Finding Places to Stay – Part 2 of 7 in a series about Traveling With an RV or Travel Trailer

Ft Desoto - St. Pete, FL
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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

Much of the information on this site is only my opinion. Use it at your own risk. -Denny
(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

Facebook 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...hundreds of them! 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!)

Passport America

http://www.passportamerica.com

If you are on a tight budget, always check out Passport America.

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 over 1,000 campgrounds and RV Parks 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 off-season. 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 $20 to $25.

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.

RV Life Campgrounds (used to be called RV Park Reviews, then Campground Reviews)

https://campgrounds.rvlife.com/

Next, I move on to RV Life Campgrounds. This site has changed names twice since I've been using it, with several enhancements made in the process. Unfortunately, with this recent change of ownership, it seems to be getting a lot more aggressive about their marketing. However, it is still the best site I've found overall for individual user reviews of campgrounds.

They have a huge database of reviews on thousands of campgrounds. Almost every campground I've ever looked for has been included. 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. You'll notice below, that one of the comments I received recently expresses this concern. It seems to indicate that they may have become somewhat selective on the reviews and comments they post. Overall, this site is still a great help.

The Campground or RV Park Website

When 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 RV Life Campgrounds, 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 arrived at a few places where the photos on their website did not accurately representative the place.
County-Line Campground

Google Images

https://images.google.com

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.

Camping at Walmart

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 almost 1000 different campgrounds (and a few RV Parks) that we have personally visited. I've included 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

Are you a newbie?

If you are new to the world of Small Travel Trailers, here are the three most popular things for most newbies, here on my website. Please check them out and see if they aren't helpful to you:

  • RV Surge Suppressors – What you need to know.
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  • A list of products we use and like.
    All the camping and RV accessories can be overwhelming when you're first getting started. After trying lots of things, these are the items that have really worked well for us. The list may save you a few bucks on buying something you don't like or stuff you'll never use (I don't publish my long list of things we've purchased and wish we hadn't!).
  • My free Beginner's Guide to Small Travel Trailers
    Over 100 pages, this guide is all about what we've learned since we got started owning and traveling with a small travel trailer.
Denny Johnson

Denny Johnson

After having spent most of our adult life in Orlando, my wife Fay and I moved to Knoxville, TN in 2020. We are loving the change of seasons and being near the mountains. Plus, this part of the country is loaded with great places to camp.
 
We camped years ago with a pop-up camper, but got serious about it when we purchased our Casita in 2014. There was a lot to learn as we started traveling with it, and a lot of conflicting opinions on line. That's when I decided that creating a website would be a good retirement project. I started tinyTowable.com to share things we've learned along the way that have worked well for us in hopes that the information would be of help to others.
 
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This article has been revamped and updated since it was originally posted.

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18 thoughts on “Finding Places to Stay – Part 2 of 7 in a series about Traveling With an RV or Travel Trailer

  1. Thank you Denny. I do most of the things you have suggested already but I do appreciate the other website suggestions.
    See you on the road
    Debbie

    1. Thanks for the comment Debbie. It seems like there’s no end to the websites available to help with this, but these have really worked out well for us over a period of time.

  2. Very interesting ! Just getting into camping and your info is helpful. What do you think of the group DYRT ? Around $4 per month. Thanks ! Carla

    1. Thanks for your feedback Carla. I’ve never heard of DYRT before. I’ll have to do some research on it.
      – dj

  3. As newbies to RVing, we jumped into full-time with very little experience RVing at all. Went straight for a big 36’ Class A cause we heard about so many people starting small and trading up. Figured we’d just start there. With that being said, I have found looking for places is overwhelming to say the least. Our first trip out was across 6 states. We had no clue. Sometimes felt like more work than enjoyment. Plus the fact that the 27 day trip cost us a bloody fortune in park sites. Recently I came across your first article, #1 Planning your route. I took notes. Now I’ve found this one. Again, I’m taking notes.
    We’ve watched lots of YouTube videos and some folks go on and on and I lose interest before I glean any information. It is not my intention to insult anyone, it just doesn’t work for me.
    I appreciate your articles are direct and to the point. Thank you.
    I am fully aware I am long winded, whether talking or writing, (just like the folks in the videos lol) Thanks for listening. 🤗

    1. Thank you so much for the encouraging words Linda. If you’ve not done so, please browse around the rest of my website when you have some time. I suspect you can pick up a bunch of other ideas that may be helpful. Be sure to drop me a note any time you have any questions.

      – Denny

  4. Quick question….Since I’m a newbie a long distance traveling, I’ve booked reservations at places near sites that I want to stay at for 3+ days, but what about on the road? I’ll be pulling a small Scamp. I don’t know how much distance I’ll cover in a day but know I don’t want to pull in late in the evening. At what point to you decide where to stop …. or do you book ahead for the first night…. say after 8 hours of driving.

    1. Thanks for your question Dee.

      What we do is this. The night before, I usually identify three possibly destinations for the following day, and find a campground in each place that looks like it would be a decent option and jot down their name, location & phone number. Around early afternoon on the travel day, we decide how much longer we want to drive, then Fay or I call and reserve a spot.

      The only time this has not worked out well is if we ended up in an overly popular area on the weekend or during the summer. Those places can easily be avoided when you are just “on the road”. Calling early afternoon has sometimes been important because the places sometimes start filling up later in the day.

