What’s better than traveling the United States from the comfort of an RV?
When you’re traveling in an RV, you control where you want to go and when you want to do it (literally – you’re in control of the RV)!
Sound like fun? I thought you might think so – which is why I put together this guide on how to budget and plan for an RV road trip before you head out.
We’re going to go over different fees to expect, how to properly plan your RV road trip, and some tips to make the most out of your adventure.
Let’s dive in!
Budgeting the Road Trip: RVing Costs
Let’s say you’ve never gone RVing before.
You’re unsure what to expect from the trip – but the money aspect is really concerning you.
How much should you save? How much should you bring? Are there any surprise fees that you’ll face?
We’re glad you’re asking yourselves these questions (we certainly did when we first started RVing).
If you purchased an RV for yourself, you know how much you owe per month for payments (unless you were able to pay it off).
If you’re looking to rent an RV, you can save yourself a lot of money! We have a guide on how to do it if you need more info.
Now, let’s go over a few things that you’ll need to budget for (and some things you may not be thinking of).
Right off the bat, there are:
- Campground fees
- Gas costs
These are the basic fees that you’ve probably thought of already.
What you may not have thought about, though, is whether you want to stay in a campground or boondock!
Boondocking (or staying “off-grid”) can save you money when it comes to campground fees, but you’ll need to have a few solar panels, a backup generator, a few extra RV batteries, and more (so… are you really saving money?).
Boondocking is perfect for those who are experienced campers that want to be secluded in nature.
I don’t recommend boondocking if you’ve never gone RVing before.
It can be dangerous and there is a multitude of things that can go wrong – that said, it can be a blast and you can see some amazing sights. Just be careful and do your research before you choose this route!
Other than those three costs, there are some other important fees that most people don’t take into consideration (unless they’ve lived or traveled in an RV before). Those fees are:
- Indoor/outdoor activities
- State parks
I can almost guarantee you that you’ll end up spending a bit more while you’re traveling than you may think – and it’s not because you’re spending frivolously!
Certain gas stations cost more, tolls can cost more (or less) depending on the route, size, or weight of your rig, and you’re going to want to go to a few state parks while traveling!
While I believe you should have a budget while you’re traveling, you shouldn’t feel bad for the occasional “splurge”.
Important: I highly recommend putting together an emergency fund for those wacky “how the heck did that just happen” moments.
Flat tires, engines that don’t start, someone gets sick (or hurt), food poisoning, your pet gets anxious and vomits, the list goes on and on.
Having money for emergency use only is incredibly important regardless of whether you’re traveling or not, but when you’re in an unfamiliar area it’s even better to have. (If you’re renting an RV, most rental companies have free roadside assistance for this kind of thing.)
RV Trip Planner & Itinerary
With the budget out of the way, let’s talk about how to properly plan your RV road trip.
There are two ways you can do this and both are great options.
Let’s break it down:
1. RV Trip Wizard App
The RV Trip Wizard is one of my favorite ways to plan an RV trip – for so many reasons!
You’re able to choose from more than 17,000 campgrounds, see the cost of your trip, set driving times (and distances), and so much more.
Check out this video to see how the app works in action:
After watching that, it’s a no brainer as to why you’d want the RV trip planner app, right?
The one downfall is that the price of the app is $40. Which, in all honesty, isn’t an unreasonable price to ask for something this helpful.
However, I know what it’s like to be overly cautious with money while traveling at first, and there are free ways to plan your trip.
But, if you can afford it – I definitely recommend this app.
Roverpass allows you to look through more than 20,000 RV-friendly campground listings, lets you save your favorite ones, helps you organize your trip, and more!
They offer two ways to pay:
- 30-day membership for $30
- 12-month membership for $50
It’s a great way to plan your trip, but in my opinion, the RV Wizard app offers more and is a bit more functional.
Do a bit of research to see which RV trip planner app will work best for you, though! After all, you’re the one who will be using the app :)
Make a Solid Itinerary
I’m not saying you have to make an itinerary and follow it to a T… but, I am saying it’s better to have a plan laid out than to go somewhere without having any clue as to what you want to do.
I’m a plan-freak. I love making lists and checking things off. But, I also like being spontaneous and (let’s be honest) lazy while traveling.
I don’t want to do something every hour of every day… but I do want to know what I’m doing each day.
A simple itinerary for me would look a bit like this:
- Pick up RV (if I’m renting one)
- Drive to RV campground
- Sign in & set up my site (pull out the slide outs, bring out the RV outdoor mat, etc)
- Do some light grocery shopping
- Relax for the rest of the day
That’s just an example for the first day, though. I think you get the gist of an itinerary to create one for yourself!
State parks, hikes, kayaking, going to the ocean, going to a museum, or just relaxing in your RV are perfect examples of things you can put on your itinerary while on vacation. You don’t have to do everything in one day (though you might want to).
Pro Tip: Be sure to factor in the driving, setting up, and breaking down aspects of RV camping (as I did in my itinerary example). That’ll set you back a few hours if you don’t plan for it! And driving/setting up your rig can be pretty tiring, so you may not want to do much on your arrival day.
Final Tips on RVing
We’ve reached the end of the article!
By now, you should know how to budget and plan your perfect RV road trip. Forget some of what was mentioned in the beginning? No worries, here’s a quick summary:
- You’re going to have unexpected costs on your RV road trip (and you’re going to need an emergency fund)
- RV trip planner apps will be your best friend
- Itineraries are key when planning a road trip and will save you a headache in the long run
I also have a few quick tips that weren’t mentioned in the article:
- Don’t be ashamed if you have to take a break from driving for a while
- Pack snacks for yourself while driving (even if you don’t have far to go)
- Download audiobooks and podcast episodes to listen to while traveling
- Bring the RV essentials with you on your trip
- Take lots of pictures while you’re on vacation
The most important tip I have for you is this:
Have the time of your life! It’s not every day you get to travel the states in an RV!
Are you looking forward to planning your perfect RV road trip? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’ve already gone on a road trip, tell me how your trip was! Which or what RV trip planner app do you use? What would you recommend to RV newbies going for their first time?