Annual Camping Costs - Living Your Best Life Within A Budget

Waterfront sites on the lake aren't as costly as you think.  Always check.  This site was only $5 more a night.  Totally worth it!

Annual camping costs and an annual travel budget are both relative items to everyone.  Every year the amount we spend varies based on how, when and where we travel.  This year our camping budget felt a little high at first glance, but what do those numbers all mean?  I'm breaking our camping costs down and giving you some tips to save money and help you enjoy the splurge.

This site at Navarre Beach is pricey, but the views are outstanding and our whole family loved every second of this trip.  We are doing it all over again this year, and it is still cheaper than renting a condo!

Annual Camping Costs - Living Your Best Life Within A Budget

I consider several things when planning for our camping trips each year:

  • Convenience
  • Location
  • Amenities

Each of these key three drive the bus and the budget when it comes to travel plans.  Keeping track of our expenses helps us to balance our budget and travel more often.  Just this week, we were talking about upcoming travel plans.  This year alone, we will spend 60 plus nights in our RV.  That is a lot.  

RV travel isn't all cheap, but it doesn't have to cost the most.  I also think we travel far more as a family because of our RV than if we didn't.  That is around 2 months of travel time a year for us, and I feel really good about it.  

Love's RV Spots are where convenience is at.  I cannot say enough good things about a quick overnight stop on the road at Love's. 


If we are making a quick stop over night, this is where we often save money.  Convenience stays are also when we may travel somewhere and care less about views and amenities.  We are staying somewhere close to other attractions and activities.  These are stays where we are not planning on hanging around at the campground for long periods of time.  

If you are looking for convenience stops, scope out the following:
  • Locations that are close to interstates or highways where you can get on and off the road with ease.
  • Love's Truck Stops now has overnight RV Spots at select locations.  I just did a review of a Love's where we stayed.  Check it out!
  • Locations near cities or other attractions where you can enjoy activities but don't need to be super close.  Think of it as a hub for your vacation adventures.
On average, convenience stops for us are about $40 to $45 a night.  Seem pricey?  Maybe.  But it gives us what we need.  And sometimes you pay for convenience.  Its not worth it for me to drive farther to save a few dollars.  Location, proximity to highway access and more all add up in terms of value.  

If you want a prime location, sometimes you have to pay more.  Weigh out your options in terms of price and how often you want to cash in on these treats!


Location considerations may include costly stays, but it doesn't have to be.  It all depends on what we want to do.  This spring we stayed on property at Disney.  The location was worth every penny and made that trip so easy.  Other times, we want to stay where we can hike and be outdoors.  These are typically our state park stays.  

For us, location may include a stay at the beach or lake.  But, as I mentioned, state parks are high up on our list too.  One thing that we try and do is pick a variety of locations.  This gives everyone in our family something fun to look forward to as we travel.

Disney's Fort Wilderness is located on property at Disney World.  While the nightly rate may seem steep, it was worth the splurge and still saved us money. 

Prices vary greatly with these stays, but I have found that location is very important when it comes to our longer stays.  These have varied this year from $185 a night to $27 a night!  I know that is a huge difference between prices.  But, picking the right location makes our trips fun and exciting.  Plus our RV is our primary mode of travel.  So, we aren't factoring in costly hotel stays and condos with our travel budget.

I think that variety of locations helps us spread out our travel budget and provides the unique experiences that we seek out on the road.  It keeps things fun and fresh.  But, there is one more factor that makes a big difference.

Prices for water front camp sites vary greatly.  We have stayed on the water at Logan Martin Lake for as little as $45 a night.  This gem in Navarre Beach is near Disney prices.  But, it is still cheaper than a condo and just beautiful.


This year, we aren't doing any trips with condos, hotels or cabins.  I'm not sad about it.  RV travel has become our go to way to travel.  It is so much easier and allows us to travel with our dogs.  Given this, I'm willing to book a place with better amenities because we are using our RV for our vacations.  

  • Booking a trip at the beach is much more costly if you have waterfront views.  And I'm willing to pay for it.
  • Sometimes it is worth the extra money to stay at a campground with water activities or other amenities that we are seeking.  
  • Or it may just be the experience itself to do something new, fun or unique.  
There are some stays that are the trifecta of all three of these.  I feel like Disney's Fort Wilderness was convenient, great location and had fantastic amenities.  Our upcoming beach stay is the same.  But, if you pick wisely, you will be happy no matter where you go!

