If you’re up for a new type of vacation, a RV adventure may be worth considering. Not only does renting a recreational vehicle let you take your hotel with you wherever you go, but it lets you get off the beaten path and even make several stops in a single trip. (If this is your plan, make sure you check out this list of the best small towns to visit in every state that you could add to your itinerary.)
While RV rentals have a reputation for being expensive, they certainly don’t have to be. Plus, renting an RV can save you money on other components of your trip, like airfare or stopping for dinner. But before you book an RV rental of your own, it helps to know about the best ways to save money and costly mistakes to avoid. Consider these tips.
Shop around for the best price
Make sure you shop around for the best deal. A website like GoRVing.com can be a powerful resource for your search because it lets you compare RV rental prices across all the different rental companies in your area. However, you can also check prices on RVShare.com — the Airbnb of RV rentals. This website lets you rent RVs directly from owners in your area who may be willing to strike a deal.
Rent only the space you need
Remember, you’ll still pay a premium for larger rentals and added amenities. One strategy that can help you save some cash is renting an RV that is ideal for your family size — not one that is overly big. You’ll pay more for RVs with additional living and sleeping space, and that goes for what you'll pay at the pump as well.
Plan a thoughtful itinerary
Planning your stops ahead of time is especially smart when you’re renting an RV. Not only can you map out an itinerary that passes the sights you want to see, but you’ll be able to price shop and compare RV campsites. Depending on where you’re traveling, this may be more important than you think.
While an RV rental spot with hook-ups may be cheap at state parks or basic campgrounds, prices can run sky-high for luxury campgrounds or resorts with pools and other amenities. By shopping around ahead of time and deciding where you’ll stop, you won’t be stuck overpaying for a place to park and get some sleep.
Hookup fees aren't probably a regular line item on your budget, but that can be OK if you plan ahead. Here are some other hidden summer expenses to budget for.
Use technology to save on gas
Because RVs are notorious for getting terrible gas mileage, you will want to do all you can to pay less for your road trip. And, of course, there are apps for that. Apps like the Gas Buddy offer an easy way to search for low gas prices along your route — and even when you’re in the midst of your trip. Some GPS systems offer this feature as well.
Bring food & basic staples along
One of the biggest benefits of renting an RV is the fact that you’ll have a kitchen or kitchenette at your disposal. This makes it easy to bring along most (or all) of the food you’ll need for your trip, including ingredients for cook-outs, campground breakfasts and easy lunches. The more meals you can make at “home,” the more you’ll save during your trip.
Also make sure to bring plenty of snacks and basic supplies, like aluminum foil, a lighter, paper plates, plastic bags and condiments.
Need budget friendly meal ideas? We've got a $1.50 burger and a summer side dish that costs less than 50 cents per person. How could it get any better than that?
Pack your own cookware & bedding
Most RV rentals charge a base price then tack on extra charges for added amenities. Believe it or not, some of the “extras” they charge for include things like dishes, pots and pans, pillows and bedding. If you have these items at home and you can bring them along, you can skip those extras altogether. Make sure to check with your RV rental company to see if you can have these items removed from your bill.
Leverage credit card rewards
Don’t forget how easy it is to leverage the power of credit card rewards for an RV rental. There are several ways to do this, but they all include signing up for rewards cards that offer cash-back, travel rewards or flexible travel credit.
Some rewards cards even offer extra points on fuel or travel. By getting a card with these bonus categories, you could rack up considerable sums of cash-back you can redeem for statement credits when you get home.
Looking for other vacation budget hacks? We've got 11 ways to lower the cost of your summer trip in five minutes or less.