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Blog Financing Travel Free or Cheap RV Camping RV'ing 50 States USA

11 Ways You Can Live for Free or Nearly Free in Your RV

August 5, 2015

Have you ever met someone who seems to live a non-stop travel lifestyle and it fires up your own wanderlust? Do you get jealous when your friends post about their travel vacations on social media sites and wish you were the one posting cool vacation pics?  Do you wish you could ditch your boring life for one filled with exciting adventures?

If you’ve answered yes to any of those questions, you should know that living on the road full-time in an RV (e.g., motorhome, fifth wheel, or travel trailer) could actually be significantly cheaper than living at a fixed location and give you a life of full-time travel adventure.

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Here are 11 ways you can live for free or nearly free in an RV and travel full-time.

  1. Workamping.  Workamping combines working and camping.  Individuals or couples who ‘workamp’ at some campgrounds can receive free perks or compensation in exchange for their time helping out at a campground.  For example, an individual who volunteers time and helps out with landscaping or works the registration desk on weeknights might receive a free campsite, free electric/water/sewer hookups, or free propane in exchange for their time.  Free perks such as a free campsite or free utilities could mean free or nearly free rent while you’re living in your RV.
  2. Boondocking, also known as dry camping, on The Bureau of Land Management Public lands (BLM).  Boondocking is living independently without amenities typically offered at campgrounds.  In the west primarily, there are 264 million acres of public lands which offer free boondocking opportunities.  If you want to travel west or already live in the west, boondocking on BLM land for free means you could put a serious dent in lowering your monthly living expenses.  The trade-off for living on this free land, however, is that you will need to find places to fill your RV water reservoir or devise a rainwater collection and filtration system, dump your black water (waste) tank, and generate electricity for your needs (generator or solar panels).
  3. Overnight Boondocking at stores, parking areas, truck stops, or permissible rest areas.  With permission, select box stores, parking areas, truck stops, pull-offs, or rest areas permit short-term, overnight RV parking.  Stores and stops sometimes include Walmart, Cabela’s, and Flying J’s, among others.  The key is to ask permission before you decide to stay overnight.  If you see no camping or no overnight parking signs, observe the rules or else you could get a 1am knock on your RV door, towed, or worse.
  4. Camping in National Parks.  National Parks offer low-cost camping.  A limitation of National Parks camping, however, is that popular campsites can book up months ahead of time and you may need advance reservations.  There are usually restrictions on how long you can stay in one spot as well, usually 14 days.
  5. Camping in State or Local Parks.  Staying in state or local parks, such as city parks, can offer low cost RV camping, sometimes as low as $13-15 per night.  Such stays can sometimes include utilities, but may also be limited to dry camping, but with common areas to fill your water tank or dump your tanks.
  6. Camping Club Memberships.  Camping clubs, such as Thousand Trails (TT), can be worth the upfront or monthly expense to join if you want to score cheap camping or keep your monthly camping site budget predictable, fixed, or low. For example, TT allows you to purchase zones, depending on where you plan to travel or camp.  With the purchase of a zone, members often get 30 days of free camping and then pay a few dollars per night after that to camp at a TT park.  The only catch with camping club memberships is that there can be restrictions and you will typically be locked into a contract.
  7. Campground Card Discounts.  Certain memberships will earn you major or small campground discounts. For example, Good Sam or AAA membership can get you discounted stays at some campgrounds.  Other club members might get you 50% off weekly or monthly stays.
  8. Deal Sites.  Sometimes cheap camping deals can be found on popular deal site websites such as Groupon.  Keep your eyes open for deals as they aren’t always around, but when you see a deal offered you will want to jump on it!
  9. Long Term Campground Stays.  Willing to stay parked at the same campground for a week, month, three months, or entire season?  At many campgrounds, the longer you stay, the cheaper your per night rate becomes.  Even better, utilities are often included in monthly stays, meaning for a low monthly rent you may be able to park your RV at a great site, and get electric/water and even cable included in your rent.
  10. Exchange sites.  For a nominal annual fee, some online memberships, such as Harvest Hosts, allow you to park for free at farms or vineyards for an overnight or longer, in exchange for your small purchase at the farm or vineyard farmstand. Other membership online programs will allow you to boondock for free in another’s yard or driveway, if you offer up your own yard or driveway.
  11. Crashing with Friends or Family.  What are friends and family for, right?  If your friends or family are willing, you might be able to score free or nominal RV parking/rent for a short or extended period of time.  Drawbacks include having to deal with family/friends if there are issues about your stay or overstaying your welcome, lack of water/sewer connections or having to create them, and possible zoning issues depending on the location/town/city.

 

What did I miss? Have any other ways you can live in your RV for free or nearly free to share? If so, I would love to hear from you!

Happy Wandering!

