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This post was updated February 2023
Before we bought our camper, Tom and I used to pass RV parks and remark on how crowded and unnatural they looked. We could not imagine ourselves staying in RV parks, and we naturally assumed that if you want to avoid RV parks you should not own an RV.
Fast forward a few years and not only did we own an RV, we lived in it full time (though we usually refer to it as a camper since our Toyota Dolphin is a tiny motorhome, about the size of a camper van).
When we first bought La Peregrina (the name we lovingly bestowed on our Toyota Dolphin) we didn’t know much about camper living, and we weren’t sure where we could camp in the states besides, well, RV parks. So, in the beginning, we sucked it up and stayed in RV parks on the trip south to Mexico.
We did not love it.
Baja, Mexico was a fantastic relief from the RV parks of the states, as we regularly found ourselves camped on pristine beaches with small camper vans, other compact RV’s like ours, and tent campers.
Interested in learning more about Baja? Check out this fantastic Baja travel guide, it was an indispensable tool on our Baja adventures!
Before we returned to the United States I decided there HAD to be better options for us, and I did a lot of research. Sure enough, after plenty of digging, I discovered lots of non-RV park camping options in the states, and now we very rarely find ourselves in RV parks!
Read on to learn why we avoid RV parks, and where we camp instead. (Disclaimer: If RV parks are your thing, that’s great! These are the reasons they don’t work for us.)
1. RV parks are usually crowded with small camping spaces
Even the higher end RV parks have relatively small camping spaces. You are packed right in next to the neighboring motorhomes, making it very difficult to enjoy the outdoors. Essentially, you are paying a premium price for a driveway sized camping spot between two other vehicles.
2. RV’s in RV parks tend to have distracting features
For example, big screen televisions playing loudly, or, even better, a new feature on some RV’s is an outdoor big screen television. This sits in the side of the RV so people can sit outside the RV and watch television loudly.
Outdoor stereo systems and bright outdoor LED lighting are two more distracting features that we’ve encountered while staying in RV parks. We don’t even own a television, and while I absolutely respect that RV owners have a right to these features, they just don’t allow the kind of peace and quiet we’re looking for when we travel.
3. RV parks are expensive
RV parks range in price depending on where you’re traveling, but you can almost always be sure that the local RV park will have the highest nightly camping rates in the area. Some RV parks are as expensive as the local motels, which is likely why so many people believe full time RVing is an unaffordable option.
Now, with that said, you do get certain amenities by staying in an RV park. Most RV parks provide full hookups (electric/water/sewage), shower facilities, laundry facilities, internet, and often some recreational facilities as well.
In the high-end, luxury RV parks you can expect pools, tennis courts, and comfortable clubhouses. These are all extras that many people are happy paying for, but we don’t need most of these amenities.
Cheap RV parks do exist, but in our experience they are still more expensive than a campground, and often are combination RV/trailer parks with many permanent residents.
4. RV parks are noisy
While most RV parks do have quiet hours (usually 10pm- 7am), they tend to be quite noisy the rest of the time. There are barking dogs, loud music, people having parties, you name it!
We like to fill our days reading, writing, and relaxing. We know that for many people the busy, buzzing atmosphere in RV parks defines RV life, it’s just not for us.
5. RV parks tend to exemplify consumerist culture
Most of the people visiting RV parks use their RVs once every few months, and often they unload ATV’s, motorcycles, and other “toys” from their RV once they park it.
A huge part of our journey into motorhome living has been a focus on downsizing, living more simply, and consuming less. This just doesn’t gel with the consumerist culture of more, more, more that we often run into in RV parks.
Also, if you have an older camper or a camper van watch out! Many RV parks will not allow camper vans at all, and some do not allow RV’s that are more than 20 years old.
If you can relate to our RV park woes, not to worry! Let’s talk about where we camp instead!
Luckily, North America is FULL of free and cheap campsites! In the United States alone, there are 640 million acres of federally owned land! Most of that land is available for public use, which means you can camp and hike on it.
If you’re RVing through Canada there are plenty of great free/cheap camping options for you there as well! In Canada the public land is called Crown Land, and much of it is available for free camping.
Even in Mexico there are plenty of free camping spots, though many of the paid campsites are so cheap there that it may be worth it to shell out a few bucks to take advantage of the bathrooms and showers.
