Wingin' It!, Episode 68
Video: How To Save Money On Campsites | Wingin' It!
As full-time RVers, we have to have a place to park our RV every night. Camping fees can add up quickly when you're camping every day. But even when we were part-time RVers, we liked saving money. So today we're Wingin' It! about ways to save money on campsites!
Here are the tools we use to save money on campsites. All prices are accurate as of the writing of this post. We've included links to each of the organizations with the most current information below.
NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure for more information.
Annual Park Passes
State Park Passes
If you will be spending time in a particular state and plan to visit several state parks, definitely check with the parks about annual passes! The Texas State Parks Pass is currently sold for $70 for a year. It provides entry to all Texas State Parks for one year without paying entry fees or day use fees. Pass holders also enjoy half-price camping on the second night of each park visit and discounts in some of the park stores and on some rental equipment like kayaks. We buy a Texas State Parks Pass every year and it always saves us a lot of money.
We have heard some folks say that it is expensive to camp in Texas State Parks. This is probably because they don't have an annual pass. Like many public campgrounds, Texas State Park campers are responsible for nightly camping fees + day use fees for each person every day. So, if you and your spouse camp 2 nights in a state park campground where the camping fee is $26/night and day use fees are $5/person:
If you have a Texas State Parks Pass, you'll pay $39 for your visit. ($26 for the 1st night + $13 for the 2nd night of camping)
If you do NOT have a Texas State Parks Pass, you'll pay $72 for the same visit. ($26 camping fee x 2 nights + $10 day use fees x 2 nights)
National Parks Pass
The America The Beautiful Pass currently sells for $80/year. It covers entrance fees and day use fees at National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests and Grasslands, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks that charge entrance or day use fees. If you plan to visit several national parks, this park can save you a lot of money fast! We saved over $100 in 2019 with this pass.
Senior National Parks Pass
If you are at least 62 years old, you qualify for the Senior National Parks Pass! You get all of the perks of the standard America The Beautiful Pass PLUS you save 50% on camping every night inside National Parks and other federal parks. These campgrounds are often inexpensive already, but this can really bring down your camping costs!
Currently the Senior National Parks Pass has a one-time cost of $80 for a lifetime pass. If you're not sure how much you'll use it, or $80 isn't in your budget, they offer a $20 Annual Senior Pass that gives you all the same benefits of the lifetime pass for one year. We understand that if you buy an Annual Senior Pass for 4 years, you can trade in those 4 passes for one lifetime pass... like a payment plan!
RV Club Memberships
We've been members of Passport America for several years and have saved quite a bit of money with it. Your $44 annual membership gets you 50% discounts at over 1,600 RV Parks in North America. While each park sets its own restrictions as to seasons, days, and number of nights that the discounts are available, this membership can pay for itself right away. Most of the participating parks are RV parks, but there are a few public campgrounds that participate as well.
Escapees RV Club
We joined Escapees about a year before we became full-time RVers. It is a FANTASTIC resource for full-time RVers. We have our domicile set up through Escapees, we've had our rig weighed at Escapees, we get our mail through Escapees. They were really helpful in choosing our insurance and guiding us through changing our domicile. And we really enjoy the local rallies with the Alamo Chapter of Escapees... great folks!
Escapees runs some of its own RV Parks and Co-Op parks that are only open to members. And we've stayed at some other RV parks that offer a 10% discount to Escapees members. As we write this post, Escapees RV Club memberships are $39.95 for the year, but will be increasing to $49.95/year on November 1, 2020. If you sign up before November 1st, you can lock in the current lower rate for up to three years.
FMCA RV Club
Family Motor Coach Association is no longer about just motorhomes. Owners of all kinds of RVs are invited to join. This is another membership that we've had for years. We absolutely LOVE their national rallies (they call them Conventions). Imagine thousands of RVers coming together in a fun, exciting, educational environment... we look forward to attending many more of them in the future. We have also gotten some great deals on equipment (like our Verizon hotspot) through our FMCA membership and have access to medical evacuation services if necessary.
