Worried about how much your road trip will cost? Whether you’re travelling by motorhome, campervan or car/ caravan, here are some tips to reduce the cost of your adventure.
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How to save money on a road trip
Whether you’re popping down the road for a weekend or touring Europe for 3 months, we all want to save some money on our road trips & motorhome travels.
Of course, budgets will vary from person to person and the size of your vehicle will make a huge difference in how much you might spend, but there are some things we can all do to reduce the cost.
Save money before you leave
There are a couple of things you can do to save some money before you even leave on your road trip.
Check your pressures
Before you leave, check your tyre pressures are at the recommended levels. Doing this can make your vehicle much more efficient and it will use less fuel.
And yes, you can check motorhome tyre pressures at a normal garage, but you might find it easier to carry your own.
Even better, get a full service on your vehicle before you set off, to make sure everything is in tip top shape.
And, while it’s not a legal necessity, you might find a motorhome habitation check useful too, especially if you’ve not used your camper for a while.
Travel out of high season if you can
I know it’s not possible for everyone, but if you can plan your travel to avoid the main school holidays, you’ll save SO MUCH MONEY. Seriously, campsites can be as much as 60% cheaper out of season!
We highly recommend ACSI Camping Card– the card which gives you discounted prices at loads of top sites across Europe. Sometimes, this card is even valid for use in August, so it’s well worth checking.
Review your insurance
Hands up if you’ve ACTUALLY read your vehicle or motorhome insurance policy.
Many people are paying for things that they don’t need. For example, if you’re planning to tour Scotland this year, you don’t need to be paying for European coverage- which is expensive.
Or you’re paying for a higher annual mileage than you’re actually using.
Some insurance policies, like Caravan Guard, offer a discount if you have a reversing camera or tracker fitted, so that could save you a good amount of money.
Reduce your weight
No, I’m not telling you to diet (although, anything for fuel saving, right?!) but the lighter your vehicle is, the less fuel it will use. So, think about your motorhome weight and payload and take off anything you’re not going to need.
For example, we have a generator and two powerbanks (the Jackery Explorer 500 and the Ecoflow River). If we were going on a long tour of Europe, we’d take both powerbanks (but probably no longer the generator), but if we’re just going to a local campsite for a short break, we’d probably only take one.)
We’re also no longer driving with full water tanks unless we’re planning to be off-grid wild camping in our motorhome for a few days and we’re not taking loads and loads of extra ‘stuff’ we ‘might’ need.
Book travel for the cheapest times/ routes
If you’re crossing from the UK into Europe, you have a number of options and they do NOT cost the same.
Traditionally, the EuroTunnel is cheaper than the ferry, except if crossing Dover-Calais by ferry. See the pros and cons of EuroTunnel vs ferry here.
You’ll also find travelling NOT on peak dates and in the middle of the night cheaper than travelling when most people want to. The good news for motorhomers is you can sleep in your van! Both the tunnel and most ferry routes allow this in specific areas- ask to be directed to where you can sleep.
Join a motorhome club
If you join a motorhome club, you’ll be able to get cheaper rates at their campsites, and usually get decent savings on all sorts of other useful things, like insurance or motorhome essential accessories.
Watch the video
Discover 10 easy ways to save money on your road trips
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Save money on the drive
Fill up with petrol at the cheapest time
Did you know that some fuel stations change their prices nearly every day? Yep- weekends are the highest, whereas Monday mornings are statistically the cheapest time to fill up your fuel tank. Do that enough times and you’ll save enough to pay for the campsite!
Fill up in the cheaper places
Also, get off the main roads when looking for fuel- smaller stations or supermarkets are often MUCH cheaper. You’ll also find some countries/ areas are cheaper than others. Luxembourg is reportedly cheaper to fill up in than either France or Germany, so if you’re heading that way, it might be worth a detour!
Lastly, some motorhome sat navs (such as the TomTom GO Camper Max), have in-built fuel station checker if you connect it to your smartphone, so it will tell you the cheapest fuel stations along your route.
Reducing speed by as little as 10% can save you serious ££££. Let’s face it, motorhoming is not about how quickly you can get there, and driving fast in a large vehicle can be extra stressful, so take your time, plan plenty of stops and enjoy the travel as much as the arriving.
Yes, even if there are loads of traffic jams! You might like to download this road trip song playlist to keep you entertained.
If you’re travelling with kids, try these road trip games for children
We’ve also put loads of road trip questions and games in our road trip survival kit. for you to enjoy on long journeys.
Of course, you don’t want to drive tooooo slowly- it’s finding a happy medium.
