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How to Take a Month-long RV Vacation for Less Than $4,000

We should all travel a little more, right? 

Do you want to take a four-week vacation across the United States but are worried about how to pay for it?

This past month my husband and I traveled more than 4,000 miles over the course of four weeks, all for less than $4,000.

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Not bad considering an average week of vacation can cost about this amount.

Let me be completely honest here. Here are my financial records for my first month of full-time RV travel.

Expenses for Our 1 Month RV Vacation

TypeAmount
Gas$1,639.98
Groceries$333.10
Gym Membership$42.50
Hearst Castle$50.00
Lodging$514.85
National Parks$81.75
Passport America$49.00
Phone Bill$317.79
Rental Car$54.68
Restaurants$119.90
Unexpected$631.87
Total$3,835.42

The phone bill is pretty high because it was our first month on a new married phone plan and we had accidentally gone a bit over our data limit. 🙁

But you live and you learn from your mistakes!

Here’s how we managed to keep our total for all expenses under $4,000.

Limit the Amount You Eat Out

We limited eating out. This goes without saying, but our budget would be drastically different if we ate at every restaurant we liked. We only spent $333.10 on groceries for four weeks of travel.

This is food for two people, and even with me eating completely gluten free.

frugal rv vacation ideas

Eating out on the road is an unnecessary expense if you’re trying to keep a budget.

Plus you’re in an RV! Your kitchen is always with you.

We didn’t stick to microwave meals or cheap snacks either. We ate turkey bacon (half the price of pork bacon, a third of the calories, and almost just as delicious) and eggs nearly every morning.

Don’t Pay Full Price for RV Parking

As far as lodging goes, we saved hundreds of dollars with Passport America. From Austin, Texas to Washington, we found a Passport America site each night.

We did stay at California State Parks on the drive up the entire Pacific Coast Highway though.

passport america

The average cost for a stay at a Passport America location is just $15-$20, half of the amount you typically pay for an RV nightly stay.

Our nightly average payment for lodging for the entire month was only $17.16.

Use the Gasbuddy App

Gas is going to be your largest expense.

We did our best to only fill up at grocery store gas pumps since they tend to be the cheapest.

Plus, with a Kroger Plus Card or Randall’s Rewards (Texas grocery chains), we can get gas and grocery rewards at stores like Fred Meyer and Safeway on the west coast.

You can download an app like Gasbuddy for your iPhone or Android to help find the cheapest gas in your area.

QUICK TIP: don’t fill up at the pumps closest to the exit. Drive a mile or so down the road and pay ten cents less.

Save Money With a National Gym Chain Membership

Maybe you don’t exercise while you’re on the road or maybe you don’t think it’s a necessary expense.

But trust me, it’s worth it.

I showered in our motor home once in our first month (and probably for the last time).

To make sure we always have a nice shower, we invested in finding a national gym just in case we spend too many days dry camping at parks or if the RV park showers aren’t up to par.

We joined Planet Fitness because they have the most locations across the US.

A membership costs $20 a month to visit any of their nearly a thousand locations. So even if you don’t exercise or don’t mind quick RV showers, know this: they have free massages chairs and hydro beds (another type of massage) which will change your life.

The stress of driving all day will melt away and you can walk away feeling pampered without spending $75 on a real massage. (They don’t pay me to promote them, the massages are just that great.)

Keep a Close Eye on Entertainment Expenses

Lastly, what is a vacation without some entertainment?

Hearst Castle
Hearst Castle

We splurged on buying a national parks pass that gives us free access for the next year at all national parks.

It’s already paid for itself. It’s $80 for the year, and most parks offer cheap camping inside the park.

The sound of the Pacific Ocean gentle hitting the shore rocked me to sleep one peaceful June evening in California.

We also bought tickets to visit Hearst Castle, an absolute must-see along the California coast.

We did end up renting a car to navigate LA traffic, though.

Also, this $4,000 budget includes a $600 unexpected maintenance charge when our fuel pump gave out just south of the Grand Canyon.

This is part of traveling and it’s smart to keep a small amount set aside just in case this happens to you too!

You Don’t Have to be Rich to Take a Month-Long RV Vacation

Money stresses me out. Can I get an amen?

Finances make travel difficult, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker.

I don’t have a lot of money (what twenty three year old does?), but I found a way around it.

I hope this recap of my experience helped you learn some ways to save money on the road so your next RV vacation can be less costly and more fun!




6 thoughts on “How to Take a Month-long RV Vacation for Less Than $4,000”

  1. A little known “Perk” to being handicapped is that you can get a NATIONAL PARK PASS for FREE for life. This is good for not only the handicapped person but also an attendant. I did not know this until a nice Ranger at the Fort Defiance site told me and signed me up. WE don;t have many NP’s here in the North East but I did see a sign for these at the Saratoga NP. No one was there to check the Passes that day tho! You can also in some States get FISHING LICENSES for free if handicapped–I don’t know how to do this but it is available; check with your local bait stores they should have the info or any Town CLerk.

    Do keep in mind that many locations with a Walmart or other large store will no longer LET you stay there—this is not always the will of the company but the local zoning and police enforced laws. Some people have made it hard for towns to defend this; my husband found a “Wagon Train” of RV’s in his parking lot one evening–with a full raging fire in the middle==and lots of noise! A local WM was forced to turn RV’s away after a business across the road complained that the RV’s were blocking the VIEW of his computer repair business. The business lasted about 3 months after this; don’t know why he went out of business.

    Some all-night grocery stores can be used as a “Stealth Stop”.

  2. I did a 6,300 mile Trip this past Spring That took me 28 days and spent $3,537 but our fuel cost was the main part of the bill ringing in at $2,697 but we only average 8.5 MPG going 60 MPH in our 2006 30′ Class C.

    We dry camped at Cabela’s and Walmarts along our route and stayed at two different friends for a few days which helped hold our costs down. I was headed to a dog show in Ohio so I had to factor in my cost of entering the dog show too ($320) and the rest of our expenses were food, drink, and entertainment. Most meals were via our own kitchen 🙂

    I have a YMCA membership since my small town has one and it gives me access to any YMCA anywhere I travel. Great to use if we’re staying for a few days somewhere and I want a sauna or a LONG shower 🙂

    We very rarely stay in RV parks almost always dry camp at free locations so I haven’t invested in a program like Passport America yet but good to know that you can consistently find parks to stay in that honor their rates!

  3. Thank you for the detailed budget/cost sheet. This is very helpful, as I try to foresee such a trip. I didn’t do the math on gas mileage, but that seemed ok.

  4. Thanks for the excellent article! Isn’t it great that two people can take a wonderful vacation for under $1,000 a week, and see the beauty of North America at the same time? There are some really great tips here. We’ve been Passport America members for nearly a decade, and we’re already ahead by the second time we use it each year. The tip about eating on board is one of the best, with the added benefit of being able to easily control the ingredients, therefore eating more healthy. The annual National Parks Pass is worth its weight in gold and supports the National Park System too. We get a new one every year.

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