Money saving travel tips (for RVing and in general)
So you love to travel but don’t want to pay big bucks in the process? You’re not alone, and its not an impossible task. It just takes some discipline, a thrift mentality, a little thinking outside the normal ‘easy’ way of doing things. Think of your money as a finite resource that you’d like to extend as long as possible, after all when its gone you’re back to work, right? Below are some money saving tips we use (and nothing is made up, we actually have used or are using every single tip or strategy) and hope they can benefit you too.
Get the free “Gas Buddy” app for iPhone or similar smartphone- It tells you the current and lowest prices of all the gas stations near you. Or you can search other (upcoming) city’s along your route. It tells you how far away each one is to you, and can even provide directions to the station. You’ll be surprised how many times we’ve saved 20 or more cents per gallon by being an informed gas shopper.
Get a Credit card that give you money back for every purchase. Mine deposits 2% of my monthly spending into my checking account every month. It might not sound like much but on gas 2% back on a $4 gallon of gas is like saving an additional $.08 per gallon by doing nothing extra.
Skip the gas credit cards or Costco membership fees. The independent smaller stations are everywhere and seem to have the cheapest gas around. At 7-10 mpg it doesn’t make sense to drive all over town for a station you have a credit card or membership card. It will cost you more money in gas spent while driving than if you just make your way to the cheapest nearby gas (from your GasBuddy App of course).
Limit your A/C and generator usage. It eats fuel quick.
Plan you stops/ visits in advance in the order of your general direction of travel. It will keep you from backtracking and going far out of the way. Remember your commuting with your home, not a kia.
Keep your tires at the recommended pressure. Any less and your losing money on reduced fuel economy.
Ask for a free professional driver or RV frequent filler discount card from Pilot/ Flying J truck stop. A regularly $10 dump will now only cost you $3 or $5 respectively. Search ahead of your path for a Pilot/ Flying J on your iPhone map application when you start to get low on water and might need an RV dump.
Use RVdumps.com or Sanidumps.com to search for upcoming dump locations and prices along your route. Use your iPhone browser while you head down the road. Most RV campsites want you to pay their $30-50+ per night to get the benefit of also getting to dump and fill your tanks. Many charge crazy expensive prices to non-staying guests (some don’t allow it at all). Don’t get stuck paying $20+ because you’ve found yourself in the middle of nowhere and have no other choice.
Conserve water! When you run out of water, you lose your freedom, time, and money as you now have to now search for a place to dump and dish out the doe. Rinse dishes sparingly, take fewer/ shorter showers or use external showers whenever possible.
If you have a military ID, many bases have cheap campsites and some allow you to use the dump station for free.
Food & Drinks
Stop buying drinks, just drink free water. We pretty much completely eliminated drinking anything other than water (and alcohol of course:). The savings adds up more than you’d think, especially if you’re the Starbucks type.
Limit Alcohol- This is a difficult one for us and we’ve debated taking it out of our food and drink budget and into our entertainment budget category but regardless its easy to get carried away. Have fun when you’re in an area that has great night life, just be smart because its easy to wake up after a long night out and wonder what happened (especially to your money!)
Make your own drinks before heading out- So here’s a tip every college kid on a budget knows but is way more convenient when you’ve got a fridge with you everywhere you go. Mix up a few drinks and drink them before you hit the town, you’ll buy less (& more expensive) drinks, and save money.
Keep a daily food budget- Without it, you’ll be powerless to say no to all those millions of nice restaurants you’ll be passing while you’re out and about every day. Ours is $25 a day total between the two of us.
Don’t inadvertently pay for a drink with your combo meal at a fast food places. Get water, buy ala carte especially if they have a dollar menu and get just what you want.
Eat/ Drink from the happy hour menu. Usually its a lot cheaper and you can sometimes make a meal out of them.
Eat bigger/ nicer meals at better/ more expensive restaurants at lunch instead of dinner. These places usually have lunch specials or lunch prices that is almost the same as the dinner and for a lot less expensive.
Do the phone satisfaction survey you sometimes find on the back of your receipt. It seriously takes only a few minutes and you get a free meal or something out of it.
