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Question Of The Week

How To Save Money While Truck Camping

This week’s Question of the Week was, “How do you save money while truck camping?”  Thirty readers give advice on how they save money while they’re on the road.

“The two most costly expenses for truck camping are fuel and campground fees.  We carefully watch the fuel prices at major truck stops, and purchase from Flying J.  They establish an accurate benchmark for local fuel prices.  Also, our iPhone has the GasBuddy and WEX Connect apps, which track local fuel prices.

While in transit, we use Flying J for overnight camping since it is secure.  Walmart is an option, but security is an issue for us.  We prefer BLM, Forest Service, and Corps of Engineer parks for extended stays.  Otherwise we try to locate cost effective commercial campgrounds.

Food is a concern.  We have a six cubic foot refrigerator.  We shop at Walmart and national chains.  We buy as much frozen items as possible to utilize the freezer space.  We frequent local produce and fruit stands for fresh items.” – Warne Todd, 2000 Ford F250, 2005 Lance 981

“We save money by boondocking, eating in, staying in one place for a week or longer to conserve diesel, and using our towed vehicle to explore the points of interest in a radius of 250 to 300 miles from our base camp.  Even if we have to spend the night somewhere before returning to our base camp, it’s cheaper than moving the rig.  We plan our shopping trips around Costco or Super Walmart locations because they usually have large parking lots to accommodate our rig and flat-towed vehicle.” – Scott and Tina Elliott, 2007 Ford F350, 2013 Chalet TS116

“In addition to slowing down to save fuel, we also use GasBuddy to find the lowest cost fuel as we are approaching a location where we know we will need to fill up.  We will not drive very far out of the way to save a dime, but often two or three blocks can make a difference.  Also, maintaining proper tire pressure will save fuel as well as adding a measure of safety.

We almost always fix our own meals to save on food costs, but do eat out sometimes to experience the culinary flavor of the area we are in.  We do stay in campgrounds most of the time, but use Passport America and Good Sam discounts as much as possible.  Also we don’t stay in the resort campgrounds.  We choose the off-the-beaten path campgrounds like city or county parks.  We have also found fairgrounds with limited RV hook-ups.

We do plan on doing more boondocking on our trip to Alaska this summer, and staying in state and national parks.  However, the price per night at a lot of these locations is comparable to a private campground.” – Eldon Rhodes, 2008 Chevy 3500, 2011 Lance 1050

“Years ago I would save money by just working more.  When I was working I would not have time to go out and spend money.  Now that I am retired and traveling in my truck camper, I spend more time out in the remote and rural areas, rather than lingering in town, where I can spend money.  I plan better when I go into town, as I can only bring so much back on my motorcycle.  I like exploring areas I travel through, talking to local people to find out the best places to check out.  By this routine, I drive less and save the cost of fuel I would be using by driving more.  I explore more, so I am out of my truck camper more, and snack less and eat at typical meal times.” – Bryan, 2008 Ford F550, 2009 Lance 1191

“Planning the route from home, cheap service stations, free overnight searches, bringing food from home, and if possible, avoiding toll highways.  I cruise for the lowest consumption of fuel and have optimum tire pressure.  I do not have external packages and I drive with the windows closed.” – Fred Amoros, 2011 Toyota Hilux, 2011 Azalai

“My wife and I eat out about half the time.  We’re always on the lookout for some famous or written about eatery, especially BBQ.  The rest of the time we eat in.  Certainly that is a cost savings but, if your goal is cost savings, then stay home.

I only travel between two hundred and three hundred miles per day.  My wife is on the cell phone sorting out places and we always ask for a discount; senior, military, Sam’s, AARP, you name it.  If there are no discounts, we probably won’t stay there.

Walmart offers a cash gift card.  It’s free to to buy.  Just ask for it and load it with money.  We use our credit card to purchase it and get miles for that on the credit card.  Many Walmarts have fuel stations, many of which have diesel.  You always get a discount when you use your Walmart Gift card, anywhere from five cents to fifteen cents.  Learn more:  When you are filling up a thirty-seven gallon tank of diesel on a multi-thousand mile trip, saving a few cents per gallon adds up.

Ask the RV park for any cut rate slots.  Truck campers can squeeze in where most cannot.  We stayed at a high dollar downtown RV park in a major city.  They have two slots that, with our discount, are almost half price because they are close to the street, have no cable television connection, no parking area, no picnic tables or sewage connection, but it’s free to dump when you leave.  Our truck camper fits fine, and there is plenty of room to park in front of the camper with the truck bed under the camper nose.  We have a pop-up television antenna and, being in town, there is no shortage of stations.  They have a nice shower/bathroom only about seventy-five feet away.  We stay there often for about twenty dollars a night when everyone else is pays about $40+.  But you have to ask to get it.” – Don Pryor, 2011 Ford F350, 2009 Arctic Fox 1150

“First, I boondock and stay at Walmart, not at campgrounds.  I heard some campgrounds in the Okanagan, British Columbia, and Canada Interior were charging over $100 per night during peak season.

Second, I cook and eat in the camper instead of eating out.  Third, I drive at 90 kilometers an hour (55 miles per hour).  My trip computer says I am getting twenty miles per gallon, but I’m not sure how accurate it is.  And, yes, that is my truck and camper slowing you down.  In Alberta, it seems like you’re upsetting drivers when you’re going slower than 130 kilometers per hour. (80 miles per hour)” – Bruce Neumann, 2006 Dodge Ram 3500, 2008 Okanagan 96DB

“There’s no additional cost for food since we eat about the same as when we’re at home.  We sometimes save on fuel by keeping our speed to 65 instead of 75 (gives us about three miles per gallon extra, and we’re often in no hurry).

We also tend to stay in one place for three or four days, which also minimizes fuel costs.  We always stay in forest service campgrounds or on BLM land so cost is between free and $5 a night, maybe $10 if we want electrical service.  We’ve never stayed in a commercial campground as there’s never been a reason to do so.” – Phil Rodacy, 2012 GMC 3500, 2006 Okanagan 90W

“Use the GasBuddy app to find the lowest diesel prices.  Belonging to Passport America and Thousand Trails clubs when staying at a campground is required.  Otherwise, boondock as much as possible at Cracker Barrel (my first choice) and Walmart (second choice).” – Don Kingfield, 2008 GMC Sierra 2500HD, 2008 Lance 861S

“We try to stay off of interstates.  We drive slower and get better fuel economy.  We also often find less expensive food and fuel off the beaten path, and more interesting things to see.  With our small, twenty foot long, self-contained rig, we ask if we can park in the tent area and save a few dollars.  It is sometimes a little tight, but we find the spots nicer than the ones intended for big rigs.” – Jeb NY, 2000 Ford F250, 2005 Shadow Cruiser pop-up

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