When we first started full-time RVing, our biggest concern was how to find RV parks and campgrounds that would accommodate our RV fifth wheel toy hauler. However, now, we have a different concern. Trying to find places to park our RV due to the pandemic. But, it’s easy if you know what resources are out there and know where to look.
Now more than ever, camping has become one of the most popular forms of outdoor recreation. With that, great concerns of having more campers and RVs than campsites is a viable and nerve wracking. But all is not lost and neither will you be. All it takes is a bit of research and planning. What may have been an easy RV travel consideration has become a monumental must-do.
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HOW WE FIND CAMPGROUNDS AND PLACES TO PARK OUR RV OR CAMPER
Before getting our cart before the horse, there are a few things we always take into consideration when searching for the perfect camping spot for our motorhome, RV park or place to park:
- Location of where we want to camp or park
- Timeframe – Date(s) and length of stay
- Camper or RV size (including tow vehicle or toad)
- Amenities and services
- Area attractions and activities
Once we have all those nailed down, it’s time to start our search.
Networking and Word of Mouth
One of the best ways to find RV parks and campgrounds or places to park your RV is simply by asking our RV friends or those familiar with the area where you’re headed. Perhaps they’ve camped there before or know of great places near outdoor activities that you or your family will enjoy. And, if they are like-minded in outdoor recreation or their RV is like-sized, all the better.
We look at several social media platforms such as YouTube, RV bloggers and Facebook groups. Our favorite is Campground Reviews.
In fact, we have done our own Campground Reviews on YouTube as well as our own blog.
We also belong to a few groups like Escapees RV Club, Xscapers and smaller venues who get together for rallies, convergences and group camping. There’s nothing better than sitting around the campfire or a round table discussion and sharing where to go and when.
Interweb resources to find RV parking and campsites:
RV Memberships and Camping Clubs
There’s a bunch of cool RV and tent camping memberships you can join for almost pennies on the dollar that will allow you to camp within participating venues.
Our favorites RV and camping paid memberships:
Those are just a few of many RV memberships and camping clubs out there. You may find some that may be more prescribing to what your interests are. Simple research will lead you to more resources like our blog’s Top 5 Money-Saving RV Club Memberships.
National Parks and Federally Managed Campgrounds
Camping at National Parks and federally managed campgrounds such as Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service are amazing opportunities because you get to camp right in the thick of nature. But, there are a few important things to know before thinking just anyone can camp at them. Some may be dispersed camping or primitive while others are organized and pay-per-use campsites.
Some federally managed campgrounds may be size-restrictive. They may not be able to accommodate big rig motorhomes, fifth wheels and even longer travel trailers. Also, some campsite reservations are often made even a year in advance due to popularity. So, be aware if you’re wanting to camp on weekends, holiday weekends, school vacations, and the fair-weather seasons. You’ll need to plan far ahead for popular National Park and federally managed campgrounds.
Check out this a cool guide on how to make campsite reservations in the National Park System.
You can go straight to the Recreation.gov website to make your reservations. In order to make a reservation, you’ll need to set up a sign-in account first. And all reservations will require a credit card to hold your campsite. But if you’d rather, you can go to each individual National Park to see if they have campsites and their criteria.
State Parks Camping
State Parks offer amazing camping opportunities as well. But each state is different in regards to their requirements and venues. Just do your research should you be in the area of one of the State Park campgrounds.
Like federally managed and National Park campgrounds, State Parks may be busier when the kids are out of school on weekends and holidays. So again, just prepare yourself to make reservations early.
BLOGGER NOTE 10/1/2021: Be aware, some National Park Service and State Park Campgrounds may be limited or even closed during the Pandemic and weather/fire events. So always check periodically with each campground’s policies and limitations.
One of the privileges that we’ve earned as Military Retirees is the use of Military FamCamps. FamCamps are usually located on large(r) military posts. They are open to all Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, Military Retirees, 100% Disabled Veterans as well as some extend the privilege to DOD employees. There may be other exceptions based on local Command decisions.
They are, for the most part, well kept and a little cheaper than campgrounds or RV parks in the same area. And since they are mostly located on post or on base, they offer an incredible amount of security.
However, we’ve found in our six plus years as full-time RVers is there is no consistency between who can use the privilege, lengths of stays permitted, and how far in advance that we can make reservations.
That said, they are an amazing venue for us should we be in a higher cost area and want to save some bucks.
Military FamCamp campsites can be reserved via each individual FamCamp’s telephone during operational hours. Be aware though, some Military FamCamps don’t have a reservation system. So, keep in mind that busy PCS seasons, holidays and summer may be harder to get a campsite.
Who doesn’t like FREE? Well, if you know where to look, finding free campsites or free camping is just a click away! Our two favorite resources to find free campsites:
One of our favorite free camping options is Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Typically, they are in more remote locations that may require you to drive or tow on dirt roads. Boondocking on BLM or public lands may have different time limits of your camping stay. And you may have to stop at a Ranger Station to request a dispersed camping permit. Also, those sites are first come, first serve so plan accordingly. Weekends, holidays and seasonal times may be busier than others.
There are some great one-nighters where you can park for free (lotdocking) in parking lots. However, you should never take for granted that you can park just anywhere. Before putting your RV in park, always ask permission and always know the code of conduct.
Oh, and if you’re a sky watcher or stargazer, our guest writer GeoAstroRV wrote a great article How and Where to Enjoy Dark Sky Camping.
Check out how you can find free and cheap overnight RV parking blog article.
So, as you see, there’s plenty of ways to find awesome RV parks and campgrounds. And, if you’re into roughing it or wish to live off the grid, there’s lots of boondocking locations up for grabs. As always though, wherever you do decide to camp or park your RV, respect the habitat, campground rules and your neighbors. In other words, exercise good camping etiquette.
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