RV Trip Budget Breakdown: A Fishing Excursion

Chelsea Day looking at a map with her kids

We needed a break from the city, so we loaded up the RV with our four boys and two dogs, and headed into the mountains of Idaho. We explored a cute little town called Atlanta (yes, there is an Atlanta in Idaho). We took a dip in some hot springs, hiked numerous trails and fished our hearts out—all while staying for free on National Forest land. We were able to cook all of our own meals, except for one snack at a local restaurant. And the only entertainment we had to pay for was some fishing bait at the local tackle shop.

Our Trip to Atlanta, Idaho

Our Trip Budget Breakdown

Below is a breakdown of the various expenses for our family's five-day trip to the mountains near Atlanta, Idaho. 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



    Chelsea Day's RV driving on a dirt road

    The drive was about 260 miles roundtrip. Our truck gets slightly less gas mileage when we tow our RV. And with gas costing about $5 per gallon, the whole trip cost us $130.

  • Campground



    Chelsea Day standing in front of her boondocking camping location

    We were able to boondock on some public National Forest land, so it cost us nothing. Boondocking for the win!

  • Food (Eating in and out)


    Food (eating out)

    Chelsea Day holding a cookbook in her highland ridge rv.

    With a family of six (plus friends occasionally snacking at our RV), food was our biggest expense. We eat mostly organic and have a child with celiac, so our groceries are always pricey. For this trip, we cooked a big breakfast each day (pancakes, eggs, cereal, milk, toast, and fruit) and then sandwiches and chips for lunch. For dinner, we made pulled pork, burgers and teriyaki chicken with rice. And then lots of s'mores (and wine for the adults). Our whole family did share some fries and a pickle platter at a local restaurant, but that was the only time we ate out.

  • Entertainment



    Chelsea day teaching a math lesson to her children using graham crackers

    Hiking, family board games and soaking in the hot springs were all free. The only thing we bought was fishing bait at the local tackle shop, and it cost about $5.

  • Total RV Costs


    Total Cost Without RV


Total Savings: $1,367.60 (79%)

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.
Chelsea Day's kids reading on a fallen tree

Tips and Tricks for Budgeting for Your Own RV Trip

  1. Key Factors and Considerations for Trip Preparation and Budgeting

    To help keep costs down and enjoy more time in nature, we opted to boondock without any hookups. This meant we had to be fully stocked with propane and water, and empty our black and grey tanks. There was no cell service where we were staying, so we came prepared with lots of first aid, entertainment and food options.

  2. How RVing Helped us Save Money

    Renting a cabin or hotel in the mountains of Idaho in the summer is very expensive, so our RV saved us a fortune on lodging. And with increased food and dining prices, it's very helpful to be able to cook in the RV—especially being a family of six. We save money by buying everything in bulk and storing a lot of preservable stuff in our RV. We like to stock up on things like rice, beans, popcorn, spices, peanut butter, nuts, and fruits. We'll also load up on toilet paper, trash bags and beach towels.

  3. Elevating the Experience

    One of the best things about taking the RV into the mountains for fishing trips is that we get to bring our dogs. A lot of hotels in the area don't allow pets, which means we would've had to get a pet sitter or put them in a kennel. We were also able to meet up with some friends who were camping nearby. We told them where we were parked, and they drove out and joined us for a few days. Having an RV makes hosting guests in the great outdoors much easier. And finally, since our RV is always packed with clothes, gear and entertainment, it's much less stressful than packing, unpacking and carefully considering what to put in suitcases for a non-RV vacation. I feel like I can actually relax on RV trips because I'm not stressed about forgetting medication, sourcing meals for everyone and keeping my kids entertained in a hotel room.

  4. What to Avoid When Planning Your RV Trip

    A lot of people jump into big trips without much experience. They plan a succession of fast stops, and then they're caught off guard by fuel expenses, the cost of nightly RV spaces and the expense of dining out. Even things like the expense of laundromats can be a shock. We chose our specific RV because it has great off-grid capables, and we can avoid pricey RV parks in favor of boondocking. Plus, we have our own washer and dryer hookups. For people who want to stay at RV parks, booking weekly or monthly rates can save a fortune compared to nightly rates. There are even RV park memberships that offer unlimited stays for an annual fee. Planning to travel slower gives you a chance to really explore an area, and it makes the fuel budget a lot easier to manage.

  5. Our Top Tips for RVing on a Budget

    Our top tips are to meal plan, bring lots of games and recreational activities to bond over, and research the area beforehand. You may not have reliable cell service, so printing out maps and noting things you'd like to see ahead of time is helpful. Even if you do have service, it's always nice to have a game plan so you can relax. And as they say, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." You're far more likely to impulse-spend if you haven't thought through some fun, inexpensive ways to spend your time.

  6. Bonus Tip!

    Camping on National Forest land is always free unless otherwise posted. Check with your local forest service if you need recommendations on where to go. There are also large expanses of land that are free to camp on through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

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

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