RV ownership comes with some serious perks – it’s your home from home, which you can take just about anywhere without being tied to an expensive hotel. Amazing as this freedom is, it does create one major drawback. With almost limitless options, choosing the perfect spot to park your RV is a surprisingly daunting task!
If you’d like a few tips in this department, read on, as we run through some important considerations to bear in mind when planning your next RV adventure. From choosing a destination, to backing up safely, we’re sure these handy tips and ideas will give RV enthusiasts some trip-spiration. Below, are our top five tips for choosing the perfect spot – every single time.
Choose Your Destination Carefully
Planning the perfect RV trip, just like buying property, is all about location, location, location. Having so many options might seem intimidating, but try not to panic – for many RV adventurers, planning a trip can be almost as enjoyable as the trip itself.
Before you start to suggest specific destinations, it’s a good idea to work out what criteria you’ll be looking for.
These criteria usually consist of the following:
Discussing your budget is a great starting point for any trip – RV excursions included. Knowing exactly how much you have to spend can help to narrow down your vast options. Assigning a budget in advance also tends to cut costs. When planning out your budget, remember to account for fuel, supplies, and spending money as well as the price of your chosen campsite or RV park.
- Time of Year
Exactly when you plan to travel should also influence your destination decision. Most locations are best enjoyed at a specific time of year – national parks in the summer, ski resorts in the winter. On the other hand, you might prefer to take a trip off-season if you prefer to avoid the school vacation crowds.
- Trip Length
The great thing about RV trips is that they’re a lot more flexible than other kinds of holiday. A hotel may only have rooms available for a week or so at a time, but you can stay in an RV for as long as your heart desires. That being said, it’s usually a good idea to plan exactly how long you’ll be away for when brainstorming your trip. One important consideration is whether you’d like to visit one, or multiple locations – trips with multiple stops will need more time if you’re to enjoy each destination thoroughly.
- Amount or Driving
According to research by the Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives 13,476 miles every year. With all these miles under your belt, you may be reluctant to take on too much driving during vacation time – especially if there’s no one to share the driving with. If this sounds like you, a local spot, or at a least a single-destination trip, could be the way to go.
- Who’s Going
Different vacationers have different ideas of fun, and it’s important to acknowledge this if you’re to have an enjoyable trip. Whether you’re vacationing with friends or family, it’s a good idea to ask everyone what kind of vacation they enjoy well in advance.
Beautiful scenery is one major perk of the open road, but everyone will have a slightly different opinion about what exactly constitutes “beautiful”. Talking in advance about what type of setting you’d like to enjoy can be a real help when ruling out locations.
Last, but not least, you’ll want to discuss which activities you’d like to do while you’re away. Whether you enjoy shopping, sunbathing, surfing, hiking, skiing, sightseeing, or something completely different, there’s really no right answer. If you’re travelling with family, choosing a spot with some family-friendly activities is a must.
Once you have these criteria pinned down, it will be much easier to rule out or hone in on locations. If this is your first ever RV trip, all this planning might seem a little daunting, and you may wish to choose from one of these popular destinations:
- Yellowstone National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Redwood National Park
- Crater Lake National Park
- Mount Rushmore
- Arches National Park
- Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World
- Fall foliage in New England
- Colonial Williamsburg
- Blue Ridge Parkway
Don’t Rule Out Cities
Although many of the most popular RV destinations are located in National Parks and other rural areas, city breaks are also an option when it comes to planning your RV trip. Although it might seem impossible to park an RV in these urban hot-spots, there are actually quite a few RV-friendly spots to be found in many major US cities.
Below, we run through some handy urban RV spots:
- New York
The crowded Big Apple might not spring to mind when you imagine an RV vacation, but it can be done! Avoid expensive New York hotels by leaving your RV in a park just outside the city itself, and taking a shuttle to Manhattan.
Two great parks are:
- Liberty Harbor
- Cheesequake State Park
If Boston is more you’re style, you’ll have a couple of options. Experienced RV drivers can park their vehicle in an RV-friendly parking lot – malls are a great option – before using public transit to get to the heart of the city.
For a simpler experience, you may prefer parking at the Minuteman Campground, just outside the city. To access central Boston, you can use the nearby train station.
If you’re a beach-loving RV driver, rejoice – you can actually park up right in South Beach. On Collins Avenue, you’ll find a parking lot where $15 will buy you a full 24 hours, and you’re welcome to stay overnight.
The parking lot is located near plenty of attractions on Lincoln Road, and it’s only a quick stroll to the beach.
