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We are all on the road for different reasons, some of us are on vacation, some retired, some working still….and with that we all have different budgets, BUT the one thing we all have in common is the need to find places to lay our heads at night!
I fall in the “still working” category and I’m on a budget for sure. When I first hit the road I looked at my rent and figured out what I pay per day to live in my apartment in Boulder, CO and used that as a sorta guideline, my goal was to save money on “rent”, but it’s not cheap to camp these days! Spending most of my time in CA and OR the average price to camp at a State Park is $35….so, thats around $1,050 per month, and if you stay in RV Parks its much more, and over time that can really add up, especially if you travel full time. For me its balance between roughing, finding those cheaper or free places to camp and spending the money for a nice place to camp. I have to admit I find joy when I find free camping or say “my average stay for a week was about $7”!!
When it’s time to find camping here are some of the places online I look at and the process I use….hope some of this you find useful.
I first start by starting a “my maps” map on google. I’ll mark the places to want see and explore. Those usually are State Parks and National Parks, wanting to be close to hikes or other nature related things (camping on the beach ect.) and towns and want to visit.
Then I’ll move onto camp sites…I start by looking for free camping….cheap next, followed by State Parks to RV Parks and add those to “my map” as I find them….I don't stay in many RV Parks, more because I look space and trees, but I gotta fill with water and empty the tanks….and sometimes I just want cable TV to watch game or a nice shower!!
So, where do I find these places? Here are my go to sites
http://www.freecampgrounds.com -Great resource, many of the locations are out there, in the woods and such so plan accordingly. They list free and very cheap options. If you have a van or smaller camper this is especially a great resource….be sure to read the reviews of the posts and ALWAYS do research on the spot….anyone can post and some people post pull off and stuff that’s not safe, or are not really camp “sites” at all….and if you have a big rig, think about using google earth to look at the terrain
- http://www.casinocamper.com - Casinos are the best!! Most offer free to cheap places to dry camp from anywhere from 1, 3 to 7 nights….check out each casino’s website as well about rules and regulations…..here are a few of my favorites
- Cher-Ae Heights Casino - Trinidad, CA - One of the best views you can find….a 50 yard walk from the parking lot is a cliff overlooking the ocean….Just beautiful, and a quick drive to town and the State Park…$20 for 3 nights
View from Cher-Ae Heights Casino
- Quinault Beach Resort and Casino - Ocean Shores, WA - They have a huge parking lot just for RVs thats hidden away, people can put their chairs out to relax…You can hear the ocean from your home and its a 5 minute walk to the beach….$10 on weekends and $5 during the week
- Mill Casino - North Bend, OR - Not a huge fan of the town but its close to some awesome State Parks. The Casino is nice, there is a RV Park there but you can dry camp in the lot for $15 a night, use their bathrooms, showers and laundry. You can access free WIFI from outside of the casino and they have some good, cheap food options (as most of them do)
I have stayed at casinos for free in Florence, OR, Pendleton, OR, Oroville, CA and Palm Springs…among others
3 .https://harvesthosts.com - $40 a year gets you access to farms, wineries and other cool places….they do ask you to purchase something….but $30 for camping, a bottle of wine and wonderful experience is worth it
Winery in Northern CA....Harvest Host location
4. “Google” Ski Resorts in the area you want to stay - Ski resorts usually offers free to cheap parking in the summer months….I’v stayed at Ski resorts in Taos, Lake Tahoe and Bend
5. ONP Walmart phone app - Phone app that lists the Walmart's and people can comment on their visits, the free camping site lists many Walmart's too….again, do your research as not all Walmart's allow overnight parking
6. Trucker Path phone app - List truck stops, Walmart's and other places to overnight park…good when your in a bind or just need a place to sleep for a few hours
7. http://www.rvparkreviews.com/ - When i google RV Parks and camping this site comes up a lot and provides good info for all kind of camping options
8. “Google” “Fairgrounds” - many fairground have camping options when there is not an event going on. I have stayed at fairgrounds in Eureka, CA, Booneville, CA and Ontario, OR
9. BLM Land - great place to boondock but I have not found a good resource….I usually find these spots by being in the area and talking with other travels. One of the best places I have ever camped is in the Alabama HIlls, which is BLM land and free. There is also a BLM campground nearby for $5 night with drinking water, restroom and I got almost full bars of feel service
Alabama Hills in CA, BLM Land
10. And lastly word of mouth - meeting and chatting with other travels you will learn all kinds of cool stuff
I always make sure I have a Plan A and Plan B, just in case something does not work out
After that I just Google parks in the area I want to go and read the reviews….If i’m going to stay at a RV Park I do want the review to be good…hope they have trees and some space and if I get greedy a hot tub : )
*If anyone can add to the list don't be afraid to comment