FMCA has a free campground for members in Cincinnati. We have received a 10% discount at several RV parks because we are FMCA members. An FMCA membership is currently $85 per year. And like everything else we've talked about on this page so far, we believe it is well worth it. Please give them our member number (Thomas Langland F439821) if you decide to join.
Another one of our favorite memberships! For $79 per year, Harvest Hosts gives you access to a list of over 1,300 interesting locations to stay for the night! Choose from wineries, breweries, museums, farms... each stop is unique and a side trip in the midst of your road trip. There are no additional fees to an overnight stop, but please support the local business. We like to arrive at a Harvest Hosts destination early enough to be able to take a tour and/or grab a bite to eat there. You can learn a lot about the area from a Harvest Hosts overnight stop!
If you enjoy golf, consider upgrading your Harvest Hosts membership: $119 per year gets you access to all of the stops of the standard membership + golf courses, bringing your options to more than 1,700 unique overnight stops.
Other Subscription Options
Overnight RV Parking
Since 2008, Overnight RV Parking has been growing a database of FREE and low cost overnight parking options across the United States and Canada. It was started and is still operated by an RVer. This is a crowd sourcing website that provides updates on parking options like Walmarts, roadside parks, Cabela's, truck stops, Cracker Barrels, Elk's Lodges, city parks, COE parks and more. Their database now includes almost 15,000 locations. If you are looking for a free place to park for the night, it's just as important to know where parking is NOT allowed. The color coding makes it easy to see what allows overnight parking and what does not, and whether or not that spot is free.
We like that each listing includes known details on the location, a contact phone number, driving directions, and the date that it was last updated. Overnight RV Parking currently costs $29.99/year.
More Ways To Save Money On RV Campsites
Saving money on camping isn't all about having the right memberships for your style of travel. It's also about understanding your camping options. So here are a few more tips that we use to save money on campsites...
Travel in the Off-Season
As amazing as a place might be in its prime season, it will also be more crowded and more expensive during that time. Traveling in the off season allows you to enjoy a slower pace amongst smaller crowds (or no crowds). And, since fewer folks are there, the RV parks often offer lower rates. Some of the amenities may not be available, but you can enjoy the same locations for as low as half of the in-season rates!
Choose a Non-Premium Site
Sure, that waterside campsite can be amazing, larger sites can be luxurious and sites near the amenities can be convenient. But if you are on a budget and want to save a bit of cash, look into the non-premium campsites. This means something different at every campground. Maybe it's a back-in site instead of a pull-through. Maybe it's not on the water or a little bit smaller. Maybe it's tucked back in the woods or not right on the beach. But there are some pretty amazing non-premium campsites that get you in the same park with the same amenities for less money.
Consider Extending Your Stay
If you are a full-time RVer or on an extended trip, you can almost always save money by staying a bit longer. Weekly rates are often more economical than daily rates, and sometimes you can get a better deal if you stay two weeks. And many parks offer discounts on monthly stays and longer. But be sure to ask about their electric policies. Most extended stays will require you to pay for your electricity usage.
Cut Back On The Hookups
Parks that offer Full Hookup and Partial Hookup sites will usually charge a premium for their Full Hookup sites. Unless we're staying for 3 weeks or more, we might opt for a partial hookup site to save some cash. Again, we get to be in the same park with the same amenities and access to the same activities and attractions, but we're staying for less. When given the option, we rarely choose a full hookup site if we are staying somewhere for a week or less. We do just fine with electric and water hookups and can stop at the dump station on the way out.
Take a Scenic Drive?
When you are visiting a city or town, parks that are further away from the center of town or popular attractions tend to be less expensive than those that are closer to everything. If you plan to spend most of your time exploring the city, it might be worth the extra money to be closer to the action. But if you are only planning to visit the city once during your stay, you can save some money by choosing an option further away.