If you’re like one of the millions of people who sat down with their monthly calendars and mapped out a course for their RV travels in January, you may be starting to feel a significant squeeze coming on. With fuel prices on the rise, you may be looking to recalculate the numbers for your expeditions. If that’s you, we at the Travel Happy blog are right there with you and we understand.
That is why we have drummed up SEVEN EXCELLENT WAYS to help you maintain that travel schedule without breaking the bank.
1. BOONDOCK WHEN POSSIBLE
Boondocking may not be the most desirable way to travel, but may save you some much-needed cash. Many people actually prefer boondocking as their primary way to stay. We own Willows at Watson RV Park – Experience Broken Bow and this one affects us directly, but if it’s in the interest and longevity of RVing, I’m all for it.
If you’re new to the term “boondocking”, it’s essentially dry camping on public lands or business parking lots. It’s cheap to free too! Bureau of Land Management (BLM) properties, National Forestland, and the like make for great remote spots to set up your rig. It will likely not be the most glorious place you’ve stayed, but if you find the right ones, it can make for great memories on top of the great savings.
Traveling through a city? Some business will actually allow you to bookdock in their parking lots overnight.
A few to note:
- Cracker Barrel
- Bass Pro Shops
- Home Depot
You’ll want to call ahead to make sure it’s allowed in the city you’re traveling to and it would be a good idea to read up on any special rules those businesses may have in regards to boondocking in their parking lots. Check out the Boondocker’s Bible for great pointers to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable overnight stay.
2. CHECK YOUR AIR PRESSURE OFTEN
If your air pressure is either high or low, it can have drastic effects on your fuel efficiency, not to mention could be costly regarding the wear and tear on your tires. A common misnomer is that you can check your tires at any gas station while you’re filling up, however, this will not likely give you an accurate reading.
Prior to pulling out on the road, and once your tires have had a chance to cool off for a few hours, take the gauge to the tire at that point for an accurate reading. If it’s low, use a portable compressor like these to add the pressure needed to get you the best efficiency.
The U.S. Department of Energy states that for “every 1-psi drop in pressure, you can expect your gas mileage to lower by 0.4 percent.” That’s bad news when every extra mile you can squeeze out of a gallon matters. I mean, our vehicles already guzzle the gas as it is!
This is an extremely important practice to maintain year-round, but especially during the colder months. Your tires are likely to lose up to 2 psi for every 10º drop in temperature!
3. UN-APOLOGETICALLY STICK TO THE RIGHT LANE
We all know it’s no fun to get stuck behind someone going under the speed limit on the highway. Lord knows it’s tough for me to handle. However, if you need to shave off every penny you can, all I gotta say is “you do you”. Don’t worry about the Sally Sideswipes or Billy Brakechecks that comes up on your tail.
Just gracefully throw those hazards on until they get on around you knowing that you just saved a buck while they spent one.
According to this fuel efficiency study, 55-60mph is the perfect balance of speed and fuel efficiency. When you get to 65mph, you lose 8% of your overall mpg. That increases to 17% at 70mph and if you are really a leadfoot, 75mph+ will give you a net-loss of 23% or more over what you would have had if you’d have settled in for a little longer trip at 58mph.
I know it’s tough, but you can do it and you’ll thank yourself later!
4. DROP A FEW POUNDS
No, not you silly! Your rig! Are you storing that lawn chair in the underbelly that broke last spring? Maybe you have an extra mattress topper than you like, but could live without. Every pound of tow-weight affects your vehicles fuel economy.
Next time you’re at home, or if you can stomach it, near a dumpster that allows it, get rid of as much extra weight as you can. If you have things that you don’t need to store and don’t want to throw away, consider the local Facebook Marketplace where you’re going to be. You can list it ahead of time and have it schedule to go home with the new owner when you arrive. (Always be cautious and use discretion any time you’re selling to strangers.)
