Friday, February 9, 2018

How We Save Money On Campgrounds (and Other Stuff Too!) - Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed some of the memberships that allowed us to camp for less money.
In this installment, let’s discuss a few more of these memberships, as well as others for saving our money.

Harvest Hosts

For wine lovers, this is the real deal. For $44 USD per year, you get the directory of all the Harvest Hosts locations through Canada and USA. What is a Harvest Host location? It can be a winery, museum, brewery, farm, etc. These locations allow you to stay on their property overnight at no “official” added cost.

All they ask is that 1) you arrive during business hours, so you can show your membership card and get directed to a parking spot, 2) you stay only one night, 3) you visit their store and make a small purchase and 4) you respect the rules. Now this is where it gets tricky. Wine samplings and a couple of bottles later, and your overnight stay just cost you $60. So just like drinking, this has to be done in moderation. J

If you don’t drink wine, we have found that most wineries have other items for purchase, such as local art, fancy snack items, shirts, aprons, kitchen mitts, etc. No need to buy something you don’t like. Just now, we stayed at a 50s diner on our way to the California coast. We had a yummy and reasonably priced dinner for our stay. Last year, we stayed at a living museum in Louisiana and did the museum tour/visit the next morning before heading out. That definitely was a special experience!

This membership pays for itself in 2 nights. While most of the overnight stays are dry camping (as in, no electrical to watch tv, no water and no sewer). Some very few locations will have an electrical outlet and/or water available. For us, this is worth having over spending the night at a Walmart. When you are on your way somewhere and need a safe and quiet place to rest, think about Harvest Host!


This does not save us in campground costs per se, but we can easily find the campgrounds that are part of Passport America or Good Sam, for example. We also can find the dry camping spots we want. $10 for the app, but very useful and does not require an internet connection to work.

Explorer RV club

Again, this $45 membership pays for itself in one transaction. In our case, being a member of this Canadian RV club gives us a discount on our RV insurance, which equals to the price of the membership. Some campgrounds in the directory also offer a 10% discount, but we haven’t seen any so far. You also get a magazine in the mail.

Good Sam

Good Sam is another low cost membership that saves you 10% on participating campgrounds (we have used it a few times), as well as saving you on Camping World purchases. Good Sam is also popular for their roadside assistance, which we have.

But for us, the Good Sam membership gets its fame for the fuel and propane discounts at FlyingJ/Pilot gas stations. These stations are usually found on, or near, interstates and state roads. The fuel discount is 5 cents off and we take advantage of it as often as we can! It can be very handy down the road. I don’t find that they jack up their prices either. Just a few days ago, we paid $3.04 US a gallon in California (posted price was $3.09 US)… and we easily find $3.59 US in town. I’ll go out of my way to save a bit of money!

And now, the best way to save money is....

To not spend money!

Dry camping/Boondocking

By far, this is the biggest money saving tip. Now that we have 17 days of dry camping under our belt, we can safely say that:

1) We love it!

Of course, just like most people, we love being plugged in with full hookups. It is comforting to make coffee whenever, to recharge our laptops, to not worry about filling our shower holding tank, to go to the pool or the spa, to come back home and fire up the cappuccino machine and enjoy TV time. Stuff like that!  But once in awhile, it is OK to step out of those comfort zones.

Take a look at these 2 pictures.

$40/night                                                                                                                                                                        Free!

On the left is our "RV Resort" we stayed at for 2 nights. That was just after the first Xscapers convergence, so that we could do laundry, empty the tanks, refill water, get the dust out of everything and recharge our batteries and laptops.

On the right is our spot at the Xscapers convergence.

Guess which location we prefer? :-)

2) It is easier than we thought

Sure, not having electrical coming in to power all the outlets inside means no percolator, no TV, no air conditioning. Boo hoo us.

But earlier this year, when we outfitted our RV with 2 golf cart batteries, the dealer left our original RV battery in our storage bay. So thanks to solar charging, we have an extra battery we can use. While at Quartzsite, we splurged on a pure sine inverter that we hook up right onto that extra battery.

So the RV gets recharged by sun until noon or 1 pm, at which time our RV batteries are back to 100%. Then we wire the solar panel onto the spare battery, which is in turn plugged into the inverter that powers appliances like a coffee machine, a TV, and can charge our laptops.

(I know this sounds all complicated, but it really isn't! If I can do it, anyone can)

Eventually, we will want to have everything installed so that we don't have to lug the stuff around whenever we need it (or don't need it). But for now, this works for us. It is simple and efficient.

Simple and efficient wins.

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Oh, by the way, our January 2018 rent was $895 CDN (campground fees, fuel for the truck and propane for heat/cook).

Thank you for reading!