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We’ve all been seeing and hearing complaints about the challenges of RV travel and RV camping over the past couple of years. Everything from the affordability of RVing and finding campsites, to escaping the crowds and getting your RV repaired. And we’re here to bust five of these RV camping myths, with PROOF, from our recent RV travels this summer.
First up. We do acknowledge there is definitely some validity and truth to these common concerns. There HAVE been more challenges for RVers over the past couple of years. BUT these are not hard and fast facts. Hence, we call them myths.
If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we believe in creating your own luck, with a combination of resourcefulness and a positive attitude! It’s funny how often luck can show up, when you actually EXPECT it. Which is exactly what we’ve done since we began our RV travels back in 2014.
Despite the rising prices and challenges facing RVers, we have continued to travel in our RV this year. And along the way, we easily busted 5 of the common RV camping myths we are about to share with you.
Here they are, with examples – aka proof – that you CAN find inexpensive, scenic and peaceful places to camp in your RV, visit popular places, AND get into an RV repair shop in less than 6 months!
How to Find Great, Affordable Campsites and Save While you Travel
How and where did we travel?
Before we dive into the detail of our myth busting, our summer RV travels traversed Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming – all popular places at that time of year. We travel in a 25’ Class motorhome, which does make it easier to find campsites than big rigs. Our stays were short, at 1-4 nights each. Plus, we’re flexible, which helps. And we know what you’re thinking. It’s OK for us – but maybe your rig is much bigger? Interestingly, even though our RV is only 25′, ALL of the camping spots we found on this trip could have accommodated larger rigs, of just about any size.
PS. Keep reading to the the end to get all of our best tips for finding the best campsites and saving money.
RV Camping Myth #1: You can’t find RV campsites unless you book months in advance.
Of course, if you want to camp at a popular place, at peaks, and on specific dates, it is recommended you make reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment. This is especially important for holiday weekends, during major events, and in popular places like the Florida Keys in Winter! However, it’s not impossible to find campsites at short notice, either. We found several campsites at relatively short notice during our winter RV trip to Florida, and snagged our two week stay in the Florida Keys just two months prior!
For our 2-week trip in July this year, we booked all but one of our stays at less than 3 days notice. Some campsites we found same day. And our reservation at a popular state park in Denver, Colorado (pictured above) was made just 3 weeks prior.
To find camping spots, we use an arsenal of RV websites, apps and resources. We often find our campsites en route, looking for a place to stay that night! You may have to check a few websites or apps to find a spot, as we’ve found no single resource has them all. So don’t rely on just one!
Find Great Campsites with these Handy Tools
Here are some of our favorite apps/websites for finding campsites:
- RV LIFE app / Campground Reviews
- CampgroundViews.com website and 360 virtual tours
- Campendium app
- AllStays app
- Harvest Hosts app
Traveling without advance reservations may make the newbies and the ‘planners’ out there nervous. It definitely requires a level of trust. We’re typically not risk takers, and like the peace of mind that comes with having a reservation so we can enjoy longer stays during peak seasons. But being experienced RVers makes it easier, as does a flexible schedule. We are now MUCH more comfortable traveling without reservations than we were in our first couple of years, when Marc had a full time 9–5 remote job and we traveled in a big Class A RV, towing a vehicle!
So how did we manage to find so many campsites at short notice this summer?
RV Camping Myth #1 Busted! Here’s the proof:
- Sodergreen Lake, WY: We found this sweet lakeside boondocking spot pictured above – for free – en route less than an hour before our pre-sunset arrival, using the AllStays app. As the only campers there, we loved the serenity, and even saw a bald eagle! Aside from being a little windy at night (that’s Wyoming!) it was an ideal overnight stop to break up our long drive.
- Belle Fourche Country Club, SD: We literally booked our one night stay via the Harvest Hosts app a few hours before our arrival. We arrived late and planned to have breakfast in the restaurant, but they weren’t open. We had a 10am RV repair shop appointment, so didn’t get to play a round of golf or a meal. But we promised to give them a shout out – so here it is. Thanks guys!
We’ve also been able to book private and public campgrounds at super short notice, which is much easier mid week. But you can often still score weekend reservations! Read on to find even more of them, as well as what we paid.
RV Hack #134: Pick up last-minute reservations. You can try to score a last-minute RV camping reservation at booked campgrounds by calling the RV park a couple of days before you plan to arrive – or even on the same day – as that is when most people cancel their reservations. Have a list of four or five potential campgrounds scoped out in advance, ordered by preference, to try to nab a spot at booked campgrounds.
