As a full-time RVer, you’re familiar with the costs of living life on the road—you’re subject to a roller coaster of costs, with prices of food, gas, and gear changing as you travel from one place to the next. Most notably, eating on the road can get expensive. It’s tempting to opt for the convenience of diners and fast food while road tripping, but eating out adds up very quickly. Save money on your trip by shopping smart when it comes to food.
Saving on Gas
Naturally, gas is one of the biggest expenses when you own a home on wheels. You need enough fuel to get you where you want to go, but that fuel always comes at a cost. One of the best ways to save on fuel from the get-go is to choose the most fuel-efficient coach for your needs. The smaller, lighter, and newer an RV is, the more miles you’ll squeeze out of every gallon.
It’s not too late to save on gas after you’ve already bought your RV. Plan your travel routes carefully, choosing the most fuel-friendly byways. Taking a “scenic route” over a busy toll road may mean fewer rest stops or lower speed limits, but it will often save you money on both gas and tolls.
If you have Internet access, use helpful fuel comparison websites like GasBuddy.com.
Save on Groceries
Before you stop at the closest grocery store for food—which is especially easy to do when you wait until the last minute—do a little research. Most grocery stores post their weekly ads online, so it’s easy to compare prices across the board.
While store prices will vary from one region to another, a thorough analysis by CouponBox found that Aldi is typically the best choice for savings, with 34 percent in average monthly savings, with Walmart coming in second at 14 percent monthly savings. Look for Aldi stores along your route and plan stops accordingly.
Remember some of the most common budget grocery tips as well, such as buying in bulk. Luckily, bulk items such as grains, nuts and seeds aren’t too heavy and take up minimal room, so you can get more without losing space. If you buy from bulk bins, don’t forget to transfer your bulk buys to the appropriate containers before hitting the road.
Save on Attractions
When traveling, it’s tempting to check out every theme park, resort, and tourist attraction you pass by. Unfortunately, most of these are expensive and will quickly take a toll on your bank account.
Instead, splurge sparingly on attractions with hefty admission fees and look for affordable or cheap tourist destinations to sprinkle throughout your route. National and State Parks are always inexpensive and give you an opportunity to walk around while taking in the location. Save even more by purchasing an annual National Park Service instead of paying for admission each time.
When you run out of “fun money,” there’s plenty to see for free. Many local tourist spots and roadside attractions can be viewed for free and are so unique you can’t find anything like it elsewhere—Check out this list of strange and awesome roadside attractions to see which ones you can stop for.
Save on Fees
Paying to park your RV every night can add up quickly. While they may not make for the most breathtaking sunrises, many rest stops and chain stores like Walmart and Camping World allow RVs to stay in their parking lots for free. Don’t forget to reach out to those distant uncles and second cousins; they’re likely happy to catch up, and donate their driveway for the evening.
When parking lots and driveways just won’t cut it, be thoughtful about which parks and campgrounds to stop at. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management administers huge areas of natural land across the nation, and they’re very welcoming to RVers. You can stay for 14 consecutive days at any BLM site for no charge; after two weeks, you’re simply required to move to a different spot at least 25 miles away.
Save on Maintenance
Just like with any car, a home on wheels is bound to have issues every now and again, and it can get expensive to take your RV into the shop for every little problem.
That’s why it’s well worth the time and investment to learn to do some basic repairs and maintenance yourself. Many community colleges and career centers offer beginner automotive classes to the public at relatively low costs and they’ll equip you with the most basic skills you need to keep your RV running smoothly. Don’t forget to get a good toolkit and keep it well stocked with traditional and RV-specific tools and items. Check out this list to build your RV toolbox.
As a regular RV-er, you’ve likely already discovered some great ways to save on the road. Hopefully these can be valuable additions to your savings arsenal so you can enjoy life on the road without shelling out more than your bank account can handle.
BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is a former editor for Active Outdoors. She grew up camping in the Northeast and now enjoys weekends under the stars with her husband in the Southwest. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.