Try to avoid quick acceleration and heavy braking. Accelerating away from a slow speed uses a lot of fuel. Also, be sure to stay in gear (instead of ‘coasting’ downhill in neutral).
Unless you’re going uphill and need the power, try to change gears before hitting 2000 rpm. You want to be in the highest safe gear for the speed limit and road conditions. Being in a higher gear means the engine ‘spins’ less, which means it uses less fuel. If you’d like to understand more about this, the RAC broke the world record for distance covered on one tank of fuel, so here are their tips.
Also, make sure you use all of the gears (I always forget my motorhome is a 6 speed!)
Make sure you close your hatches!
Having extra ‘drag’ on your roof will decrease your fuel efficiency. Therefore, be sure to close skylights, vents and hatches before you leave, and put down any satellite dish or antenna you might have up.
Be frugal with your A/C and heating
Using your air conditioning or heating uses fuel. Therefore, you might prefer to open windows rather than have the a/c on, or put on a jumper rather than use your motorhome heating.
Having said that, open windows increase drag, which reduces efficiency too…
Use cruise control only on motorways
If you have cruise control on your motorhome/ camper, only use it on long, flat roads where you can keep a constant speed. Otherwise, it will be slower to react to gradients and won’t change gears as effectively as you can, so it will cost you more in fuel.
Avoid toll roads
If you’re road tripping in Europe, try and avoid toll roads if you’re in a camper over 3m tall or 3.5 tonnes- the costs can be extortionate. It may take longer to get there, but you’ll enjoy much prettier views too.
This is especially true if you’re motorhoming in Norway– jeez, that’s expensive!
READ MORE: See how much our trip to Norway cost us here.
Having said that, the toll road is often the fastest and most direct route. It’s also the route where you’ll be able to keep constant speed and so the engine will be most efficient. As you can see, there’s no right answer.
Avoid Low Emission Zones
If you don’t drive into Low Emission zones around the UK and Europe, you won’t need to buy the stickers. Admittedly, they don’t cost very much, but every little counts!
Planning to take your motorhome to Europe?
GUIDE: Stop the overwhelm with our step-by-step guide. Contains eBook, checklists and more. Complete Europe Motorhome Travel Toolkit
CHECKLIST: Don’t forget to grab your FREE Europe motorhome travel checklist HERE
GEAR– If you need any motorhome gear for touring Europe, here’s what we recommend.
Save money while on your trip
Be smart about where you stay
Let’s face it, some campsites are more expensive than others. You can find cheaper campsites, especially if you don’t need or want a lot of facilities.
Unless you’re working from the road, you might not need a place with great wifi or top facilities.
See how we find motorhome campsites around the UK and Europe here
If you’re in the UK, consider staying in CS or CLs, or using a scheme like Brit Stops.
If you’re in Europe with a motorhome or campervan, make use of their fantastic collection of Aires (learn all about aires in France and around Europe here.)
They also have schemes like France Passion and, of course, you could choose to go off-grid completely and go wild camping.
Here’s how to find FREE motorhome parking and overnight stopovers around the UK and Europe
Use refillable gas
If you’re planning on spending more than a few weeks a year in your motorhome and plan to use it throughout winter, get refillable gas installed.
It’s SO much cheaper- we estimate we recovered the cost of our system within 8 months. It’s also so much more convenient for when you’re touring Europe.
Here’s how to find LPG around UK and Europe
Bring your own food
Another expensive part of travelling is the food (and drink!) bills. I know it’s often a holiday (unless you’re living full time in your van!), but bringing your own food can save you a fortune.
It doesn’t have to be complicated and you can still splurge on a Sunday roast in the pub, but stock up on some basics for breakfast and lunch and you’ll find the whole trip gets a lot cheaper.
And, of course, the more you eat and drink, the more it will all cost!
Here are some great ideas for easy meals on the road.
Look for discounted tickets
If you’re like us and enjoy DOING stuff wherever you explore, finding discounted tickets for local attractions can save LOADS. English Heritage or the National Trust are great if you visit their sites regularly (they sometimes allow members to park overnight in their car parks too.)
Want more tips for motorhome life?
Here are some more ideas you might find useful:
- Essential Motorhome accessories every van should have
- Best Sat-nav for motorhomes or campervans
- Motorhome Security– tips for at home and on the road
- How to get Internet & wifi in a motorhome
- Europe- essential gear for travelling to Europe
- Best gift ideas for motorhome and campervan owners
Want FREE checklists, eBooks and additional tips to help? Visit our resource page
Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
Find out how she went from stuck in the rat race to being a digital nomad and inspiring thousands of people to have their own epic adventures here.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.