- Los Angeles
If you’d like to take an RV to LA, you have a few options. Dockweiler Beach RV Park is right across from the beach, and close to a bike trail that leads to Venice Beach and Santa Monica. The only drawback is the site’s proximity to the airport, which can make things a little noisy.
For a quieter experience, you can drive further down the coast, and park at Golden Shore RV Resort.
Wherever you park up, many LA attractions are actually quite RV-friendly. An experienced driver can take their vehicle to Hollywood, Universal Studios, and even Beverly Hills.
- San Francisco
If you don’t mind using a shuttle service, Candlestick RV Park – located just outside the city – is a great option. It’s not the fanciest camp you’ll ever encounter, but for convenient city access it can’t be beaten.
For amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, you might prefer San Francisco RV Resort. Getting to the city is a little less convenient, but you’ll get to enjoy some seriously picturesque sunsets after a long day of sightseeing.
Many other major cities also have a convenient RV park nearby, so urban explorers don’t have to miss out on the RV experience.
Know Your Parking Options
Once you’ve tracked down your ideal destination, it’s time to plan the finer details: namely, where you’re going to park.
As you select the best spot for your needs, you’ll have three main options:
In National and State Parks, you can leave your vehicle in a safe, designated spot. These places are usually affordable, and right in the heart of recreational areas.
Not every spot is equipped with full hook-ups, though, and you may encounter some length restrictions. For these reasons, it’s important to research your favored campground well in advance of a trip.
- RV Parks
If you’re searching for the best possible amenities, look no further than a privately owned RV park. For longer trips, these great facilities could well be the best option. Many have extra perks, such as pools, spas, laundry facilities, and WiFi – if you plan to spend a lot of time on site, these extras can make for a great trip.
Although these parks can be more expensive than other options, there are plenty of ways to cut the cost of your trip:
- Many RV parks offer a discounted daily rate for longer stays
- Booking a spot well in advance will likely lower the price
- Becoming a member of certain RV clubs (Passport America, Good Sam, Escapees, and Thousand Trail) will allow you to receive discounted rates at many parks
- Free Parking
Believe it or not, there are plenty of spots throughout the country where you can park your RV absolutely free. Free parking is sometimes referred to as “boondocking” or “dry docking”.
Although many free parking spots won’t have access to amenities such as water and electricity, you can find free spots that do, if you’re willing to do some searching.
- Large Businesses
Some large businesses, such as Walmarts, Camping Worlds, and casinos will allow you to park overnight in their parking lot. If you’re considering this option, be sure to call ahead or check with a manager – not all locations will allow you to park overnight. If you are allowed to stay, businesses will usually only permit one night. Nonetheless, these parking lots can be great waypoints on longer trips.
- The BLM
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls swathes of land all across the country. Many of these areas allow boondocking on a first-come, first-served basis. Some areas will allow campers to stay for a single night, while others may facilitate longer stays. Wherever you park, be sure to research the spot beforehand.
- Truck Stops
Obviously, RVs aren’t trucks – nonetheless, they’re welcome to make use of these handy spots across the country. Since trucking is a full-time job for many of the other occupants, be sure to observe the rules so as not to disturb them: park straight, be courteous, and drive away by mid-morning.
You can find helpful information about freeparking spots here.
Choosing the Perfect Campground
Not all campgrounds and RV parks are created equal, and selecting a park that meets your needs can go a long way towards having an enjoyable holiday.
If you opt for a park, look out for the following features:
- Laundry Facilities
Most RVs don’t have a washer-dryer inside, so if you’re planning a fairly long trip, on-site facilities can be a real help. If this isn’t possible, check for a nearby Laundromat – you can always run errands in town while you wait for your laundry to be ready.
- Full Hookup Stations
For a more convenient trip, it’s a good idea to look out for full hookup facilities. This includes water, electricity, and sewage, all in one spot. Bear in mind that some RVs require 50 amps, which not every park will supply.
- Pull-Through Sites
If you’re a little nervous about manoeuvring your RV, or have an especially large vehicle, looking out for a pull-through site could be your best option. In these sites, you can drive straight through parking spots, so there’s no need to worry about backing in, and all the little accidents this task can bring about.
- Level Hard Pads
Parking on a level pad makes for a safer, and more comfortable, RV experience. If the grade of your parking spot is off enough, you might actually notice a slight angle inside your vehicle. When this happens, it can trigger all sorts of issues – most notably, water backing up in the corner of your shower, and your fridge not working properly.
- Spacious Lots
Spacious lots have two main benefits over their cramped counterparts: they make it easier to manoeuvre your vehicle without any bumps or scrapes, and they give you room to relax in the evening if the weather is fair. In a good site, lots should be accommodating enough for campers to open their slides as designed.