A big culprit for extra weight is drinking water. Many full-timers carry enough water with them to get by for a week or so. Instead of filling those 5-gallon jugs up with you before you leave, if they’re mostly empty, plan to find a place to fill them up when you arrive rather then before you leave. A gallon of water weighs around 8-pounds. Multiply that by 15-gallons and you are basically toting another person—or a large dog. Or anything else that weighs 120-pounds… you get the picture.
The benefit will vary a bit depending on whether you’re towing a travel trailer or 5th wheel or if you’re in a motorcoach, etc. It will also vary based on your tow vehicle. It’s not easy for me to calculate it here, but rest assured, it will have an effect.
5. GET YOUR TOW VEHICLE A TUNE-UP
This one is more of a spend-money-to-save-money tip, but it really can make a difference on your bank statement. You may spend a few hundred dollars getting your tow vehicle a tune-up at the dealership, but many of the things they do can be done very simply!
Two main components that will effect your fuel efficiency and are relatively easy to maintain are the engine oil and air filters.
An air filter is an incredibly easy way to add a few percentage points to the ole MPG. The air filter is typically located under the hood, on top of the engine. You can buy a replacement filter at rockauto.com and have it shipped to you directly assuming you’re stationary. It will likely cost you less than $20 and you can have it changed in minutes.
A typical oil change will run you anywhere between $150-250 depending on your vehicle. The oil itself will generally cost about $45-60 to refill and an oil filter will cost around $20. The work can be a bit messy and you’ll want to note a good spot to get rid of the used oil. Typically an autoparts store can dispose of it for you, but no matter what, make sure it’s disposed of properly.
Now, if you are driving a motorcoach, you should not do the work yourself and have it done by a certified mechanic or RV dealership unless you’re not concerned with your warranty, but I’m no attorney, financial advisor, etc, so do your homework and make the decision that’s best for you.
There are definitely some landmines to watch out for when you’re looking for a mechanic while you’re traveling. If you’re a fan of Jimmy & Natalie like we are, they had some issues with this very thing and gained some great insight. Fortunately for us all, YouTube is a thing and they have opted to share their experience with the world! Check out this video to see how they dealt with some mechanical malarky.
6. ENJOY YOUR BACKYARD FOR A LITTLE LONGER
If you’re used to moving every two weeks, consider what it might look like to stay just a little longer between jumps. Many parks offer weekly rates that are about 40-50% of the monthly rate. If you’re paying $250/week for two weeks and the monthly rate is $550, you’re pretty much there.
Our park actually incentivized folks to stay monthly. If you plan to stay for two weeks, you’ve already paid for a monthly stay.
If you can cut your trips down to half in a year by doubling the length at each spot, you’ll not only save a ton on your site rent, but you won’t be on the road as much, lining your pockets with extra gas money that you didn’t have to spend.
This is pretty simple, but may be the best money saver yet.
7. GET A FLEET CARD
There are tons of programs offered by different fuel station franchises, but the most generous one that we’ve found has to be a TSD fuel card.
This used to be something only truckers were privy to, but in recent years, the savings have been extended to RVers as well. Every RVer should have one of these because the savings are very real and can be as much as $0.50/gallon.
Effectively the way it works is that the TSD has pre-negotiated rates with different fueling stations. If they have a $0.30/gallon discount with a Loves station, they pass 90% of the savings to you and keep 10% of the savings for themselves. So you get a $0.27/gallon discount. You can learn more about how the card works by clicking HERE.
All it takes to acquire one of these cards is to go to this website and apply for your very own TSD card. It doesn’t take long and you’ll be saving in no time.
The Travel Happy Blog is not endorsed or sponsored by any companies or individuals in any capacity. This is simply a chance for us to pass along some great advice that we have been given over the years. We hope it is helpful for you as we know it may get worse before it gets better regarding energy costs.
If we left anything off this list that you think may be noteworthy, please feel free to comment below so we can consider it for future installments.