Cheap RV Camping on BLM and USFS Land
Our absolute favorite spots to camp are BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land and BLM campgrounds. You can find these areas through the BLM website.
You can legally camp for free on BLM and USFS (US Forest Service) land unless it is a campground or there are signs indicating otherwise. BLM and USFS campgrounds are very inexpensive and vary from extremely primitive (a cleared area of flat ground) to more developed (fire pits, bathrooms, etc).
In our experience these campgrounds are rarely crowded, and are often in the middle of beautiful natural areas.
To learn how to camp off grid check out my complete guide to RV dry camping and boondocking!
A beautiful BLM campground in the eastern sierras
Other excellent options for camping that we regularly use include: national and state forest land/campgrounds, state parks, casino parking lots, and national parks.
In state parks be sure to ask for a tent site unless you want to pay more for full hookups! We regularly camp in tent sites with our camper, it’s not a problem as long as the site has a parking spot attached to it.
For more detailed information on full time camper life, including all our best tips and tricks, check out our Ebook, Nomads in Campers: A Step by Step Guide to Living Your Nomadic Adventure.
Living in an RV has been a wonderful experience for us, primarily because we choose to do it our way, rather than adopting the RV lifestyle that is most common.
There are so many reasons to fall in love with camper life, and we hope that our experiences inspire others to create their own camper lifestyle.
Are you planning an RV road trip? Check out our RV Trip Planner, a free guide to planning your RV road trip adventure!
Interested in starting your own camper life adventure? Check out our Top 10 Essential Motorhome Accessories and our Complete RV Gift Guide to be sure you have everything you need!
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91 thoughts on “5 Reasons we Avoid RV Parks (and where to camp instead!)”
Great blog Brittany. I have lived in an RV Park in Southern Indiana for over 2-1/2 years and you are right on regarding the noise of televisions and stereos. I will be taking an early retirement next May and will then take off.
Thanks Jim! And congratulations on your retirement! 🙂
Couldn’t agree more! My wife and I have had good and bad experiences in RV parks. We have been camping for the last 36 years. We’ve had 6 different campers, bumper pull, toy haulers, and 5th wheel. Now we are retire and it’s time to slow things down. We are searching for a older modest class A, one that will suit our need, not our wants. My wife has lugged around craft projects for years and now she is starting on them. I like to drown worms, and do some paracord work. So we will look for those out of way places and hopefully near a stream or lake and enjoy life.
THANK YOU. WE bought our trailer 9/2017 & are trying to find our happy place. We are formal tenters & the hectic nature of RV PARKS have kept me from falling in love with the trailer. We are looking into generators as state campgrounds are more ‘our Thing’ but know staying inside a tin can with no AC is quite toasty so we have to figure the AC part of it.
We discovered the same issue you did regarding the age of our RV and age rules in RV Parks. Ours is a 1988 Ford Econoline and is in pristine condition even having 4 people living inside. We were told a list of various reasons but after being sent to a portion of an RV Park where the permanent residents lived we knew it was due to image and beauty. It was sad.
Hi Helen, thanks for your comment 🙂
The camper age restrictions seem like such a silly rule to me when vintage campers are getting more and more popular! It is sad, but I often feel grateful that those rules pushed us to find more beautiful campsites in the long run.
Oh my goodness, I can TOTALLY relate to your feeling. We were always tent campers before we bought our Dolphin. If you are traveling in areas with dry heat (desert areas like Arizona, New Mexico, etc) you may want to look up evaporative coolers for a solid A/C option. They use very little power so they can run off of solar, but they don’t work well in high humidity so that’s the catch.
Wow! You’ve had all the different camper types! Congratulations on your retirement, and thank you for your comment 🙂
When I read your opening sentences about driving past RV Parks I remembered a post I made on a blog I wrote when we first retired and hit the road with our travel trailer. I said we used to drive past RV parks and wonder why anyone would stay there. To your point, some people do love them. I’m with you however – we stay in State or National Parks 99.9% of the time and we live it. The more space and buffer between our neighbors the better. We’re not anti-social – we just like quiet and privacy along with camping in some of the most beautiful places on earth. Love it!!!
Hi Vicky- we just bought a small generator this year to use both at home for hurricane season and for our trailer. It does great and is super quiet. The generator hours worked fine for us to cool things down in the afternoon and make coffee in the morning. We usually find State Parks with electric but it was nice to hit some gorgeous places with no hookups and still be comfortable in the heat. We’re former tent and tent camper people but in our senior years have gotten into “glamping” – lol. But even though roughing it is a thing of the past, being in quiet and beautiful state and national parks is still our top priority. Happy Camping!!!
