Should You Change Your RV Travel Plans? How to Deal With Rising Gas Prices
“Gas is looking more like a GPA score. $3.89 is summa cum laude gas. Over $5 are all AP classes. I need some academic probation gas!” – Instagram
Gas prices have risen sharply over the past couple of weeks, and it seems like every RVer is talking about it. Everyone has their own thoughts based on where they are in the financial continuum.
Some people are reconsidering their travel plans due to the price hikes, while others won’t even blink at the number on the pump. No matter where you are on that continuum, it’s always helpful to be a good steward of your finances.
That’s why we’ve put together this quick list of actions that will help make a difference to your bottom line—and maybe save your travel plans in the process.
Start small, start now
Small changes over time lead to BIG results. This concept got us on the road and has helped us make so many memories with our family. We didn’t start with the best equipment or elaborate plans, but we knew that starting small now was better than holding out for “perfect” later.
That’s because “later” doesn’t usually happen. (Spoiler alert: neither does perfect.) Acting now, in small increments, is what helps us achieve. These achievements send huge signals to our subconscious that we can impact our environment, so they snowball and lead to even bigger changes over time.
Do the math
It’s easy to get into a rut with automatic responses. We get used to the constant grumble about the price of gas, especially when everyone is doing it. But it’s important to do the math so we can see what we are really dealing with, and how we can make up for it elsewhere.
This “pause to consider” mentality helps us evaluate what is actually happening—not what we think is happening. This exercise also allows your brain to rest from the noise of fear-based, underperformance thinking to an outlook of responsibility that can cultivate creative solutions. (Not to mention a better attitude!)
With that said, we all have to crunch the numbers and see what we are really working with.
29 year average gas price: $2.25
29 year max gas price: $4.14 (2022 reached an all time high price)
Prices from: www.Energy.gov
$2.25 x 28 gallon tank = $63 at the pump
$4.14 x 28 gallon tank = $115.92 at the pump
This is a difference of $52.92 extra (New 2022 high minus 29 year national average: $115.92 – $63) for about every 300 miles driven. This number times how many times you fill up per month is the target amount to cut from your monthly budget on a different line item.
For a family this number might be easier to recover because just going to Chipotle can be a $50 experience. Eating lunch at home erases this expense quickly. Whereas a single or couple has lower food cost to begin with. No matter the situation it is always best to understand the real numbers so you can figure out where to make them up on a different line item.
Small savings at the pump add up
The obvious first step toward saving $$$ at the pump is to drive less, but that isn’t always an option. Other options include:
- Grocery savings cards: Places like Kroger, Safeway, and Walmart will provide discounts at the pump based on your spending in-store for the groceries you already buy anyway.
- Diesel fuel programs: We save countless dollars fueling up the Cowboy Limousine with our diesel fuel card.
- Costco/Sam’s Club: These members-only stores are also great for incremental savings on the whole bill—though if you like your sanity, we recommend visiting these locations in the early morning or when you’re not on a time crunch, as they can get very busy.
- Credit card reward programs: Check your credit cards for rewards or sign up for a card that offers cash back. We use the Apple card and receive cash back to put directly toward any purchase we choose. This is just like cash that ends up back in your wallet, as long as you use the credit card like it’s a debit card, without racking up debt. Lots of other cards will link direct savings to your spending on gas and groceries, too.
- Explore fewer places longer: We mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. It’s easy to get tied to the original idea of a cross-country road trip with lots of stops, but traveling slower—or even in your own backyard—comes with unique rewards. Your burn rate is slower, saving fuel and money, and you get to know places better when you spend more time there.
Campgrounds have always been a significant cost, and those prices just keep rising! Staying overnight for free using a membership like Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome can save you $50 or more every time, and you’ll meet some amazing people in the process. If you’re not interested in a paid membership, Walmart or Cracker Barrel parking lots are also a classic standby option. Just make sure to call ahead to verify if the specific store you’re aiming for accepts overnight guests.
Spend with impact
When we say “spend with impact,” here’s what we mean: spend your money where you’ll remember it. It’s often far more enjoyable to exchange money for memories than for “more”: more places, more stuff, fancier equipment, etc.
Just this week, we were talking to a couple who bought a brand new Class C for their family of 6 to use for their summer travels. One of their concerns was how they would fit into a restaurant parking lot. This is a very common concern, and for good reason. We all want to come out of a parking lot without an insurance claim!
But if we look into the question with a different lens, we can see this as an opportunity to spend with impact. When we decide to go out to eat, are we doing it because it’s a fantastic dining experience? Or are we just trying to meet a basic need? As parents of three grown kids (teenager to adult), we know exactly how fast a restaurant experience can skyrocket. Just going to Chipotle can be a budget-buster! These are the times when we like to stay mindful.
That doesn’t mean never eating out—it simply means making intentional choices. Cooking breakfast and lunch at home can help save money for a memorable dining experience that will be worth the cost.