RV Camping Myth #2: RV camping fees are too expensive.
Across the board, nightly camping fees are now more expensive than they were a couple of years ago. The demand for campsites has increased in line with the popularity of RVing. And when you add rising utility costs, facility improvements, and inflation into the mix, it’s actually not surprising RV park owners have hiked up their rates. It’s happening everywhere, but don’t let that spoil your fun!
There are still plenty of affordable ways to camp in your RV. Whether it is staying in campgrounds, boondocking, or taking the roads less traveled. Inexpensive campsites ARE out there. You’ve just got to seek them out!
How much did we spend per night?
So far this summer, we’ve spent $306 on RV camping – an average of $20.40 a night. Not bad, huh? Some campsites were free, some were under $20, and the most we paid on our recent trip was $41 a night.
Note that $306 does NOT include our camping membership fees, as we had already paid for those. But it DOES include the $96 we spent on eggs, gifts, cocktails, and a bottle of vodka we purchased from Harvest Host locations! Personally, we usually consider the money we spend at Harvest Hosts as food and entertainment, not accommodations.
So if you deduct our food, beverage and gift purchases from our RV camping expenses, the total cost comes down to $210. Or an average of $14 a night.
PS. We paid $5 for an RV dump in South Dakota, and another in Colorado was free.
RV Camping Myth #2 Busted! Here's the proof.
Here are a couple of examples of our most recent, very affordable stays:
Stevens Creek Campground, CO: We paid just $16 for a lovely waterfront campsite, with no hookups (pictured above). But they have water fill stations and bathroom facilities. It’s popular with boaters and fishermen, and every site has a view of the lake! We were able to pick our specific campsite using the 360 virtual tour at CampgroundViews.com, so we knew it would be awesome! With just a handful of other campers around, our stay at Steven’s Creek Campground was quiet, peaceful, and easy on the wallet.
Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch, CO: We paid $0 in nightly fees as this park is part of our Thousand Trails camping membership. We even stayed a few nights over the 4th of July weekend. And while most campgrounds charge a premium for holiday weekends, we paid zero. Blue Mesa is one of 200+ campgrounds in our Thousand Trails camping membership, which we’ve had since 2014 and saves us thousands of dollars every year. Learn more in our comprehensive review.
Keep reading for more of our inexpensive and scenic summer campsites.
We bought farm fresh eggs from a Harvest Hosts family farm in South Dakota
Inexpensive RV camping options
Here’s are some of our favorite options for affordable RV camping:
- National, State, and county campgrounds and recreation areas
- National Forest campgrounds
- Camping memberships like Harvest Hosts and Thousand Trails
- Lesser known campgrounds off the beaten path, in less populated areas
- Moochdocking on the property of family or friends!
While it’s great to have an RV decked out for off grid camping, it isn’t necessary. You can dry camp using your RV’s propane tank, holding tanks, generator etc. In our first RV, we boondocked many times with NO inverter, solar, or upgraded batteries, before eventually adding a portable solar panel. It wasn’t until a few years into our full-time RV life that we invested in a bigger setup. We added lithium batteries and solar panels to our second motorhome. Just be sure your usage and cost savings make sense, before installing an expensive off-grid system in your RV.
Also, at many campgrounds (not all, and not government facilities), often the longer you stay, the more you save. So consider staying a week instead of a few nights. Many places have a weekly rate, usually something like a “stay 6 nights, get the 7th night free” deal. Or if you can, book a monthly stay. This often equates to around the equivalent of a 2.5 week stay (based on nightly rates). Or if you really like the area and want to stay longer, consider booking for a season. This is a great idea in the winter, and often the most affordable option.
RV Camping Myth #3: RV campgrounds and boondocking spots are overcrowded.
We hear it all the time. RVers are packed into campgrounds like sardines. Campsites don’t have enough space or privacy. All the best boondocking spots are overcrowded. We get it. And it’s somewhat true. But it’s not an absolute. If space and solitude are your thing, go when and where the crowds aren’t!
RV Camping Myth #3 Busted! Here's the proof.
Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming are all popular states, especially in the summer. Yet we still managed to find many great campsites, often with very few if any other campers around. Heck, we even found some sweet boondocking places too, with few (if any) other campers around! Here are a few examples:
Sundance Horse Farm, WY: This Forest Service campground is an absolute gem, with vast, wide open views and plenty of space in between campsites. Our closest neighbors were 4 horses in the corrals behind us! We found this amazing spot by searching the CampgroundViews.com website, and rolled in on a Friday afternoon to pick one of several available ‘first-come, first-served’ campsites. We paid just $16.50 for our campsite (pictured above) plus $2 for our dog, so $18.50 all up, at their self-serve pay station. Campsites have no hookups, but there is a water faucet to fill your tank, and sites have a picnic table and fire ring. It’s an easy drive to the Black Hills and Devil’s Tower National Monument.
McGuigan’s Family Farm, SD: Even though there was a big field with five large RV parking spaces, we were the only rig there. We stayed as part of our Harvest Hosts membership and booked our stay via their app. We took a peaceful, relaxing stroll around the farm, visited the animals, and bought eggs at their self-serve produce shed. Parked beside the neighboring field, we had complete privacy, and Sunny loved running around the huge, wide open space.
Pine Bluffs Distilling, WY: Even though we arrived late on a Saturday to discover four other RVs already there, we still found plenty of open space to park our RV, relax and enjoy our overnight stay at this Harvest Hosts location. We parked in the field by the silos, near a Class A motorhome. We enjoyed some cocktails with fellow RVers, and picked up some gifts and a bottle of their vodka in their store. The next morning, we were woken by a herd of cows (see below) surrounding our RVs. That was a crowd we were happy to see!
Here are some tips for finding less crowded places to camp:
Go midweek – Sunday to Thursday usually have the best availability. Get off the beaten track. Go to the places you (and others) had never even heard of. Stay at farms, wineries and distilleries like the ones we found through Harvest Hosts. Seek out lesser known national recreation areas and national forest locations, far from the interstates. There are so many hidden gems, and FINDING them is half the fun!
We’ve even turned our RV travels into a bit of a game – a fun challenge – where we don’t make many advance reservations at all anymore. UNLESS we’re planning for a longer stay during peak times. We tend to just head off and see what we can find at short notice. So far it’s been working out just fine when we book 1-2 days ahead, or even the same day! Remember, we travel in a 25 foot motorhome. The smaller rig helps! And we’re flexible.
RV Camping Myth #4: High fuel prices have made RV travel unaffordable.
We’ve all been feeling the pain at the pump this year. It’s a relief to see prices starting to come back down. For many, high gas prices have had a dramatic impact on RV travels. Many folks have slowed down, or stopped RVing altogether. But gas has always been one of the biggest costs for RVers, and something to consider if you’re planning an RV purchase. It’s one of many things you need to budget for.
On our recent 4-state trip from Colorado to South Dakota, through Wyoming and a corner of Nebraska, we ended up driving 1,896 miles over 2 weeks. Our total cost for fuel was $707 – ouch!
So that cost about 37 cents a mile. We get an average fuel economy of 14.4 miles per gallon in this Class C diesel motorhome. And we didn’t tow a vehicle, so all of our driving and sightseeing was done in the RV.
Now on this trip, we drove a LOT of miles in a very short time. And this is not something we typically recommend! Especially if you’re trying to travel on a budget. So why DID we do it? More on that in Myth #5.
Let’s look at how and why we busted the “fuel is too expensive” myth!
RV Camping Myth #4 Busted! Here's the proof.
The good news is, you don’t have to travel that far or wide to enjoy your RV travels. In fact, if fuel prices are cramping your RV travel style, we recommend you look for ways to offset this. You can do this by changing your travel style, and focusing on saving in other areas.
Of course, we could have saved a lot of money on fuel had we chosen to mostly stay regional in Colorado. Instead, we visited four of the big states out west, and did a lot of sightseeing style driving along the way, such as Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park (above), Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, and visiting Devil’s Tower.
But over summer we also stayed at a couple of our fave Colorado campgrounds, Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch and Kebler Corner. Plus a few national and state public campgrounds, at Colorado National Monument, Cherry Creek State Park, and Steven’s Campground National Recreation Area. Had we stayed local or regional the entire summer, we could have easily done multiple trips and only driven a few hundred miles, to save substantially on fuel.
Every 100 miles in our RV – at our average cost of 37 cents a mile – costs $37 in fuel. And there’s plenty to see and do within a 50-100 mile radius of just about anywhere. Just take a look, you may be surprised at what you’ll find! No matter what the fuel prices are doing, we’ve found you can almost always find ways to save year round.