Great article. Brittany. Thank you.
What I’d like to hear more about are the practicalities of boondocking for power, water, and dump. We retired to a 36′ Winnebego Forza and have adapted to work-camping as our solution to park and utility fees. We usually work about 20 hours a week which gives us a half a week off. We’ve done a little roadside boondocking in rest stops and friendly Walmart etc. parking lots but not in BLM or state parks. Our holding tanks are good for about three days. We think our big size would be a significant issue. But it seems to me that finding good water and romp as well as an unending succession of laundromats is a major hassle. We totally love our onboard washer & dryer. But I’d like to hear about what you have worked out as a practical system living the boondocking life.
Thanks again for the nice article.
Hi Bill! When boondocking we carry extra 7 gallon water jugs so that we have extra drinking water, we use solar power (which will run our lights, water pump, charge our phones, etc.), and we try to go to the bathroom in the wilderness (or in public bathrooms if they are available) as much as possible to conserve our black tank.
Boondocking does usually mean roughing it a bit more, but it also allows us to camp in incredible scenic wilderness areas. Many of the areas we have boondocked in would accomodate a 36 foot RV, especially the desert areas in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. Check out this post we wrote about boondocking in Baja: https://therollingpack.com/posts/2017/1/25/boondocking-in-baja-must-have-items-for-traveling-off-the-beaten-path-in-mexico
For more detailed information on how we find boondocking spots, and the equipment we keep with us check out our ebook Nomads in Campers: https://therollingpack.com/nomads-in-campers/nomads-in-campers-a-step-by-step-guide-to-living-your-nomadic-adventure
Hi Fran! Thanks for your comment. State and National parks are awesome- we always keep an eye out for them.
Thanks for this enlightening article. We started with a motor home (when they were motor homes) went to a tent when the kids were growing up, then to conversion vans. We now have a Ram 2500 Promaster we had customized to our needs. We feel the way you do about RV parks! Our favorites are Corps of Engineers, BLM, and National Forest campgrounds. Even at our age (late 70s) the outdoors is still our favorite place!
my whole thought on why I will be rving is to get the hell away from ppl and anything that I have to pay for. Parks!! are ya nuts??!
Greetings! We COMPLETELY Retired 4/2018 and just upgraded to a RAM 2500 Diesel for our now 5 day old 30 ft. travel trailer (UT2804RK). My husband is still trying to figure out why I wanted one – since we live on 21 acres of treed property with a natural stream in the middle of Whidbey Island, in the Pacific Northwest. I want to see OPT – "other peoples trees!" While we won’t be full time on the road (our place is AWESOME) we REALLY enjoyed this article – very informative and speaks to how we want to travel. For me, I love hearing NOTHING except what goes on in nature. A bit of camping with friends on occasion, though tent camping is out. Tried that with my Bronx Born-NJ Raised Italian spouse and after 1 night was told there had to be an RV or a Cabin or he wasn’t going. Me, I am a First Class Girl Scout (same as Eagle for Girls) and have been camping, hiking, backpacking all my life in my PNW backyard and Canada. He’s still telling me we could live in hotels the next several years for what we paid in our upgrades. I firmly believe once we get on the road, he’ll LOVE it. We’re in the practice mode at present, running through close up, hook up, drive, turns, backing up, unhooking and set up. Spent 3 years researching what RV to select, so now I will use your resources to research the places to go. Signed up for your blog and so excited to begin our journey. First trip is scheduled for 4-7/2019….Looking forward to it! LG
Hi Lisa! Congratulations on your new camper! I agree, it is a lot of fun to get out and see other people’s trees 🙂 Also, the PNW winters can be pretty long and rainy, so having a camper to escape in is REALLY nice. Thank you for your comment!
Hi Sharon! It’s so great to hear from people who love the outdoors as much as we do. I totally agree that public lands are the BEST. Thank you for your comment!
