Apr 132011

With fuel prices reaching record heights, I am hearing from a lot of RVers who are wondering if they can continue to travel, or who are cutting back on their travels until prices level out. Well, believe it or not, there’s good news, and there’s more good news!

The first bit of good news is that the market cannot sustain the current inflated prices for long. After climbing steadily for weeks now, we may be seeing some relief. Yesterday, oil prices were down slightly, in the wake of a warning to investors by the International Energy Agency that recent high prices have hurt global demand for energy. Worried that they might get caught holding the bag for their greed, speculators may be going into a conservative mode, which would lead to reductions in oil prices.

While we cannot control oil prices, the second bit of good news is that there are plenty of ways for RVers to cut expenses and offset higher costs at the pump. One of the easiest ways is to reduce our nightly camping costs. If you are looking for a cheap place to go and a great destination then you may want to check out campsites in france. Here are ten ways you can save money on your overnight camping fees, and put those dollars into your fuel tank.

1. Free Campgrounds – There are hundreds of free campgrounds from coast to coast, and border to border. These include small town city parks and county parks. There are also many that only charge $5 to $10 a night. You can find these listed in resources such as Don Wright’s Guide to Free Campgrounds (East and West Coast editions), the Days End directory available through the Escapees RV Club, websites such as FreeCampgrounds.com and Free Campsites, and our own Guide To Free Campgrounds and Overnight Parking Spots, available for $8.95 from our Gypsy Journal RV Bookstore 

2. Fairgrounds Camping – Fairgrounds in large cities and small towns offer many low cost camping opportunities. Many have full hookup RV sites, dump stations, and other amenities. We publish the RVers Guide to Fairgrounds Camping, available for $7.50 from our Gypsy Journal RV Bookstore.  

3. Discount Camping Clubs – Organizations such as Passport America, Recreation USA, and Camp Club USA offer many low cost camping options. Passport America is the oldest and largest, and we have been members since before we became fulltime RVers.

4. Casinos – Many casinos offer RVers free overnight parking, others have low cost RV parks, and some offer both. We have spent many nights in casinos over the years, and saved a bundle. Two good resources are our RVers Guide To Casino Camping, available for $6.95 from our Gypsy Journal RV Bookstore, and the excellent Casino Camper website.   

5. Elks, Moose, VFW – If you belong to any of these fine organizations, you will find overnight parking available at lodges and posts across the nation.

6. Corps of Engineers Campgrounds – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates some beautiful campgrounds on rivers and other bodies of water, with very affordable camping fees. 

7. National Parks Passes – If you are over age 62, or have a medically determined handicap, you can get a free or low cost lifetime pass from the National Park Service that will get you discounts on camping and access to National Parks, Historic Sites and other properties administered by the National Park Service.

8. Used Campground Memberships – While a new membership to one of the big nationwide membership campground plans can cost thousands of dollars, there are many people who want to get out from under their annual dues, and will sell their membership for pennies on the dollar, or even give it away. We got our nationwide Thousand Trails/Naco membership for free, and our $500 annual dues entitles us to 50 nights of camping annually. Any nights over 50 cost us $5/night.

9. RV Friendly Businesses – RV friendly companies such as WalMart, Cracker Barrel, and Flying J allow RVers to park free overnight at locations nationwide. Staying in a parking lot just a night or two a week while on the road can more than make up for increased prices at the RV fuel island.

10. Boondocking – There are millions of acres of publicly owned land nationwide, much of it administered by the Bureau of Land Management. We have spent many nights boondocking on BLM and state lands, especially in the West.

So there you have it, ten ways to save $20, $30, or more a night. It only takes a night or two to save enough money to lessen the impact of oil prices on your pocketbook. So quit worrying and get out there and enjoy your travels!

Thought For The Day – Adventure is not the road we travel, it’s the obstacles we overcome.

Click Here To Register For Our Eastern Gypsy Gathering Rally!

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  9 Responses to “10 Ways To Cut Camping Costs”

  1. Just a note to your blog, if you know which WalMart that you want to stay at, call ahead to make sure that they allow overnight camping. I have run into a number of them that don’t allow it due to that city ordinances. So, we avoid that city and stop at another. Not good planning by the city councils, they just lost my business.

    Excellent blog, Nick!

  2. Another way to cut RVing/camping expense is staying in for all but one meal a week. The average meal out can easily equal a night in a in a full service campground or several nights in a Forest Service, COE or discount camping park.

  3. First, we calculate our budget by gas prices of $5 per gallon and that we only get 7mpg, which we always get more than 8mpg, leaving us a cushion. But, we would rather boondock which we really do not like to do, but we would do that if it meant we could continue traveling.

    People look for any excuse to use for not traveling or not doing what they claim to love doing. If you truly love something, you will find a way to do it no matter what. As for us, we love to travel and we hardly ever stay anywhere for any extended time and we have been telling anyone who will listen the same things you have said in your blog. Maybe folks will listen to you or maybe they are just looking for excuses or something to gripe about!

  4. When we started part-timing 10 years ago we stayed in commercial campgrounds as fuel prices increased we took advantage of free/inexpensive alternative more and more. On our most recent trip to avoid the snow we were away 74 days and spent $216 on campgrounds,16 nights, it would have been only $126 but we splurged at the end an spent 2 nights in Lancaster PA. Only 10 nights were on blacktop. One alternative not mentioned is driveway camping at friends/relatives.

  5. Another good guide to free parking is http://www.overnightrvparking.com/

  6. Nick, you are correct on every one of your 10 ways. However (and there is always a however!) COE’s hardly exist in the west, and those that are here cannot accept verhicles of any size at all; there are few small city parks in the west as compared to the neat ones we have seen in mid-America; the Thousand Trails, Coast-to-Coast, AOR, etc. parks are not usually where we are going along the backroads. So we DO rely heavily on Passport, CCUSA, etc. We need to try more Casino and Fairground camping, but again, those are few and far between on our backroads travels. And our Day’s End is several years old — gotta get me a new one of those!

  7. The news isn’t too bad. But I would like to warn anyone thinking about the casino
    campground (resort) Pechanga in Temecula, CA. The daily rate is $42.50 plus
    $5 for each dog. Thank goodness Jojoba Hills is only 17 miles away.

  8. Great list Nick … and great blog too !
    Another couple resources we are aware of that weren’t mentioned here are:

    (1) http://harvesthosts.com – Wineries & family farms that offer overnight parking – $30 annual membership to harvesthosts provides you a list of locations.

    (2) http://www.frugal-rv-travel.com/ -a Candian couple who spend 6 months a year traveling the US write a wonderful blog. They prefer shunpiking (backroads vs. turnpikes) and enjoy more natural sites vs. paved, fenced off spaces in a resort.

    (3) http://wheelingit.wordpress.com – this couple have REALLY captured our attention recently and have some AMAZING pictures of their RV travels. They too prefer State Parks and more rural, natural settings to a paved parking lot. Nina rates the parks, the sites, and could easily earn a living as a travel writer/photgrapher.

    TIP: On my word processor I keep a list of places to see that are on our bucket list (by state). An excel spreadsheet could be a good resource also. My point is to make a written note of the places & contacts that interest US so we can access them easily. It’s bit difficult to drag around ALL the books & resources that are available to RVers nowadays. Extra weight = less fuel economy … but it sure is nice to have all the references provided by the explorers who have walked the path before us ! Thanks ya’ll …. we’re right behind ya 🙂

  9. Very helpful information!

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