Is Traveling in an RV Cheaper for Vacations?

Is traveling in an RV really a way to save money? Is it cheaper to haul your family around in a recreational vehicle for vacations instead of getting a hotel room or renting a house? Well, let’s cover a few hidden costs to consider. 

Do RVs help save on travel costs? 

The answer to this question is yes and no. Saving with a recreational vehicle or camper really depends on your budget, maintenance, and planning. While some families save tons on vacations, others can end up spending more. 

The main question is, are RVs cheaper than hotels? But what if your travel destination is remote? Then you can stay in your rig at a national park, where hotel rooms are limited or, in some cases, pretty far away from the park entrances. 

An RV camper parked on the shore along Kyle of Tongue, shallow sea loch in northwest Highland, Sutherland, Scottish Highlands, Scotland, UK.
RV camper | Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

According to Nerd Wallet, one of the main benefits of RV travel is being in the middle of the action. But you have to plan for additional fees that you may not anticipate, such as the cost of fuel, gear, registration fees, taxes, and more. 

Hidden RV costs 

Depending on the type of RV you purchase, it can cost as much as a small house, according to Trip Savvy. The bigger your family is, the larger the recreational vehicle you need, and the cost of a new RV can be over $100k. 

Then you have the financial commitment of having a monthly payment for your RV. It may also have a high-interest rate depending on how you finance it. Plus, the RV will depreciate over time. You will need to maintain it by working on mechanical issues yourself or paying someone else to handle that work for you. 

Remember that you will need RV insurance, which can vary based on the age setup. According to Insider, RV insurance can cost between $860 to $4,500 a year, depending on your state. Then you have to pay for the cost of electricity, food, drinking water, laundromat prices, oil disposal, bathroom disposal, towing equipment, toll fees, furnishings, and more. 

Also, driving or hauling an RV isn’t a free pass to stay wherever you want. Campground sites can cost as much as $60 per night. You can park at truck stops or rest areas depending on regulations in the areas that you’re traveling to. Fees often go up in price during more popular travel times, too. 

How to save with an RV 

Experienced RV traveler, Michelle Fishburne, shared, “It is absolutely cheaper to travel in an RV on vacations, which is why we bought a camper a few months after our second child was born.

We still wanted to travel even though we had kids, but we could not afford hotel rooms that would comfortably fit all four of us. We also could not afford to eat out at restaurants every day, three meals a day, for all four of us. And room service is way too expensive, especially for breakfast for four people. 

So we bought the camper, which was our ticket to beach vacations, mountain vacations, and just-about-anywhere-we’d-want-to-go-vacations. It was significantly less expensive for beach vacations. We could be a 2-minute walk from the beach for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room, Airbnb, or rental. And the best part was that whenever the kids were hungry, we’d come back to the camper and rustle up a meal in a jiffy.

And RV travel is significantly less expensive when it comes to visiting our country’s top national parks. The cost of a night at the Old Faithful Inn will take your breath away. And that doesn’t even include all the meals, which seem to be priced at NYC rates. For those of us who RV through Yellowstone, the campsites are inexpensive, and we can make our own meals.

Much, much more affordable. And don’t even get me started on whether it’s less expensive to do Disney World with an RV or hotel. Hands-down RV, which is why that’s the only way I’ve ever stayed at Disney World — and I started going there as a kid in 1972 (the year after it opened).” 

Michelle makes excellent points on how using an RV can save on the cost of meals and lodging expenses. Plus, if you park near the attraction you’re visiting, you could save on fuel by not having to drive back and forth from a hotel. 

RV with a man and woman
RV | Henning Kaiser with picture alliance via Getty Images

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According to RV Share, you can also save money by boondocking. This is when you set up camp without electrical, water, or sewage hookups. You can also use a water filtration system to save on the costs of bottled water. 

Consider joining a travel club to save even more. RV-specific memberships can cut campground costs by up to 50 percent. Plus, you could work from your RV with a remote position. But this will require access to Wi-Fi.