Finding Our Style and Saving Money RVing Long Term

Denny and Veronica

We know all the benefits of RVing and its freedoms, but we also know that overall costs can quickly define the quality of our RV life and how long we can maintain this lifestyle.

Since Denny and I plan to RV long term, (or until we find a better adventure that works for us)  we still need to plan ahead and keep track of our finances while defining a dabbler like style of our own. This has been finding a routine by balancing our corporate jobs with our adventure lifestyle while saving for retirement, or the next adventure…

When we began our RV adventure almost 5 years ago, we didn’t want to give up too many of our comforts, and also didn’t want to burnout by moving too fast. We started on the East Coast and decided to follow the weather south to a familiar paradise in the Florida Keys.  And quickly learned that if we wanted to park our RV in high season places we would have to pay top dollar or find some sort of discounts to stay on the cheap.

Denny and Veronica Campground

Once winter was over, we planned our travels based on popular traveler destinations and following the optimal weather.  Passport America and Good Sam memberships were useful at first as they did offer some decent discounts, but we found they are geared toward short term stays. 

Staying monthly worked out to be the best value for us overall as you pay about the same rate for 14 days as you would the entire month. We liked this approach as it gave us time to explore an area more like a local and not have to rush to see everything in a few days.

Denny and Veronica Night Photo

We dabbled with programs like Harvest Hosts. This program allows you to stay for free at wineries, farms and other attractions, but every time we stayed at a winery we found ourselves spending more money on wine and usually off budget for our plan.  This is still a great option to check out and see if works for you.   

Paying a little more to stay in prime places or check out a county or state park works sprinkled throughout, but these were always busier and not so economical long term. We also enjoy short boondocking stints with our friends and Xscapers community, but it’s usually short because we are still working on the party/work balance.

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Speaking of Xscapers community, Escapees RV parks are another option on our radar.  We were in Benson, AZ this past winter checking out the local SKP Co-Op park. We didn’t stay here as they were completely booked, but we did drive around and see the community. We like that they have sites available for sale that you can buy and make your own. Having a seasonal home base is something we talk about adding to our traveling mix.

Denny and I continued exploring the East Coast visiting a lot of family and friends taking advantage of monthly stays while mixing it up with County and State Parks but still the lodging costs kept creeping up.  We finally made it out west and did our first stints with boondocking. The savings were there, so you might be asking… why not just boondock since it’s free?!  Well, that is why finding your style is important and what works best for you.  Personally, we like the comforts of the campgrounds.

When we learned about other discounted memberships like Thousand Trails, we really perked up to the idea.  We were on the fence for months about spending the money on a membership program as it was pretty expensive, but we already ruled out investing in a large solar setup. In addition, we were taking our first 2-year tour up and down the west coast and saw that there was a whole path we could take using their park systems.  It ended up being a game changer for us and we easily recouped our investment the first year.  

Our Lodging Cost Overall During Our First Five Years of RV Living

Year 1 Camping Costs - $12,000
$12K
Year 2 Camping Costs - $12,000
$12K
Year 3 Camping Costs - $10,000
$10K
Year 4 Camping Costs - $6000 - Began Using Thousand Trails
$6K
Year 4 Camping Costs - $5000
$5K

In the end, it is important to find the balance and what works best for you and your travel style without getting burnt out.  We see these discounts as just ways to curb some of the expense, so we can enjoy and maximize the lifestyle.  

Benefits of Staying in Campgrounds

  • Full hook-ups
  • We are able to leave the RV and go on vacation or extended weekends away from RV
  • Usually located in a close proximity to a desired location

Benefits of Staying in Thousand Trails

Compared to expensive campgrounds, Thousand trails is the more chill local bar kind of feel of campgrounds and it was an investment that is free going forward… so for us it’s really about the savings during the work week and then exploring on the weekends where we may fork up a little more and splurge on a better experience. We may stay at state parks/country parks or somewhere close to our favorite places with the RV or use as a base to take the Jeep and tent out on trips.

Denny and Veronica Tent Camping

For those on the road part time, it might not make much sense to take advantage of Thousand Trails. But for those that full time, I feel it is a great cost saving membership in your toolbox. 

Denny and Veronica Wooded Campsite
  • Full hook-ups
  • Usually pretty large and have different types of camping experiences
  • Ability to stay up to 3 weeks at a time and jump park to park
  • Laundry facilities & other amenities
  • Most parks are similar in style and feel
  • Pick your own site system
  • Parks are usually located in smaller towns with lots of space which is something we really enjoy
  • We are able to leave the RV and go on vacation or extended weekends away from RV

We are still finding our style. It includes keeping both of our bosses happy, spending more on the right things and saving for retirement which we hope to not be so far away. We find that not all RVers are the same, nor are our paths or long term plans, and our style might be very different from yours. If it’s not, I hope you find this helpful when you come up with yours.

Discount Programs We've Used

Denny and Veronica Discount Cards

Passport America

What they offer: 50% off camping fees at participating Campgrounds

We still find ourselves using Passport America but you have to really read the fine print on each park as they are not all the same.  We have been burned a few times and had to pay top dollar because of peak season or some other restriction.

Good Sam

What they offer: 10% off camping fees at participating Campgrounds.

Seems like this is one we use the least but the savings pay themselves off quickly and there is usually a welcomed 10% savings that you were away of until you see their logo while checking in somewhere.

What they offer: Wealth of knowledge, Convergences/Rallies, 15 to 50 percent discounts to campgrounds & 18 escapee parks with options to stay for members. 

Thousand Trails

What they offer: Various camping options with access over 80+ campgrounds across the country.

Boondockers Welcome

What they offer: A network of RV friendly hosts to allow you to stay on property for 1 night or more.

Harvest Hosts

What they offer: Stay a night for free at a winery or farm on network.

Denny and Veronica Profile

Authors

Denny and Veronica

Denny and Veronica have been full-time RVing since 2013 with their 2 adventure cats (Mango & Kali). Both have been balancing 9-5 corporate jobs while also dabbling in outdoor adventures and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a dash of crazy fun! Find out more at www.rvoutlawz.com or follow them on Instagram: @RV_outlawz

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