RV Trip Budget Breakdown: Traveling To Visit Family

Robin and Warren Baxter's granddaughter throwing up a peace sign in front of their RV

After our annual spring and fall trips to Arizona, we always make a point to return home to California to spend time with family and friends. We like to take our time and stop in multiple different cities along the way, and spend a few nights in each location. On this trip, we drove from Mesa, Arizona, to Needles, California, which is right on the border. We then drove up into Nevada and stopped in Laughlin, Lake Havasu and Las Vegas. From there, we stayed one night in Bakersfield, California, before making the final stretch up into Sacramento. We try to utilize camping memberships, like Passport America, to find discounted campsites. And when we finally make it to Sacramento, we have the luxury of being able to "moochdock" on our friend's property and stay for free. We do have some daily expenses in Sacramento (gas, groceries and toiletries), but most of our time is spent with our kids enjoying cookouts, swimming at the pool and spending time at the park.

Our Trip to Sacamento, California

Our Trip Budget Breakdown

Below is a breakdown of the various expenses for our 24-day trip, which covered three different states and seven different cities. We've provided a comparison of what we estimate the same vacation would have cost without our RV (including hotels, food and entertainment).

Our RV Trip

Without Our RV

  • Fuel



    Robin and Warren Baxter smiling in front of the route 66 sign

    Our route started in Arizona, and then we worked our way over into Nevada, and finally into California. Our total trip, with all of the stops, was over 1,000 miles and cost us $525 in gas.

  • Campground



    Robin and Warren Baxter's rv parked at a beach campsite at Pirate's Cove

    The majority of our trip was spent at Pirates Cove in Needles, California, which cost us $71.42 per night. We spent a few nights at an RV park in Las Vegas, which was $25 per night, and then stayed in a hotel for three nights, which was slightly more expensive at $100 per night. The RV park in Bakersfield was only $43 per night thanks to our Passport America membership. And moochdocking in Sacramento was free thanks to our generous friends who let us stay on their property.

  • Food (Eating in and out)


    Food (eating out)

    Robin and Warren Baxter relaxing on their porch at their Pirate Cove campsite on the beach

    We typically eat all of our meals in the RV, but since we were stopping in Las Vegas and wanted to enjoy some nice dinners, we had a slightly higher budget for eating out at restaurants. Over the course of the 24 days, we only ate at restaurants a handful of times, and most were in Las Vegas. Our groceries cost $275, which included some basics for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The rest of the time, we enjoyed some nice dinners and the occasional stop for lunch along the drive, which totaled $625.

  • Entertainment



    Robin and Warren Baxter in front of the welcome to Las Vegas sign

    We took advantage of a lot of free, outdoor activities on this trip, including kayaking, paddleboarding and roller skating (we have our own gear). We spent some money on entertainment while in Las Vegas, including the High Roller ferris wheel, but mostly stopped at places that offered free live music.

  • Total RV Costs


    Total Cost Without RV


Total Savings: $3,071.60 (47%)

By owning an RV, we have been able to cut down on traditional vacation costs—allowing us to travel more, stay longer and create more memories together. *"Without RV" trip costs are estimated based on current national averages for airfare, lodging, fuel and food unless specified by contributor. "Without RV" estimate assumes entertainment costs would be identical to what was provided by contributor. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Robin and Warren Baxter's rv parked in their son's driveway

Tips and Tricks for Budgeting for Your Own RV Trip

  1. Key Factors and Considerations for Trip Preparation and Budgeting

    Since we were on the road for 24 days, our biggest considerations were the price of gas and finding less expensive places to camp. We tried to map out our gas station stops to ensure we were getting the lowest rates, and we checked various campgrounds and RV resorts to see if they offered any membership discounts. We knew the route we wanted to drive, so then it was a matter of figuring out how many days we could afford to spend in one place and what activities we wanted to do while we were there. For example, if we found a cheaper campsite, then we could have more budget to do various activities and eat out. We also learned that it's much cheaper to book a monthly or weekly stay at an RV park, as opposed to just a few days.

  2. How RVing Helped us Save Money

    Having an RV on this trip was definitely cost-effective. To start, our campsite at Pirate's Cove cost $71 per night, compared to the nearby cabins that cost nearly $375 per night. Cooking our own food was another big saver. We were able to buy extra propane and make our own burgers, and it was still cheaper than paying $35 for the burger meal at the local restaurant. We try to buy our food in bulk, especially before a long trip, as we've found that getting individual items at smaller grocery stores is more costly.

  3. Elevating the Experience

    Traveling in an RV offers comfort and peace of mind knowing that all of your belongings are with you (which eliminates the possibility of forgetting something and then needing to buy it last minute). We were able to bring our own paddle boards and kayaks, which saved us having to rent them. Plus, when you're traveling and staying in hotels, you often have to eat out for every meal and they typically charge extra for pets. Having an RV while traveling with pets allows you to save on kennel or pet-sitter fees, and your pets are more comfortable being in an environment they are already familiar with.

  4. What to Avoid When Planning Your RV Trip

    One of the most common, unexpected expenses that new RVers don’t factor is moving spots frequently, which will cost you more in gas. To help offset some of these cost, you might want to consider longer, extended stays. This will help keep your gas expenses down and campgrounds usually have discounted rates for weekly or monthly stays. You can also take advantage of places likes Walmart, Cracker Barrel or truck rest stops if you only need to stop somewhere for a night. And be sure you always have some extra budget in case a tire blows or you run into any maintenance issues on the road. Many people don't think about this until it happens, so it helps to be prepared.

  5. Our Top Tips for RVing on a Budget

    Be realistic about a budget—allow yourself a few extra hundred dollars for unexpected emergencies. Try to choose activities that are free, such as biking, swimming and hiking. Take inventory of items that you already have in your RV so you don't unnecessarily purchase anything on the road. And if you do need to purchase something (paper products, cleaning supplies, drinking water), try to buy in bulk.

  6. Additional Tips for RVing Across Multiple States

    Every time you stop during a trip, take a few minutes to do a visual inspection of your RV and tow vehicle. If you catch something before it becomes a major issue, it could save you hundreds of dollars. You should always travel with some fresh water in your tanks just in case you have a mechanical issue and need to stop for a few hours or if you have to spend the night somewhere without hookups. And lastly, if you're crossing state lines, be aware of time changes and check-in times—some resorts and parks will not allow you to enter after-hours.

the Crew family hanging out in chairs in front of their RV at a boondocking campsite

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