Each month we’re sharing how much it costs to RV around America, breaking down expenses across categories as we try to spend within our projected budget.
There are a few ways that we try to save money while we travel and manage risk.
We have all sorts of insurance, of course, but we also opted to buy into some annual passes and club memberships that help us save some money and minimize the downside of potentially costly accidents.
Here are the passes and club memberships that we’ve found valuable on our RV trip around America.
Amazon Prime – We’ve been Amazon shoppers for a long time, ordering everything from diapers to movies to car parts.
We found that Amazon Prime continues to be super valuable for us on the road. Not only do we have occasional access to Prime and purchased movies (when WiFi bandwidth allows streaming), we also can have items shipped to RV parks and UPS stores.
Having items shipped to us is helpful when we are in remote areas, though overnight and even two day shipping is not possible, even if Amazon promises it.
The $79 membership pays for itself in discounts, free shipping, and streaming entertainment.
BTW, we dropped Hulu and Netflix since we so rarely have the ability to stream.
COSTCO – We kept the COSTCO membership because we have to purchase diapers and wipes.
The $50 membership pays for itself with our diaper and wipes purchases, and when practical we fill up on gas when we pass a COSTCO.
Good Sam Club – This is a membership to the Camping World store, and Good Sam has a huge presence in the RV community around the country.
The annual membership is $25, and it more than pays for itself through the benefits, though it’s not from retail purchases.
We get retail price discounts at the Camping World store when we buy RV parts and accessories, but I find that these discounts aren’t really discounts when you compare the parts with those available from Amazon or other sources. Their non-member prices are marked up so members feel they are getting a deal.
The real savings from this membership comes from the network of Good Sam campgrounds around the country. At those campgrounds, we get about $5 off per night, which adds up quickly to repay us the $25 annual fee.
We also get a $0.03 / gallon discount on fuel at Flying J and Pilot gas stations, and that certainly makes me feel good though doesn’t have a huge impact on savings.
Various Grocery Store Cards
We rarely shop at a grocery store that doesn’t have a loyalty card for discounts.
We often shop at stores tied to the stores we frequent back home, such as Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Safeway, or Kroger, and we can just punch in our phone number for the discount.
If not though, we sign up for the free loyalty program. It often saves $15 – $20 per shopping trip, so it’s worth the little bit of hassle to fill out the form.
Annual Park Passes
America the Beautiful Pass – This pass grants us free admission to all national parks and lands managed by a host of other federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the USDA, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
This pass paid for itself after our third national park. National parks often require an entrance fee of $20 – $30 per private vehicle for a three-day pass.
Without the America the Beautiful Pass, we would have spent several hundred dollars on park entrance fees.
Motor Clubs / Roadside Assistance
We belong to both AAA and Good Sam Roadside Assistance.
AAA was left over from our previous life, covering us for any roadside emergencies and also providing various discounts at eye doctors and hotels and such.
I don’t think we recoup our $109 / year fee most years through services or discounts, but we certainly would if we break down on the side of the road and need a tow. AAA does cover our travel trailer if it were to become disabled too.
Good Sam Roadside Assistance comes with our annual Good Sam Camping World Club membership mentioned above, and it’s a free backup to AAA.
We don’t have credit cards. We never have, and probably never will, though I will say that I was super tempted to get a credit card that offered cash back on fuel.
Programs I wish I had done before the adventure
As much as I traveled with work, I wish I had been banking some hotel points or airline miles. Partaking in those programs was something I never got around to, but in hindsight I should have been earning some rewards during my working years so that we could get an occasional hotel room or even flight home without incurring any costs.
We could do more to get discounts while we travel
For certain, we could be a lot more intense in our attempt to save money while we travel, but the subscriptions, memberships, and passes above require little effort and give us decent discounts in our major spending categories, food and fuel.
Other discount strategies
If you have other ideas about some low effort programs for curbing our expenses while we RV around America, I’m all ears.
Share them in the comments.