It might sound silly but I have been known to put out a few things to nibble on before we go out. I might even have a glass of wine if Marc is driving so we don’t have appetizers and drinks out. This drastically cuts our dinner bill but not our experience.
Now that you’ve decided where spending money is worthwhile to you, let’s talk about how to save while you’re doing it!
- Watch for sales: You can go as crazy with coupon-clipping as you want to. We like to do it from the convenience of a computer or mobile app, but printed ads are still out there and can yield great deals.
- Shop online: This saves both time and money, since you won’t spend anything extra on impulse buys at the store. Basic pantry items (and beyond) can be found on the Walmart app and picked up curbside at no charge. Target helps check miscellaneous home needs off the list, and any order of $35 or more can be delivered for free—without an expensive annual membership.
- Meal planning: It’s easy to get stuck making the same recipes over and over and using the foods we’re used to. But computers make it possible to shop sales and create a meal plan all in one place. Find out what’s on sale and plan meals around those items. So if the price of chicken goes up, cook with pork instead. If ground beef is expensive, look for ground turkey on sale. The point is to use what’s in season, on sale, and even unexpected.
- Go meatless: I know, crazy right 🙂 If I shared this with everyone at my dinner table they might say the same thing. So I don’t, I just do it and no one’s the wiser. Think homemade pizza and fresh salad. No meat, no problem. Pasta with finely diced mushrooms feels like a meat sauce but it’s not. I’m not recommending any specific diet plan here, but including a meatless day in your week can be less expensive at the check out and adds variety to your wheelhouse of typical family meals.
Make it a game
There are some great apps out there for tracking our spending and savings at the pump. Here are a few of our favorites:
- GasBuddy: GasBuddy boasts of saving people over $3 billion on gas over the last 15 years. They also share fun tips—like the fact that gas is cheapest on Sundays and Mondays.
- Google Maps
In addition to gas- and travel-specific apps, we recommend using a spending app like EveryDollar or Mint. These apps will quickly reveal where and what you’re spending across categories and line items. Categorizing our spending helps us to have more control over how we spend.
One of the things we like about our Apple card is that every purchase hits our phones directly. We can see exactly what we’re spending each day and where. What you see gets your attention, so this is a helpful way to keep on top of what we are up to financially.
These apps are also an easy way to showcase expenses to your family and kids. You can help them track expenses so they are part of the solution and not just being told to spend less. One solution gives an empowering perspective and the other has limiting perspectives.
The average American family wastes about 250 pounds of food per year. Yikes! I always like to say, “Cook once, eat twice.”
Here’s our secret: we immediately put our leftovers in the fridge. Once they hit the table, our family (*cough cough* the boys) will put more than they can eat on their plates. If we limit the food on the table, there’s always more in the fridge if they are still hungry. But this prevents overeating or wasting food that was barely touched and then thrown away.
An Italian friend once told us, “If there are no leftovers, you didn’t make enough food!” We couldn’t agree more. However, putting out food for appetizers or family-style meals can be done in smaller portions, with the ability to refill community plates.
And while we’re on the subject of waste, it’s good to remember that it’s a luxury! It means we have more than we need. Our brains like to focus on scarcity, but it makes a huge difference to our mood when we look at what we have instead of what we don’t. This way, we are setting our thoughts on a positive, grateful approach that stretches our budget.
Track – measure – plan
Seeing results helps keep us going. And, to quote Peter Drucker, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” So true!
When we zero in on something to improve, we must track progress. This gives us hard evidence that our efforts are worth the grind. Also, it’s easy to miss small changes until it’s too late. (Remember that myth about the frog in the boiling water?) Or, we can overestimate our progress.
Tracking can also keep us focused on a plan for the future and give us the “why” behind small tweaks throughout the day that help us stay on track.
Review and reassess
Every person and every family is different, and you won’t always find the perfect balance for you on the first try. Take the time to look back at your spending each day, week, or month—whatever works for you—and identify patterns. What’s going well, and what could use some work?
Remember that travel truly is all about the journey, not the destination. The same goes for your budgeting journey! Try some things, see how they work, and stay true to what’s right for you.
Above all, don’t give up before you ever get started! That’s why our mantra is “start small, start now.”
Plan, pause and pursue your dreams!
Keep your daydream,
If you have creative budgeting tips to share, please tell us in the comments below. How are gas prices impacting your travels this summer—or are they?
BLAIR REESE says
Excellent points, Trish!
Blair and Josephine Reese
Courtney Marsteller says
We remember how the cost
Compares to staying at a hotel and eating our every meal, and then realize the RV is still the way to go!
Gary S. says
Some casinos will give you a free all-you-can-eat buffet for first-time visits when you sign up for their player’s club card. Most will let you park your rig overnight too.
Tim McDow says
We keep our eyes open when driving through smaller towns where gas is always cheaper. We top off the tank when we find them. This may only be 1/4 to 1/2 a tank, but on large tanks that can be 20 gallons on average. I have saved up to .50 per gallon on 20 gallons. I also check my GasBuddy to see if I can get additional money off.
