to visit.
Their phone numbers are in this book, so make some calls and be sure you speak with the owner, not a clerk.
Tell him or her your plans, that you are looking for a deal and then ask if he is willing to give you one if you stay longer. Be sure to let him know that to not give you 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.
This guide costs far less than others and provides just as much, if not more, relevant travel information. You do not need to be a member of Good Sam Club to purchase it.
Join 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.
Buy 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.
Stay 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.
Use 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!
Stay 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!
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.
They only have a small number of sites (the largest being 30), but all are beautiful and safe places to camp.
Avoid Big Cities
The entire United States is peppered with small, simple and reasonably priced campgrounds. Each has its own aura and serves its own purpose, and many have either partial or full hookups.
If you are simply looking for a place to stop and rest for a day or two, these places are for you. There will be no crowds and no need for reservations. They are peaceful, quiet spots located in small towns that are a step away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities.
If you have children, most of them have play areas available for them, and some offer opportunities for fishing an hiking.
Put Yourself in the Financial Driver's Seat
How to Estimate the Cost of Your Your RV Trips lets you see how using the types of facilities I've mentioned here can save you money.
You can do this! Just remember that because you're on wheels, you are in the financial driver's seat!
Use these methods for reducing your camping fees so that you can have longer, more enjoyable vacations, just like the ones my husband and I enjoy.
Robinson Flat Campground: A Free Camping Spot
Would you be more likely to try RV travel if you knew how to find lower cost camping facilities
© 2012 TIMETRAVELER2