ways to live for free in your RV or camper van

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

ways to live for free in your rv campervan motorhome
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Can you really live for free or nearly free in an RV? 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. Yes, you really can live for free or nearly free in your home on wheels!

RV

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.

Learn more about seasonal workamp with the informative book Seasonal WorkAmping for a Living: How We Did It. You can also read this book title for free via Amazon’s Kindle Membership.

Workamping Tip: Amazon CamperForce. Amazon offers cool seasonal opportunities for RV’ers. You can learn more here. Note: I am in no way affiliated with Amazon’s CamperForce program and I don’t have personal experience with it, but I’ve heard from others that it’s an awesome way to work for Amazon while you live in your RV; you get pay, benefits, and campsite. You can read FAQs and find an application here.

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 (public lands) 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).

If you have a smartphone, there are some apps that will help you locate free public lands campsites, such as the US Public Lands app. You can also look for dispersed campsites on public lands, sometimes found through State Fish & Game or Agricultural websites.

Keep Scrolling for More Cheap Ideas for Living in Your RV

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. Here, I wrote about my first Walmart Boonbocking experience.

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. There are also some parks that will allow you to stay for free.

live for free or cheap in an rv or camper van boondock blm land
Camping in the desert with my kids.

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. There are also other camping clubs, including Passport America, Good Sam Club, Escapees, and Boondockers welcome.

Harvest Hosts is also an awesome camping club membership (see below for more on Harvest Hosts) that allows you to camp at 1000+ wineries, breweries, farms, and other attractions. You can read more about Harvest Hosts at Live Big on the Cheap: Park Your RV and Camp for Free with Harvest Hosts.  

harvest hosts free camping membership wineries

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.

how to camp for free with harvest hosts RVlife RV Camping

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.

12. RV Lot Leases or Sales.

Sometimes you can find individuals or places offering long term RV Lot Leases or sales for deeply discounted prices. For example, I recently saw an advertisement online (I have no affiliation) at an RV Property website for a leased RV site for $300 month, including electricity, water, septic, and beautiful views. In one year, that’s living for about $9.86/day!

side hustles make money now for moms

13. Live for Free Beyond North America – Free RV Living Beyond the USA & North America

If you dream about saving mega money on living expenses, living mortgage free, rent free or without debt WHILE traveling in your RV, keep in mind North America isn’t the only place in the world you can live for free in your recreational vehicle rig.

In Europe, for example, camping car, camper van, or RV living is super popular and inexpensive. In many towns and villages, such as mountain towns in the Alps, there are often designated free camper van parking areas. Many adventurers, worldschooling families, and digital nomads who choose the European road trip life, or extended European living, often discover that camping costs (beyond gas or diesel) are close to zero. Yep, free or nearly free.

You can also find free camping spots and long term parking for your camper van through volunteer work programs abroad, such as WorkAway; you volunteer your time, in exchange for a place to stay.

Keep in mind, however, if you wish to live long term in another country or on the European Continent in your camper or recreational vehicle and stay beyond the time period allotted on a tourist visa (passport), you may need to figure out how to live abroad or apply for a residence visa, even if you are traveling around or not living at a fixed address within a country.

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READ MORE: How to Become a Digital Nomad – Books & Resources for Working and Living Absolutely Anywhere!

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Share Your Comments and Ideas on this Post Below

What else should be on this list of Where to Live for Free or Nearly Free in Your RV? Where have you found free camping during your RV journey or full-time RVLife or VanLife? Share your tips below in a comment.

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Happy Wandering!

updated: 8/14/2021

13 thoughts on “11 Ways You Can Live for Free or Nearly Free in Your RV”

  1. Candida "DeeDee" Bly

    Here is two other great options. National Forest, Military Campgrounds. Fits right in there between camping on BLM land and staying inside National Parks. Staying on BLM land and staying in a National Forest are more cost efficient and offer more freedom and flexibility than National Park camping. However, if its the extra amenities than National Parks with a variety of membership plans can lower those costs. And then there is camping and rving at military campgrounds. Not just a military membership discount card that can be used at National parks and other campgrounds, it’s actual military bases and grounds operated by the military. I’ve been doing as much research as possible because I have been bitten by the wanderlust bug and I want to set out soon, and I want to make sure I can afford it so I never have to turn back.

    https://thedyrt.com/magazine/lifestyle/free-camping-national-forests/

    http://www.militarycampgrounds.us/

  2. Awesome information!! I am looking into a travel camper. My parents traveled in their Coach for many years. We had great times. What a way to see the US!! They were also members of Thousand Trails!!

    1. Try a Google search. Looks like a bunch of places come up, but if you are looking for a place now during COVID-19, it’s possible they might be closed (so contact ahead). You could also try finding a place through Harvest Hosts, where you pay a reasonable amount for a membership and then stay for free at farms and vineyards. I think there are some Missouri options. Best wishes! Sounds like a great adventure.

  3. I live in Jacksonville FL and I purchase my RV in August on 2019. I want to stay stationed close to home, but I’m having problems finding places that are less than $ 500 a month. Is it possible to live less than this living in a city such as this and still be able to enjoy travelling? The expense of parking is more than the cost of my RV and military sites, are they strictly for military and their families? I’ve seen some nice one and they have great reviews.

  4. I’m in Brevard County and I’m interested in buying a RV.. I’m just don’t know where I could park it and have water for my children.. Any suggestions please?

  5. I had no idea that you can get some free perks at certain RV parks for working while camping. I’d love to do this because then I could travel while working. I could see the whole country and still get a paycheck.

  6. I am really thinking about doing this with my father who’s retired an has dementia. I take care of him. Sitting in the house everyday is getting to ME. We live in Indiana. Any suggestions would be wonderful

  7. Hello, thank u. Great Info. I work near Fontana California and my hubby and I will be at my mom’s in 29 palms on weekends. I just do not know where I can stay the rest of the week

  8. Roberta VanBlitterswyk

    Can i live in a campervan or campertruck and be a volunteer campsite Host in Florida state and National Parks?

  9. As the rents of apartments are skyrocketing, my friends and I are thinking of living in a camper full time. This post will really help us in managing the costs and finding good spots to park the camper at night.

    Keep Posting Julie!

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