It’s summertime. The pandemic seems to be under control. That means many people will be finally planning a long overdue vacation. We have new problems, however, to contend with this summer and that’s inflation and rising fuel prices. Airline tickets are up 9% and gasoline is anyone guess. Right now, currently we’re paying $3.30 a gallon vs $2.00 last summer. If you’re planing on using a vehicle this summer for your vacation plans, as we are, you have to prioritize what’s important and what can be eliminated in order to balance out your total vacation costs.

Unless you want to put everything on a credit card and worry about paying for your vacation later? If so, then this post isn’t for you. This post is for us frugal people who want to enjoy life to its fullest and pay the bill, in full, when it’s due.

This is how hubby and I are meeting this summer’s new vacation challenges:

Hubby and I love to drive but we don’t like staying in hotels. Our last hotel visit a few years back had our sleep interrupted by little bed bugs. No thanks! After that experience we decided to skip all hotel stays and use our RV instead for everything mobile. That includes short trips (overnight) mid-week or weekend trips (3 to 5 days) and extended trips (one to three months). For us, when we did the math (not including the price of the RV because RVs come in all shapes, sizes and prices, so that point is moot) hotel costs vs camp/mobile site costs, RVing won out as being the more cost effective choice/solution.

Just like the current rising hotel prices, campsite prices have not been immune from inflation either. Prices for campsites have gone up considerably. In some instances, they have almost tripled. Still, many resort campsites are 75% less than a hotel stay, so if you’re vacationing for a week or two, the savings can be considerable.

This year, hubby and I decided to try state and national park campsites. Other RVers rave about the savings and the amenities many of our state and national parks have to offer so we thought we would give them a try. Most state and national campsites have limited resources, such as a full hook-up (water, sewer and electricity). Many just give you electricity (for a nominal fee) and then offer potable water remotely throughout the park. We always try to book a site as close to the water site as possible. Sometimes we are so near we can just string a water hose across the grass and fill up our 50 gallon water tank. If we can’t do that, then as soon as we pull in to a park we bring our RV over to the water source and fill up from there.

We’re fortunate our RV has a rather large water storage compartment. As long as we conserve water and take navy showers (soak up. sponge up. then quickly rinse up. this method uses about 5 gallons of water) we’re able to manage our camping adventures. We use a lot of paper products, such as plates, napkins, towels and plastic serviceware (forks, knives & spoons). We know this isn’t very environmentally friendly so we try to reuse as much as we can. But we have to limit washing pots and plates. Some campgrounds offer washing facilities for these. So far, we haven’t had to utilize that option. We’re just very careful about our water usage. Otherwise, we’d have to carry water back and forth in an 8 gallon drum and that is both tiresome and inefficient. Unhooking the trailer and moving it to a water spigot is not an option.

Getting the electric hookup is the minimum we will put up with. We tried boondocking (NO hookups whatsoever) and moochdocking (RVing in a friends driveway) and didn’t like either of those choices. Having electricity runs our heater and air conditioning (when needed) microwave, smart TV, keeps our electronic equipment powered up and all the lights turned on. All campgrounds offer dumping stations and we utilize them at the end of our stay (no more than one week). If we are staying longer we have two choices: pack up and tow the trailer to the dump station, pay someone (and there always is a someone) who comes around and pumps out your black and gray tanks. We do have a mobile black water tank canister which hubby can tow to the dump station (it’s on wheels) but thankfully we haven’t gotten the opportunity to try it out yet.

Last week, we stayed at one of the top New York state parks, located at Watkins Glen for a few days. All of the sites were socially distant, private, offered a picnic table and a fire pit. The sites with electricity were limited but we were able to snag one by booking well in advance. Some parks will let you book between 11 and 9 months in advance. In our current environment, I highly recommend this. I’m not the only one facing high vacation costs. Many of our fellow RVers are competing for these sites. The price per night at Watkins Glen State Park was only $24 (you read that right: twenty four dollars vs two hundred and twenty four dollars for a hotel stay) Watkins Glen offer 330 campsites for tents, RVs, motor homes, vans, travel trailers etc. Units can be no larger than 35 feet which is fine with us (we’re 20 feet) because sometimes those 45 footers can be a bit obnoxious!

Our four day, three night vacay only cost us $79 (tax and fees included in that price!)

Here’s what our site looked like. As you can see, it was very private and very quiet! (10PM to 7AM is quiet time, strictly enforced) In addition to all the park amenities and hiking trails, Watkins Glen state park also offered free hot showers (very clean) and bathrooms (almost very clean) as well as kiddie playgounds, hiking and biking trails and an Olympic sized pool (will open sometime this June). Admission to the pool was only $3 (but that may change) For more information of Watkins Glenn State Park, located in the gorgeous Finger Lake region of upstate New York, click here.

We have an ample kitchen in our unit, which we love. Since hubby and I like to cook most of our meals, we felt having a detailed kitchen was very important. Our unit has a double stainless steel sink, microwave, three burner stove top, oven (you can bake your morning muffins or a medium sized turkey in it!), ample storage cabinets, a knife rack, a fold out counter extension, corian countertops, a hooded venting system, ample electrical outlets (yes I can make a mean pina colada in my blender!) and two built-in cutting boards, good sized refrigerator and freezer. It’s great for breakfast (see photo below) in the morning and a quick lunch. Dinners however, are cooked on the attached, outdoor gas grill and griddle (perfect for fish, burgers, steaks and chicken).

Every once in a while, especially when we are at a waterview location (Watkins Glenn connects with one of the Finger Lakes, Seneca) hubby and I like to go out to dinner. In 14 months, since the pandemic hit, this was the first time we actually sat down in a restaurant, maskless and with a superb water view. Currently we try to limit our meals out to just one. We have to balance out our vacation budget against the higher gas prices and higher commercial camping sites and we found that by going out less we can enjoy our vacation more.

The prices at this particular waterfront restaurant were very reasonable. We order 1/2 pound hamburgers, cooked to perfection on a toasted sourdough bread, with a slab of cheddar cheese and caramelized onions. A side of chips (I doubled my pickles instead…..I’m still on a diet) for $10. Hubby ordered a side salad for $1.99 more and he had a glass of summer ale beer. I had ice water with a slice of lemon. The whole meal came out to $30, which is a very good deal nowadays! The burger was superb (either hubby and I were famished or the fresh air made everything taste great!)

Our total outlay for our four day, three night RVing adventure came to $79 for the campsite, $30 for one dinner out and $107 for gasoline (premium fuel for 542 miles roundtrip) bringing the Grand Total to $216. (all other food eaten is covered under our normal food budget expense).

If we were to stay at a commercial campground, such as a KOA (yes, there are other privately owned campsites around, but take it from me, some privately owned campsites are dumps! We prefer utilizing a big corporate-run conglomerate, because if there is any trouble and you are unsatisfied with anything for any reason, a quick phone call to corporate headquarters gets your problem solved pronto. At the end of a long driving day, trust me, you’ll appreciate corporate). The KOA Watkins Glen location, charges a minimum of either $104 a night for a patio site or $74 for a back-in grassy site. We did extremely well (IMHO) choosing this NY state park campsite. We’re going back next year because we want to explore nearby Corning, NY and their respective Corning Glass Museum ($17 senior entrance fee) Click here. And the Watkins Glen pool will be open!!

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