We have a small tapestry hanging right outside our trailer door that says “Home Is Where You Park It” and for us that is true. As full time RVers we are not attached to a house rather our house is attached to us. Learning how to find places to park our home and how to make reservations has been part of our learning curve. When we were asked “where do you park at night?” as if we drove this huge thing around all day, I realized many people don’t know the basics of finding RV sites. Volumes have been written on this subject and the following post is just a brief overview of choices with a good amount of bias toward what we prefer.
You can find any type of RV facility from a WalMart parking lot to a gated community restricted to class A vehicles over $500,000. While we will certainly use the former we will never be qualified to stay in the later. For us state parks, national forests and parks, Canadian Provincial Parks and Corp of Engineers campgrounds make up 95% of the places we stay. We may do more boondock camping, that is staying for free without facilities, or dry camping, staying at a low cost site with rudimentary facilities now that we have purchased a generator and inverter. We do stay at private RV parks if needed but in the last 11 months we’ve only used four parks. That is likely to change as we move along the east coast and visit more urban locations.
One thing we learned early on is that parks that have seasonal or permanent sites or call themselves ‘family’ campgrounds are not for us. That’s not to say it may not work for you. Just be forewarned that some of these campers were parked here many years ago and a variety of homemade lean-to or porch additions have been added. In one park where permanent residents were allowed it was obvious that some were homeless in the true sense of the word and not as we use it, meaning traveling as a lifestyle. We have been at one park in PA that has very strict rules for the permanent tenants and the park is in great shape. When using an unknown park we always read reviews online at RV park review or check the Escapees forum. My favorite go to app for the iPad and iPhone is CampWhere which costs about $5. Granted you can get the same information for free the web at http://www.uscampgrounds.info but the app is much easier to search and use. This lists federal, state, and city/county parks in an easy to use format with basic info about the park and contact information. We have as you’ll read found errors in their information so now we always double check. Other apps and sites we use are Reserve America, Recreation.gov, Days End ($10/yr for Escapees members only), Allstays Camp and Tent or Trailer Life for private parks and WalMart OVN. Recently another RVer recommended Harvest Hosts which is an annual fee membership site that allows free overnight parking at farms, wineries, orchards or other small businesses. We haven’t joined yet but most likely will soon.
If you qualify, be sure to get the federal interagency pass for those 62 and older. It can save you up to 50% on camping fees as well as free entry to any federal agency facility that charges a fee. Some states offer senior discounts only to residents (SC and FL for example) while others like Mississippi extend it to all. Then there are other states like Georgia who don’t mention it when you reserve on line but give it to you when you register. We’ve recently been making plans for our trip this summer to the Canadian Maritime provinces and found that New Brunswick and Nova Scotia offer senior discounts. Oh, and there is another way to save. Check for states who have their own senior pass like Maryland. For a nominal fee ($10) you can get half price camping at state parks Monday-Wednesday. Lastly look for special rates in off season or shoulder season months such as we found at Land Between the Lakes and on the SC coast. For savings at private parks memberships in groups like Good Sam, KOA and Escapees as well as camping clubs are useful. The best resource of all is talking to other Rvers. They are willing to share their experiences (good and bad) and information such as parks that hold back sites for walk-in arrivals so that even when a reservation site says “no matching site available” you may still be able to go. This can save you a lot of time and effort. Best of all you make new friends in the process.
H A P PY C A M P I N G !
When you don’t have a house payment to worry about this is a very economical lifestyle. We are thrilled we made the choice to become full timers.