Finally, amenities and the priority we place on them are in the eye of the beholder.  For our family, fun water activities in the summer months are huge.  We love them and want to take advantage of them.  I will pay for it all day long.  In the fall and winter, I go a little more low key and love state parks with gorgeous views and hiking options.  Time of year plays into this for us, but it also balances our budget too!

Rickwood Caverns State Park is a steal.  We spent 2 nights there recently and spent roughly $80 for both nights.  They even have a pool.

Splitting the Difference

We do a lot of RV Travel over the year.  This year, we will spend over 60 nights on the road.  When I checked my spreadsheet, our average cost per night this year is $77.  Sound high?  Maybe, but I've factored in Disney's Fort Wilderness, several nights at the beach in a prime spot and a Labor Day trip to a resort style property.  Each one of those trips were worth it.  And they drive up our travel costs.

However, we also enjoy state parks and other locations that are far less expensive than any of those.  We do a variety of camping, and it really makes life fun on the road.  Everyone gets something different every time.  

And, there are quite a few resort style properties that aren't that expensive.  My family is traveled with me for work in June.  The campground where we stayed has a pool, lake and lots of amenities.  The cost is $50 a night!  What a bargain.  

On average, we spend between $35 and $50 a night on campground stays.  This provides us with full hookups, and is something we prefer.  I know there are options for BLM camping and boondocking.  But, at this stage in our life, we would prefer hookups when we camp.  I've been told BLM camping is life changing and how I need to check it out.  It is on my radar, so at some point I hope to share something about a different kind of camping.

I've also created this Annual Camping Budget Spreadsheet that you can use throughout the year.  When you click on the link, it will make a copy in your Google Drive so that you can customize this and make it your own.  I've even included the formulas and worksheets within the document to calculate costs for:

  • Fuel costs
  • Food Costs
  • Campground Reservations
  • Campground Ratings
  • And an overall budget total worksheet at the end!
One of the biggest ways that we save money on the road aside from the campground reservations themselves is how we spend money on the road.  We don't eat out all of the time, and we aren't big souvenir people.  I do a lot of meal prep ahead of time.  I plan simple and easy meals that encourage us to skip fast food and restaurants.  I pack picnic lunches on long tow days and keep snacks in our tow vehicle.  I don't feel like we are missing out.  Sure, there are times we want to try local restaurants or shops, but we choose wisely.  I would rather eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich than fast food most of the time.  And, I certainly don't need more knick knacks to clutter our home or RV.  

State Parks and COE campgrounds can really stretch your budget, and there are quite a few with great amenities.  It all depends on what you need to make camping fun for you.

We treat our RV like our home on the road.  Since we travel with our dogs, this is another huge saver.  Boarding animals is costly.  The flexibility allows us to extend trips if we need or want to.  And, we don't feel like we are in a rush to get home.  There are so many advantages to RV travel that it wins every time for us!

Here are a few final tips to make the most of your time on the road:
  • If you are staying at a location but will be touring around and spend little time at your RV, opt for a cheaper spot and save the money for excursions.  
  • Save money at RV  Resorts and take advantage of the activities but not the most expensive RV spots.  You will still have a great time without breaking the bank.  We recently saved $60 a night by booking a cheaper spot but will have the same access to the lazy river and pool at the campground.  Totally worth it!
  • Splitting up the trip is worth the $50 for an extra night on the road.  I would rather take an extra day to get somewhere as opposed to killing ourselves with a 15 hour travel day.  
  • Pack a picnic lunch and snacks for travel days.  It will save you money on food costs and will save time too!
We love the RV lifestyle and all of the camping adventures that we have enjoyed.  It is a great way to travel.  And we do it often.  If you are looking for some RV travel inspiration, check out my Camping Map.  I have it linked to our campground reviews to learn more!

Until next time...happy glamping!

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  1. Thanks for sharing your camping budget spreadsheet. I can’t wait to check it out. I recently made myself a spreadsheet to keep track of next years reservations because these state parks in SC fill up quick and you’ve got to stay on your toes booking 13 months in advance!!

    1. I hope it proves to be useful. One thing that I do is create a calendar appointment for when the reservation window opens for coveted campsites. I feel like this helps keep me on track. Happy camping!


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