WE have been full=timing since the middle 90’s and love it. A lot of people ask us where our "home/house" is and when we say this is it – they are amazed. We love the freedom of RVing. My husband always likes to say – if we don’t like our neighbors, we can just move, ha ha. Anyway we are in a 28′ Class C motorhome right now. We have been having a lot of medical issues and haven’t been able to go anywhere this year. Most times when traveling we stay in truck stops. They have fuel, propane if you need it, some have dump stations, they have great restaurants and convenience stores for quick supplies. We both like the sound of the truckers engines running all night, to us it is soothing and like a lullaby. We stop at RV parks when we need to either do laundry, or if we want to stay in an area for a few days or so. We are both in our middle 70’s and know in a couple of years or so we will have to stop traveling, but right now we are settled on the idea we will stay in our RV, if we can find a piece of property that will allow us to park on it permanently. Right now most states won’t let you. When we have to stay long term somewhere we stay in mobile home/RV park combos as they are less expensive than RV parks – and many include electricity in the rent. Some even offer free wifi.
Yes the stupid idea of age limits on RVs is discriminatory. I have seen many fairly new RVs that look 50 years old – and many like Helen’s 1988 Ford Econoline that look pristine and brand new. You just have to go with the flow and if that is the stupid rules they have – then they can have them but they don’t need our residency. Right.
Robert & Judy
Great artical, were doing the same looking at solar panels big roof. Much like Johnny Cash We been every where man! Enjoying South Texas now! Enjoy life.
This is one of the most useful articles I have read on RVing. I’ve been going back and forth for 18 – 24 mos about whether to buy one, what kind, and where I’d want to spend time. In poking around RV parks in states I’d want to stay at, each time I come away (best friend concurs) thinking, "these are not my people." Good friends have lived in their 42" Monaco for 3 yrs and love it, but they are bigger partiers and more much social than me. Your experience seems like a peaceful, relaxing and lovely way to RV. Thank you for sharing your experience.
Thanks for your comment Phyllis! We haven’t done many truck stops, but that sounds like a great recommendation. And yes, one of the big perks of RVing is that if you get tired of where you are you can just move on 🙂
Thanks Robert! We love our solar power setup, it makes boondocking so much easier!
Thank you so much for your comment Ann! It is very important to us that we get plenty of quiet time and plenty of alone time. What we’ve found over the years is that we often meet like-minded people in these boondocking spots, and we’ve made some great friends along the way.
I wish they still made those little Dolphins!
There are many other places to park while out on the road. Even up to 49 ft class A RV. Flying J truck-stops are free if space is available. Should buy something. Most Wal-Mart’s will also let you use the outer spaces and sometimes even have a designated area. Check with manager on duty. And if course buy something. Go online a search for free RV parking across the country.
Brittney. Is the book available in paperback?
I’m just in my beginning stage of living the r.v. lifestyle. Still looking for my perfect new home! Thank you for all your usefull information. I’ll be sure to check back occasionally to use your tips! Happy travels 💕 Jennifer
Hi Jennifer! Congratulations on starting your RV life! 🙂
Unfortunately, it is not available in paperback at this time. If that changes in the future we will definitely post an update letting our readers know!
Thanks for the tips! Truck stops sound like a great option when traveling the highways.
I agree! I think a lot of people would love to purchase a new micro-RV!
Excellent article and I agree with your feelings. When I’m working in a town, I usually end up in an RV park near town. But when I’m in between projects or jobs, I am boondocking somewhere. BLM is great, other State & National lands depending on where you are. I’ve been full-time for over a year now and it is a liberating lifestyle.Thanks for posting!
Rest stops on higways and interstates for a free night stay. I have done that form time too time
What do you do for water and waste water during long boondocks?
Wonderful info!!! My only question is if you are not staying at an rv park, where do you refill your water and dump waste?
Hi Travis! Yes, that’s a very good point, we’ve occasionally done the same.
Great question! We are verrrry careful with our water usage on long boondocks, and when we’re planning a long boondock we fill two 7 gallon water jugs so that we have extra drinking water to last us.
As far as waste we are very careful about how often we use our onboard bathroom. Some boondocking sites have public toilets nearby/onsite, and we try to use those bathrooms as much as possible. If we’re out in the wilderness we try to pee in the woods often so we don’t fill up our black tanks too quickly.
As far as wash water, we usually don’t have trouble with that tank filling up because we really minimize our water use.
Hi Kimberly! Great question! Truck stops are definitely your friend for this. Many of them will allow you to pay a small fee to fill your tank, and many of them also have RV waste dumps you can pay to use.
Another great option is actually RV parks! Most RV parks will let you pay a small fee to dump and fill your tank without any obligation to camp there.
