Finding Good Campgrounds

Indian Cove Campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park

Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Invariably upon arriving at a new RV park, I compare it with the places I’ve stayed at in the past. It’s not a intentional thing, just something that happens in a corner of my mind while I’m occupied with other tasks. Oh, look at how big these sites are. A lot of dirt and gravel, I bet it gets muddy in the rain. At least I’m not looking out my window directly into my neighbor’s RV.

I never let myself think of a place I’ve camped at as bad because of my philosophy that how we respond to circumstances are more important than the event itself. In short, because getting disgruntled about a sub-par campground doesn’t improve the campground and just makes me grumpy, and even the most boring or sub-par campgrounds I’ve stayed in have had positive things going for them. My best advice if you’re RVing and you find yourself in a place that is making you unhappy, is to find another place. You know, house with wheels and all that.

Some people put a lot of effort into finding ideal RV parks. When I get asked how to find good places to stay at, I always respond with a question, what is the person’s goal for visiting an area. I’m talking about things beyond the obvious considerations like if the sites are big enough to fit your rig, does it have the type of hookups you desire, and whether the location allows dogs or not if you have one.

For example, when I’m taking my trips between seasonal jobs I may want to get somewhere as quickly and cheaply as I can, which means my ideal stop is a free dry camp in a parking lot near the highway that is easy to get into and out of. When I’m not in a rush and have the funds to spend, I’m hunting down state parks with enough trails and sights to keep me occupied for two or three days. When I’m working national park jobs, I’m looking for a location that can hold my interest for several months with other parks and things to see within a day’s drive. When I’m working at Amazon I value distance and convenience above all, since most of my waking hours will be spent on the job.

Knowing your goal is crucial to picking a camping spot that you’ll enjoy and once you realize that, finding a good spot is a matter of looking for places that meet your size and hookup/amenity requirements, and best fit that goal.

If you’re looking for an RV park there are a lot of camping directories out there and even phone apps that will give you locations with amenities listed. Since I don’t stay in RV parks much unless I’m working a job (and in that case my choices are provided by my employer, if I even have a choice), I don’t bother with directories and do essentially all of my campground and state park finding through a search on Google Maps. Since Google Maps is also my GPS, I can save a location I find on my computer, and look it up later on my phone to get directions.

I’ve also made a habit of saving locations that I hear about from other RVers that sound interesting to me to a list by region, so when I find myself in that region I can quickly reference it. This is not just for campgrounds but towns, parks, and points of interest too, the “hidden gem” type of places that are hard to find on a map.

If you’d like to share the tools you use to find a good campground, or have a special place you’ve been to that is worth a visit, please share in the comments below!

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On Wednesday I’ll be moving to an RV park that that twenty(!) miles closer to Amazon which will make the rest of my season here much more enjoyable. Have a good week everyone, and happy camping.

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Thank you for doing your usual Amazon shopping using my affiliate link.

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49 Responses to Finding Good Campgrounds

  1. Marilyn Dania Beach, FL October 19, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

    I am happy for you finding a closer park while you slave away at Amazon. Just kidding about the slaving away. That will give you an extra hour to sleep or journal the days you work. Also it will save at least 160 miles a week which is a lot.

    Becky, you do an excellent job with your topics. I am in my 8th decade of life and find every entry quite educational and interesting. You are wise beyond your years and we are so fortunate you chose to be a full time RVer and write about it for us to enjoy.

    I direct all my Amazon purchases using your link which is the least I can do to show my appreciation.

    Again, thanks and don’t work too hard this Holiday season.

    Marilyn

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

      Thank you very much Marilyn for using my affiliate link, purchases made on Amazon through my site really do make a difference to my bottom line and I appreciate it. πŸ™‚

      It is slaving away, but worth it for the money I save up so that I don’t have to work for the rest of the winter, hehe.

      I’m glad that you’re enjoying IO! Some people have told me that I probably would have made a good teacher, but I don’t like talking in front of groups so “teaching” online like this is much more enjoyable for me.

      I won’t work too hard, I hope you have a good holiday season too!

  2. Frank October 19, 2015 at 7:19 pm #

    Loving your attitude!

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

      Being an optimist is so much more gratifying than being a pessimist Frank. πŸ™‚

  3. Ken w October 19, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Hi Becky,been following your adventures since beggining of summer.Love everything you put into life.I have one question: after all your great outdoor adventure s,why did you chose to go back to Amazon? ken

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

      Money, Ken. What I save at Amazon allows me to take the rest of the winter as a “vacation” and not earn any money at all, it’s one of the most lucrative work-camping options out there. Meanwhile, I’m lucky if I do little more than break even with the summer park jobs – the payout for those is living in a park but a person has to eat and pay bills. πŸ˜‰

      If you go to http://www.interstellarorchard.com/2012/06/26/about-amazons-camperforce/ you’ll see links at the end of the post to my earnings working in CamperForce.

