Can You Still Go RVing Without Camping Reservations?
COVID has made the nomadic lifestyle more popular than ever before. As a result, many long-time RVers believe that it’s now impossible to go RVing without camping reservations ahead of time.
But is it really? If you’re willing to think outside the box, I believe that you can still travel spontaneously around North America.
The line between “peak season” and “off-season” no longer exists at RV parks and campgrounds thanks to the pandemic. With so many people working and roadschooling remotely, the endless summer vibe blurs into winter. Most RV parks still shut down in cold northern climates.
But when new full-time RVers chase warmer winter weather, expect crowds wherever you roam. You can still enjoy a spontaneous RVing lifestyle without camping reservations. Just follow some common sense travel tips.
Be flexible about your destination
North America has plenty of bucket list RV destinations wherever you roam. But most people still gravitate to the most popular camping areas like national parks or sunny Florida in January. The key to avoiding insane crowds and going RVing without camping reservations is to stop thinking like everyone else.
Don’t have your heart set on camping inside places like national parks, or near a popular theme park, and you won’t be disappointed. For the most choices of places to stay, focus your search on scenic camping spots on the fringe of popular destinations. You can often stay within easy driving distance of popular destinations, for a lower price with fewer crowds and more hospitality.
Go remote camping on weekends and holidays
More people are working remotely than ever before, but their need to escape somewhere on weekends and holidays still exists. Most RVers have the same idea. Don’t try to head to popular destinations at those times or you are guaranteed to be annoyed.
Save America’s best RV camping areas for Monday through Thursday and use popular apps like RV Life Pro to help you find an off-the-beaten-path place to stay from Friday through Sunday.
Look for alternative places to stay
Campground memberships can give you many options for places to stay. But not all places to stay are campgrounds. The last few years have seen an abundance of out-of-the-box camping directories for RVers with a more adventurous spirit. Membership-based clubs like Boondockers Welcome give you more options to go RVing without reservations.
These clubs connect camper members with private and commercial property hosts like wineries, farms, and museums that don’t mind self-contained RV owners to stay overnight, sometimes for many nights. You’ll sleep better too; their safety factor is much better than asphalt camping in a big box store parking lot!
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“We arrived in Stephentown, NY this afternoon where we will be boondocking until Saturday. We are so grateful to all the amazing people who open up their properties to those of us living the nomadic life. We are so excited to be staying here and are excited to explore the area over the next few days. Stay safe out there. Live to wander ¤ Wander to live.” Thank you to @livetowanderbus for sharing your story! Tag us in a post with your Boondockers Welcome experience by using #ThisIsBoondockersWelcome to be featured on our social channels. . #boondockerswelcome #hospitalitycamping #payingitforward #friendsmadeontheroad #rvliving #rvlifestyle #rvtravel #travel #rvparking #rvcommunity #rvcamping
Outfit your RV for dry camping
Is staying in RV parks is your preferred way to go RVing? Then be prepared to practice extreme patience when looking for places to stay. New RVers often stick to full-hookup campgrounds when learning the ropes. But with so many on the road during the pandemic, camping reservations in many places will be harder to obtain.
If you’re more adventurous, enjoy getting away from asphalt campsites, and have extra money to spare, outfitting your RV with solar power opens up an entirely new world of camping possibilities. You won’t have to run your generator all the time. And no more polluting the air with gasoline or generator noise when you do camp.
“I’ve been full-timing for six years in an Arctic Fox fifth wheel, mostly in the West, and boondocking most of the time. I agree with what a lot of folks say that things are getting crowded. I fully expected this to happen because I’m a baby boomer and everything’s been crowded with all my brother and sister baby boomers my whole life. So having us all buy RVs at the same time didn’t come as a surprise to me.
Having said that I hardly ever make a reservation and I’ve always found a place to stay mostly because I boondock. And even though BLM land and other free places to stay are more crowded than I’ve ever seen it they’re still plenty of room to camp.