Pro tip: Many RV parks will also let you pay a small fee to use their shower!
You forgot Army Corps of engineer campgrounds. These are inexpensive and usually have electric and water. We stayed in one in South Carolina recently, and you could not see another camper, although the campground was huge and they were there. Very inexpensive, and half price if you have in Americas the beautiful pass.
Hi Bettty! Thanks for the great tip, we have never actually camped in an Army Corps of Engineer Campground. We’ll keep an eye out for these from now on!
To each their own, we think RV PARKS ARE GREAT!!
I love staying in RV parks!!! With Thousand Trails we stay absolutely free!! We also can stay in Encore lots for a large discount!
How do you get wifi if your not in a park or public spot?
We have camped in COE sites in Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina. All have been beautiful, semi-secluded, excellent sites on a lake..
Hello, very interesting information, thank you. We just bought a 29 ft Class A and put our house on the market to sell. Looking forward to seeing the country at a slower pace.
My question is if you are living in your traveling RV, how do you determine where to file income taxes, if no permanent address/state residence?
Hi we just bought a pop up camper and going to fix it up. I can not wait to get going on the road! I have a question how do you make money for the necessities while on the road?
I have found RV parks are quite the opposite of what your describing. We are full time rv’ers. I think every Rv park I have ever stayed in was extremely quiet. Seems like when the sun goes down everyone disappears. I think because most folks are older and others are usually workers that’s staying temporarily. I have found campgrounds to be quite the opposite because people comes out for the weekend or for the week vacationing so they are more noisy and active. RV parks are usually a lot more reasonable if you get a weekly or monthly rate the nightly rates do rival the motels.
Thanks. We stay in Walmart parking lots all around the country.
Hi Doug! Walmart parking lots are a great free option, and we’ve definitely stayed in a few ourselves!
Hi Glenn! Thank you for the alternative perspective!
Hi Mary! We make money a few different ways, the primary one being from this blog! However, there are LOTS of ways to make money on the road, and when we first started out we used a few different methods. In this post I go over this topic in more detail: https://therollingpack.com/posts/solar-showers-and-free-wifi-your-camper-life-questions-answered
Congratulations on your camper purchase Joyce! And that’s an excellent question. We use a service called Traveling Mailbox. Unlike a PO Box, Traveling Mailbox provides you with a legal, physical address which you can use for taxes, voting, etc.
Hi Lisa! There are a few options for this, one being a satellite wifi receiver, or a smart phone plan that allows you to create a wifi hotspot through your smart phone.
While we occasionally use the wifi hotspot through our iphone, I prefer to find the local public library for wifi use. Even the tiniest towns usually have a public library, and the wifi is generally free and fast (in fact, I’m writing this comment at a public library right now)!
Of course, this does mean that I usually don’t have wifi in the camper. I actually prefer this because it keeps me from wasting time online when I could be enjoying the nature I’m camped in 🙂
Hi Ellen! Thanks for the alternative perspective. It is important to note, however, that the Thousand Trails membership requires an annual fee, and has lots of restrictions on the dates you can stay for free.
Hi Mark! Thanks for the alternative perspective. As I noted in the post, plenty of people love RV parks, they just aren’t a good fit for us 🙂
Hi. I’m very knew to this type of living. I’ve not found the camper that just stands out and says buy me but when I do I will need some pointers. This will be my home for awhile and I need a place to park it for an extended time that will be close to where my patients live as I’m a private duty nurse. Any suggestions? I call one RV park that was ideal but for extended stay it was $405 plus electric. That seemed very high to me. Any suggestions? And any suggestions on where to get a really good deal on a camper?
Thanks for the article! In the last few years we have "broken up" with our camping group. We discovered State Park camping and we love it. Unfortunately our friends prefer their air conditioning and television while we prefer to listen to the loons, cast a line right from our site, star gaze and enjoy freshly perked coffee in the morning. Everyone has their preference and I get that but I do agree with a lot of your reasons.
We have been RVing for 35 years. We love RV parks cause we desire full hookups. Other than a couple bad places most have been wonderful. We make about 10 nice trips a year. We just returned from Truckee Ca. Nice park but it was a bit tight for our 32ft triple slide unit.
