A&A How To Find RV Campsites On The Road | The First 10,000 Miles
End of Week #74
Chosa BLM Campground, Whites City NM > Monahans Sandhills State Park, Monahans TX > Brady Lake Park, Brady TX > McKinney Falls State Park, Austin TX
Miles traveled since last week's post = 514 miles
Total miles traveled to date = 10,383 with trailer
We have officially gone our first 10,000 miles!
Coming to you a bit late this week, and from the chilly city of Austin, Texas! You may be surprised to hear that we have been battling a super cold front just like most of the Midwest and other parts of the country. We arrived here on Sunday afternoon, when it was a humid 85+ degrees, and by midday Monday it had already dropped 40 or more degrees. (#weatherwhiplash) Yesterday the high never reached past about 45 degrees and it was hard to even want to leave the RV at all. It's also been raining off and on the past few days - our first rain we have seen in over 5 MONTHS.
But would we be back in Texas again if it wasn't crazy bipolar weather?? I mean last year, within our first 12 hours of arriving to Texas it snowed a good 4 inches on us! Texas sure knows how to surprise us and always keep us on our toes. I think I could confidently say that at least a few thousand of our recently hit 10,000 MILES on the road have been spent in this state, and we are still trucking through it. But it feels good to be back here in Hill Country, our favorite area to explore, no matter what kind of weather we are dealing with. Texas really is like it's own mini country!
In making our way back to central and southern Texas we have run into some roadblocks in finding places to stay however, as it seems the amount of RVers has increased and the amount of campsites available has decreased due to covid restrictions. I really had to put my creative thinking camp on to get us to where we are now, and I basically exhausted all my resources over and over until something worked out the way we needed it to!
You might be wondering what it all entails when you are going through the process to find a place to camp... what do we look for? What is our typical budget and requirements for a site? ... Well keep on reading to find out more!
A&A How To Find RV Campsites On The Road
Hello there, I am Amanda and I'll be your RV navigator and travel route agent, picking all the best spots to camp in the USA!
For our entire journey now I've been the one scoping out where we will stay each stop along the way (after we come to an agreement on a general direction or area we are traveling too), and I have to say it's not always as easy as you would think to figure things out. We aren't the type who like to just stay at RV parks all the time, and on the flip side we don't always like to boondock out in the middle of nowhere either. I like to think we prefer a fine balance, with some time at a variety of every type of destination out there.
What exactly do we look for?
Well of course first and foremost is a view! We like to camp in scenic places, preferably $25 a night or less (but we have definitely spent a lot more and a heck of a lot less)... and a lot of times we will prefer a water and electric hookup, because we are spoiled. We like to have a private site, but with the safety of a host or popular enough area where we will feel secure in leaving our entire home there to go out and explore.
Typically when I am going through the process to research an area to stay, I will exhaust all of the efforts listed below and write a list to cross compare what our best options are. I am absolutely the type that makes lists and notes and eventually has Adam weigh in for any opinions too. I will budget and write pros and cons, and plan out when we have hookups and when we can go without.
We are currently at our 54th campsite, so let's go through my list of resources to find all the best spots!
State Parks & National Parks (& county parks)
Whenever we are headed somewhere near a National Park, I am always trying to fit this into our route first. I will typically check to see if it is a NP that has a campground, and if so - if they allow RV's our size. (Some do not!) You can easily find this information right on the National Park's website - under the lodging or camping tab. If that doesn't work, I know I am still going to want to add that NP to our itinerary, because we are trying to hit them all after all, so I will then check to see if there are any nearby state parks available. In a lot of states the state park option is the best way to go! Most states have super affordable campgrounds with electric and water hookups and incredible views. But with a surge in RVers on the road this year, some state parks in prime areas do not have availability unless you are incredibly flexible with your dates... which we usually are not.
After I've exhausted an effort to check all state and National parks, I will then check into local county parks too - as sometimes there are amazing gems hidden out there. Once and awhile a county park will have hookups and take reservations, but often times they are first come first serve and boondocking, for a small fee!
Texas State Parks are actually one of my favorites so far, because if you get the state park annual pass, and stay at any state park for more than 1-night, they end up being between $12-$17 per night, which is a steal! They also usually have 50-amp electric hookups so we can power the air fryer, blow dryer and heater all at once.
