An RV trip through western Canada is truly a bucket-list worthy, life-changing vacation. From the towering, glacial peaks, to the vast, wind-swept praries, BC and Alberta are breathtaking destinations, and trust us – pictures CANNOT do it justice. However, RV trips can quickly become expensive – once you book your RV, you still have to think about the cost of campgrounds, food, activities, fuel, and extras (like souvenirs and convenience items). This guide will help you save some cash as you spend your holiday enjoying the scenery – so you can spend less time pinching pennies, and more time making memories. Below we’ve listed some of the major expenses, as well as ideas on how to save a few bucks on each item!
1) RV Campgrounds: RV campgrounds can, depending on their location and amenities, be anywhere from super affordable to small fortune. Now, if it is VERY important to you to have a swimming pool, game room, or – on-site laundry at every campsite you visit, feel free to find the swankiest parks! However, you don’t need a “full hookup” campsite every night of your trip; a “partial hookup” usually includes a water and electrical connection, and there MANY free and cheap sani dumps throughout Canada. Alternatively, you can also get a gorgeous, treed, private, electrically wired site through the Provincial parks system. (Not to mention, you’re contributing to the maintenance and conservation of these areas with your fees!) Most large provincial parks have electrical sites, sani dumps, and fresh water on site – so feel free to fill your tank, dump your holding tanks, and then head to your site for the evening. Your hot water heater, fresh water tank, water pump, and the electrical connection will make it so your “home on wheels” truly is just like home – for a fraction of the cost of the privately owned campgrounds. (Quick tip: we always recommend going for an electrically wired site – RV batteries are meant for quick, not prolonged use without charging, and running out of battery is NOT a fun experience.)
A provincial park campsite in Tofino.
2) Take advantage of free parking: In many touristy areas, parking can quickly become quite expensive. Take advantage of free parking lots - where you can usually leave your RV, and use a shuttle system to get to the attractions. Most shuttles are faster, have priority traffic status, and can get you closer to the attractions anyway. This way, you’re not paying for parking, AND you’re saving fuel!
Free parking in Porteau Cove Provincial Park.
3) Getting around town: Speaking of fuel, the best fuel economy you can get in your RV is on the highway. What does that mean? It means you’re spending SIGNIFICANTLY more fuel per kilometre on city driving rather than highway driving. To help reduce fuel costs, take advantage of public transit (shuttles, buses, and trains), or rent a bike for the duration of your trip, and use your bike to get around town once you park your RV! (Another bonus – burn off extra calories so you can enjoy more vacation snacks!)
4) Book activities/accommodation early: Often, if you book your activities and accommodation early, you’ll be able to take advantage of discounts. For example: we, at Happy Holidays, offer a 10% discount if you book and pay for your trip before February 15thof the same year. Also, a lot of locations offer discounts for booking online, or booking a certain number of days/weeks/months in advance. Another added bonus? It guarantees you a spot at your chosen campground or activity!
5) Pick and choose which activities to splurge on: Once you start your trip, you’ll realize – there’s seemingly UNLIMITED activities on which you can spend your time and money. We recommend choosing activities with no cheap or free alternative, and spending wisely there. For example – most gondolas in the rockies are quite expensive per ticket – between $20-35 per person. However, there is usually an option to hike to the top of the mountain, and either hike back down, or take a discounted rate for just the download option. Some rivers you can either book a guided kayaking tour, or simply book a canoe/kayak for a few hours and explore on your own. Basically – choose which activities are ABSOLUTELY worth your hard earned cash, and splurge there! (For us, we LOVE river rafting and horseback riding – so we always splurge on that!)
Horseback Riding in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
6) Cook at home, and pack your own lunches/picnics:One of the easiest and best ways to save some cash on your trip is to avoid going out for meals. All Happy Holidays RV rentals come with a refrigerator, microwave, stovetop, and (in some cases) an oven. Instead of heading out for a meal each night, prepare your own meals in your RV! You can even prepare your own sandwiches, trail mix, and snacks for when you’re out and about for the day. If you have a particular favourite food or restaurant, splurge on that evening – otherwise, the internet and youtube are absolutely BURSTING with delicious recipe ideas.
Picnic at a rest stop outside Hope, BC.
7) Use cash budgeting: One of the easiest ways to stick to a budget is to use cash budgeting. At the beginning of your trip, get out as much cash as you plan to spend on your whole trip. That way, when you want to purchase something, you can actually SEE how much money is left in your budget, and it helps decide whether the purchase is worth it. (Quick note: if you use cash budgeting, do NOT carry all your cash with you at once, and make sure you leave the cash in a secure location.)
An RV trip is a wonderful experience – whether you’re on your own, with a loved one, or with the whole family. We hope this list helps you, and feel free to leave us your tips and tricks in the comments!