Federal & State parks are fun but also lonely. If you are traveling that’s nice. If you want a warm winter retreat most likely you will need to do a monthly or longer. RV parks you can at least make friends, sometimes lasting friends. We own a motor home and live in Florida year round. These days with so many mass shootings off road may no longer be safe. We did Walmart and Cracker Barrel both free as are truck stops.
Hi Bob! Thanks for your comment. I would have to disagree with your opinion on off road camping. There is no evidence to show that remote camping is dangerous, and in our experience it feels much safer than more densely populated areas.
With that said, I totally understand that remote camping could feel more lonely. For us the peace and quiet are very appealing!
Hi Jeff! Thanks for your comment. It’s always great to hear from RV park fans, as it gives readers an alternative opinion 🙂
Hi Lisa! We love listening to loons, and I can very much relate to your comment. State parks are SO nice for peace, quiet, and nature.
Hi Lori! I would recommend reading up on the most reliable camper models in your price range. We chose a Toyota Motorhome because they are very mechanically reliable, but there are some other campers that would also fit your needs.
RV parks do tend to be quite pricey, and that rate would actually be considered very cheap in our area of the country (the Western coastal states).
If you want to avoid paying high monthly RV park rates I would recommend checking out this post on finding cheap/free campsites: https://therollingpack.com/posts/tricks-for-finding-beautiful-affordable-campsites
Another option would be to check out Craigslist listings in the area where your patients live. Landowners will often rent RV space out to individuals, and that may be a more affordable alternative to RV parks!
We are thinking of buying an RV park and would like to know what is looked for in a park, prices, amenities and what else you as an RV’er are looking for. This information would be very helpful in making a decision on or if we invest in a park. Thanks for any help.
Hi Jennie! Since most RV parks have disappointed us we rarely stay in them, to be honest.
However, I can share our favorite RV park of all time with you! It’s called Rover’s RV Park in Waldport, Oregon (on the Oregon coast). Here’s a link: http://www.roversrvpark.com/
There are lots of things we love about this RV park: It is set on a beautiful ocean inlet, and instead of making the RV spots waterfront, this park decided to preserve their waterfront as a usable area for all the RV park guests. This is SUCH a cool feature, because you can easily sit on a bench and watch the water, or launch a boat without feeling like you’re intruding on someone else’s campsite.
Also, this park has EXCELLENT internet. Good enough internet that we can stream Netflix in our RV. This is so rare in an RV park, and is a huge bonus for us.
This park also has reasonable pricing options with three different tiers of campsites, and they offer weekly and monthly discounts. This makes it more affordable for long term RVers like us.
Finally, this park is dog friendly, BUT they are strict about the behavior of dogs staying there. Dogs cannot be loud or aggressive towards other dogs. When we used to travel with our dog this was a huge plus, because we didn’t have to worry about encountering unfriendly dogs at this park.
Hopefully this helps you get an idea of what we look for in an RV park when we do visit one!
Hi, we are new to campering and would to spend more time in the state parks, but they seem to fill up crazy fast. Any tips for newbies in the booking and reservations dept? Thanks !
Hi John! It’s true, state parks can be very seasonal, especially depending on the state you’re in. We actually try to bypass the reservation systems altogether by visiting parks that always keep a certain number of "first come first serve" campsites that cannot be reserved online.
Our trick for this is to show up on a slow weekday (Monday or Tuesday is great in high season) around the time when people leave their sites (11am tends to work well). We drive around and snag one of the first come first serve sites when the weekenders leave, and then we stay in it for a week!
This trick has rarely failed us, and it’s especially great in areas like the Oregon coast where there are several state parks close together, so you have more than one park to try to snag a spot at.
Living on a farm for a number of years, sometimes without functional plumbing, I’m no stranger to “roughing it”. Everything you hit upon sounds great. Peace, quiet. Figuring out how to make do with what you got. The only thing you didn’t cover in being nomadic, is internet/cellular access. I don’t see how either staying in RV Parks, or boondocking on public lands, will work for me. I have to have decent internet access for work and publishing. My cell phoneS (yes, with an S) provide me plenty of internet bandwidth. IN THE CITY. But it seems unlikely that they will function in any of the places you blogged about. Ah well. The dream remains a dream.
My parents are considering getting an RV this spring. They love camping but since they are older they don’t really want to keep using a tent. It is good to know that RV parks have full hookups for electricity and water. That is great to know because I wouldn’t want to worry about that.
