Once we hit the road, I expect nightly campground fees to be our biggest expense, though towing our trailer with a truck that gets 7-10 mpg isn't going to be cheap. Actually, I've budgeted the same amount of money for both items. It remains to be seen how well my budget works out, but I'm optimistic the target can be met.
I've come up with a lot of ways to save money on nightly fees. The list starts with the federal recreation lands pass for senior citizens. Not only does it save 50 percent on nightly camping fees, it also gets us into any federal recreational facility, from national parks to historic sites, for free. You can't get any cheaper than that!
We used the pass on our trip to Yellowstone in September 2011. We paid $7 a night at Mammoth campground and $11 a night at Madison. If we'd stayed in a hotel, assuming we could find room at the inn, we would have been paying well over $100 a night.
Last summer, we used the pass for a double discount at a local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campground on the Snake River. The nightly rate was $24, but they were having a weekday discount of 50 percent because highway construction was making it difficult to get into the campground. That brought the rate down to $12 per night. Not bad, but by using the pass, we got our site for $6, including electricity. Buying that pass is the best $10 I ever spent!
We also plan to stay anywhere from a week to a month or more if we find a place we like. Nightly rates drop significantly for long-term stays.
I discuss more ways to save money on site fees in an article I recently wrote for a website dedicated to the lifestyle of baby boomers.