How To Minimize RV Space Costs
This is probably the first thing that really stuns new RVers who hit the road with the 'learn as you go' method, to a point that they feel an urgent need to go back to the drawing board with their plans. If you pay the regular nightly rate at RV parks, resorts and campgrounds for more than a week or two, you can spend an absolute fortune – and totally unnecessarily. Some people get out of RVing soon after getting into it precisely because of this fact. But take heart – there are a lot of things you can do to bring those costs way down to a manageable level.
First of all, go to our map of totally free RV hookups page (betweenouthere.com/freervhookupsmap). If some of these locations are on your route, you can't beat free. Take a video walk through one in the Texas panhandle: https://youtu.be/1i9JU0m7xkU
The second fastest, easiest way to lower your cost for RV spaces is to join Passport America. It's $44 for an entire year and gives you half off the nightly rate at tons of RV parks across the country. They actually have more locations closer to the popular spots for RVers than our favorite higher cost memberships.
Get your membership info here: (https://www.passportamerica.com/)
The RV Odd Couple lays it out pretty good here: https://youtu.be/lwlY3_2MIaw
The Free Overnight Clubs
Next, try out the two top 'free overnight' organizations and see if they're for you. The cost is low, and the savings can be huge. The big catch for these options is that you have to supply your own electricity, fresh water, and waste tank dumping facilities (like these: betweenouthere.com/freedumpstations). The bigger catch is that some of them don't allow you to run a generator overnight, so if you don't have a powerful battery bank, it might not be doable.
Both of these organizations can be a bit cliquish and depend on good personality matches to a certain extent. But that can be handled by finding which other users have your same preferences and take the time to leave reviews for the locations they have visited. You'll figure out pretty quickly how to avoid the locations that probably aren't for you and find the ones that will likely be good experiences for you.
These memberships aren't really free, because you have to buy an annual membership. And with Harvest Hosts there is an expectation that you will patronize the host's business. That can range from buying a small trinket to buying tickets to tour their alligator park. Additionally, if the host provides you with any kind of extras beyond the minimum that the organization requires, there is an expectation that you will compensate them in some way. If they provide an electrical hookup, that is going to cost them something, so etiquette says you're supposed to give them something of equal value in return.
Harvest Hosts has the most charming and pleasant settings/landscapes by far. As a bonus, good attractions for you to experience can fall neatly into your travels at these locations. Keeping up a natural living lifestyle comes pretty easy when you frequent Harvest Hosts farms.
Visit a couple of their locations vicariously here: https://youtu.be/iD8gAYmdw2s
Boondockers Welcome is more down to earth and there is generally no expectation that you're going to spend any money (aside from compensating for extras as explained above).
These guys had a great time at a BW location in Texas:
The Weekly and Monthly Rates
At most RV parks, the general rule is the weekly rate is approximately the same cost as three nights of the regular nightly rate, and the monthly rate is approximately the same cost as two weeks of the weekly rate. That alone can save you a ton of money. However, this is just a rule of thumb. You can find a monthly rate between $200-$300 in Texas, while a monthly rate at a popular place in Florida during the winter can run $2,500.
These guys are the old guard of RV park memberships, and they're still probably the best deal. The consensus among long time members seems to be that the best bet is to either cheap out and get an annual zone pass (also called the camping pass) plus the trails collection, or go for one of the big membership levels that give you nearly every advantage of their system.
Start here to explore some options: (https://thousandtrails.com/)
This video gives a pretty good description of the zone pass: https://youtu.be/BOIhpjNRYNc
Here's a good breakdown of the full membership: https://youtu.be/JFOdgNIhgUY
Coast to Coast
This network operates a little differently than Thousand Trails. Coast to Coast has fewer locations, but most of them are very good RV parks/resorts. You have to have a “home park” and the prices for memberships to their home parks vary across a wide range. Some home parks only give you limited access to the system. Others give you the option of getting an inexpensive membership level that lets you stay up to two weeks for between $5-20 per night or, alternatively, a full membership that gives you free stays year round at a wide network of places across the country.
Here's a good place to get info: https://youtu.be/BOIhpjNRYNc
Here's a great place to find great prices on other RV memberships: https://www.rvparkstore.com/rv-park-and-campground-memberships
Unfortunately, free campsites at county parks and state conservation areas are probably not going to feel as safe as you might hope for. There tends to be a cat-and-mouse game between criminals and law enforcement. Hearing and seeing suspicious behavior just outside your door can make for a bad night's sleep. And it seems law enforcement officers sometimes have a hard time distinguishing between their usual suspects and us law-abiding RVers, even when we're in nice looking rigs that don't come cheap. We could end up feeling like we're targets for both the cats and the mice. There are surely exceptions, but we haven't had pleasant enough experiences at these kinds of locations to recommend them.