My family is heading off on our maiden voyage next weekend. I have done a lot of research and have found that in our area (Tennessee) and surrounding states the sites run by the COE (Core of Engineers) are cheap and extremely beautiful. Not crowded and with the parks being locked at a certain time at night, safe. If you have not looked up COE sites, please do. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Hi Jen! Thanks for the comment and the recommendation. Sounds like a great tip! I’m definitely going to look those up 🙂
We also have the Toyota Dolphin. We love it! We named it Fluffy….😂
Fluffy 🙂 I love it!!! Dolphins are the best 🙂
Thank you for this article and thank you to all who commented. My wife and myself are in the investigation phase of becoming full timers. The extremely overcrowded r/v parks we’ve viewed on line almost killed our dream till we started reading about boon docking and finding your article. I appreciated learning from you that there are places that have some services and that we don’t actually have to spend the entire time in complete wilderness to get away from crowds and noise. I will definitely be checking out your other articles. We are planning on getting a 5th wheel some where between 36 and 40 feet (realizing that the bigger we go the harder it will be to get into some places). Till we meet some day!
Jim & Kate
Hi Jim! Thanks for the comment, and congratulations on taking the leap into full timing, it’s awesome 🙂 Feel free to email me if you have questions!
This was a great read and resource for us. We are contemplating full time camper living, and we are new to this life. Once of our concerns is where to set up our “home on wheels” and you’ve given us some options to look into. Thank you!
Awesome! I’m so glad this was helpful for you, and good luck with your new camper adventure! 🙂
Thank you for the article Brittany and all of the comments. Very informative and have a much better understanding of the topic after our first RVing experience in a new-to-us 2014 22′ Travel Trailer.
Our goal over 2 months (Sept/Oct 2020, departed ATL) was to see as many of the western mountain national parks as we could in the available time. The trip entailed 30 stops. We stayed in parks – Corps of Engineers, National Forest, State and City (some dry, some with water/electric), mooch docked in downtown Boise, a Harvest Host, and private campgrounds ranging from low to high end.
Three options we did not experience:
1. Parking lot – realize now that for a quick overnight stop this would be just fine. Learned from one of your commenters about the 18-wheeler stops as an option in this category that we’d never thought of, and also about a website offering church parking lots which are empty but for Sundays (Faithfulparking)
2. National parks – demand is such that there was nothing available without booking 6 months in advance which we didn’t have the luxury to do although we did learn how that whole system works so could plan around that in the future.
3. Boondocking – staying off the interstates to see the country and avoid transport trucks whizzing by us, we were amazed at the RVs of all sizes set up well off the road in the middle of nowhere. We certainly could have pulled off and gotten to those spots with our rig if we’d had the confidence of some dry camping experience. Our lack of generator/solar wouldn’t have mattered since our itinerary dictated no stays longer than 3 days. We would certainly avail ourselves of this option in the future for all 5 “con” reasons you listed in your post.
Within 2 days of our Nov. 1 return, we were yearning to get back on the road and began planning our next trip. That’s proving to be a challenge.
Turns out our first-time experience was misleading as the timing of the trip during a shoulder season out west was perfect – the weather was great and with some research, we could always find a spot.
Not so much now as our search for warm weather without another cross-country trek means we are encountering Southeastern public parks booked 1 year in advance and private parks with $120 nightly rates (if they even have availability).
Despite COVID rules locking the Canadian snowbirds north of the border, the combination of a percentage of the millions of Boomers reaching retirement buying RVs and younger work-from-the-roaders has sucked up all the capacity of those options.
That leaves the boondocking option that we now are comfortable doing. Researching that option in the Southeast we found that unlike the west where it is easy and prevalent, such spots are like hen’s teeth. I’m sure none of this is news to veteran RVers who have adjusted and plan well ahead to get those public park spots.
Which leaves the choices:
– postpone the trip 12 months and book a public park the very second they open booking
– pony up for a very pricey private park, defeating a prime rationale for traveling by RV
– making the trip to set up in the desert with a generator/solar or lithium.
– if we have to drive that far might as well cross the border and go to the beach. Aside from the security issues, which are probably not as bad as the press indicates, we may not have the right rig the terrain and campsite options. Perhaps the book you recommended and Mexico Mike can provide the guidance we need to make that decision.
With the RV business booming and manufacturers cranking out a wide variety of rigs as fast as they can (Winnabego has a $1.8B order backlog!) demand is far exceeding camping spot capacity. I shudder to think what the nightly rates will rise to amid the competition for spots until big companies like Sun Communities can fund and build a massive increase in RV parks.
