Overnight camping costs will run from free out in the desert, at a Wal-Mart, or a casino, to $35 or more (sometimes way more) a night for an rv park or resort. Here are some tips to help keep your rv camping costs under control.
RV Parks and Resorts: Your costs will be highest in rv parks and resorts, but you will also have more amenities, such as cable TV, WiFi, laundry facilities, restrooms with showers, and so on. Prices can run from around $20 to $50 or more a night, depending on the area of the country (in 2010 it was $75/night at a park near San Francisco), the extent of the amenities, and so on. If you stay for a week or month, you can generally save some money; if you can get a site with just water and electric, and use their dump station to empty your holding tanks when necessary, you can usually save about $3/night.
There are several ways you can qualify for a discount at many rv parks and resorts. If you are a member of the Good Sam Club, AARP, or are active or retired military, always ask if a discount is available. Lots of time you will qualify for a 10% discount on the overnight camping cost.
Also, there are discount camping clubs, such as Passport America, Resort Parks International (RPI) and others that you can join for an annual fee, which will qualify you for excellent discounts, at least for the first night or two. Just be sure you join one that has a lot of campground options for the part of the country you'll be travelling in.
A copy of the Trailer Life RV Parks, Campgrounds and Services, along with the Trailer Life RV Road Atlas are invaluable tools to carry with you.
State Parks: State parks are a great alternative to commercial RV parks, and their overnight camping fees are lower. Like national parks, they may have sites with electric hookup, and occasionally even electric and water. Restroom facilities are available, and run the gamut from vault toilets, to flush toilets, to flush toilets and showers. Fresh water and an RV dump station are usually close by.
Some states offer annual passes that will qualify you for either
free camping or a big discount. I took advantange of New Mexico's annual
state park pass twice and it may be the best one out there. (It was $225, and still is, for twelve months.) If you
intend to spend a good portion of your traveling time in a particular
state, be sure to check on this possibility.
Both state and national parks have a limit on how long you can stay.
National Parks: If you are a U.S. citizen, over 62 years of age, or handicapped, our Federal Government has a wonderful gift for you. You can purchase an America the Beautiful Pass, good for your lifetime, for just $10*. If you’re disabled, it’s called a Golden Access Passport and it’s free. Either of these “Passports” will give you free entrance to any U.S. National Park, National Monument or National Forest. And, if there are camping facilities in the park, you are generally charged only one half the normal fee.
*Note: The price of a lifetime senior pass will increase to $80 on August 28, 2017.
If you plan to visit several national parks and monuments in a given year and you're not yet eligible for one of the above passports, purchase an America the Beautiful annual pass for $80. You will save on admission fees to National Parks and Federal Recreation Areas.
Fairgrounds: Many towns and cities have fairgrounds
with RV parking, with or without electric hookups, which generally run
about $5-15/night. If you have internet service, you can find
information there, or stop by the local visitor center or chamber of
The best website for finding state parks with RV camping, Wal-Marts, similar places that will let you dry camp overnight, and just about anything else you want to know is Allstays Travel. They even have an App available for those of you with intelligent cellphones.
Boondocking or Wild Camping: See The Frugal RVer for more information. This is my favorite way to camp - you can't beat "free" for overnight camping.