  4. Norm October 19, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    Good post on an important topic. I like your primary rule “know your goal.” So important. Last Spring the DW and I planned a couple week visit with an elderly relative. We needed a campground that was close to said relative’s house for short visits a couple of times a day. We also needed clean restrooms, laundry facilities, a car rental, and a place to walk or hike for ourselves. With some research we found a wonderful private campground in the local city that met our goals. Would we have stayed there without the goal of spending quality time with a senior family member, no. It was near a major interstate, on an ambulance route to the area trauma hospital, and under a flight path. But, as you make clear it met the purpose for which we chose it. So happy you are able to move so many miles closer to your facility. Wish you the best this season!

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

      Thanks Norm, I hope you got a lot of quality time in with your relative and made the most of the experience, even if it wasn’t a destination campground. Take care!

  5. Alan Belisle October 19, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    I love your philosophy (and attitude) “how we respond to circumstances are more important than the event itself.” You have found a lot of wisdom in your travels. I hope to be so lucky myself, once my journey begins.

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

      Best of luck to you Alan as you prepare to hit the road!

  6. Reed Martin October 19, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

    Great philosophy & wisdom in paragraph two! I recall some travel writer saying ‘a lot of how you feel about the outside has to do with how you’re feeling on the inside’. Very much enjoy your writing style & turn of phrase…..you’ve gotta gift!

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed this Reed. It’s not possible to hold a positive attitude all the time, but it’s something I strive for.

  7. Gary October 20, 2015 at 7:49 am #

    Glad to see you found a place closer to work. I hope this winter is more kind to you.If you ever get to the Delmarva region. I will gladly be your app for a campground search. We have a lot of interesting things in this area. Enjoy

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

      The climate should be less cold than the other Amazon sites I’ve worked at Gary which I’m looking forward to. I’ll keep your offer in mind if I find myself near there, thanks.

  8. Pickett October 20, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    Thank you for a very helpful post.

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

      You’re welcome Pickett. πŸ™‚

  9. Terri October 20, 2015 at 9:07 am #

    Super happy for you that you can be closer to work in just a few days! I remember, last year, you had quite the drive to Amazon too, didn’t you?

    So much about life is attitude-driven. I love yours. Always so positive.

    Oh, and to answer a question you left for me in response to another comment on another post (follow that? lol), I think it does get below freezing here in Kanab, so I do need to make sure my pipes and stuff are insulated. I’ve already taken care of my water hose, put the aluminum foil on it, then the heat tape, then the foam insulation, now I have to take care of my sewer hose, which I would do today except for the fact that it is pretty much going to rain all day. Yes, rain in the desert. I thought I moved to where it would be warmer!!!
    Terri recently posted..My Relationship with MoneyMy Profile

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

      Yeah I did Terri, although it wasn’t quite so bad then because Julie and I shared the driving. Having that experience makes me sure I’d rather be close than have free laundry, however nice it is. πŸ˜‰

      Yes I do follow you, haha. Sounds like you have plans well in hand and should be good for the winter. Hope you had a good day, rainy though it was. Those kind of days are nice for reading a book or watching TV while snuggled in bed and listening to the rain on the roof of the RV.

      • Terri October 20, 2015 at 10:03 pm #

        Actually, I went out to Zion today and did the Angels Landing trail!! Well, I got to Scout’s Lookout, and touched a chain and turned around but spent a little bit of time up there, just looking around at the beautiful views. I thought of you and how brave you are to have been able to make it all the way to the top. I just thought I was doing good, being up as high as I was, with my fear of heights. While I was there, I also thought of how fortunate you were to be able to live at such a beautiful spot for even a few months of last year.
        Terri recently posted..Wants vs. NeedsMy Profile

  10. Sara October 20, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    You’re absolutely right – and sometimes first looks can be deceiving. We’ve pulled into plenty of campgrounds that we feel uncertain about, but once we find a site and settle in, the unspoken charm of the place begins to dawn on us, and sometimes find ourselves wishing we could stay longer. I have found http://www.rvparkreviews.com to become my go-to site for finding the next campground. We have been full-timing for one year now and have already been through half the country, moving every 1-2 weeks. Sometimes I don’t know where we’re staying until the morning of our move, and that site has been so helpful. The reviews are thorough and usually tells me everything I need to know to make a good decision. In general, our primary spots we enjoy are private, secluded, and not bunched next to another RV; that means state/county parks, national forest, BLM, and Corps of Engineers campgrounds. However, we’re “millennials” and have to work online, so Verizon LTE signal is a must, and many reviewers will mention the signal strength in their reviews. I definitely make a point to do so in mine since so many more of us are living the nomadic life while working online. πŸ™‚
    Sara recently posted..Driving back from Glacier National Park, I spotted 3 grizzly…My Profile

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Sara.

      I hear you on having good connectivity. For IO I don’t need internet access every day, but to keep up on comments and e-mails and posts I need at least every other day. For my first two years on the road I relied exclusively on free WiFi in campgrounds and public places which was doable since the places I stayed at for my seasonal jobs usually had it. But Yellowstone did not so I finally broke down and upped my data plan a little (still only 3 GB for a month) and survived on just that for the summer. I’ll be happy to have it in the southwest when I boondock this winter, but I’ll need to pay attention to cell coverage.