To have more options maybe we should sell the rig and buy a land/water RV like the trailerable trawlers that are hitting the market… coming to the interstates and RV parks next summer.
If you or your many followers have any suggestions or recommendations we are all ears!
Regards, Ken & Amy
Yes, the Southeastern USA is particularly difficult for budget RV travel. I think the West is the way to go for boondocking. There are LOTS of options, and tons of BLM and USFS land in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. Death Valley and the surrounding areas are particularly beautiful, and there’s a ton of space. The campgrounds in Death Valley rarely (if ever) fill up, and it’s gorgeous.
New Mexico and Arizona would be a slightly shorter drive for you, and Quartzite, AZ turns into a HUGE boondocking community in the winter. There’s somewhere around 30,000 acres of campable BLM land around the tiny town of Quartsite, AZ, so there’s plenty of space for anyone who wants to set up there. Solar is very cost-effective for desert camping.
As far as Mexico, we have been to Baja several times over the years, and never had any issues with safety. With that said, we will not be heading south of the border this year due to concerns we have about COVID, and it feels pretty risky to leave the country with the ever-changing rules around travel.
I’ve been hearing a lot about the boom in RV purchases, and I am interested to see how that plays out over the next year especially. I think that boondocking, more than ever, will be the way to go as RV parks fill up with visitors.
I am a regular reader of your blog. Very nice and inspiring post. Thanks for sharing.
I think this article is right on. I avoid RV parks like the plague. My searches are always for campgrounds. I have a 24′ Class C motorhome and I’ve found that I fit just about anywhere. But I am not going for the cheap/free aspect here. I don’t mind paying for a campsite as long as I am getting that camping feel to it. Lots of space and peace and quiet (Not always guaranteed). I tend to avoid BLMs also. Out west they tend to be out in the middle of nowhere. Currently, many are being closed due to abuse. For me State parks are always my first choice. They are inexpensive while having amenities like water, electricity and a dump station. In the six years that we have been RVing I don’t believe that we’ve had a bad experience in any state park anywhere in the country (except for the occasional generator hog). But I definitely agree. RV parks are a no go for me except if there is no choice and maybe only for one night.
Hey Jim, I live full time in a 40ft toy hauler. I use PDAnet (Android app) hooked to my computer via USB for internet, I get speeds faster than my dads comcast in all locations that Verizon is available.
Wow! What a great tip, thank you Garret!
Hi Juan! Thanks so much for the comment, and I definitely agree, state parks rock! I’ve read about the closures of some BLM areas due to people leaving trash and messes, it’s such a shame.
Any and all ideas for venice fl.
We are in Western Colorado and just recently sold a large Beaver coach and bought a 28ft Montana 5th wheel. Around the middle of September, while searching for an RV park to do our shakedown ‘cruise’ we were so surprised to find that nothing was available with power, water and sewer (wanted to test all of our systems) even during the week!!! So, I landed on a site called Hipcamp and they list multiple sites for camping on different types of properties. It has a bit of an AirBnB feel since there were even single sites on private residence property. (so fun to see that people in our beautiful state are offering sites on their property for others to enjoy!) Hipcamp does keep a portion of the space rental fee for their services.
We had looked at Vega Lake State Park in Colorado but they were booked for the sites with amenities. Hipcamp had a listing for across the reservoir had the privately owned Vega Lodge. They have 14 spaces with power, water and sewer in an upper loop type parking lot that they expanded to accommodate camping. They also have some cabins to rent and a nice restaurant and bar.
This may not have been our ideal camping location but it turned out to be just what we needed at the time. We camped next to lovely people from another CO town and had a fun afternoon of getting to know our Colorado ‘neighbors’.
The rental was $39 a night, we booked for 2 nights, and there was a fee of approx $14 that Hipcamp kept. We now know that we can call and book directly with the lodge but are grateful for the Hipcamp site that educated us to the variety of sites that are within a 2-3 hour drive from our home.
Hi Debbie! Thanks for this tip! I’ve heard of Hipcamp but have not tried it myself, so it’s nice to hear you had such a positive experience with it.
We full time RVed for 12 years or so. We primarily dispersed camped in USA and Canada. Forest Service and BLM office will happily let you know you can do this.
Awesome! Full time RVing is so rewarding 🙂