New Mexico State Parks are also a great deal, coming in under $15 per night, but currently all NM SP's are closed to anyone who is now a NM resident - due to covid.
There are so many great RVing apps out there, it can be hard to know which are the best to use. Here are some of the more popular ones that we use on a daily basis:
Park Advisor - This has been our go-to since day one, as it offers a wide range of places to camp in every city, including National Forests, county parks, and state parks. You are able to click on every option and view photos, reviews, and other general information about the campsite. There is also typically a link to the official website for each place.
Hipcamp - I've only recently started using Hipcamp to check out places to stay, as I've been having a heck of a time figuring out where we will stay along our route in Florida. Hipcamp offers unique camping opportunities on private lands and off the beaten path. You can filter to look for a certain price range, free options, and you can filter based on the size of your rig and your preferred amenities.
Campendium - I've been using this app more so to double check a place once I choose where we are going. This app has wonderful information on cell service reports for each cell carrier, it usually has an abundance of photos and reviews and sometimes it gets very detailed about what campsite number is best and why.
Not all great resources out there have their own app, so sometimes that means scouring websites on your phone or laptop too! Here are some of my favorite ones to use:
Boondockers Welcome - BW is a membership platform for RVers and nomads that has an annual fee of just $30. Once you become a member you are able to search camp hosts across the country and request to stay at ones that fit your needs. When you stay with a host from BW you are staying on their own private land or designated RV area, and sometimes the hosts go out of their way to install RV hookups, provide WiFi and other amenities for you too. The request will be free of charge, but some hosts will request a donation for use of their hookups, typically from $5-$15 a night, and others will not. We recently just had our first BW experience in Flagstaff AZ and it was wonderful! We will be doing another stay with a host on the east coast of Florida in a few weeks.
Freecampsites.Net - This is a great all encompassing website that will mostly show you free boondocking areas you can camp in throughout the country, but it will also sometimes show you paid camping locations as well. If I am just looking for a boondocking spot and there are no BW hosts in that area, I will always use this website to check things out. Reviews are given from people who have stayed in the exact location and there are often photos and cell service reviews too.
Recreation.Gov - Another great tool to not only find places to stay, but to plan your trips to various places too. I usually will type in a city/destination and review any government owned camping spots available to see if it will meet our needs. Sometimes there is slim availability or only seasonal availability due to weather, and other times it is more costly than if we just go a different route for where to camp all together.
I can't even tell you how many Facebook groups we are apart of between the two of us, but between them all we have plenty of online community resources to find all the great camping locations. Here are some of our most used groups:
Full-Time RV Living - We utilize this group for absolutely everything, but it can come in handy for searching a specific city or place we are going to. I sure do love that search bar on Facebook!
Where'd You Stay RV - I love this group to search out any city we are going to. You can just type in the search bar and all posts and reviews for that area will pop up. I will often search places I have in mind in here too so that I can see real photos and honest reviews and comments from others who have stayed there.
RV Boondocking - I've recently joined some more camping, travel trailer, and boondocking groups on Facebook and utilize them to scope out future places to stay. Sometimes when someone posts an interesting place for somewhere we haven't yet been, I will just save the post to a collection on my Facebook so that I can come back to it later.
The First 10,000 Miles
Through prairies, badlands, mountains, sand dunes, desert and ocean coastline... we have already conquered a large portion of the western United States. We have dealt with severe weather, 70+ mile per hour winds, a snowstorm, a few nights with temps in the single digits and no heat, and many too close for comfort wildfires. We shredded our first tire, we have fixed leaks and cracks, we have replaced all four tires and resealed our roof a time or two... but other than that we have been pretty damn fortunate and grateful for our little apartment on wheels. In the grand scheme of things I've barely had anything break during travel, we have only made a few newbie mistakes here and there (but nothing more detrimental than poo on the ground LOL), and we have continued to learn so much along the way.
It has been an epic and memorable first 10,000 miles out here on the road, and I can't wait to see where another 10K will bring us.
I'd love to say that next week's post will be dedicated to reviewing Austin, TX - but it looks like we may have an interesting rest of the week and weekend as we try to make our way south to the Gulf of Mexico coast. Hurricane Zeta is making landfall right now and we don't yet know how this will impact our upcoming route and reservations... and it's also Halloween, a Full Moon, and Adam's 32nd Birthday this weekend! So, we will see what next week brings.
*Currently under construction and paused at this time.*
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