Sign up for the local grocery club savings card (you don’t really have to give them your correct info) and use it when buying from an unfamiliar grocery store for the first time. You’re throwing away money if you buy stuff that has a special discount price for members and you don’t take a few minutes to get your card.
Eat where the locals eat. Know that the convenient touristy restaurants you find everywhere in touristy areas are going to charge a premium. Get off the beaten path by asking a local for a recommendation. The food will probably be better and you’ll save money to boot!
Sign up for free players club cards at new casinos you find yourself peaking into. You’ll either get free play money, discounts on their buffets or dining, or even a free buffet. It costs nothing, comes with no obligation, and takes only a few minutes to sign up.
Cook as much as possible (but still go out and enjoy the local places when its warranted). Unlike cars, having a full kitchen wherever you go is a huge money saving advantage. Pulling over to make food rather than searching for restaurants/ fast food is super convenient an will save you money.
Stop at visitors centers & pick up brochures. They usually have lots of coupons to things you may have already been planning on doing (Museums, tours, dinner, etc).
Pick up those free weekly newspapers (you see sometimes outside restaurants). They are full of info on special events and promotions (half off on certain days, happy hour specials, etc)
Check Craigslist & the internet first before buying event/ theme park tickets. You can sometimes find people needing to sell theirs for cheaper (we’ve saved a bunch), but be weary and do your research because there can be counterfeiters.
Read AAA guides for info on which days are free at some museums (or call the museum and ask).
Get an National Parks annual pass ($70), or lifetime pass ($10) if you’re over 65. You’ll save around $20 each time you use it.
Get an season pass if you’re planning on staying in one location at an activity for a while. Check out the Epic Pass if you’re into Skiing/ Snowboarding (unlimited skiing at 8 resorts in CA & CO. Its sick).
Get a AAA membership (or ask a member) and pick up the free state guidebooks and maps. They have a nice guide for every state (well worth the membership if you plan on doing a lot of travel).
Share your phones internet with your laptop rather than buy a separate internet plan. Its called tethering and can be done wired (by connecting it to your laptop with its cable) or wireless (simply hit a button on your phone and it creates a wireless hot spot for your computer to connect to). I use the PDAnet application for my jailbroken iPhone but its available for other phones as well. Saves you $40 or more a month.
Get rid of a phone. You only need one phone in your group because you’re always together. Cancel or suspend you spouses phone and save hundreds of dollars a year.
Use free hotspots when you need to upload a lot (your phones connection doesn’t have great upload speeds. Test the connection speed with the app ‘speedtest.net’ or go to the website and it will test yours). Use the free app ‘Free Wi-Fi finder’ to search for free hotspots near you. You’d be surprised that they are everywhere (McDonalds, Starbucks, Borders, and millions more). I’m at a park in Hollywood, FL right now using the internet we found outside their rec center. O ya, did I fail to mention that you don’t even need to go inside these places to use the wireless internet? Just drive your rig nearby (maybe within 30 yards of the building) and you’ll usually be able to pick the signal up (most don’t even ask for a pwd).
Get an online checking account from an online bank and use any ATM without a surcharge. Mine refunds me for the ATM fee at any ATM. (Slightly outside the communications theme I know, but you’ve got to have reliable internet to use it). Its great to never have to think about searching for you banks ATM.
Don’t pay for a vet visit to get your dogs annual shots. Go to the clinic shot days @ places like Petco. Usually its on Saturday.
Don’t buy specialty dog poop bags (they’re just a bag and are expensive). Grab a bunch from the free ones at parks (you’ll be there a lot walking your dog), save your plastic grocery bags and use them, or buy the cheap sandwich bags.
Don’t pay to park!- I’m not kidding. Park a little further away and walk. We’ve been to 12 states, countless cities, sporting events, but have always (almost) found free parking somewhere (and we’ve got a 34′ RV). Surprisingly its usually somewhere just around the corner in a neighborhood from the paid lots.
Use free camping camping as much as possible (Walmart, nicer neighborhoods, marinas, etc). Why pay $30-$50 to park at a campsite when you have everything you need with you?
Stay at campsites only when you need to recharge (sit in the AC all day or whatever), or at national parks you want to be at (or that don’t have nearby towns outside the park where you can stay for free).