RV Trip Budget Breakdown: Summer Vacation

the Carew family on a hike

Right after our kids got out of school for the summer, we decided to take a week-long vacation and explore parts of our home state of Colorado that we hadn't been to. Our first stop was at Blue Mesa Recreation Ranch near Gunnison. It's only four hours away from our home and we got to stay at their brand new campground thanks to our Thousand Trails membership. From there, we spent four nights boondocking near Lake City and had an awesome time hiking and driving ATVs through the mountains. The drive into Lake City follows the Arkansas River, and it is absolutely beautiful. And while you do have to drive through a steep mountain pass, the roads are wide and in great condition. After Lake City, we returned to Blue Mesa for a few days to enjoy the campground's mini golf course, swimming pools and free donut breakfast.

Our Trip to Lake City, Colorado

Our Trip Budget Breakdown

Below is a breakdown of the various expenses for our family's 10-day trip throughout Southern Colorado. 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



    The Carew's RV driving next to a river

    We always try to use GasBuddy to find cheapr diesel fuel. We also try to fill up our truck when the RV is detached, as larger gas stations and truck stops are typically more expensive. We drove about 480 miles with the RV attached, and that cost us $233. We did do some driving while our RV was detached and parked (about 150 miles), and that cost us $42.

  • Campground



    The Carews hanging out at their boondocking campsite

    On this trip, we stayed at an established campground for six nights and then boondocked for four nights. The campground is part of our Thousand Trails membership, so it didn't cost us anything. However, based on the yearly membership fee we pay, we estimated that the cost comes out to roughly $50 per night. And we love to boondock because it is totally free and you can stay in some unbelievable locations.

  • Food (Eating in and out)


    Food (eating out)

    The Carew family relaxing inside the kitchen and living area of their RV

    We eat all breakfasts at the RV. And on travel days, we prefer to pack lunches and eat in the truck to avoid stopping. Eating out for dinner is typically more expensive, so we try to eat most of our dinners at the RV as well, but occasionally we'll go out to eat or my husband and I will go on a special date. We spent $300 on groceries to have most meals prepared at the RV. We spent an additional $300 on various restaurants and cafes, including one pizza lunch, two special dessert stops, one happy hour, and one date night.

  • Entertainment



    Shannon Carew's husband next to two side-by-sides

    The biggest expense on the trip was the ATV ride—renting two ATVs (including all equipment) for a day cost $745. We also got a few souvenirs for the kids, which cost $110. Mini golf, swimming and bikes were all free and came as part of our campground reservation. And, of course, all of our family hikes were fee. We like to check local event calendars for our destinations to see what activities they offer. There was a farmer's market one day that we went to, and even though we didn't buy anything, it was still fun for the kids to walk around and explore.

  • Total RV Costs


    Total Cost Without RV


Total Savings: $2,399.00 (54%)

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.
The Carew family standing outside of their RV in front of a sunset and mountain landscape

Tips and Tricks for Budgeting for Your Own RV Trip

  1. Key Factors and Considerations for Trip Preparation and Budgeting

    Some important factors for this trip were visiting a place in Colorado we hadn't been to, and trying to stay within four hours of our home to help with gas prices and eliminate long travel days. We also wanted to use our Thousand Trails membership to help keep campground costs down. Our family likes to boondock, and there are so many great options for that in Colorado, but you do have to plan a bit more and make sure to bring enough resources (water, power and propane).

  2. How RVing Helped us Save Money

    Since we are a family of five, we usually have to book two hotel rooms or get a large suite and this can quickly get expensive. Airbnbs can be a good option for larger families, but they often have limited availability and the extra fees can really add up. But with our RV, each kid gets their own comfortable bed, and my husband and I have our own space. Being able to cook most meals in the RV is significantly cheaper than eating out and can offer healthier options for anyone with special dietary needs. Boondocking or joining a campground membership also helps save a lot of money, especially since Colorado campsites in the summer can cost over $100 per night. Another budget-friendly tip is to fill up your propane tanks before you leave, as campgrounds and mountain towns typically charge more. We also installed a water flow meter on our RV, which helps us save on buying water and only use as much as we need.

  3. Elevating the Experience

    We bring a lot of outdoor recreation equipment with us when we camp—bikes, skateboards, footballs, volleyballs, and frisbees. We avoid having to rent equipment and it allows us to be more active. We can also fit everything inside of our RV and don't have to worry about cancelled flights or lost baggage. And lastly, boondocking gives us time to unplug and stay off our phones. There was no cell service or WiFi on this latest trip, but we had incredible views and our own secluded spot to enjoy. In a hotel or on a plane, it's really hard to fully unplug and immerse yourself in nature.

  4. What to Avoid When Planning Your RV Trip

    In our experience, common mistakes typically happen when someone forgets to bring something. We like to create checklists to ensure we have everything—this includes all of our clothing, food and personal items, as well as some essential maintenance items for the RV (tire pressure, leveling blocks and hoses). Another common mistake is not properly budgeting for food. Try to plan all of your meals in advance, including when you will cook and when you will go out to a restaurant, and then stick to the plan. Small town grocery stores will typically be more expensive and have less to choose from, so try to buy all of your groceries at home or in a larger town along the way. If you do plan to eat out at a restaurant, try to see if they have any daily specials or happy hour options. Every little bit of savings counts! And lastly, always keep your RV up-to-date on its maintenance. This will help lower your chances of having a costly breakdown far from home.

  5. Our Top Tips for RVing on a Budget

    If you feel comfortable boondocking, considering doing that for the first half of your trip, and then staying in an established campground for the second half. This will not only save on camping fees but most established campgrounds usually have water and dump stations so you can fill up and dump your tanks. In general, RV camping on the weekends is much busier—especially if you're looking to boondock. You'll find more availability Sunday through Friday, and the various amenities will also be less crowded. If the campground or park you're looking at has nice shower facilities and amenities, consider booking a partial hook up site (just water and electric) instead of a full hook up site (includes sewer). Partial hook up sites are typically less expensive but still allow you to use all of your RV's features.

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

Calculate the Cost of Your RV Trip

See how your vacation budget compares to an RV trip using this Trip Calculator.

Chelsea and Layla driving down a road next to the ocean

Finance Your RV

Interested in the RV life? It's more affordable than you think.

Find Your Perfect RV

Whether you're new to the world of RVing or you're ready to narrow your search, we're here to help you sort through it all and find the RV that's right for you. Explore RVs based off of your lifestyle and the features important to you.

Find Your RV
An travel trailer RV parked in a green field.