It’s hard to believe that around this time last year, I had begun my 48-State RV Tour – 1 Mom + 4 Kids in a 31 Foot Motorhome. To say the adventure was life changing is an understatement. Not a single day goes by that I don’t miss the experience or reflect on how it has shaped my life–or the lives of my children.
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.
Here are 11 ways you can live for free or nearly free in an RV and travel full-time.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
If the idea of traveling solo with your kids, whether on a short road trip or on an extended travel adventure, makes you cringe, flood with fear, and want to run and hide, read on.
Would you believe me if I told you that there’s a good chance that solo travel with kids will make your life better? Not only are you tough enough, strong enough, and capable enough to travel solo with a kid crew, but you’re sure to gain so much from even one solo trip that you just might find yourself planning another solo adventure sooner than later!
11 Reasons Why Solo Travel with Kids Will Make Your Life Better
1. It will reset/redefine your expectations and comfort zone. After you travel solo, the things that seemed big and overwhelming before travel will seem so much smaller and manageable after travel. Solo travel teaches you how to “wing it” when you forget something like a spare set of clothes when your child throws up in the car. Solo travel forces you to ask for help when you need it, like when you need help carrying a stroller up a set of stairs in the Paris Metro, which makes tasks like asking other parents to help plan the preschool end-of-the-year party or pony up volunteer hours at an after school activity that much easier.
2. It’s so, so, so much easier than you think. Just decide you want to travel, and you’ll find every resource under the sun online to help make your dream a reality, from free art classes for kids in your desired location to kid-friendly “best” lists like restaurants and things to do.
3. It’s uber educational. Your kids will learn so much from travel. You might even be shocked how much a child can learn in just a few days of a travel adventure. A few days of a travel adventure could be the equivalent of a priceless educational experience–and even the equivalent of weeks, months, or years spent learning in a traditional classroom. It’s impossible to compare seeing the world and hands-on learning with textbook, classroom learning. Solo travel with kids teaches kids to become self-reliant, motivated, confident learners.
4. You and your kids will develop new skills and strengths. You’ll not only tap into skills and inner-strengths you may not have realized you had, but solo travel with kids will teach your kids that anything is possible if they want to make it happen. You’ll discover strengths that you didn’t know you had. You’ll inspire your kids to discover their strengths, too.
5. You’ll meet people who will change your life. Solo travel with kids opens doors to meeting people who you might not meet if you were traveling with a spouse, friend, companion, or group. You’ll meet other families and people who want to hear all about your adventures. They will offer you travel ideas, tips, and teach you things you might not otherwise discover unless it was just you and your crew in tow.
6. You’ll learn to deal with being alone. When it’s just you, responsible for your kids, with no other parent, partner, grandparent, or friend in sight, you learn how to be a rockstar grown up, capable of handling all sorts of situations and navigating challenges. You’ll learn to face fears that maybe you knew you had and deal with new fears head on. Your kids will see that fears can be successfully dealt with and managed–and that they don’t have to be defined by can’ts or society’s should-nots. They’ll learn that not all places or people are scary, and come to see the world as a place of possibility and beauty.
7. You’ll experience freedom. When you travel solo, you get to call the shots. Sure, the kids can try to cramp your style and whine about where you’ve chosen to eat dinner if you’re not in the mood for working out a consensus, but in the end you get the final say! You (and/or your kids) can go where you want to, when you want to. In the morning when you get up, it’s just you and the kiddies and the wind ready to blow you wherever you’d like to go. Everyday is truly an adventure when you travel solo with children!
Solo travel with kids is one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever come to know. It’s an experience that will show you what you’re made of, show you your (and your kids’) true colors, and build lasting memories and bonds that are truly priceless.