Budgeting Tips for Your RV Trip
The research done on cost comparisons confirms RVing is the most affordable way to vacation and travel. We feel we are getting much more for our money than other means of travel. Since RVs provide transportation, lodging, and capability to prepare your own meals in one package, you control most costs and seldom find hidden surprises. You can go to extreme measures and do what is referred to as “dry dock” or “boon-docking” which is a term used for staying overnight with no hook ups in a Wal-Mart or other similar large parking lot that allows you not only a chance to restock your cupboards and necessity items. Dry docking only requires asking the manager of the location to let them know you plan to stay overnight. Some local government rules and regulations may not allow this, and is not the fault of the local business.
Planning Pays Off
Planning the details of your RV trip in advance is always wise. That way you know the location of quality restaurants, top notch RV parks and campgrounds, and interesting attractions in a given area. You’ll know if there is a special festival or event that you might want to attend. Since northern area parks sometimes close during winter, and attractions’ hours of operation may vary throughout the year, planning ahead ensures that you won’t turn up at a place that’s closed, wasting precious time and money, not to mention disappointing the family.
Norma and I use several websites that help us plan our trip and the stops along the way. We found rvparky.com is a nice app for mobile devices that not only show you campgrounds in the area you are searching, but also gas stations, Wal Marts, and Cracker Barrels on your route to and from your destination.
Most campgrounds have web sites providing descriptions of attractions, accommodations, and restaurants in the area, plus phone numbers of city chambers of commerce. Guides to hunting, fishing, state or national parks, and calendars of events are other freebies. Most states and chambers of commerce will send their official highway map. We call the campgrounds before making reservations to make sure everything will be what we expect. We normally ask questions like how far is it to… and Are there any better days to check in or out to reduce congestion.
While on the road, always stop at the state or park welcome center. You’ll find friendly hosts eager to hand out tons of information. We have found that a lot of them are volunteers who enjoy the same things we do, and work as a volunteer to provide income and enjoy their hobby and lifestyle.
Are you into museums, theaters, natural wonders, wildlife, history, zoos? Do you enjoy industrial tours or attending special events? Let the local park agents know so they can help you plan ahead of time before you even leave home. Contact states and cities a few months ahead of your trip since they usually send material via third class mail.
Another point of concern if your motorhome is large is to find out if there are any roads or highways to avoid for any reason. rvparky.com can also help with this. Several GPS manufacturers have devices specifically designed to take into consideration the size, and height of your motor home and help you avoid short over-passes.
If you’re headed to the national parks and monuments, write to their headquarters several weeks in advance. Advise them what type of activities you prefer such as hiking, camping, wildlife, or listening to ranger talks. Tell them when you’ll visit and request a special events schedule. Ask for brochures on any attraction recommendations they have.
Planning Your Food Budget
The easiest way to save on food on an RV trip is to use your well-equipped galley for at least 75% of your meals. While eating out in restaurants is a necessity when vacationing in a hotel or motel, it can be viewed as a fun “once in a while” treat when taking a RV/camping vacation. Further cost savings options are to purchase cooking supplies from the local discount store, take them from home, or if you vacation near friends or relatives borrowing from them.
If you want to shop smart for your groceries, shop at discount grocery stores or large supermarkets. Convenience stores are just what their name implies -convenient when you run out of something. Their sometimes higher prices are the cost of that convenience. Make a list of what you need to purchase so you don’t waste miles running back to the store for forgotten items.
Everyday common sense prevails when grocery shopping away from home. Most grocery stores run specials and print coupons in newspapers on Thursdays and Sundays. Many markets also have racks of discount coupons. Since stores vary widely in pricing on the same foods in a single area, ask campground management the best stores at which to buy food. Check unit pricing on grocery shelves to see what brand and size is the best deal.
Part of the fun of any RV/camping vacation is picnicking after purchasing fresh foods in season. Local roadside stands sell everything from farm raised fruits and vegetables to honey, syrup, plants, and juices-all at great prices. Many towns have farmers’ markets at least once a week selling delicious home baked goods and fresh produce and meats. In some areas, you can visit farms and pick everything from strawberries to apples. Local chambers of commerce can tell you where these farms are located. Remember to try regional specialties. You can provide a cultural experience for your children if you expose them to some regional foods that they might not otherwise get to try back home.
