If you are like almost everyone we know, you want to save money wherever you can. To help a little, we compiled a list of ways to save money while camping.
Roverpass.com allows you to see and compare prices of several different campgrounds in the area you are camping so you can easily choose the lower priced options. The desktop version is a little more user-friendly, with a map to easily see location of the campgrounds and filters to make sure you get exactly the amenities you are looking for. Although the mobile site isn’t as robust as the full version, it is still a pretty handy tool to have on the road.
America the Beautiful Pass Series
A pass that gives free entry to National Parks and other Federally managed parks and land, the America the Beautiful Pass has several options that can save you money. The best deal by far (at least in my opinion) is the Senior Pass, which only cost $10, does not expire and, in addition to entry to parks, gives a 50% discount on many federally-managed campgrounds and other services that require fees. Other passes vary from free (for active military and 4th grade students) to $80 for general public, but don’t include the discount on camping or other amenities.
More information: www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm
Members of the Route 66 RV Club get a 10% discount at all KOA campgrounds. If you purchased your RV at Camperland of Oklahoma, you received a one year membership at no cost. If you would like to purchase a membership, it is only $24.95. In addition to the 10% discount at all KOAs, you also get discounts on other great services like RV washes by Blue Beacon Truck Wash, car rental from Dollar/Thrifty, discounts at golf courses, and more!
Memberships to campground networks or resorts, the type where you pay a large fee up front and then yearly dues (i.e. Thousand Trails), can save you money but usually only if you spend a LOT of time camping. When considering a membership, be sure to add the initial investment and the yearly dues and then divide it by how many nights you will spend camping in the first two or three years that you own the membership. A good rule of thumb is, if it doesn’t pay for itself in the first few years, its not really a good deal. But if it does, and the discount afterwards will be significant, it may well be worth your investment. But do a lot of research! You need to make sure there are campgrounds where you want to go, and you need to know exactly how much you will be paying. The opinions of current members can be invaluable, and it is pretty easy to find blogs about these types of memberships online.
One way to spend a lot of time, even ALL the time, camping and not go broke, is to work while you camp. There are several programs available for campers. Park hosts get to spend their days and nights in some of the most beautiful parks in the country, exchanging light duty work for free stay and, depending on the arrangement, a paid wage. Amazon offers a seasonal work program for RVers called CamperForce. The work is a little more strenuous but you get paid pretty good wages and you get a free full service RV spot. Some RVers use Amazon to shore up their bank accounts periodically while traveling.
Obviously, the Walmart parking lot isn’t the dream destination on most RVer’s list. But, if you are on a long trip and need a quick sleepover, you can save your cash and catch your Z’s at your local Walmart.
Most Walmart stores will let you park overnight at no charge. Their official policy (as per corporate.walmart.com/frequently-asked-questions) is: While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.
Important Note About How NOT to Save Money
It might seem like a quick, easy, free place to park, but it’s not a good idea to spend the night at a truck stop, and not for reasons you might think. With more trucks on the roads than ever before, big rigs often have a hard time finding a place to park when it’s time to sleep (you can see them lining the shoulders of entrance and exit ramps in many states!). Campgrounds, Walmart parking lots, National Forests, and other options available to RVs are not available to truckers, and it’s simply not fair to use the resources they desperately need. Be considerate to those trying to earn a living and let them have their territory. Unless there are spaces reserved specifically for RVs, don’t sleep at truck stops.
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This article was originally posted here.