Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t travel. That being said, here are some tips to follow to save money on your next camping trip.
10. Ask About Discounts
Many campgrounds offer discounts, and they’ll sometimes list them on their website. But, if you want to know about all the discounts they offer, the best thing to do is to call them and ask. Common discounts include Good Sam, Passport America, AAA, military, weekday and seasonal, weekly and monthly, Hutzpa, and membership club.
FUN FACT: The Hutzpa Discount, a.k.a. the “nice guy” discount, is when you negotiate with the park manager to get a better deal. Believe it or not, this technique works quite often–but only if the park isn’t close to being fully booked.
9. Don’t Travel During Peak Hours
If you travel during the middle of the week–on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday–you’ll fare better when it comes to fuel efficiency. There’s less traffic on these days of the week, so you’re less likely to encounter gridlock, which means you’ll be able to save on gas. Here’s another tip: Don’t plan your trip during the summer months. This will also help you save on travel costs as summer (spring, too) brings higher gasoline demand, which brings higher gas prices.
8. Find Free Parking
You probably didn’t know it, but Walmart and other big box retailers let RVers stay in their parking lots overnight. There are some etiquette rules you need to follow, though. These include, first and foremost, asking permission to stay overnight, staying only ONE night, parking in the outer reaches of the parking lot, and patronizing the store.
Here’s another option you probably didn’t know about: Some cities allow RVers to park overnight on the street. A word of caution: Make sure you research the applicable laws in the area so you don’t end up being forced to move your vehicle in the middle of the night.
Lastly, something else you could do is use a subscription service like Boondockers Welcome to find free overnight RV parking on private property.
7. Work or Volunteer at a Campground
Did you know that both public and private campgrounds will waive your camping fee in exchange for you working for them? You’ll typically be responsible for maintaining and running the campground via groundskeeping and janitorial work. Plus, you’ll likely need to put in about 20 hours of work a week. But, you’ll get paid for it plus you’ll get to camp for free. You can visit the Workamping Jobs website to look for opportunities.
National Parks also offer opportunities for free camping. These include the artist-in-residence program, which invites artists of all kinds–painters, sculptors, photographers, writers, musicians, etc.–to stay in the parks. In return, these artists agree to conduct workshops, demonstrations, readings, and such; the trails volunteer program, which encourages volunteers to visit (anywhere from a few days to several weeks) the parks and help protect their trail systems; and research volunteer opportunities, which give volunteers the chance to track wildlife, count visitors to patrol trails, and more. Unfortunately, the research volunteer opportunities don’t come with free housing, so if you choose this option, make sure you volunteer at a park near your home.
6. Consider Staying Close to Home
Speaking of volunteering at a park near your home, you should also consider camping at a park close to your home. This will help you save on gas since you won’t have to travel as far. Still, if you really have your heart set on a certain park that’s further away, plug the campground location into Google Maps to find out what the trip distance is. After that, use a free trip cost calculator like Calculator.net that will let you enter the trip distance, the fuel efficiency of your vehicle and the current cost of gas to figure out how much the entire trip will cost.
5. Order a Subscription Box
If you go camping on a regular basis, you’re going to need to make sure your gear is in tip-top shape. And, that may mean needing to spend cash to replace worn out gear. That being the case, do yourself a favor and order a subscription box of outdoor gear. For a monthly or annual fee, you’ll get a package shipped to your door once a month. This package can include things like manuals, survival tools, tactical belts, backpacks, tents, watches, hiking essentials, flashlights, paracords, skin care items, and even food.
4. Pack Light
For those of you who don’t want to order a subscription box, Tom Lionvale, a backpacking instructor and adjunct faculty member at College of the Sequoias in California, told NerdWallet that campers should travel light. After all, the less gear you purchase means the less money you’ll have to spend. You could also “borrow your equipment or rent your equipment because maybe you won’t like it after the first trip and then you’re stuck with all of that,” he added.
3. Make Your Own Meals
Travel blogger Alison Turner said on Great American Country’s website that when she’s on the road, she cooks all of her own meals. “When I say ‘cook,’ it’s usually what I can add hot water to or heat up… so I eat oatmeal, soup or anything I can make with water.”
“Speaking of water, this is another essential I don’t like to pay for. I have a few gallon containers in the van that I fill up whenever there is a faucet somewhere. You don’t need to pay for water or eating out. This will save you money for more important things, like a shower every now and then,” Turner added.
2. Tell Others About Your Plans
That’s the advice Turner gives on GreatAmericanCountry.com. When you tell them what you’re planning to do, “I guarantee that people will want to support you by offering a hot shower or a place to sleep,” Turner said. Travel blogger and Airstream enthusiast Sigfried Trent agrees. “My wife and I sometimes stay at the homes of friends and family while we travel in our RV,” he said in an article published on Outdoorsy.com. “We don’t do it often as our 30′ Airstream doesn’t fit in many driveways, but when it does, it’s a great way to visit people.”
1. Consider Carpooling
Another reason why you should tell others about your camping plans is because you just may find someone who’s looking to do the same. And, if that’s the case, you can carpool. You’ll save money on gas, tolls, and wear-and-tear on your vehicle. According to Explore Magazine, there’s another reason why you should carpool: When camping at a pay-use site, you’ll only have to pay for one vehicle. “BC Parks, for example, charges a 50 percent premium for an extra vehicle… [Instead] stuff as many buddies as you legally can into one vehicle—even extra-person fees will be peanuts compared to an extra vehicle fee,” the magazine wrote in an article published on its website.
What do you do to save money on camping? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!