Everyone likes a bargain and full-time RVers are no exception. Smart nomads who carry their homes on their backs know how to keep costs down by taking advantage of cheap and free places to camp.
From parking lots to public land, driving a self-contained home enables you to choose a variety of inexpensive overnight accommodations. When you do it, just remember the trade-offs, like these pros and cons of free camping in different settings.
When your RV changes from a vacation vehicle to a full-time way of life, your perspective about where you park your home should change if you want to save money.
Many new full-time RVers have unreasonable expectations about parking spots, even if they’re only staying for a night. Not every campground is going to be a resort. Many won’t even have a decent picnic table to eat on. But if you’re a full-timer without unlimited financial resources, it’s smart to take advantage of free RV camping opportunities whenever possible.
Just be aware that like anything, parking on the cheap has advantages and disadvantages.
The pros and cons of free camping in parking lots
First, make no mistake, this style of free camping is not ‘camping.’ It’s a bare bones way to rest your head for one night. When you legally take advantage of Walmart overnight parking, stay curbside in an industrial neighborhood or stay overnight in a rest stop, the RVers Code of Conduct must be your guide.
The main advantage is obvious; you save a few dollars when you don’t need a place to hook up your self-contained home. But this kind of overnight stay has lots of cons including noise, crime risk, and some unsavory characters who give free camping a bad name in the eyes of the public.
The pros and cons of free camping in a driveway
Another way to save money on the road is taking advantage of generous friends who offer their driveway for a night or two. Not only do you avoid camping fees but you get good company to boot.
However, if the invite is accompanied by a comment like “you should be able to fit,” be leery. If your friend is a non-RVer, they probably don’t have a clue about obstacles that can wreck your roof or gouge your fiberglass siding.
Free camping in a friend or relative’s driveway often comes at the cost of a repair bill. Always scout a potential driveway parking spot before committing.
The pros and cons of free camping on public lands
Free camping on public lands is probably the best way to save money on rent. You’ll enjoy an all-around better feel than the previous two money-saving tactics. You’ll enjoy better scenery, closer proximity to nature, and often times neighbors who appreciate the outdoors just as much as you do.
But free camping on public lands isn’t perfect. The disadvantages include traveling many miles out of your way for the free campsite, squeezing onto roads and parking aprons that weren’t built for modern rigs, and a lack of phone and data connectivity.
Like anything in life, parking your RV in free campgrounds has trade-offs. But when you’re in your RV, those cons of free camping are short-lived. You can always pick up your home and leave whenever you don’t want to stay.
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.