3 Road Trips For 3 Different Budget Levels

Josh SchukmanAugust 11, 2022

3 Road Trips For 3 Different Budget Levels

Times might be tight and gas prices may be high, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get away. There are many creative options out there for epic vacations that won’t break the bank. Road trips especially can be an affordable way to create fun adventures for less. 

Road trips afford the opportunity to fit a multitude of adventures into one vacation. While gas prices are higher than usual, the array of vehicle options and route plans for road trips gives you opportunities to create a wonderful vacation that matches your budget. 

We here at Outdoorsy are lovers of the RV road trip. We love it because a camper gives you total control over how much you spend, where you sleep, and how you eat — key factors that impact the longevity of your vacation dollars. We believe this so strongly that we put together this article to map out RV road trips that’ll fit virtually any budget. 

We’re going to break down ways to have an epic road-venture whether your budget is $1,000, $2,500, or $5,000. As we do that, we’ll talk about how to pull all the levers like trip length, food decisions, campground options, and more that’ll help you dial your trip into the perfect balance between adventure and budget. 

How To Take An RV Road Trip For $1,000 Or Less

If you’re tempted to say that $1,000 isn’t enough for an amazing vacation — think again. While it’ll require a bit of outside-the-box thinking, there are many different ways that vacations can happen on this budget. 

For example, RVing gives you the opportunity to eat all or most of your meals in — saving substantially over eating out. Staying in a camper will also usually save money over a standard hotel room, especially if you camp in areas with low or no camping fees. 

Let’s explore the different ways you can take a trip on this budget, along with some sample trip itineraries that’ll fit right in.

Type of RV to rent — Just because you’re at the $1k budget mark does not mean you can’t rent a wicked cool RV. While rigs like large Class A motorhomes might be above your budget, there are many other options out there that’ll give you plenty of bang for your buck.

Campervans like this one, this one, and this one would get you all the amenities while also being nimble enough to fit into tight spots.  

3 Road Trips For 3 Different Budget Levels

Another option popular with many of our renters is cars with roof tents on top. These rigs pack a lot of punch because they provide sleeping quarters on top, an easy-to-drive rig, and generally feature amenities like sleeping bags, camp stoves, and more.

For example, this Jeep Rubicon with an iKamper roof tent will get you anywhere you want to go while providing all the stuff you need to make camp.

Just because you have a $1k budget doesn’t mean you can’t camp in comfort and style. By getting creative with the RV you rent for your trip, you’ll be able to rent something for $150/night or less that’ll help you save money on food and lodging costs.

Types of places to go — When you rent an RV for a road trip with a $1,000 budget, the key is to find places where you can camp for free or very low cost. While that might sound like a sacrifice, the truth is that some of the best campsites are free/low-cost spots off the beaten path. Places like national forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campsites are some of the best options to explore.

Food plan — When you cook for yourself, the average food cost is $4 per day per person. If you cook your own food for the majority of your road trip, you’ll be in a good position to keep the vacation going for a much longer period of time than if you eat out frequently. Most campervans and roof tent vehicles will provide — at a minimum — a cooler for you to keep food cold. Some camper vans even have fridges with small freezers.

Even though you might be camping in a campervan or roof tent, there are all kinds of camping meals that are creative, delicious, and cookable in virtually any scenario. 

Ideal trip length — Trips ranging from three to seven nights can generally be fit into a $1,000 or less budget with the right game plan in place.

Sample itineraries — Let’s check out a few epic road trips in this budget:

  1. National Parks like Grand Teton National Park — The Tetons and Jackson Hole, WY are typically viewed as expensive areas, but RVing in the Tetons or other national parks near you can be a great way to create an affordable vacation.

    That’s because places like the Bridger Teton National Forest or campgrounds within the Tetons National Park offer campsites that are free or relatively low in cost. Be sure to plan ahead if you want to camp within the national park as those spots fill up fast. National forests — on the other hand — generally offer first come first serve sites for free dry camping.

    Skip the restaurants to stay under budget. Enjoy your kitchen on wheels or dinner over a campfire with mountain vistas out your door. That’ll save you money and create an epic experience for you and the family.

    NOTE: An affordable camping trip to a national park assumes you live close enough to the park that fuel expense doesn’t bust your budget. Be sure to use the AAA gas calculator ahead of time to see how much your roundtrip might cost you.
  1. RVing Staycation — Why not take a vacation in your local area? The chances are strong that your home area has many places within a 200-mile radius that would be wonderful to explore with a camper.

    For example, state and county parks are scattered throughout U.S. states and feature splendid sites and affordable camping. Some parks like Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia even offer world-class attractions like wild horses roaming free and easy access to the Appalachian Trail.
  2. Escape the city and take delivery — If you’re itching to get out of the city, one great way to do that on a budget is to rent an RV and have it delivered!

    Many owners on our platform offer RV delivery and setup so you can arrive at your campsite and start vacating — no towing or sewer hose handling required.

    Chicago, for example, has many nearby campgrounds that would be perfect for a getaway like this. Most major cities feature the same.  

How To Take An RV Road Trip For $2,500 Or Less

A mid-range road trip budget will allow you to pepper in things like the occasional meal out, an upgraded RV rental, and/or fun excursions. Here’s what you’ll want to consider for a road trip in this price range:

Type of RV to rent — This budget level starts opening the door to larger motorhomes and travel trailers that can create an amenity-packed trip for the whole family.

