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RV rental vacations aren’t cheap, but they do contain loads of opportunities for savings. In fact, there are probably more ways in which the proactive RV rental vacationer can save money than in any other mode of vacation travel.
Entertainment costs are often lower (enjoying RV and campground experience often serves as a major source of entertainment). You also have the option of doing some, or all, of your own meal preparation – meals and drinks can cost about the same as if you’d stayed home.
An RV vacation has potential for savings in a wide range of areas. Here are a few examples:
- Travel in the Shoulder Seasons. The Shoulder Seasons are those periods between the big prices (and huge crowds) of Peak Season and the low prices (and generally unpleasant weather) of Off Season. Depending on the part of the country, the dealer, and the time of year, Shoulder Season base rates can be 20% to 40% below what you would have to pay in Peak Season. If you don’t absolutely have to travel with the big crowds, explore the advantages of RVing in the Shoulder Seasons.
- Don’t Buy Special Clothing. Unlike trips you may have taken in the past, RV vacations don’t require any special clothing. Casual and comfortable – that’s the RV lifestyle. If you plan to go out to someplace special, you might bring one outfit that’s a bit upscale. Otherwise, think casual and comfortable as you pack and your wardrobe will be perfect.
- Don’t Buy Special Equipment. As you begin to get ready for your first ever RV trip, it is tempting to start thinking about all the special equipment you “need”. The truth is that, beyond what you’ll get from your RV rental dealer, you don’t “need” any of it. If you are serious about keeping your vacation affordable, resist the temptation to go out and buy boxes full of gadgets. (On the other hand, a couple of totally frivolous items can be a lot of fun.)
- Minimize Eating Out. The more serious you are about saving money, the more you may want to take advantage of your RV’s kitchen. Prepare a special meal or two, each in a special place, and you can add great memories to your RV vacation even as you are saving money.
- Take Advantage of Campground Recreational Offerings. Plan some “do-nothing” time. Stay in the same campground for an extra night and spend a day just hanging out. Lay around the pool. Read a book. Fix a special meal. Enjoy a sunset. You’ll find some of your best vacation memories in those times when you did absolutely nothing – as in, “We woke up in the morning with absolutely nothing to do and went to bed that evening having only accomplished about half of it.”
- Don’t Pay for Hookups That You Don’t Need. Most campgrounds offer a variety of campsite options. You will be offered a choice of sites with no hookups, with water and electric only, or with “full hookups”. The tendency is to think, “Hey, I’m on vacation here. What the heck, give me the works!” Think about what hookups you actually need. You can usually stop at the campground’s dump station to empty your holding tanks as you leave. Over a two week vacation, consistently paying for full hookups when you actually only need water and electric could easily cost you an extra $100.
- Don’t Use Your Propane When You Can Use Their Electricity. Refilling your propane tank(s), while not horribly expensive, has both a time and a money cost. Several systems in your rental RV will operate with either electricity or propane – specifically your refrigerator and your water heater. Water heaters in particular consume massive amounts of propane. When in a campground and connected to “shore power” use their electricity, not your propane, to heat your water and run your refrigerator.
- Bring your own snacks. Your rental RV comes with a refrigerator and cupboards. Set them up as your snack and drink sources. Roadside convenience stores tend to offer snacks which are both more expensive and nutritionally inferior to those you can pack yourself. When the time comes to replenish your snack supplies, do so at a major supermarket or a discount warehouse – not at a convenience store.
- Buy Sunscreen and Insect Repellent Before You Leave Home. You can expect to pay double for the same stuff if you don’t! When you are being eaten alive by mosquitoes, you won’t be likely to spend much time looking for bargains.
- Contact the Visitor Center and/or Chamber of Commerce In Each Area You Plan to Visit. You can find their numbers on the internet or through directory assistance. Tell them when you plan to be in their area and ask their advice on places to go and things to do. Most will be able to send you maps and brochures. Many will even have local newsletters where you can find lists of events scheduled during the time of your vacation. Take a few minutes to visit with these representatives; they can probably even suggest a few things outside of the normal tourist routines which could be ideal for your family.
- Avoid High Speeds. Depending on how much driving you do, fuel costs may be one of the most significant items in your RV rental vacation budget. One way of reducing those costs is to drive a bit slower. Driving at 62 mph will reduce your fuel consumption by around 15% when compared to what it would be if driving at 75 mph. Driving slower is also much safer and a lot less tiring.
- Keep Tires Properly Inflated. Another fuel saver is to keep tire air pressures at the levels recommended by your dealer. Studies have shown that a single tire under inflated by 2 PSI can increase fuel consumption by 1%. It is scary to think about the impact it must have on gas mileage to drive a Class C Motorhome with 6 tires each under-inflated by 5 or 10 pounds!
Clearly there are a lot of ways to save money on your RV rental vacation. Many will not only save you money, but will increase the quality of your vacation experience at the same time. A better vacation for less money. It’s what we are all looking for!
Dave Corby has been an avid RVer for more than 30 years. He wrote "The Vacationer's Guide to RV Rentals" to help others discover the freedom and excitement of RV travel. Visit RVRentalGuide.com for more incredible RV rental tips.