  5. Another resource I’ve used is http://www.campsitephotos.com. I’ve only used this twice, so I’m not sure how large their database is. That said, it’s photos of each numbered campsite were a perfect match to two campgrounds so far. Sure makes reserving a site a dream!

    1. Glad you found this useful. Be sure to drop me a note should you ever have any questions you think I can help with.
      – Denny

  6. Thanks for your informative article. WARNING!
    I have found an issue with RV Life Campgrounds (used to be called RV Park Reviews, then Campground Reviews)
    https://campgrounds.rvlife.com/
    We booked a campground using their reviews… worst campground I’ve ever stayed it. Great potential. But terrible in it’s current state.
    Of course, I left a review. To my shock, they didn’t add my low points to the total… 6 reviews showing 9.3 stars. I even wrote them to tell them about this flaw. They refused to change the star rating. They now don’t even show my review! But my pictures are still showing. Something just isn’t right about this. I’m VERY disappointed with this site to say the least.

    https://campgrounds.rvlife.com/regions/new-york/appleton/niagara-shores-campground-and-conference-center-258652
    Here’s my review…
    “Booked at last minute based on just a few reviews here and other places, but all were glowing for some reason, maybe even not for campground. Website sure made it sound nice. Beware! Planned for 4 nights. Didn’t want to stay one, but did. We were 2 RV’s traveling together. Got last 2 sites. One was lake front back in from map. This one, with angle of 2 RVs on either side, as well as tree stumps, didn’t allow back in, in reality. Was able to pull in, but RV slides almost touched other RVs. Two RV owner’s staying there said it was unacceptable. Said they told owners to mark site off rentals last year due to someone in their party having same issues. Truck from another site parked behind this RV, so blocked RV in. Bag of trash in fire ring. Off lake site had fire ring under picnic table. Fire ring had beer cans and covered in cigarette butts. Fixer upper RV located across from this site. Dismal site at best.Fence between sites and lake battered. Old church camp we were told. Heard that owners, of 3 years, were working on wedding destination portion. Surely had done nothing to campsites. Had tattered looking cabins. Maybe nice lodge? You are pressed to sign paperwork upon web reservation, site unseen. And send Driver’s Licenses. Bizarre but did. Now we know why. Owner initially stated no refund… 4 nights mind you!!! I told him I would dispute with credit card company. He said we had signed paperwork… And he would win. He had done that before. Well, now you know, I bet he did. Don’t let it happen to you. Owners eventually gave refund on 3 nights after taking video of site. He and his partner did come to apologize later in day. And did give refund after a few days. Have pictures. Will try to share. I think one picture on earlier review had to be photo shopped. Never saw a pristine fence by campground. Awesome piece of property. But not a nice campground. Hope they will sell to someone that can do it justice. Truly wish them the best. But don’t be taken like we were and then have to go through BIG ordeal to get refund. We camped at Niagara Shores Campground and Conference Center in a Fifth Wheel”

    1. Wow…that’s very disappointing to hear. I hope it’s just a glitch in their process and not a sign of changes from new ownership of the site.

      They’ve always been a great resource for us. We have found places that weren’t up to what we thought the reviews indicated, but never anything that made us question the management of the site. I think they can still be one of several resources, but all the more reason to check out various sources as I’ve suggested in the article.

      Thanks so much for posting the comment and telling everyone about your experience. -Denny

  7. Hi! Enjoy your articles. We have a problem to solve, possibly you could advise. We are camping on Cape Cod in September and are going to head back home, but only after we take in a Sox/Yankees game at Fenway Park in Boston. (she’s a Yankee fan, I’m a Sox fan. Hooboy.) We have a BnB to stay near the park but it won’t allow the teardrop for parking. Local garages won’t commit to reserving a spot. We also worry about leaving the trailer somewhere for safety reasons, etc. What to do? Tx for your thoughts!

    1. Thanks for your note, and glad you find my articles of interest Chris.

      I sure don’t have a good answer for your question, but here’s a few things I’d try to checkout and see if I got lucky:

      – Call campgrounds in the area and see if any of them could work something out with you. You might find one that stores RVs for people that come on a regular basis (I know one of the campgrounds we stay at in Alabama does this for folks that come on the weekends.)
      – Find out where people store RVs up there during the off-season and check with them. The campgrounds in the area may be able to refer you to somewhere.
      – See if you can find a RV dealer with a secured lot that would work something out with you.

      My guess is that even if you find a solution with one of these, they may not be pricey. In worst case, I guess I’d try to get a spot at a campground and just pay the price if I had to, even if I wasn’t going to sleep there. Unfortunately, in Boston area, all the campgrounds we found were a ways out of town. The place we stayed (here’s my review: https://tinytowable.com/massachusetts-boston-muniteman/ ) was really nice (and pricey). They were big and very customer focused though, and may have some suggestions.

      Best of luck, and hope you have a great trip!

      – Denny

      1. I had another idea after I clicked submit. Check for Hipcamp locations in the area – might be able to rent a camping spot on somebody’s farm nearby. I’m guessing you aren’t a Harvest Host member and it’d be pricey if it’s the only time you use it, but it is another option.

    2. There are ‘AirBnB for parking spots” apps and sites – I imagine you can probably find a driveway for rent in the Boston area if you look around a bit. Also check Craigslist for Boston as I’ve seen parking spots listed there too.

      And good luck, this is not the summer to be living with a Yankees fan 😉

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