Have you ever wondered exactly how do people afford full-time RVing? And if cheap RVing is really even possible? An RV living family shares hacks to find budget RV parking to afford the RV lifestyle.
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RV Campgrounds Or Campsites Are A Huge Expense In RV Living
One of the largest expenses in camper life is, by far, camping costs for campgrounds or campsites.
Since your RV fulltime life will be spent finding places to park your RV, this can be an equivalent expense category as a home mortgage or apartment rent.
In fact, without savings and hacks, it’s very possible to spend more than a home mortgage on campground fees alone if you aren’t careful.
Since we sold our family home in 2015 to begin living in an RV full time, we have had months when we were traveling long distances fast that we spent more than our home mortgage.
However, during our 7 years of RV living full-time, our family has learned a lot of tricks and tips to save money on campsites. Keep reading to learn how you can too!
Budget RV Campsites Have Become More Rare
Over the last few years, the prices of campgrounds and almost everything else related to RVing have skyrocketed.
Also, the overuse and abuse of free public land camping areas have led to the destruction of the land and the closing of some areas.
With the explosion in the popularity of RVing and camping, the pricing and availability of cheap RV camping have become more difficult than a few short years ago.
Camping costs don’t have to keep you from your dream of full time RV living. We have plenty of tips to help you find cheap RV parking and affordable RV parks.
So let’s dive into how to save!
Tips To Find Cheap RVing Campsites
With the rising prices of camping, how do people afford full-time RVing? For our family’s budget for full time RV living, it all comes down to saving money on campgrounds.
1) Off-Season Stays Offer Campground Savings
Off-season camping is one of the best ways to save money while RV living full time.
Campgrounds often offer discounted rates during the off-season, typically from November through March, when fewer people are traveling.
The shoulder camping season of late fall and early spring can be the perfect time to save money and also enjoy the place almost all to yourself.
Off-season RV cheap camping can be extremely peaceful and quiet while also offering savings for full-time RV living!
2) Longer Stay Campground Discounts For Cheap RVing
Many campgrounds offer weekly and monthly rates that can be much lower than nightly fees found at other places to park your camper.
Staying at a campground for a month instead of one week could save hundreds of dollars on your RVing budget.
When booking a campsite, always ask to see if there are discounts for longer stays as not every campground offers this, but we have found that most do.
Note that if you stay a month or longer, you often have to pay for metered electricity. Electric is usually included in shorter stays.
As a full time RVing family, we often stay in cheap campsites longer to allow us to both enjoy the area and also to catch up on daily living.
Because yes, there are still, unfortunately, bills to pay, laundry to do, grocery shopping, medical appointments, work, and school when you are living in a camper full time.
3) Choose A Cheaper Destination For Less Expensive Camping
Sometimes the cost of campgrounds varies greatly depending on the location. Campgrounds located in or close to popular tourist areas can be very expensive.
To save a lot on campgrounds for full time camper living, consider choosing a campsite at one of the cheap RV parks farther out of town or pick a cheaper destination to keep costs down.
We have found camping to be very expensive in Florida, Utah, and Colorado during each state’s peak travel season.
To get around this, we have stayed in more rural areas versus closer to town.
You can even find cheap campgrounds in Florida when you stay in more rural areas or in the offseason of summer due to the heat and humidity.
4) Find Free Boondocking Camping Locations
The best way to save money living the RV lifestyle is to use free camping locations during your travels.
Boondocking, or dry camping, on BLM (Bureau Of Land Management) and national forest land is available for free in most parts of the United States.
In Canada, there is also free federal land available for camping and recreation. This land is called Crown Land and is great for frugal camping.
Note that a permit is required for non-Canadian citizens to stay overnight on Crown Land. In Canada, boondocking is often called freedom camping.
This type of camping requires no hookups, and there are often very few amenities available which is why it is referred to as dry camping.
As a bonus to the savings, many boondocking locations offer a great view and more space to spread out.
These free camping spots are simply the best full time RV living savings.
When boondocking on public lands, you need to be aware of the local rules and regulations, as well as any applicable fire bans. In some areas, a free permit is required.
If you are looking for free camping for full time RVers, there are many resources available online that can help you locate public lands with boondocking sites.
Allstays and Campendium are great websites that can help you find more information.
5) Use Free Overnight Parking Areas
When you are en route to your next destination and need a quick overnight somewhere to sleep, consider free overnight parking areas.
Some common businesses that allow RVers to park for free overnight include Walmart, Cabellas, Cracker Barrel, casinos, and some rest stops.
These locations offer free overnight parking lot camping. This is dry camping with no hookups but can be a great way for people full time RVing to save money and rest.
Apps like Campendium can help you find free overnight locations, but it is important to look for signs in the parking lot and to verify permission with the manager.
Not all locations allow overnight parking, and you don’t want to get a knock on your door in the middle of the night telling you to leave!
You may be wondering what on earth moochdocking is?
Moochdocking is a slang term RVers use for parking in a friend’s or family member’s driveway or on their land.
It can be a great way to pop in for a visit when RVing full-time around the country while also saving money on camping fees at the same time.
Always make sure your RV can fit before deciding to moochdock at a friend’s or family’s house. You don’t want to tear something up in the process.
7) Cheap Campsites With Electric Hook-Up
What if you want to save money camping but want to stay in a campground? Or stay with partial or full campsite hookups and utilities?
The most expensive campgrounds are often privately owned campgrounds and camping resorts. But there are many other options for cheap RV camping!
Cheap RV campgrounds include COE (Corps Of Engineers), state parks, national parks, fairgrounds, county parks, city parks, equestrian parks, and regional parks.