Even though your family enjoys cooking in your RV galley, or around the campfire, it may be fun to eat out periodically during your vacation. Restaurant prices vary quite a bit throughout North America. Restaurants in small towns often provide the best buys, while providing some real down-home cooking. Resort area prices usually run higher, but can provide more variety in the fine dining class. Midwest restaurants tend to be less expensive than those on the coasts.
If you’re in the right age group, ask for senior citizens’ specials. If you’re travelling with children, many restaurants have children’s menus. Go before five or six to many restaurants, and you’ll discover early bird specials. If your waitress doesn’t volunteer that these exist, just ask.
Fees At RV Parks or Campgrounds
Depending on whether you are tent camping or driving a 48 foot monster towing a dinghy. The range of campground costs can start at $20 a night including water and electric. This rate compares to my experience of staying at what I would call modest hotels at $100 a night or more for hotels/motels in most locations. Remember campground prices vary widely. The higher site fees are found at well-known RV resorts, especially those near major attractions. Usually, the lowest rates are away from the big cities and popular attractions. Campgrounds located close to interstates tend to be more expensive than those a few miles off. But if you’re paying for mileage on your RV rental unit, or buying diesel fuel for your own, consider if the cost of fuel and mileage is worth the difference.
Some of the best ways to budget for your RV/camping vacation is to use Woodall’s Campground Directory or Good Sam’s online trip planner. Plan in advance and compare prices. Even the more pricey RV resorts offer a reasonably-priced vacation when compared with hotels/motels.
Stop before the day gets too late so you can stay at the campground of your choice. If you’re headed for a busy area where you know a special event is taking place, reserve well in advance.
Another well known tip that a lot of RVers use is to stay at Wal Mart parking lots with permission of the store manager of course. This doesn’t provide any amenities such as water or power, but it is convenient and gives you a location to restock and stay overnight for no cost. Security is normally good, and the price is right if you are really just passing through and need a place to stop and sleep. But, be aware that some Wal Mart locations do not allow overnight stays because of city ordinances and is not the fault of Wal Mart.
Planning For Fuel Costs
The amount you spend on gasoline or diesel is another of the major costs for your RV rental vacation. Mileage differs from one type of RV to another. Towing a fold-down camping trailer provides the best miles-per-gallon costs. You’ll spend more on fuel for a motorhome and for the tow vehicle, but there are ways to save money here, too.
When using interstate highways, watch for exits where at least three gasoline stations exist. Competition usually means lower prices. Observe carefully to see if it’s the same price for you to pay cash or use a credit card.
Going 55 MPH saves 8 to 9 percent on gasoline versus travelling at 60 MPH. Avoid stop-and-go driving and idling excessively. Use cruise control except on grades. Plan your trips wisely to avoid back tracking.
Budget For Visiting Attractions
Knowing the price of attractions is one of the areas where you can best control your budget. Use the information you obtained from states and cities or local guidebooks to estimate your costs. If you belong to AAA, obtain their free guidebooks for complete description and prices of many attractions.
You’ll find many free and low cost attractions during your travels and visiting these can save you money, while still providing a good time for the family. Ask campground owners for ideas or check the entertainment section of the local newspaper. Check to see if there are any factory tours. Visit wildlife refuges, state capitols and museums, historical museums and sites, and missions. Sometimes military bases give free tours. Hiking, bicycling, canoeing, fishing, and just relaxing around the campsite can provide fun alternatives to visiting an attraction each and every day. Use the money you have saved by enjoying these simple outdoor activities, and really splurge on one or two of your family’s “must visit” attractions. You’ll enjoy them all the more (especially if you are the keeper of the budget!) when you know you have planned wisely and saved for them.
reference these sites for a lot more useful information :
if you have an androud device – download RV Route & GPS Navigation to have an app that is a “PAY FOR” subscription, but you can pay by the week, month or year. It claims to be helpful for large RV drivers to avoid low bridges, and sharp curves and estimates a slower trip time.
http://www.sanidumps.com/linkscat14.php – search for a dump station, and a lot of links to other helpful RVing information. This page offers links to other RV related sites.