Campground costs don't have to drain your RVing budget. These cost cutting tips show you how to save money on camping fees while staying at nice campgrounds and RV parks, even luxury resorts.
One of the big ways to save is by work camping. Many RVers think of work camping as a way to get a free RV parking site. You help around the campground, and in turn, you get to stay there and use the campground facilities without writing a check or handing over your credit card. In reality, you are paying, because you are bartering your time for the RV site, utilities, or whatever other benefits you receive. Still, if you are willing to commit to staying in one place for an extended period, this may be a good option for you.
Related to this is doing other work that includes a campsite as part of the compensation. Selling advertising for one of the companies that does the campground maps is one example. While you are preparing the map and selling ads for it, you stay free at the park. Another example is working for Amazon.com during their peak seasons, for an hourly wage, and receiving a free campground site, as well. Some temporary workers, such as travel nurses, receive a paid RV site as part of their contract.
Work camping may be the best way to make staying at luxury resorts feasible for the economy minded RVer. It requires time and effort on your part. It requires that you commit and give up some of your travel freedom. But, how else can the average RVer stay at resorts that cost over $1000 a month, without taking a dime from his budget?
There are other ways to save on your campground costs, ways that don't involve employment.
RV parks often give discounts to RVers who pay by the week, month, or season. A few have annual rates. You can sometimes pay to stay for a month, leave after two weeks, and still save money over what you would have by paying the daily rate.
Clubs offer discounts. Along with camping and travel club members, members of other organizations can receive discounts. With some campgrounds and some clubs, it is as easy as mentioning you are a club member. Most ask to see your club membership card. Some have numerous rules and stipulations. Before checking in to a campground, ask what club discounts they offer. Camping clubs can also be good for discounts on propane, gasoline, diesel fuel, camping supplies, and various other goods and services RVers use. With many clubs, the discount ranges from 10 to 20 percent off the regular rates. That savings adds up.
Clubs specifically designed to give campground discounts, though, may offer discounts of 50 percent or more. These deep discount clubs advertise half-price camping, $10 a night camping, or pay for one night and get the next night free camping. The annual membership fees for these can be surprisingly reasonable. They are only a good deal if they have parks where you will use them.
A caveat to club memberships: Beware of those that have high buy-in costs, annual maintenance fees, or other excessive charges. Some clubs require you buy into a home park and pay related expenses. These clubs may save you money in the long run, if you use them a great deal, but that is a big "if." If you are going to recap a several thousand dollar initial investment, you are going to need to stay in those parks many nights.
Another way to cut your campground cost is to stay at parks that have the amenities you use. This may mean staying at a barebones, basic park. If you aren't going to use the swimming pool, attend the nightly entertainment, or take part in the daily planned activities, there may be no reason to stay at a park with all those amenities. On the other hand, if intend to golf, you may save money staying at a campground that includes use of the golf course. If you are a fisherman, you may save by staying at a campground with a private lake that doesn't require an out of state fishing license, or that includes use of the boat dock.
If you don't need a full-service, full-hook up RV site, why pay for one? Look for campgrounds that have tiered rates, based on what utility hook-ups and amenities you use.
A higher priced site may be the best deal for you, if you use what comes with it. If it includes cable TV and your family watches a lot of television for entertainment, that could be a savings. If you need an Internet connection and the park offers free wi-fi, so you don't need to spend time and money to find it elsewhere, that can be a savings. If you are a heavy user of electrical appliances -- water heater, refrigerator, clothes washer and dryer, air conditioners, ice makers, extensive electronic equipment, electric cooktops -- you'll benefit by having electricity included in your flat RV site rate.
If your rig is self-contained and you don't need or use campground utilities, you can save by staying at parks with tiered rates. Choose a site with only what you need. A dry camping site can cost less than half of the price of a FHU site.
If you are conservative with your electrical use, you can save considerable amounts by staying at campgrounds that meter your electrical use and charge you only for the kilowatts you use.
A campground directory is an easy way to find a campground. It may not be the best way to find a low cost campground. Many of the smaller parks do not pay to advertise in campground guides. They instead rely on word of mouth and online listings, passing the savings on to RVers in the form of lower campsite rates. Network with friends and ask for campground referrals and recommendations when shopping elsewhere in the community.
If you are lucky or diligent, you may be able to combine two or more of these campground cost saving techniques. As you spend more time on the road, you'll figure out which ones work best for you. You'll likely find that you save the most by using a variety of these cost cutting tips, depending on where and how you are RVing.
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