Most sites will have surveillance cameras in place, but having a full-time security guard on patrol can give you the extra peace of mind you need. If you’ve never been on an RV trip before, this extra security measure could be a comforting presence.
- Accessibility & Location
A good RV park should be easy to find and access. If in doubt, check out some reviews about the sight before you travel. It’s also a good idea to look out for parks that are close to attractions and transport links, to make your trip run more smoothly.
- Pet-Friendly Facilities
Many RV enthusiasts love to travel with their pet. If this sounds like you, you’re in luck, since plenty of parks across the country include dog parks and nearby trails. Dogs can feel a little cramped when they travel in an RV, so it’s important that they can stretch their legs, and enjoy the new sights, sounds and smells – just like their human companions.
Plan Ahead If Possible
Not every RV parking spot can be booked in advance. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to check, and make a reservation if possible. These days, many parks have an online booking portal. However, we recommend calling up the park, since this will give you a valuable chance to discuss your needs, their facilities, and any events or activities going on. There may even be a special offer available that you’d have missed by booking online. Speaking to a human also allows you to request a prime site, if you’re familiar with the park’s layout.
When you book in advance, you can expect to pay a deposit. This will be deducted from your final bill when you pay for your stay on site. Calling to check your reservation on the day you’re set to arrive can also put your mind at ease, and lets the site know that you’re definitely coming, in case you’re waylaid by an accident, poor weather, or highway maintenance.
In the event of a delay, be sure to call the park and let them know. Travel can be unpredictable, and most sites will be very understanding. Be sure to offer an estimated time of arrival, and to pay any late arrival fees. This simple courtesy will put you in good stead with the park, and make things easier if you wish to reserve a spot there again in the future.
If you’re planning to stay at a park with a first-come, first-served policy, try to get there as soon as the gates open to avoid disappointment. Some of these parks save a few spots for last-minute arrivals, but they’re far more expensive than the standard lots.
Backing up can be challenging in any vehicle – let alone something as large as an RV. To help you manoeuvre your vehicle safely into its designated spot, we’ve compiled these handy tips:
- Check up on Accessibility
As you’re probably aware, not every road is even, and some campsites can be feature tight turns. Before you finalize the booking, check that your vehicle is compact enough – or the space is large enough – for you to easily back up into the spot.
It’s also a good idea to mention the size of your rig as you book, to ensure you’re provided with an adequate space.
- Use an Assistant
Whether it’s a family member with good spatial awareness, or a staff member at the site, asking for help is always a good idea when it comes to parking your RV. These vehicles are very long, and pretty wide, so having someone to guide you can help you avoid that embarrassing crunch as your RV makes contact with a rock or picnic table. Don’t be too proud to ask for help!
- Consider installing a Backup Sensor
Although there’s really no substitute for human help, you might want to install an aftermarket parking sensor in your RV. These handy kits will let you know when you’re getting close to an obstacle, with an audio or visual alert. You can learn more about these devices, and see our top picks, here.
- Level your RV
As mentioned earlier, a slanted parking spot can cause all kinds of problems. For this reason, it’s important to level off your RV once it’s in place. This procedure will vary from vehicle to vehicle, but many modern vehicles come equipped with a self-levelling system. If your rig isn’t quite so sophisticated, leveling blocks or ramps aren’t typically expensive. For more information on leveling an RV, check out this handy guide.
- Stabilize your RV
Stabilizing your RV ensures that it won’t rock back and forth when you walk around inside. You can achieve this with a set of stabilizing jacks. Using these devices is pretty straight forward: lower the jack, slide it into place, with a couple of two by four boards beneath its base, and crank it up until your RV has a secure footing.
Bringing It All Together
As we’ve seen, parking an RV can be a surprisingly complex business, but with time, finding the perfect spot will become second nature.
In summary, you can find the perfect parking lot with these tips:
- Consider important factors such as your budget, trip length, and activity preferences before selecting a destination for your next RV adventure.
- Don’t rule out city breaks just because you’re travelling in a large vehicle – many major cities have RV parks on their peripheries.
- Once you’ve honed in on your ideal location, you’ll have three parking options: campgrounds, RV parks, and freeparking spots.
- You can often park overnight in supermarket parking lots of truck stops, to break up a long journey for free.
- When selecting an RV park, look out for laundry facilities, level hard pads, spacious lots, and good security.
- Plan your trip in advance as far as this is possible.
- Check up on accessibility in the RV park or campground before attempting to park your RV.
- Use the help of an assistant to backup safely.
- Always level and stabilize your RV.