This is Part 2 of a 7 part series on traveling with an RV or travel trailer. It's all about what has worked well for Fay and me over the last several years of traveling through the U.S. and Canada.
The 7 articles in the series are (click to view):
- Planning Your Route
- Finding Places to Stay
- Preparing For a Trip
- On the Road
- At the Campground
- Leaving the Campground
- After You Get Back Home
(Click here to read the complete disclaimer)
So How do we find the great places to stay?Once we've come up with our basic route plan (see my last article on Planning Your Route), my next step is to search for places to stay. Having a small travel trailer, we can stay about anywhere. For us though, having water and electric hookups are a must, and sewer is plus...especially if we are going to be there for long. There is a big difference between our main destinations and the places we stay overnight while we are on the road. It's important to us though, that everywhere we stay is decent and that we feel safe. Finding places to stay, the good ones at least, can be quite time consuming. I start by coming up with a list of possibilities, then do enough research on each one to make sure we don't have a major surprise when we we arrive. For a big trip, it can be a lot of work. So let's get started on how I do it.
Facebook group: Campgrounds-Trailers and RVs
This is a group I started and manage, and is always where I start my search. I am very happy to say that it has thousands of members and thousands of posts, comments and photos of nothing but campgrounds. What makes it better than many of the other places where you find reviews, is that you can ask questions and communicate directly with people that have stayed at each place.
I try hard to get the members to add the state name and closest city for each campground posted. This gives you the ability to use the Facebook search function within the group to find places in an area you are interested in.
While this group is also a place you can post and ask for recommendations, I don't generally do that unless I've failed to find something through my normal process. However, I have on occasion gone back to this group to try and get feedback on a particular place if I couldn't find enough info elsewhere.
By the way, it's a private group so you do have to join the group to view the posts. This is important because it enables me to restrict access to anyone that can't follow the rules. (The main rules are that all posts must be about a campground, and posted by an individual not affiliated with the place. Also, everyone must behave well and be nice to one another!)
When planning trips, I start my search for a particular area by checking Passport America (PA) first. PA is a discount camping club you can join. It gets you a 50% discount on overnight rates at about 2,000 campgrounds across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The discounts are often limited to times when the campgrounds are not that busy. For most places that excludes the weekends, but in places with a lot of tourism, it may also exclude their busy seasons.
You do need to check out these campgrounds thoroughly in advance. Some of them are old and rundown, and some of them have mostly full-time residents. But beyond that are some really great places (including upscale RV parks with full amenities). Many of the ones we've stayed at have been in seasonal locations and it's been during their offseason. Others were new campgrounds that were not yet well known. Then we've also found a few that focus on local markets and are busy mostly on weekends and holidays. Many of these have been great one or two night stops, frequently with full hookups for only $15 to $20.
I can't always find a good PA campground near where we want to stay. However, when I can, we've been able to save some money and/or stay somewhere much nicer than we normally do. The best part, is that it only takes a few nights in a year to pay back the annual membership fee.
Campground Reviews (used to be called RV Park Reviews)https://www.campgroundreviews.com/
Next, I move on to Campground Reviews. This is the best site I've found overall on user reviews of campgrounds. They have hundreds of thousands reviews on over thousands of campgrounds. Every campground I've ever looked for except one was included in their database. You can easily search by state or Canadian Province and zero in on the area you are interested in. If I am lucky enough to find something in Passport America, I always look it up here to read the reviews from other campers.
Do realize however, that there is no assurance that the reviews here or anywhere else are accurate or unbiased. We've had a few surprises when we arrived at our destination. This is mostly a concern when there are very few reviews posted for the particular place. Overall, this site has been a great help.
The Campground or RV Park WebsiteWhen I've identified a place that is looking good so far, I go to the campground's own website to learn more. All places in Campground Reviews, as well as our own here on tinyTowable, have a direct link to the campground's official website. In other cases, you may have to use Google and do some searching. Often they will have a gallery of photos, but be careful. We've had times when we arrived, that the photos were not really representative of the actual place.
My final step is to go to Google Images and search for photos. You can usually always find some for State Parks, National Parks and larger RV Parks. Sometimes it's difficult to find photos of the smaller campgrounds. This is my last step in trying to confirm that it looks like a decent place.
And then there's the Free Overnight Places with No Amenities
The majority of the Walmarts and Cracker Barrels will allow you to park free overnight in their parking lots. This might be a good solution if you don't need facilities and hookups. Always check first with the manager of the particular location.
We have never spent the night in a parking lot (other than at a few big RV parks that felt like parking lots!). Our main reason is that we like having at least water and electric hookups, although to be honest, it does seem a bit creepy to us. We've talked with many people who have though, and most of them have felt good about it and would do it again. We'd probably feel different if we'd try it. The biggest warning has been to make sure it felt like a secure location...some do and some don't.
Fay and My Own Personal Campground Reviews
Most of the time when we travel, we are looking for new places to stay that we can review for my blog and website. But sometimes, we want to go back to a place we really liked in the past.
So, before I begin searching for new places, I always look back over our own reviews here on tinyTowable.com. If you've not checked out our reviews before, please take a few minutes to do so. There are over 80 different campgrounds (and a few RV Parks) that we've actually visited. There are a ton of photos, plus our rating and notes on things that are important to us.
A Few Final Thoughts
To wrap this up, let me give you just a couple of other thoughts that are key when I'm doing my research
Use a computer and not a phone
It makes this research so much easier. I open a web browser with four or five tabs, so I can easily switch between the various websites above. For each place that I'm checking out, I simply work through the tabs in order.
When you read reviews...
Keep in mind that traveling with a large RV is much different than with a small travel trailer like ours. Plus, different people have different priorities. Both positive and negative comments by others may not matter to your situation but are key to giving you good insight. Be sure to pay attention to comments and not just depend on the ratings
I hope this article has given you some new ideas to help with finding places to stay. Be sure to watch for my next article in this series...Getting Ready to Go. And as always, drop me a note if you have any questions.- Denny