Key Factors and Considerations for Trip Preparation and Budgeting
When preparing and budgeting for our trip, the three biggest factors we took into consideration were finding an affordable location to camp, getting our meals ready and locating the cheapest gas station.
We compared the cost of staying at a state park, RV resort, Hipcamp site, and national chain campground. After doing our research, we found that camping at Dinosaur Valley State Park had the best balance of activities and a good location for our budget.
When budgeting for food and getting our meals ready, we like to shop at wholesale retailers to get the most bang for our buck. As weekend RVers, this allows us to divide up our food for more inexpensive trips in the near future.
Before setting out on our adventure, we planned our gas refill locations by using GasBuddy, Waze and Google Maps to confirm the least expensive gas stations along our route. This allowed us to plan where we would refill on our short trip to help save a few dollars. Every penny counts when you like to travel a bunch!
How RVing Helped us Save Money
The biggest expense for us when we used to travel without an RV was lodging. By using an RV, this has now become one of the least expensive areas for us. At $25 per night, the rate of camping in this state park can’t be beat when compared to a traditional hotel or motel. A mid-level hotel in the city of Glen Rose might cost you about $150 dollars a night, depending on the season. Plus, if you plan to bring your furry companion, hotels typically charge pet fees that are added on the back-end of your stay.
One of the easiest ways to save money while on vacation is to cook your own food. While on the trip, we cooked a full BBQ dinner, which is only a fraction of the cost of eating at a local restaurant with tip. Throw in some sodas and adult beverages and the cost goes up way more when eating out.
Not to be overlooked, there is plenty of fun to be had for free right outside the camper door, such as hiking, biking, swimming, or relaxing with the family around the campsite. We have found RVing saves even more money since you don’t need to go far from the RV to have fun. It’s literally feet away!
We feel the most critical supplies you should have on your RV road trip are a tire patch kit, an air compressor, a jack, a tire pressure monitor system, and tool kit for any potential problems that may arise on the trip. Keeping well-maintained chocks and leveling blocks are also a must. It's a good idea to wait for the “off-season” of camping to purchase these items, as they typically go on sale. You can keep your eyes open for deals on Amazon or Walmart.
It’s always a good idea to keep your RV stocked with reusable tableware, which will not only save you money over time but is also good for the environment. We like to use an inline water filter in case the water at the campground isn't great, and bring refillable water bottles rather than buying bottled water at the store. Many of these items are available at local box chain retailers for relatively little expense.
Elevating the Experience
Camping within a state park allows you to fully enjoy all that it has to offer. When we first srated RVing, we quickly learned that catching the sunrises and sunsets while out in nature got a whole lot easier. The same goes for stargazing. It’s much more enjoyable sitting outside our travel trailer under darker skies—you definitely can’t get those same views at home or at a brightly-lit hotel. Also, the frequent wildlife viewings while sitting outside is another great perk you get while RVing.
With an RV, we can also sleep in our own beds, stay within a beautiful park after hours to enjoy the tranquility, enjoy the hiking trails whenever we want, let our kids play at the playground with minimal worry, relax by a campfire instead of sitting in a hotel room, cook with family while listening to crickets, meet new and friendly people in adjacent campsites, bring our telescope for stargazing… the list goes on and on.
And don’t forget about pets! Most parks allow you to bring your pets to the campground at no additional cost. The same can’t be said about the majority of hotels. We have two longhaired Chihuahuas that travel everywhere with us.
What to Avoid When Planning Your RV Trip
One of the mistakes we made when we first started RVing was not realizing all campgrounds are created differently. Some offer amenities for a premium price, while others offer the bare minimum. RV resorts typically cost more than the campsites you’d find at national, state or Army Corps of Engineers parks, but the resorts will have numerous additional activities to enjoy. We tend to mix it up when we camp and stay at each type, but we usually avoid the resorts when we are on a budget.
Since RVing has grown in popularity, we suggest reserving your campsite as far ahead as possible so you aren’t left without a place to stay. Many parks release their inventory six months in advance, so set a reminder to get your spot before the campground you want fills up. If you are on a budget, you don’t want to be stuck camping somewhere more expensive and less scenic.
Our Top Tips for RVing on a Budget
If you are thinking about going on an RV trip like our trip to Glen Rose, or any other location with touristy activities, a good tip is to make sure to check Groupon or other discount vendors for promotions. With a little advanced planning and some bargain ticket hunting, you can often save a good chunk of change on various activities. Keep in mind that many state parks have discounted prices for fishing poles and boat rentals when you purchase an annual state park pass. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of free, campground-hosted hikes or educational presentations, such as ranger-led stargazing programs.