Ah…the word FREE. Nothing is more magical, when living on very little income in an rv, than knowing this month half of your expenses are wiped out, because you found free lodging. It doesn’t happen often for us yet, because we haven’t actively pursued it, but you can make it happen with a little effort.
As stated before, the frugal rv lifestyle requires you plan ahead. Think of any task you do, where you can save money, as being equivalent to working a part time job. If your phone calls and research result in your saving $200 this month, way to go! Now, if you wait until the last minute to make destination plans, don’t be surprised if that will cost you more in the long run.
So where to find these free campsites?
- Two of our favorite internet sites are freecampgrounds.com and freecampsites.net. They aren’t totally free but usually list places for under $10. Keep in mind, you aren’t likely to find full hookups, showers and a pool for the kids for free…no…you need to read descriptions carefully to see what services are offered and, often, there aren’t many. But when traveling from here to there, they save a fortune. Have you looked into one night at a KOA?! Sometimes a motel is cheaper when making a long distance trek!
- If you plan to stay for a long period of time in one location and if you plan very far in advance, you can often get free rent in exchange for being a camp host at a state or national park. Every state has a website you can explore, but these jobs fill up fast so plan on applying very early. Also, another idea is to find employment in summers at National Parks. You can often find part time jobs and/or great campsite discounts if you commit to working a full summer.
- There are sites on the internet you can pay for, to find camp host jobs and the like, but we’ve never paid for these services to date, so won’t go into detail on those types of things.
- Another idea for free campgrounds is to check major campground chains for employment opportunities (again, long before the camping season starts).
- Check ads in area newspapers and Craigslist (and post your own ad!) stating you are looking for a property sitting position, free site in exchange for work, etc. You might at least find a cheaper rent! Some of our best successes have come from simply communicating with people well in advance, telling them our story…you’d be surprised how accommodating people can be.
- Relatives and friends are a great idea…but don’t think they want you there forever…they don’t! I know it sounds perfect…your family has missed you and loves you…of course they want you to pull up with a 30 foot travel trailer and live there 3 months a year. Well…no…they really don’t. But you can talk to friends and relatives about opportunities…plan journeys to visit, knowing well in advance how long you are welcome to stay, and use that to help with reducing campsite costs. Also, you could help a family member out with work he/she might need, in exchange for staying on their property.
- Though not a long term solution, many truck stops like Flying J and stores like Walmart offer free overnight parking. Great for saving money when driving to a destination.
Basically, there are many opportunities out there for at least reducing your rv campground costs – some of them are free. Again, be creative. Having a generator (quite standard in larger rvs/motorhomes) can save you a lot of cash because you are more self-contained and able to just “pull over” for some time, in free locations. If you like to stay put, you’ll need to work at finding places far in advance, securing your camp host job, etc. If you like moving around, you can pay very little by visiting relatives, alternating quick stays at Flying J, spending a few nights at free or cheap campgrounds. You determine what is most suitable, then go out and get it! We tend to stay in one place for a chunk of time. We look for the cheapest monthly rate we can find, in an area we like, and just stay put…then move on. The beauty is that it is up to YOU!!
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