Blog Financing Travel RV'ing 50 States USA

Wanderschool Book Review: Becoming Barenaked

March 27, 2015

A few days ago, when I stumbled upon the Bare Naked Family’s blog and immediately got sucked into reading all about this family who ditched their American Dream Lifestyle for the full-time RV lifestyle, I didn’t hesitate to buy Becoming BareNaked: Leaving a six figure career, selling all of our crap, pulling the kids out of school, and buying an RV ~ we hit the road in search … what it meant to be a family in America. Thank you, Amazon Prime for getting it to me right before my own homeschooling family embarks on our own whirlwind 50-state tour.  Becoming Barenaked ($26.96 on Amazon) is a compilation of handwritten writings and stories by Barenaked Mama, Jenn.  The pages are actually copies of real handwriting, not re-typed and perfectly edited–raw and real.

The Barenaked Family’s story pulls at my heartstrings and hits close to home.  Young and in love.  Career.  Baby juggling. Multiple houses.  The American Dream.  Trading it all for kid juggling. Unschooling.  RV Living. Organic, free range living. Pursuing dreams. Family Love. Coffee–well, a coffee shop to be more precise (my 9 year old holds dearly the dream of owning one).  Endless possibilities.

Jenn’s writings share her feelings and experiences about transitioning from the American Dream life and a six-figure salary, to another, daring life of freedom and simplicity.  She talks about others’ expectations and dealing with the cycle of those expectations, and how her family’s choices freaked people out–and how she realized that her family’s life prior to the RV lifestyle had become part of the societal “machine,” which required careful calculation in revealing their plan to others.  She shares what it was like to return home, only to realize the urgency of needing to leave again because the old life no longer fit.

She explains how her family became the Barenaked Family.  She explains that when she and her husband thought of homeschooling, that they didn’t view it “as a chore, a religious thing, or a conspiracy theory.  We saw it as an opportunity to giver our kids a future they can create.  Not to mention giving them the freedom to just be a kid.”  She offers comfort to those searching for something more or better, that there is something better….  A new American Dream.

For me, reading Jenn’s book is like indulging in comfort food (which of course, is a gluten-free chocolate cupcake).  It’s easy to relate to her words and the feeling of wanting a life filled with meaning, purpose, experiences, and love, rather than an empty, bottomless cup of life centered around acquiring stuff and more stuff.

If you’re thinking about making a big life change, jumping into RV travel or full-time living, or simply longing for something more and can’t quite figure it out yet, Becoming Barenaked, might be worth a read.

Happy Wandering!  Happy Homeschooling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Financing Travel RV'ing 50 States USA

Cut Your Travel Budget: How to Find Cheap or Free Family Housing While Traveling

March 21, 2015

So, you’ve reached the point of no return.  You’re ready to be a do-er and not just a dreamer.  You’re super jealous, if not totally exhausted, after reading blog post after post after post about families who are living your travel dream.

You want to travel.  With your kids.  Now.  You don’t want to wait until retire (and hope you can finally fund your travel dreams at that point or are then still healthy enough to travel).  You don’t have a trust fund, however, so you know you’ve got to be realistic.  You have real bills to pay.  Oh, and there’s that pesky detail of figuring out how to keep a paycheck rolling in.

You Know You Want to Travel the World…Or USA…Or North America…Or…. But How Do You Find Affordable Housing To Keep Your Budget Reasonable?

Anyone who makes a monthly mortgage or apartment rental payment knows that housing can chew up a big chunk of cash.  If you’re looking to travel as a family on the cheap, but housing expenses have you a bit stressed and you desperately need a way to cut the travel budget….  how_afford_roadschooling

Do you

(a.) Sell your sticks and bricks house (or end your lease early or wait until it expires) and travel the world as a family, and find cheap, creative ways to put a roof over your head;

(b.) Keep your house/apartment/cabin and travel the world as a family, and look for inexpensive accommodations–after all, traveling with kids carries a sorta, kinda, bigger price tag than solo travel;

(c.) Buy lots of lottery tickets and hope for the best;

(d.) Bag your dream (your relatives and friends think you’re nuts for hatching a travel idea anyway); or

(e.) Come up with a creative plan that allows you to find affordable housing and live your travel dream on a budget that works for your family, which may or may not involve one or more of the above options.

THE ANSWER IS E: Creativity And Determination Will Help You Cut Your Travel Housing Budget 

Are you planning short-term or long-term travel?  In either case, you’ll want to carve out a financial travel strategy and save hoard cash. The length of travel and your lifestyle will impact how much money you need when you travel.  Obviously, if you’re a regular person, meaning someone who doesn’t have a trust fund or who hasn’t won a record-breaking Powerball draw (yet), and you plan to travel for the long-term (full-time), you’ll probably need to come up with income to supplement your savings (i.e. a job).

But even if you’re not the greatest planner, and you don’t have a stockpile of cash, you can still travel sooner than later–if not, now.  Beyond figuring out how to make money on the go, finding telework gigs, starting your own portable business, building a passive income stream, or taking advantage of your employer’s remote work or extensive travel options, you can cut your budget (and need for cash) by finding cheap accommodations.

Spend Less on Travel:  Cut Your Travel Housing Budget

Explore these options as possible ways to save on your family travel housing budget.