You could rent a travel trailer like this one, tow it with an SUV or pickup, and bring it home with you everywhere you go.

Or you could roll in a mid-size motorhome like this one to combine your drive vehicle with your camper. These vehicles are typically easier to drive than towing a long trailer — especially if you haven’t driven an RV much before.

3 Road Trips For 3 Different Budget Levels

Types of places to go — Whereas a $1,000 budget would likely keep you within a 200-mile radius from home, a $2,500 budget gives you more wiggle room on fuel costs. This can open the door to areas within a 500+ mile radius from your home.

This budget also opens the door to camping in private, full hookup campgrounds that offer amenities like WiFi, clubhouses, playgrounds, and more. Costs range from $20-$120 per night depending on where you stay, so be sure to plan ahead. 

Food plan — With a $2,500 budget you can usually make room for occasional eating out during your trip. If restaurant exploration is a priority for you on vacation, you can make even more room by rolling in a smaller camper and/or camping at low cost or free campsites. 

Ideal trip length — The beauty of this budget is you could take a three to seven-day trip in relative luxury or jump up to a 14+ day trip if you skip on eating out, stay closer home, and take advantage of free/low-cost campsites like these spots in Oregon

Sample itineraries:

  1. The multi-stop trip — Pick a region you’d like to explore such as The Oregon Coast, beachside RV parks in Florida, or a chain of national parks like Utah’s Mighty Five, and plan a road trip with ample time to explore a handful of stops along the way.
  2. Get to know one area in style — Locations like Gatlinburg, TN or Branson, MO offer family-friendly attractions and a camping-centered culture. You could post up at an RV park with ample amenities and enjoy the many live shows, amusement park rides, and restaurants offered in tourist destinations like these.

    When you’ve had your fill of those activities, natural outdoor wonders like The Ozarks or Great Smoky National Park would be right at your fingertips.  
  1. Lux Event Camping — Have a bucket list music festival or other events you’ve been dying to attend? RV camping is an experience in and of itself at the majority of these events. Campers usually park in a community together and keep the celebration going long after the last notes of the night have played.

    Depending on the distance and duration of your trip, you may even be able to spoil yourself with a luxury Class A motorhome like this one

How To Take An RV Road Trip For $5,000 Or Less

A budget at this level can do several things for you — you could increase trip length, go further from home, rent a larger RV, and/or enjoy more excursions and activities.

Let’s dig into some considerations for a trip at this budget level.

Type of RV to rent — With this budget, you can rent any class of RV you’d like depending on the length and distance of your trip. As you plan, it’s important to ask yourself what matters most to you.

If you’d like to be in a large motorhome with luxury amenities, that might mean a shorter trip and less eating out. You could even treat yourself to an ultra-lux rig like this one.

On the other hand, if you opt for a camper van or pop-up, a $5,000 budget would dramatically increase the time you can spend on the road.

Types of places to go — If you have the time, this budget level can open up virtually anywhere in the continental U.S. for your road trip. This budget also affords you the opportunity to stay at resort-style RV parks that offer amazing amenities.

Food plan — Eating out can be a regular staple here. If you plan a longer trip, you may want to cook in the rig more frequently, but you could still enjoy your spending level with gourmet-style meals and the proper accompaniments.

Ideal trip length — The beauty of this category is that you have the ability to dial down amenities and take a 30+ day trip or you can dial amenities way up for a weeklong trip.

Sample itineraries:

  1. The 30+ day road trip —  Many Outdoorsy owners offer long-term discounts when you rent an RV for this long. While you’ll need to stretch your budget with an affordable rig, eating in regularly, and camping at free/low-cost sites, a $5,000 budget can be spread out to cover this sort of epic road trip.

    Imagine being able to take 30 days in an RV to road trip to all those places you’ve always wanted to explore. That’s possible when you have a budget like this. 
  2. National Parks on Steroids — While national parks can be visited at any of the above budget levels, $5,000 would allow you to do things like camping in higher-end RV parks and taking paid excursions such as whitewater rafting and horseback riding — all while enjoying the terrific food and culture that usually accompany towns around the parks.
  3. Oceanside camping — Renting or owning a beachfront home is a tall order for many of us. Renting an RV and planting it on a beachside spot can be a much more affordable option.

    While beachfront campgrounds are some of the most expensive out there, a $5,000 budget would allow you to plan an RV trip with the beach as your backyard. Here are 15 beachside RV parks we really love

Times of high gas prices and tighter spending don’t have to bring vacation plans to a halt. RVing is an option at multiple budget levels because it gives you a range of levers to pull so you can keep your spending where you want it to be. By planning ahead, knowing what your budget is, and seeking out an RV that matches what you want for your vacation, you’ll be well set for an RV road trip. 

Josh and his wife traveled around the country in an '88 Airstream for 4+ years of full-time RVing. They made an unexpected pitstop in Montana in 2020 and haven't left since. That's because they got hooked on the glamping resort they run by Glacier National Park. Fittingly, they keep up their RVing love by renting out vintage Airstreams and other retro RVs to travelers hitting Montana.

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