Wanting to save money on camping trips? Getting a campsite will be one of your biggest expenses. Here are 9 easy ways to get discounts on campgrounds. Learn how to save up to 50% off your stay!
The whole reason we bought our teardrop trailer was so that we could travel more. A decent hotel room can easily run $150 or more a night, while staying at a campground typically costs us $25 to $50 a night. So with our camper we can easily afford to take several more trips per year. For us it was a no-brainer.
Along with gas and food, campsite fees will make up a large portion of your camping trip expenses. Over the years, we have learned quite a few ways how to save money on camping to help our vacation budget go even further. If you enjoy camping as much as we do, I hope these 9 money saving tips are helpful to you!
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#1 – Save up to 50% with a camping club membership
One of the best ways to save money on camping is to sign up for a camping club membership. For a small fee, you are issued a card that entitles you to a 50% discount off your stay at participating campgrounds. With just one visit, a membership can pay for itself.
I have included information below about the two most popular camping club memberships here in the US – Passport America and the Happy Camper Club.
Your membership with Passport America entitles you to 50% off your stay at over 1,800 campgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The Passport America site is easy to use and has a clickable map that will let you see all participating campgrounds in an area. They also offer free trip routing, which is great for long road trips, and a free mobile app to help you find discount campgrounds while you are on your trip.
Although Passport America is mainly aimed at RV campers, membership can also be beneficial to tent campers. They have a separate page that lists participating campgrounds that offer discount tent sites.
To learn more or to join Passport America, click on the banner below.
With your Happy Camper Club membership, you will receive 50% off at any of 1,200 participating campgrounds throughout the US and Canada, as well as several other perks, like use of their free online trip planner and free camping ebook collection.
Membership in the Happy Camper Club includes discounts for both tent and RV sites. Each listing gives helpful information about the campground, including the number of RV and tent sites and whether or not pets are allowed. As with Passport America, you can browse the listings before you purchase a membership to make sure it will be beneficial to you and your travel plans.
To learn more or to join the Happy Camper Club, click on the banner below.
If you are wanting to save money on camping, it would be worthwhile to check out both Passport America and the Happy Camper Club when you are planning your trip.
Since you can see the participating campgrounds before you buy a membership, it’s easy to check and see if there are any participating campgrounds close to your destination. Then just purchase a membership with the one that would be most beneficial to your travel plans.
#2 – Save money on camping by avoiding weekends and holidays
Campgrounds typically raise their prices on weekends and holidays like Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. Scheduling your stay to avoid holidays and weekends can be a great way to save money on camping.
Although it varies depending on location, a typical campground charges 10-15% more for the weekend and 20% more for holidays. So just planning your camping trip to avoid peak times can amount to a significant savings over the course of your stay!
#3 – Pay less by skipping amenities you won’t use
Campgrounds vary greatly from site to site. Deluxe sites that include a pull-through, water, electric, and sewage typically cost more. If you are willing to haul water from a communal faucet or go to a dump site to empty your blackwater tank, you can definitely save some money by choosing a standard site.
So it is a good idea to determine what you absolutely need from a campsite before you start looking around for the best price. For example, with our teardrop, we just need electric. Since we use the campground bathroom and shower facilities, we can get by without having water on our site.
We might have to walk a little bit to fill up our 7 gallon water storage container, but it does save us a bit of money on each trip.
#4 – Save money by staying at a state park campground
If there is a state park near your destination, look into staying there instead of a commercial campground. They might not offer the amenities that more expensive campgrounds do, but the savings can be huge.
Ohio state parks are $20-$30 a night as compared to $50 to $70 a night to stay at a KOA. The trade-off is that we might have to deal with latrines instead of flush toilets and we might have to walk a bit to get water for washing dishes. Since we only are at the campground in the evening, the savings are worth it to us.
#5 – Save money by driving a little further.
The closer you are to a major tourist attraction, the more expensive the nightly rate at a campground is. If you are willing to travel an extra half hour or so to get to your campground, you can save a good bit of money.
For example, on our trip to Niagara Falls, we found that if we traveled about 15 miles north of the falls, we could save about $20 a night over what the KOA on Grand Island charged.
One thing you will want to do though before choosing a campground that is further away is to calculate how much additional you will be paying for gas. If the savings don’t outweigh the additional fuel costs, then you would be better off choosing the closer campground.
#6 – Save money by signing up for a campground loyalty card
Many campgrounds have loyalty cards that offer a discount or the chance to earn a free night of camping. Some are free, but some require that you purchase the card.
Here in Ohio, we have an Ohio State Parks loyalty card. Each stay earns us points that can be redeemed for free nights of camping. It was free to join and the points don’t expire. Jellystone campgrounds has a similar program that is free to join. So it is worthwhile to see if your favorite campground or state parks department has a similar program.
For a small fee, some campground chains offer a discount card. For example, KOA has a Value Kard that is $30 per year. It entitles you to 10% off all campsite reservations in addition to a few other perks. As with other membership programs, you will need to weigh the cost versus the expected savings in a year to see if it is worth it to purchase the card.
#7 – Sign up for email lists for periodic special offers
Often times, campgrounds will email specials that are exclusive to email subscribers. KOA and Jellystone campgrounds both have email lists. Check and see if your favorite campground has an email list. It’s well worth it to sign up for the emails just to learn about their discounts and specials that will allow you to save money on camping trips.
#8 – Call and ask what discounts the campground offers
If you aren’t able to find any other discounts for the campground you are wanting to stay at, you might want to give them a call anyway.
Sometimes campgrounds give unadvertised discounts to members of the military, senior citizens, members of AAA, etc. Some campgrounds also give discounts for a long-term stay or to members of scout groups. It doesn’t hurt to ask!
#9 – Look into work camping or volunteering for a discounted or free stay
If you are wanting a long-term camping stay, you might want to check out host camper or volunteer opportunities that campgrounds offer. In exchange for doing some light work, you can receive a free or discounted stay.
Ohio state parks has a campground host program for campers wanting to stay at least 2 weeks. You volunteer for 20 hours of service at a park and a rewarded with a free camping stay. Many other states have similar programs, so you might want to check out their website or ask on their Facebook page.
Independent campgrounds also sometimes reward volunteers with free stays. You can find out more about opportunities in your area at Workamping Jobs.
Quick Links to Info on This Page
- #1 – Save up to 50% with a camping club membership
- #2 – Save money on camping by avoiding weekends and holidays
- #3 – Pay less by skipping amenities you won’t use
- #4 – Save money by staying at a state park campground
- #5 – Save money by driving a little further.
- #6 – Save money by signing up for a campground loyalty card
- #7 – Sign up for email lists for periodic special offers
- #8 – Call and ask what discounts the campground offers
- #9 – Look into work camping or volunteering for a discounted or free stay
While you are here, be sure to check out the rest of our camping tips.
Have you found any other ways to save money on camping? Be sure to leave us a comment below. We would love to hear from you. Happy camping!