1.  Homeaway.  Lodging possibilities to fit a range of lifestyles and budgets can be found on Homeaway and at similar vacation rental sites, such as VRBO. It’s possible to score deep housing discounts depending on location, time of year, length of stay, and timing of reservation. Our family has had many happy Homeaway experiences and we’ve lucked out with some great deals, including a $200/week stay at a beautiful mountain rental in Spain.

2.  Airbnb.  If you’re looking to settle into a “real” house or apartment with all the comforts of home, a housing option on Airbnb might be a great pick.  Our family snatched up a lovely, centrally located, month-long rental in Paris (with fantastic reviews) using Airbnb at an attractive price–we lucked out with timing/price, as the owners decided to head out of town during the French holiday to show off their brand new baby.

3.  Housing Swaps.  If you have a house available to swap, you might discover a family who would love to trade homes with you for the short-term or longer.  For a family looking to keep travel costs low or to avoid having a vacant house while traveling, this could be a win-win.  Check out HomeExchange as one possible place to find swaps (Hat tip to Team Skaggs for the idea!).  You can also find swap possibilities on Craigslist and on membership group lists, such as Yahoo or Facebook groups.  If you have a particular destination in mind, shooting an inquiry to your circle of friends (e.g., via Facebook) might help you find housing by way of a “friend of a friend.”

4.  Work Exchanges / Work Amping.  Will work for lodging?  If you have time on your hands while traveling and happen to have needed skills, work/volunteer exchanges could open doors to free or low cost housing.  Check out Workamper for ideas for RV owner work for lodging leads and Workaway or HelpX for budget traveler work/volunteer for lodging opportunities.

5.  Hotel Points or Club Discounts.  If you’ve amassed hotel points by way of frequent traveling, credit card, or other club membership or loyalty discounts, those points or discounts could open the door for cheap or free temporary lodging.

6.  Hostels.  Across the globe, many Hostels welcome families, offering simple family rooms (and often a simple breakfast) at reasonable prices. You can find info at Hostelling International.  Check into hostel membership or discount cards for added savings.

7.  Friends and Family.  Sometimes staying with friends or family in various locations is the perfect way to save big on housing expenses, especially if you happen to like each other!  If you’re lucky, you might not have to pay a dime for the lodging itself, though you can graciously return the favor by offering up a bedroom in your home at some point, volunteering to make dinners or help around the host’s/hostess’ house, stocking his/her pantry, or taking your host/hostess out for a memorable dinner or event as a thank you.

8.  Couchsurfing.  Couchsurfing via online sites, such as Couchsurfing.com, might be an easy way to find a place to stay for one or two, but with a family, maybe not so much. However, there are families who do couchsurf and people who are willing to take in families for a night.

9.  RVs/Motorhomes/Travel Trailers.  I am continually amazed to hear the stories of families taking to the road in the USA, Europe, and around the world by way of recreational vehicles, such as motorhomes and travel trailers.  Check out Fulltime Families or a growing number of RV travel blogs, such as Gone with the Wynns, to see what I’m talking about.  It’s possible to buy camping club memberships, such as Thousand Trails, ReadyCampGo, Good Sam, and Harvest Hosts to save significantly on camping costs.  Of course, there are also free “boondocking” possibilities.

10.  Tent Camping.  Tent camping is still a popular, low-cost way for families to hit the road and save big on travel budgets.  Campground discount programs and state/federal park land can help save even more cash.

11.  Tiny Homes.  Some families opt to downsize, build or buy tiny houses on wheels in lieu of a monthly mortgage payment.  They travel with their house–like a turtle traveling with its shell/house, and enjoy low cost house living.  Check out the Tiny House Blog for ideas.

12.  Car camping / Glamping / Eurovans.  Families have also found a way to reduce lodging costs by converting their vans, cars, old buses into sweet looking homes on wheels.  Check out YouTube for lots of great car camping hacks, such as how to mount temporary hammocks inside a minivan.  I recently learned from an awesome homeschool/mom blogger that if you do your homework you might happen to score a fabulous deal on a camper van!  Check out Craigslist, RV Trader, and Pinterest for cool ideas and deals.

Tips:

*Don’t be afraid to ask an owner/rental company/dealer if they have wiggle room in the price or to cut you a deal for a longer stay. Go ahead and negotiate where appropriate.

*Research, research, research your housing options, keeping safety in mind when it comes to corresponding with owners/rental agents to ensure that a rental is legit and location safety.

*Read all of the reviews on a prospective rental, and do an independent Internet search to see if other reviews or comments about the rental or owners/rental company come to light.

*Be flexible with your dates, itinerary, and travel routes if possible.  Flexibility might open the door for great deals.

*Look for promo codes, rental discount codes, discount clubs, etc. on all purchases or reservations.  You might not save $ everytime, but many times you will.

 With a bit of creativity, you can come up with a plan that cuts your travel housing budget and allows you to live your family travel dream.

 

Happy Wandering!  Happy Homeschooling!