America’s National Parks continues to draw more people every year and a hefty number of those travelling to the National Parks do so in their RVs. RVers like to do two things, see the gorgeous sites of the National Park system and save money. Luckily RVers can have their cake and eat it, too. I’ve put together a list of seven ways to make your trips to the National Parks cheaper so you can see and save green.
7 Ways to Save Money RVing to National Parks
Travel During Shoulder Season
Shoulder season can refer to either autumn or spring camping because they are the seasons that shoulder the peak summer season. Not only will you be able to beat the heat and the large influx of crowds but many National Parks offer discounted rates during these seasons. Just make sure the park is actually open when you plan to camp.
Pro Tip: If you can go right before winter starts or right as it ends and handle the cold, you’ll get the best deals across the country at National Parks, RV parks, and more.
Ditch the Amenities
We all love our air conditioning and constant flow of electricity but let’s face it, you can’t experience the National Parks if you’re spending your time in front of a TV or laptop with the air conditioning blasting. We encourage you to try dry camping at National Parks, dry camping sites are not only more plentiful in the National Parks system but they are often cheaper.
Pro Tip: When you hit the road, you have to leave the kitchen sink behind. Enjoy the great outdoors and save money by entertaining yourself outside.
Consider Dry Camping to Save on Parking
This may not be a viable option if you drive a large motorhome or are staying in certain National Parks, but if your RV can handle it you may consider doing some true dry camping. Many National Parks are attached to National Forests or government land that is completely free to camp in. Always check ahead of time to see if you need permission or a permit to get out into the wilderness for a true "roughing it" experience.
Pro Tip: Dry camping isn’t for everyone, so make sure you can handle being off the beaten path for a few days.
Look into Park Passes and Discounts
If you’re a frequent National Parks visitor, in the military, or a senior citizen, you should definitely consider purchasing or obtaining a National Parks Pass. These may not get you free or even discounted access to some parks but it can reduce the cost of the trip by getting you free unlimited entrance fees to not only National Parks, but National Forests and Grasslands, Bureau of Land Management and Reclamation lands as well.
Pro Tip: Free days happen several times a year through the NPS, take advantage of them and plan a trip to a park you’ve never been to before.
Volunteer Your Time
Many National Parks may offer discounted or free rates if you volunteer some of your time towards the Park. These are known as workamping programs and are popular among retirees and full-time RVers. You can get out and help the National Park system with the added benefit of free or discounted sites.
Pro Tip: Most KOA campgrounds offer some form of workamping, although spots fill up before the season begins.
Bring Your Own Food
This is a money saving tip for most RV trips but is especially pertinent when it comes to National Parks. This is because many parks may be far away from grocery stores and restaurants, adding extra fuel and time anytime you need to get your own meals. Bring your own food to save this money, time and energy.
Pro Tip: Plan your meals ahead of time and budget a night or two out at local restaurants or eateries for the best experience.
Gas Up Outside the Park
Some National Parks offer fuel services inside park grounds or outside. While these are convenient they are often much more expensive than most fuel. Try to fill up your tanks a few miles outside of park grounds for a much better value.
Pro Tip: You can use apps like GasBuddy to find the best prices on gas in and around where you’re traveling for the best value.
Browse RV forums and think outside the box to figure out more ways to save. Now you can enjoy your trip to any National Park that much more knowing you saved a bit of money along the way.