These cheap RV sites not only offer more savings than private campgrounds, but they also often have larger campsites and a more natural setting.
8) Free Farm Or Ranch Camping
Many farmers, ranchers, and other landowners offer free or low-cost camping spots for RV travelers in exchange for a few hours of work.
This can be a great opportunity for cheap or free short camping stays on private land. It can also sometimes include perks like free produce or honey.
You can find these opportunities through Boondockers Welcome, as well as through online Facebook groups dedicated to RVers, or camp host jobs.
9) Free Seasonal Campsite In Exchange For Workamping
For a longer free seasonal stay with campsite hookups, consider a work camping position.
A workamper spends a season helping out at a campground in exchange for a free campsite or a cheap campsite. Some positions are also paid.
A work camper can also be referred to as a camp host or working camping. It is a great hack for how to camp cheap!
These camping jobs are some of the most popular work for RVers because you can live and work in the same spot while you travel.
If you find yourself needing to slow down your travels for a season, needing to earn a little bit of money, or simply looking for a nice free campsite with hookups, then work camping jobs may be a perfect fit for you!
10) Camping Discount Cards Or Programs
Prefer to stay in campgrounds with full hookups but also want to save money?
A great way to find cheap places to camp at privately owned campgrounds is through discount programs.
Not everyone is a boondocker, and even if you are, sometimes you just want some amenities like a swimming pool or planned activities.
This is when having a camping discount card, or program comes in handy to stay in inexpensive RV parks.
Our favorite camping discount program is Passport America. Not only is it extremely cheap per year to get this discount card, but you can save 50% on campground costs!
Passport America campgrounds are located across the US, and the savings usually pay for the discount card with just one visit.
Good Sam Membership
Another campground savings program is Good Sam. Good Sam Campgrounds or Good Sam RV Parks save 10% on stays.
The card also offers gas savings and savings at Camping World.
For RVers that enjoy staying at campgrounds in the KOA chain, getting a KOA membership or discount card saves 10% on camping stays.
The KOA membership cost is low, and the savings often cover it on just one camping stay. The program is good for a year.
Other Discounts For Cheap Campgrounds
Some campgrounds also offer discounts to Veterans and AAA members.
11) Campground Memberships Or RV Memberships
Looking for further discount opportunities on campsites? For full-time RVing, campground memberships can be an investment that really pays with savings over time.
Harvest Hosts is an annual camping membership program that has become extremely popular in the last couple of years.
There are Harvest Host locations now all across the US, and more locations are being added all the time.
Harvest Host members can stay at participating farms, wineries, breweries, golf courses, and other businesses as part of the membership.
There is no overnight cost when using this membership, but it is encouraged to buy something from the business during your stay.
Boondockers Welcome is a similar annual camping membership to Harvest Hosts. In fact, they are now owned by the same company.
The difference with Boondockers Welcome is that businesses and individuals can open their private land to RVers for an overnight stay.
These campsites are often dry camping on farmland, and some of them even let you stay longer.
Others even allow an exchange of the campsite for helping out around the farm for a longer stay. This is a cheapest way to camp.
Coast To Coast And Resort Parks International (RPI) Memberships
These more expensive buy-in memberships have RV resorts across the country, and many of them are only $10 a night for members to stay 7-14 nights.
These cheap camping sites often have great amenities like pools and tennis or pickleball courts.
The disadvantage to these memberships is that it has an expensive upfront cost to purchase and also annual dues to maintain the membership.
Think of these memberships as the same as a timeshare or camping club for RVing. You own the membership and need to sell it if you are done using it.
Thousand Trails Membership
Thousand Trails is a very popular membership option for living in an RV. The savings can be big over time for those that use the membership frequently.
Thousand Trails campgrounds are located all across the country for RV members to use.
An annual zone pass is an inexpensive way to try out Thousand Trails with only a 1-year commitment. This pass is good for any Thousand Trails campground in one area or zone of the country.
Alternatively, you can buy into and own nationwide 1000 Trails memberships that are also like a timeshare for RVing.
These nationwide memberships are good at any Thousand Trails camp ground, and you can add on an additional program to include many Encore properties.
The purchase price for the nationwide Thousand Trails memberships is very expensive. There are also annual dues to maintain the membership.
It is possible to buy a used membership to save. Or if you purchase from Thousand Trails, it is possible to finance the membership.
Once you own it, you can camp for free at most of their locations for 2-4 weeks each stay, depending on the membership. This is a great cheap camping hack!
During our family’s years of RV living, we have used Passport America, RPI, and Thousand Trails the most to save money on RV camping.
FAQs How Do People Afford Full-Time RVing?
Can You Save Money Full Time RVing?
Yes, you can save money full time RVing depending on how you travel. By staying in each place longer, traveling shorter distances, boondocking, and eating at home, you can save while enjoying the RV lifestyle.
Is An RV A Good Investment To Live In?
An RV can be a good investment to live in if you consider the travel experiences. The RV itself will depreciate quickly, but RV living is an investment in memories, freedom, and time spent together.
Is A RV Cheaper Than A House?
An RV can be cheaper than a house, depending on your RV lifestyle. Being stationary in an RV is cheaper than traveling. It is also possible to RV travel full-time and save money versus living in a traditional home.
What Is A Good Budget For Full Time RV Living?
A good budget for full time RV living is $3,000 to $5,000 per month. The cost of RV living varies depending on your family size, how often you travel, and what types of places you stay.
Which Of These Ideas For Cheap RVing Campgrounds Will You Use For Savings?
I hope this post helps you to see how you can save money while living in an RV full-time. Campgrounds may be one of the biggest RV living expense categories, but with these tips, you can save enough to make this dream a reality!