Traveling by RV doesn’t have to be expensive
Although we love the occasional luxury RV resort stay, there’s no reason for you feel pressure to spend lots of money on your RV adventure. In fact, there are quite a lot of RVers who work with a shoestring budget and still enjoy all the wonderful things about the RV lifestyle!
One big cost associated with RV travel is your overnight parking. Whether you choose a campground, RV resort, or national park, you’ll usually have to pay for the privilege of parking your camper for the night.
For the traveler who’s looking for ultra-low-cost parking options, here’s our guide to finding inexpensive parking.
Things to consider when seeking low-cost parking
The first question you should ask yourself when considering low-cost parking is: how important is convenience for my family?
Often, low-cost parking options have correspondingly low amenities. If hookups, electricity, camp security, and restrooms are important to you, it may be better to pay for the convenience and accessibility of a campground or resort.
If you know that you’re okay with doing things frugal-style, then proceed with the following things in mind.
You can’t just pull off to the side of the road and hunker down for the night. You still need to find a safe area where you have permission to park. Take sensible security measures. Lock the doors and windows of your rig, don’t leave valuables outside, and don’t keep food or garbage out that could attract animals.
There are lots of options for low-cost parking, and if you put safety first, you’ll be well on your way to a comfortable and frugal night’s sleep.
By and large, the most cost-effective campgrounds are in State and National Parks. Not only do these locations offer incredible views and access to the country’s wonderful parks, they often offer restrooms and hookups for a very affordable price.
If you don’t know where to start, take a look at our roundup of “National Parks That Should Be On Your RV Bucket List“. If you’d rather do your own campground research, we’ve made it easy with our Campground Tool.
Low-cost parking ideas
Many businesses will allow overnight RV parking on their parking lots. This is a great option for a completely free, easy resting place for a night. It’s very important to ask the property if it is ok. Some cities have restrictions against overnight parking, so don’t assume that you can just park at any 24-hour business.
As a rule of thumb, always practice good etiquette when using a businesses’ lot for overnight parking. In addition to asking for permission, it’s nice if you patronize the business where you park. Don’t overstay your welcome – one night is acceptable, but anything more may be considered taking advantage.
Here are a few ideas for businesses that may be willing to accommodate overnight parking:
- Big box stores – especially 24-hour locations
- Truck stops
- Fraternal Organizations
- Cracker Barrel
There are many options for free overnight parking. This is a great frugal option if you are willing to be courteous to the business owners, and take practical safety measures like parking under good lighting and locking your doors.
When you’re ready to rough it – boondocking
Boondocking is a term coined by RVers to describe camping without any utilities or amenities. Many RVers like to boondock on public land like national and state parks, rest areas, etc. Boondocking is traditionally done in a quiet spot in nature, far from the lights and noise of other people.
It can be a picturesque experience – camping under the stars with your own bed and homey comforts. By all means, you should enjoy the benefits of boondocking, but just like overnight parking at a business, you still need to follow a few guidelines.
Check with local authorities about parking on public land, because it isn’t allowed everywhere. Use extra caution with food and odors, because remote places often have animal activity. Be prepared to rough it a little – unless you have a generator and a fully equipped RV, you won’t have water or bathrooms or electricity.
Don’t let these things deter you, however. Roughing it is what camping is all about!
Cheap parking is available with a little creativity
By using the options for cheap parking – low-cost campgrounds, overnight parking lots, and boondocking, you’ll be saving your pennies for all the fun adventures you’ll encounter on your RV vacation.
Are you interested in joining the RV Advisor community? Membership gives you an all-access pass to everything our community has to offer. Visit RV Advisor today to learn more!