How We Save Money RV'ing | Travel Smarter Not Harder
When Brian and I set out on this journey of full time RV Life, we were somewhat at the mercy of fellow YouTubers who forged a path ahead of us. I’m sure we’ve mentioned in our videos that not only did other YouTubers inspire us to do this, but they were a huge help in providing information as to what we’d need for the rig, for the pets and for us! Having limited resources, we didn’t want to make a huge financial commitment to any clubs, memberships or discount programs until we determined our best style and mode of travel, whether it be RV parks or boondocking or a combination. A year’s now gone by – can you believe it – so we’ve had the opportunity to sit and reflect on what worked, what didn’t and our preferred style and mode of travel. Here’s a list of how it all went down (or up) depending on how you look at it – LOL! Camping Memberships: aka Lodging, RV Park Costs, Camping Fees THE BIG WINNER: - Thousand Trails + Trails Collection* – Cost: $750.00 – SAVED: $1,475 (75 Nights) If interested in a Thousand Trails membership, use this link: and mention ID# R-0314922 We purchased our TT membership in September of 2019 when we knew we’d be heading to the East Coast and more TT locations would be available. We’re so glad we did! We stayed in some awesome locations where we could catch all the blue crab we wanted – right outside our door. Had swaying palms and turquoise beaches as our view and were able to connect with family and friends in a location that had so much activity going on. Yes, there were a few stinkers along the way, but overall, the value we received from our TT membership could NOT be beat. Our advice to you if you’re RV Newbies is to purchase the basic membership and try it out when you’re going to be in locations where parks are plentiful. You may like it, you may not. You may find that boondocking is more your style. We encourage you to try before you buy the big expensive plans unless you KNOW you’ll primarily stay in the parks and in locations where the parks are plentiful. Insider tip: Go to Sunshine Key RV Resort in Florida! Put it on your list and start making reservations now. You won’t be sorry! And while you’re there, check out Bahia Honda State Park – GORGEOUS!! SECOND RUNNER UP: - Passport America – Cost: $44 – SAVED: $461 (25 Nights) Get 50% discount off nightly rates: Mention ID# R-0314922 Passport America is really the first membership we purchased. We attended the 2019 Quartzsite show and they were selling at a special price for Veterans. I think it was something like 2.5 years for the price of one, so how could we pass that up! We didn’t know much about PA, other than what we’d heard on YouTube from others. We’re so glad we bought it and bought it early. PA, if you don’t know, saves you up to 50% on the cost of participating RV parks per night. There are restrictions, but for the most part, we were able to use it when and where we wanted. From the beginning, we used our PA app to locate parks along our route and we spent on average about $20 for full hookups. Now, let’s be honest here, the PA parks are not your typical KOA resort parks. You get a parking space and hookups and many are located near railroad tracks, but the savings and convenience can be huge! We found many PA parks in remote areas or small towns (again, near railroad tracks) and they were great for the one or two nights we used them. Most have laundry facilities, showers, dog runs and play areas for the kids. Brian and I consider this a must-have membership if you’re going to be traveling most of the year. PLEASANT SURPRISE: - National Park Pass/America the Beautiful – Cost: $80 – SAVED: $287 (24 nights + 4 national park entrances) Follow this link to learn more: We call this one a pleasant surprise because we didn’t know a thing about it until a park ranger mentioned it to us. After checking in and paying for our site at an Army Corps of Engineer park, the park ranger asked if we’d like to buy the pass. When he told us our nightly stay would be cut in half, it was a no-brainer! Not only do you get free entry to National Parks (think Grand Canyon), you also may qualify for ½ off your campground stay. Because of this pass, we were turned on to the wonderful world of Army Corps of Engineer parks. If you haven’t stayed in one, seek it out! They’re usually at or near a lake, and are some of the best kept parks we’ve ever stayed at. BEAUTIFUL LOCATIONS: - Harvest Hosts – Cost: $49 – SAVED: $41 (3 nights) Get 15% off with this link: If you’ve ever dreamed of sleeping in a vineyard, waking up with Alpacas or sipping cocktails next to a landing strip, Harvest Hosts is the way to go! You’ll find some of the most unique locations and properties to set up camp for the night. Yes, it’s recommended that you patronize the host by buying a bottle of wine, shopping in their store or whatnot, but you don’t have to go hog-wild. Unless you’re camping on a hog farm – LOL. No seriously! We’ve heard some folks say they wouldn’t buy a HH membership because you don’t save money, but you do! Think of the money you spend at the HH location as an entertainment expense or the cost of something you would purchase anyhow. Look past the small donation and revel in the beauty of the where you are! Brian and I have had some awesome evenings staying at wineries! Best part, we only had to walk a few feet back to our home. Unfortunately for us, we were experiencing engine problems in the latter part of the year and didn’t get to use our HH membership as much as we’d liked. No worries, that’s what this year is for. Once things start opening up, of course. SAVED US MONEY IN A PINCH: - Campendium & The Dyrt Apps – Cost: $0 (but you can upgrade for more benefits) – SAVED: $Unknown Follow these links for more information: or Both Campendium and The Dyrt are camping apps that help you find places to camp. Whether you’re boondocking (dry camping) or looking for an RV park, both helped us out in a pinch several times over the last year. Not only do they include multiple modes of camping, they include reviews from other campers, locations, phone numbers, pictures and more. More than a few times over the course of the year, we arrived at a location only to find it wouldn’t work for us