Top fuel saving tips:
Here are some of our top tips:
- Plan your route to be the most efficient. We use RV Trip Wizard which is fantastic for planning RV-safe travel routes and the most efficient way to get to your destination. We even use it to plan many of our fuel stops in advance.
- Travel shorter distances. Don’t drive as many miles and you won’t use as much fuel!
- Slow your travel pace. Don’t move as often, and stay longer in each place or local area.
- Ask yourself if you really need to tow a vehicle. We choose to carry a couple of e-bikes instead, and these have become our primary transport while traveling. Even at home, we use our e-bikes way more than our car these days. Not only are we saving money on gas, we’re getting more exercise!
- Lighten up. Easing your foot off the accelerator and slowing your travel speed is not only safer, but it uses less fuel and saves money. We find driving our RVs at 58-62 MPH to be the most fuel efficient range. Drive faster and watch your fuel economy plummet!
- Save with apps and discount fuel cards. Check fuel prices with apps like Gas Buddy, and Open Roads which offers a discount fuel card that we use all the time. It’s free to apply, with no annual fees. While discounts vary, we have saved as much as $1 a gallon on fuel with our Open Roads discount fuel card.
RV Camping Myth #5: You can’t get into an RV repair shop for at least 3-6 months.
The challenges of getting into an RV repair facility in a timely manner has been a common concern for many RVers. It’s true that with more RVers – especially newbies – out on the road, there is a much greater demand for RV service technicians. There was a shortage of RV techs long before the explosion in popularity of RVs. That’s why we wrote an in-depth report on the state of RV repairs covering the reasons behind this issue – and the potential solutions.
While many shops are booking 6 months out, don’t give up! There are other options, if you’re flexible and persistent.
RV Camping Myth #5 Busted! Here's the proof.
The reason we decided to head to South Dakota was because we found an RV shop that could see us fairly quickly. We had a pesky leak in our RV, and water entered the fiberglass cab-over area after it rained. Marc had checked, caulked, and re-sealed the roof, but there was still water coming in. Frustrated, we decided to get a SealTech test done, which is only offered by specific RV dealers and repair shops with the special equipment for it.
One large Colorado dealer was booked four months out. Another in Utah was taking appointments two months out. And both RV repair shops were a five hour drive each way! So we expanded our geographical search and found a small, family owned RV repair shop in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. They had great reviews, the right equipment to do our RV leak test and were able to see us within a couple of weeks.
Even though South Dakota sounds a long way (a 20 hour round trip), we would have had to do a 10 hour round trip to the other locations anyway. After 6+ years of full timing, that’s nothing for us! We just wanted that leak fixed! Besides, we hadn’t been to the Black Hills area for a few years, and we got to drive some new roads, and visit friends, too. So we turned our RV repair road trip into a fun adventure.
Oh, and that shop’s hourly rate was $129 an hour, which is pretty reasonable, and lower than the $150-$175 rates that are more common elsewhere.
RV repair shop tips
Here are some tips for finding an RV repair shop:
- Think outside the box! Don’t just rely on your dealer or the first RV repair place you find. Keep on searching and calling, and try RV mobile service techs too, especially it’s urgent.
- Be prepared to travel. Find somewhere along your route, or a little off the beaten path where it’s less crowded.
- Look for small, independently owned RV repair shops. They are often easier to get into than big name dealerships.
- Take care of your RV. Maintaining your RV properly and taking a preventative approach can avoid many issues.
- DIY your RV repairs where possible. There are lots of RV repairs you can do yourself. For example, do you really need to take the RV into the shop to winterize your RV this season? Maybe you can DIY it. Check your RV owner’s manual for the specific steps to winterize your RV, as they often have different systems. It will save you time, hassle, and money.
Don’t let naysayers spoil your fun. And don’t believe every bad story you hear. There are so many ways to get out and make the most of your RV and travel, without breaking the bank. Whether you’re looking for a campsite, or a place to fix your RV, there ARE other options out there. And these often lead to unexpected surprises and memorable experiences. Having a positive attitude, being flexible, arming yourself with the best tools, and a willingness to think outside the box all go a long way. And you may just find that “luck” ends up in your favor a lot more often!
Now, we want to know. What has been YOUR experience? Are you finding ways to RV on a budget and score some great spots? Drop us a note in the comments to let us know!
GOT COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?
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