We don’t often write about where we park our RV during our travels. We have always felt that what we do outside of our one bedoom apartment on wheels is usually more interesting. Many people ask if campground fees are our biggest expense. Many are also interested in how to travel all over the US on a budget. Here is a little discussion of our personal style of full time RV living.
Early in our first year full-timing, we discovered Thousand Trails campground membership program. We had purchased a zone pass for the Pacific Northwest since we planned to visit our son in Seattle and they had the nearest RV park. The plan worked pretty good but we had to move out for one week out of every three, then back again and repeat. Our neighbors Mark and Lynn told us they had purchased a resale membership for the whole country with 3 week stays and no mandatory time out of the system. So we found a broker who sold us a membership previously owned by a man who was moving to Nicaragua. The cost was $2500 plus a $750 transfer fee. We then pay only $45 per month maintenance fee and all our campground stays are free! In 2016 we stayed 228 nights at Thousand Trails locations. We have 86 places to choose from and we can stay 1 to 21 nights at no charge. Its a pretty sweet deal . Thousand Trails has an affiliated club called Resort Parks International. They offer $10/night RV parks but we find they have extremely limited usefullness.
Aside from Thousand Trails we often stay at Elks lodges. Many lodges offer full service RV sites or at least a place to park for a small donation. Our friends Sharon and Mike told us about the Elks and we joined specifically for the travel benefits. We support their charitable efforts even if we don’t often visit the bar.
We also love boondocking. That is, we love parking on typically BLM land usually out West with no hookups, few neighbors, dark skies and total peace and quiet. Our 2016 solar installation and inverter upgrade has made this type of “dry” camping so much more enjoyable.
Another component in our camping story is Escapees. They are an organisation founded by fulltimers to support the lifestyle. We stayed at one of their parks in Florida for a very modest fee and found them to be the friendliest RVers we’ve ever been around. They also sell a Days End Directory with member verified free or nearly free places to stay overnite all over the country. Their directory led us to a city park near Casa Grande AZ where we stayed 2 nights and had some of the best desert mountain hiking we’ve ever experienced.
Sometimes when we are just traveling for several days in a row we will stay for one night at a Wal-Mart or similar parking lot. We are careful to park out of the way and never put down jacks or awnings. And of course we always manage to shop a little. We appreciate the courtesy and don’t abuse it.
We still love National Parks and Forest camping which is so reasonable with our senior pass. State Parks camping sites tend to be hard to get and pricey with many charging a daily fee in addition to the camping fees. Good Florida parks are generally booked 11 months out during prime season. We will include these campgrounds when the location is great.
Passport America is another club we’ve joined. Its very inexpensive and provides a 50% discount to member parks. They have a lot of campgrounds but stays can be very limited, like N/A Florida in the winter and often no weekends and /or 2 nights per year. We use them most when traveling for days in hot or cold weather.
And of course saving the best for last, we had the most beautiful campsite on the Sea of Cortez in Baja California Sur Mexico for $5/night.
Every full-timer has their own style. And styles evolve. This works for us right now. We’re sure we’ll be able to update in the future. Happy trails.