Frugal RV Family travel

Think frugal RV family travel is impossible? Think again.

Frugal RV Travel for families is not only possible; it's fun, educational, rewarding, and will give you memories you will all cherish for a lifetime. I know this because I've been there, done that, and I'm hooked.

If you crave family adventure travel and have been putting off your road trip because you have young children, read on to find out how you don't have to wait until the kids move out to live your dreams. Here's how to RV Travel with your family on the cheap.

1. Buying an RV? Stay away from the dealerships.

If your goal is to travel frugally, buying an RV at a dealership is almost never a good deal. A new RV can cost as much as a house, and used RV prices aren't all that much better, either.

We scored our 32-foot RV for the amazing price of CND$10,000. Yes, it's 19 years old, but it's in amazing shape and took us safely across two countries.

Although for the frugally-minded, $10,000 may seem like a great deal of money, we had a free place to sleep for an entire year. Compare that to roughly $100 per night in hotels for 365 nights, and it's pretty obvious we made a great deal.

Yes, there are definitely other alternatives to staying in a hotel and/or sleeping in an RV (Couchsurfing comes to mind), but for a family of 5, those options are more limited. Having a guaranteed place to sleep also provides a lot of peace of mind for a young family, and you can't put a price on that.

2. Limit campground bookings to stay frugal when RV traveling

Campgrounds and RV resorts can be great, but they can also break the bank on a long trip. You don't need to swear off campgrounds, but make those stays a special thing rather than a nightly one. We chose to stay at campgrounds or RV resorts for birthdays, our anniversary, and if one of us was sick.

When you do stay at campgrounds, choose state, provincial, and national parks over private campgrounds—the former are usually much cheaper. Reserve private campgrounds for special occasions or in places where you don't have another option.

So if we didn't stay at campgrounds, where did we sleep? We chose to stay overnight at Walmarts that allowed it, Cracker Barrels, BLMs, and some other places that allowed overnight stays. Just be sure to check in with management before parking at the stores.

3. Frugal RV Travel means spending lots of time outdoors

Travelling frugally doesn't just save you money; it keeps you healthy, too. When you travel by RV and are conscious about where you're spending your money, you end up truly experiencing the great outdoors. And because you're sharing a small space with other people, getting out there helps to give everyone the space they need while getting exercise, too.

You can experience the great outdoors for free: a couple of places we found include a forest behind a Walmart where we stayed and beautiful landscaped gardens in Marathon, Texas, both of which were free to visit and walk around in.

Be sure to invest in a National Parks pass if you're travelling long-term. It will save you money and get you into all kinds of neat places. We purchased both the America the Beautiful pass and the Discovery Pass for Canada. If you're staying in any one state or province for long periods, look into their state or provincial parks pass. This is especially worth it in Texas, where you'll find over 50 state parks, a national seashore, and historic sites. Keep in mind these passes are for day use only—you'll need to pay extra for camping.

4. You have your house with you: stay frugal by cooking your own meals in your RV

To stay frugal while RV travelling with your family, cook your meals in your RV as often as possible. Don't swear off restaurants all together; that's not what it's about. But just as if you were living at a sticks and bricks home, limit restaurant outings to special occasions to stay frugal.

We went to restaurants for birthdays, our anniversary, and once in a while just for fun. We enjoyed eating out in Texas. The state's reputation for giant serving sizes doesn't disappoint, and we got a good three meals out of each meal we ordered there, saving us money and keeping our bellies happy in the process.

Your turn: Live frugal, live happy, travel widely

We travelled in an RV for nine months with our children, ages 8, 6 and 4. It was an amazing experience and we highly recommend long-term family RV travel for any adventurous parents. By staying at unconventional places, making your own food, and enjoying the great outdoors, it's possible to travel widely while also keeping money in the bank.

Author Bio: Mariana Abeid-McDougall is a writer, editor, wife, and mom of three in an adventurous, out-of-the-box family. Find out more at

Photo by Jeff Stapleton from Pexels


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