Diana and Mark Wilson says
Good info, thanks! I would add that properly maintained vehicles are more efficient…change the oil at regular intervals and check the level very frequently. I also drive a diesel, so changing the fuel filter on a timely basis is critical. Do I need to mention tire pressure?
Given your rockstar status in the RV metaverse, you may not ever see this comment, but I wanted to say how great it is to see a normal family living an extraordinary life in such a mindful way. Thanks, and keep up the good work!
Robin Cutler says
We just finished our first 1500 mile trip.
Our trick, keep the tank 1/2 or higher. We stayed under 100.00.
We stayed in Casino parking lots, DOT lot, and Driveways, we did stay in one campground, on the Oregon Coast.
Meals, we cook all breakfast, carry a ice chest for all lunches and snacks.
Thank you, Mark and Trish
Russ and Robin
Everyone needs a little R n R
nita Powell says
lots of great ideas! new yo me was gas cheaper on Sunday/Monday! thanks! newly retired, bought Caravel Airstream and a new F-150 Hybrid! We love this truck and the power it serves our lol camper! Boondocking has been fun! Safe travels!
nita Powell says
lots of great ideas! i didn’t know gas cheaper was on Sunday/Monday! thanks! newly retired, bought Caravel Airstream and a new F-150 Hybrid! We love this truck and the power it serves our lol camper! Boondocking has been fun! Safe travels!
You nailed it! Well said!
One more minor change that made a massive impact for us was to reduce our speed. I was going around 70mph on 75mph highways and getting around 5.5 mpg. I dropped down to 62mph and my gas mileage jumped up to 10.5 mpg. I couldn’t believe that reducing our speed by only 8mph could nearly double our gas mileage. And, on top of that, it feels much safer as well.
We are planning to stay on the west coast this summer (4 national parks) to reduce miles traveled. In Olympic NP we are moving every 2-3 nights so we can thoroughly see an area of the park, then move on to the next section, to minimize backtracking. (This will also help with traffic jams since we’ll need to drive in and out of the park.) We have senior park passes, so we can get campsites and some tours for half price. We are not planning to eat out, and we are cooking and freezing dinners ahead to thaw and reheat in the microwave. Since each trip will be 2 weeks or less, we plan to bring enough clothes and wait to wash them at home. (The NP washers and dryers can be expensive!)
Somewhat similar to going meatless is going foodless. Practice intermittent fasting by skipping a meal or two. An added benefit is you’ll shrink your waistline instead of your wallet. 😀
Pat Strawhouse says
Great tips, I REALLY need them this year. Thanks, Trish!
I couldn’t camp last year, but I’m more than making up for it this year! I have close to 100 nights booked this season! Including as far west as the Grand Tetons, south to WV AND VA, and east through MA, ME, to Lunenburg, NS. Fortunately, most campsites are booked and almost paid for. I’ve also joined Harvest Hosts and have a few places pencilled in. FYI You’ve inspired me to book passage on the SS Badger to cross Lake Michigan!
Any decision on this year’s KYD t-shirt design?
Safe travels and stay well!
Muskoka, ON 🇨🇦
Chris Young says
An expansion on the Kroger card discount…You ALWAYS get 3 cents off the price at the pump. If you use the Kroger app (Fred Meyer, in my area) they often have extra fuel points for certain items. Gift Cards are my favorite. They run a 4X gas points promotion for each dollar spent of gift cards on a regular basis. So… go in to the store, buy a Kroger gift card, get points. Then go back into the store and do your shopping. Use the gift card for the groceries, More points! It really gets fun when the 4X points for gift cards is on. Other stores may have the same type of promotions, You just need to investigate/ask questions. (By the way, the buy a gift card, then buy groceries with the gift card trick? Told to me by an employee!).
Thanks Chris that is some great information.
Nicole Miller says
Great points! Many that have worked for us when we had less.
Charles Smith says
We run on gasoline in our Tundra. So should we use a TSD fuel card? Our are the Loves and Pilot fuel cards good for a discounted Gasoline purchase?
Linda Day says
Charles, the TSD fuel card is for diesel. But I heard that they may bring out a program for gasoline in the near future. I hope so,as I no longer have my diesel rig. Safe travels.
Tyler Ford says
How does carrying a full tank of water and carrying grey and black water affect your MPG?
Lori Boyd says
it does! Water weights over 8lbs per gallon, so the fuller your tanks are the more weight you are towing and the lower your MPG
Richard Palmanteer says
As I comment on the last video you did, I want to go to Roundup Montana to visit my cousin so with the help of Gasbuddy that helped me figure out what the total trip will cost me. Which helps me plan better and save the money needed for the trip. I’m on SSA limited funds so for travel I have to be fruggle and not over spend. Budget, Budget, Budget!!! Love the article too.