In this post I’m going to share why campervan/caravan/RV/Camping is the best way to make an extended trip around the United States.
My wife and I recently bought a van and converted it into a camper ourselves. We quit our full-time jobs and hit the road. We know from first hand experience that it is possible to have an amazing time traveling in a camper van on a limited budget.
1. Choose driving over flying. If you live in the USA already, pack your car up and take a road trip! If you’re flying in from another country, rent a car or better yet, a camper van or RV! You’ll get to see more of the country then you would flying. Backroads are even more interesting than highways. When my wife and I drove coast to coast, we frequently left the highway (route 10) for scenic country roads in order to get a feel for each state.
2. Lodging can be quite expensive, in fact it’s usually the most costly part of a trip. Campgrounds are a great budget friendly alternative. Generally campgrounds range from $10-30 per night however it is possible to find free campsites as well. Check out www.freecampsites.net to find sites near where you’ll be traveling. Paying less for lodging means your budget will go further. You’ll have more funds for activities or you could extend your trip!
3. Make your own meals. While you may want to sample the local cuisine as part of your travels, you can make most of your own meals to save some dough. This option works best when you stay in campgrounds and travel with a portable stove. Although you can easily make sandwiches and keep snacks no matter how you choose to travel! My wife and I love to wine and dine but we limit those excursions to once or twice a month and cook most of our meals in our campervan. We spend just $50 per week at the grocery store which enables us to travel for much longer on our limited budget.
4. Bring your own water bottle. This one is a no brainer. Water is a necessity and should be free. Why pay money for bottled water? Do yourself and the environment a favor and bring along a reusable water container. Where to find this free water in the States? Most parks have drinking water fountains so include them in your travels. If you’re traveling via RV or campervan and have a larger tank to fill, check out https://www.sanidumps.com/find.php . Most RV dump stations have free potable water available as well. It’s how my wife and I fill up our 33 gallon fresh water tank every other week!
5. Find free activities. Sure some excursions will cost money but there are plenty of fun free things to do in the USA. If you’re in a city, check out the local parks. They often have free concerts and festivals happening and no matter what, a walk in the park is a nice time. When we visited Portland, OR, we discovered that the art museum offers a free visit on the first Thursday of the month from 5-8pm, and we happened to be there to take advantage of that! Type “free activities in ____________ (city) “ into your google search bar to find local free fun!
6. Doing an extended trip around the USA? Buy an annual national park pass to experience the best of America’s wilderness, coast to coast. The pass is $80 and is good for a year. Typically, it costs $20-30 per park if you pay individually. So If you go to 3 or more parks, it’s totally worth it. Plus... the hiking inside the parks is totally free. Need i say more?
7. An extended road trip means lots of driving. Download the Gasbuddy app to save money on fuel, https://www.gasbuddy.com . The app shows you which stations have the best price in order to save you some dollars at the pump. They also have a rewards program where you can earn free gas. It’s a win win.
8. Speaking of rewards programs… If you’re in need of a credit card for your travels, get one with a cash back offer. Personally, I average about $25 every 6 weeks. It may not seem like much but I’m also not spending much. The more you spend, the more you get back. There are tons of options out there so you’re sure to find one that suits your needs. Check out this article on the 12 best cash back cards of 2019: https://www.nerdwallet.com/best/credit-cards/cash-back
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of budget travel tips but I hope you may have found something helpful. Check back for more travel tips and stories.
Cheers and happy travels,