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Traveling across America and experiencing its breathtaking beauty in an RV has obvious appeal, but it can also be pricey. If your not careful, the costs — gas, food, general vehicle maintenance, campground fees — can quickly add up. Here are five ways you can go on an affordable RV vacation:

1. Consider an RV Relocation

Some RV rental companies such as Apollo need drivers to shuttle their vehicles to different locales. Instead of hiring a professional they offer relocation deals for vacationers. You may pay a heavily reduced rate, or maybe only have to pay for gas. This is a good option if you're flexible on when you travel because these companies need to get their RVs to a specific destination by a certain date, and the best rates are during the off-season for travel (i.e, colder months).

2. Look for Discounts on Campground Sites

To save on camping, consider getting a National Parks' America the Beautiful pass. For an annual fee, it grants you access to over 2,000 federal recreation site entrances, amenities and day use fees. An annual pass is $80, and if you're a senior citizen (age 62 and up) it's only $10 a year.

Another option is to park on public lands, of which there are over 250 million acres in the U.S. You can plan your trip by going to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site. Discount campsite passes, such as the ones offered by Passport America and a Thousand Trails, may save you some cash. Just make sure the campsites included are ones along your travel route, and read the fine print to see what fees are included.

3. Shower at Gyms and Truck Stops

Instead of occasionally staying at a hotel to take a hot shower, get a gym membership — you can get your fitness on, and also get cleaned up. Depending on how long you plan on being on the road, a monthly or annual membership to a national gym chain such as Planet Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, or Gold's Gym could save you money.

If you're not keen on showering at a gym, consider showering at a year-round community pool that's open to the public. This may require a bit more planning and as you search various websites to see which are open. Truck stops are another option for cleaning up. These tend to be clean facilities, and some even offer you supplies such as soap, shampoo, and a razor. You can do a quick search on Truck Stop Guide to see where there are showers along your trip.

4. Prepare Your Own Meals

As you know, eating out can burn a hole in your pocket. Buying groceries, meal prepping, and loading up on snacks and water will help you save significantly on your RV vacation. Plus, when you store food in an RV, make a note of how much food storage you have and don't buy more food than you have space for. Consider purchasing dried fruit instead of fresh fruit so that there isn't any waste.

5. Calculate Fuel Costs Ahead of Time

Do some research and use fuel calculators such as Gas Buddy to figure out the average cost of gas in different parts of the country. Driving in traffic can up your gas usage, and varying terrain during different times of the year could affect your mileage — you'll want to take all of these factors into consideration.

If you have a hankering to dine out, choose the eateries that offer the most unique, regional fare. Or load up on gift cards to your favorite nationwide restaurants so you don't spend too much.

You can be thrifty and still have fun during an RV vacation. By following a few tips and tactics, you'll have affordable yet enjoyable travels.


This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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