And I agree with you completely, if I had to live every day making schedules reservations and itineraries at RV parks I would quit full-timing too. But don’t worry, Internet research, Google earth, and a little imagination, and just like me you’ll always have a place to stay.” — iRV2 Member TheBoonDork
Great RV camping memories happen in quirky places
Long ago I couldn’t imagine staying anywhere but a nicely landscaped RV park or public campground. But now, RVing without camping reservations in popular areas is difficult during peak season months.
With more miles under our wheels, we became less tolerant of sticking to itineraries for the sake of a reservation. Today, we know that our fondest memories often happen when we are more accepting of quirky and unexpected camping situations.
Use the best camping reservations tools
Camping reservations are smart today. The easiest way to plan a trip without disappointment are the RV LIFE Campgrounds and RV LIFE Trip Wizard tools. RV LIFE Campgrounds shares real-life RVer reviews of resorts and campgrounds around North America. The accompanying RV LIFE App, RV LIFE Trip Wizard gets you to your camping spot with RV-friendly routes tailored to your RV and travel preferences.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
I purchased an Airstream which I love. I happen to notice it has a solar panel on the roof. I have no idea how to use it or what its for. The preveous owner never mentioned it?
Hello William, did you figure it out? Probably the easiest way is to use a volt meter and check the voltage on your battery. If battery is fully charged, assuming you are using a AGM type battery it should be at 12.7 Volts. Check that voltage at night when there is no sun. If the solar panel is working check the voltage during the day and it should be around 13.1 Volts which is indicating the solar panel is supplying the voltage and current to charge your battery. I don’t have an Airstream however my friends that do also have a control panel showing the voltage of the battery as well as the voltage and current coming from the solar panel. Hope you figure it out. As others said check out the airstream Facebook sites and I’m sure they can help you
It is now the fall of 2022 and we are still camping without reservations or reservations made the same day or day before we arrive. We just spent September in the Pacific NW with one advance reservation and that was in BC. We stayed in state park, national park, county fairground, city park campgrounds without more than one day reservations. We only boondocked one night and dry camped in the the national park cg during that trip. So, yes, there are still plenty of places that do not need reservation 6-12 months in advance.
Google and YouTube can edify you very easily.
Search, click, read, watch,
We’ve been camping ten times so far this year & never made a reservation. Never a problem finding a site. We stay in State & National forest camp grounds. We have a camper van, so we don’t need hookups, just a level spot & a outhouse.
Donald E King says
Sounds to me that you need to go to airforums.com !
On a recent trip to Florida in early October, we found out that to get a spot in a state park there requires a reservation, often months in advance. We also found that to get a spot in COE campgrounds also require reservations, at least 24 hours in advance. We have always done our major traveling a month to six weeks before Memorial day and the same time after Labor day.
On this particular trip we had plans to stop at a COE, but due to road construction were sent 15 miles to the north of the turnoff, which would have delayed out stopping time by 30-45 minutes and adding another 15 to 20 minutes to the next days travel from where we eventually stopped. Reservations would have been a big inconvenience for us.
This can work for some states, but probably not for Florida. There are so many RV’ers coming to Florida from Oct – April that the State parks and COE parks are already full. Which makes it very hard for me as a local resident to find a campsite too. I recommend that you look on the County websites for County or City parks that allow camping. Also, there are many private parks in out of the way places that don’t take online reservations. You have to call them on the phone and physically mail them a check – which is where I often camp on holidays because no one but the locals know they are there. Just a suggestion if you are willing to do the work, you can find the campground. But if you really want to go without reservations, you may find yourself staying overnight at Walmart,. Cracker Barrel, or a truck stop.
Tom G says
This article was written in 2020. Since then, it is almost impossible to find any short-term stays in of 1-2 weeks anywhere in Florida. Every where wants 1 month minimum sometimes even 6 months. Lee County (Fort Myers, etc.) has stopped allowing any building of new campgrounds or RV resorts. (That may change since the last hurricane went thru).
State Parks and COE parks are filled months to a year in advance. One favorite RV park, said call us a year ahead of when you really need a reservation.