for various reasons (either too tight or unlevel). Our go-to was one of these apps to quickly find an alternative which could be a rest stop, cracker barrel, boondocking spot or another RV park for the night. In some cases, we were able to shop around parks and find one with a more agreeable price range by using these apps. If you don’t have them, you gotta get them! Fuel Savings Programs: aka “Where Can I Find Cheap Gas” This was an area, we researched and researched before heading out last year. We knew gas would be one of our largest expenses and wanted to be sure we took advantage of any discounts out there! We have a gas coach, so this information is only pertinent to gassers. We used three modes of savings last year: Gas Buddy Gas Savings Card: Cost: $ FREE – SAVED: $49 For more information follow this link: and use this code: EEHY6ZH Gas buddy saves you 5 cents per gallon (sometimes higher) at participating gas stations. Some of the exceptions are Sams’s Club and Costco gas stations. The card ties directly to your debit card. That was a little scary for us, but so far no problems. Good Sam Savings Card: Cost: $29 – SAVED: $117 (this includes gas, propane and a couple of RV park discounts we were able to utilize. For more information follow this link: We originally purchased this membership to save money at Camping World (now Gander Outdoor) and found that it was also a fuel savings card. You need to use it at Pilot or Flying J to get the discounts, but it’s been well worth it! We can use it for propane and for some RV parks. Honestly though, we usually look for a Passport America park or ask for a Veteran’s discount which is usually more than Good Sam offers. Sam’s Club Card: Cost: $100 (we have the premier membership) – SAVED: $Unknown For more information follow this link: We had this card prior to our full time RV life and already knew Sam’s Club gas stations sold gas for about 10 cents cheaper than regular stations. When we can, which is not very often, we look for a Sam’s Club station to fill up. If not, we resort to Gas Buddy or Good Sam. Repairs and Maintenance on the Road: aka, “Damn Good Thing We Had This One” SAVED OUR HINEYS: - Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) – Cost: $75, FMCA Roadside Assistance benefit – Cost: $129 – SAVED: $946 For $10 OFF your membership, please use our affiliate link: FMCA is a very reputable organization with tons of valuable information, discounts and support for the RV traveler. Did you know, you don’t need to have a motorhome to be part of FMCA? While we originally bought the standard membership, we thought it would be a good idea to purchase the Roadside Assistance benefit for JUST IN CASE! Well, lucky or unlucky for us, JIC happened before our first year was finished. That’s right, we had an engine problem while in Florida. FMCA’s RA benefit covered the full cost of our towing (65 miles) as well as a portion of our 11 days displaced from our home. It’s an excellent benefit to have and FMCA made the process super easy and comforting. While we don’t expect to have any more engine trouble in the years to come, we still purchased this benefit JIC!! Next up, we plan to utilize the tire discount program this year when Freeda needs new shoes! General Savings Credit Card: aka, “The Card with the Highest Balance” Sam’s Club Reward Mastercard: - Cost: $100 (premier edition) – SAVED: $751 (Cashback on Fuel & all Other) For more information follow this link: This is another area that we researched intensely before hitting the road last year. We knew we wanted a credit card with great cash back rewards for fuel, lodging, food and other expenses on the road. We used this card for just about everything, which made it simple for us to track expenses each month. If we could give you another word of advice, it would be to have and use a card that gives you back cash for the types of purchases you’re going to make. Do your research as there are several out there. This one happened to be the best for us! Membership that DIDN’T save us money! Escapees RV Club Membership: - Cost: $39 – SAVED: $0 For more information follow this link: Mention Lyf Uninterrupted Last but not least is the only membership that didn’t save us money over the last year. Primarily, we didn’t have a chance to use it after purchasing it in December. We had intentions of using it to stay at Escapees parks in AZ, but once we were ready, COVID 19 hit and we just haven’t had a chance. They have several benefits that we haven’t taken advantage of along with a really nice magazine. Perhaps we’ll get to use it in our second year, but this is one membership we’ll probably not renew. FMCA and others just fit the bill for us. Other Ways to Save Money That Aren’t Membership or Program Related Additionally, there are others ways Brian and I look to save money on the road. We love, love, love to boondock and the cost per night for that is ZERO! By researching and changing our medical insurance provider for this year, we plan to cut our monthly premium in half ! Also, we changed our domicile from AZ to SD last June (through Americas Mailbox) and saved thousands of dollars on registration, title and insurance. Thousands! Our overall savings listed below are only for memberships, but we saved a ton over the last year by camping smarter not harder. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on how we cut our medical insurance premium in half! Tally for the Year: Total Cost $1295 for all memberships Total Savings $ 4,086 across all memberships Your results may vary, depending on many factors. This is how we saved money based on our travel style and location. Overall message: Look into memberships and programs that will save you money on the road. There are many out there and depend on where and how you travel. Look at credit cards that will give you cash back. And, before you commit to purchasing a membership or program, be sure to look for discounts. We have several listed in our links above. We hope this information helps you as you sort through all the programs, memberships and discounts available for your camping and RV travels. For additional information and to connect with Brian and I on other platforms, please check out:
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