  11. Vincent Goetz October 20, 2015 at 10:01 am #

    Love the attitude also. You might look at Compendium.com to give you some ideas after Amazon.

    Hoping you have a nice winter. I am spending mine outside Tucson, and hoping to see a lot of birds here.

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

      Never heard of that site before Vincent, thanks for sharing.

      My grandparents use to winter down in Tucson and I have fond memories of the area from visits while on spring break as a kid. Didn’t know it was a hot spot for bird watching though, that’s pretty neat. Hope you see a bunch of them.

  12. Jim@HiTek October 20, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    Good advice, Becky.

    I use several references online when I’m planning a visit to an area. One night or 3 nights sometimes turn into months so I try to be careful to choose right the first time.

    I use Google Maps, RVParkReviews.com, and PassportAmerica.com. First I choose an area because of how far it is to drive there (using a mapping program) and what’s to see and do there, then I google “RV parks near “, than I read those reviews to narrow it down (no WiFi? Really? Still happens), then use those other sources above to get pics and an in depth feel for the parks. Sometimes will call a park to check on features.

    Sometimes when the RV park is near a downtown I may use other sources of info available online, like Yelp (though yelps reviews far too often seem to have been paid for good reviews of their clients site, while simultaneously writing bad reviews of others that won’t pay).

    All this takes some time, but the reward is not having to move away from a bad park very often. Also, I usually only pay for 1 night to check things out, then pay for a week if everything is good.
    Jim@HiTek recently posted..Housesitting…My Profile

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:19 pm #

      A nice thorough explanation Jim, thanks for sharing your process. As I said to Sara above WiFi is a pretty important consideration for me too, if I’m going to be in a spot for more than a couple days.

  13. Jim Schmechel October 20, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    I’m so happy you found a closer campground! πŸ™‚

    There is a lot to consider when choosing places to stay. I have found that sometimes they look good on paper (or online) and when you get there, it doesn’t seem as nice of a fit as you thought it would be. I guess that is why we live on wheels, so we can move when we want to.
    Jim Schmechel recently posted..1 Year NomadiversaryMy Profile

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

      Me too Jim!

      And yeah, I’ve had experiences like that too, both good and bad (sometimes I think a place doesn’t sound like much but am pleasantly surprised). If reservations haven’t been made in advance at least there’s the option of turning around and driving right back out if a RV park doesn’t measure up. πŸ™‚

  14. Ernesto Quintero October 20, 2015 at 11:41 am #

    Becky, you should compile your words and submit to RV type magazines, I think you have a very talented way of explaining the RV lifestyle’s up’s and downs. Be safe and don’t talk back to the robots. πŸ˜‰

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

      I’ve thought about it Ernesto, maybe some day. In the meantime I’ll be careful to avoid engaging the robots in conversation. πŸ˜‰

  15. TooManyCats October 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    RVParkReviews is our favorite campground resource.

    • Becky October 20, 2015 at 9:23 pm #

      Another reader mentioned that one as well Cats so it must be good, thanks for sharing.

  16. Paul Stough October 21, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    Hi,

    I just used your Amazon affiliate link. It took me a while to find it. Have you ever thought about making it more prominent?

    Enjoy your day!

    Paul
    Paul Stough recently posted..Quartzsite to Phoenix International Raceway to BensonMy Profile

    • Becky October 22, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

      Hiya Paul,

      Thank you very much for using my affiliate link!

      If I made it more prominent it’d annoy folks who don’t shop on Amazon. It’s a fine line to tread. πŸ˜‰

  17. pamelab October 24, 2015 at 12:36 am #

    Hi, Becky –
    Another informative post. You do such a nice job.
    When you save a site or park you hear about, do you save it on google maps or just have a list on your phone?
    So happy for you that you are closer to work. I remember your video that showed you hacking the ice off your windshield one night during Christmas season at Amazon. You even had a good attitude about that. What are you gonna do? Right?
    Thank you.

    • Becky October 24, 2015 at 6:28 pm #

      On my phone Pam, I move things to Google Maps once I’ve decided to visit. πŸ™‚

      And yes, hopefully no ice this time although it’s still possible in north Texas. Cross your fingers. πŸ˜‰

  18. Gary October 24, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    Good advice Becky, as many have written above you have a unique ability to give some good advice.

    I too use several sources for finding camps. AllStays app for seeing what camps are in an area and RV Parks Review, are my main ones. I stay in allot of Passport America campgrounds to save some money. After my winter stay here in Mesa, Az, I am going to join Escapee club this coming year.

    I thought Amazon provided a campground and sites for their work campers?
    Gary recently posted..Happy Birthday Traveling BuddyMy Profile

    • Becky October 24, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Gary, always nice to hear what others use. Enjoy your winter in Mesa. πŸ™‚

      They have contracts with local campgrounds and pay the costs, but it’s up to the camper to call and make a reservation at the place they want to stay. Amazon doesn’t own any campgrounds.

  19. Jenn November 16, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    In your article, you mentioned that there are directories and phone apps that will help you find a campground. Do you have a recommendation for one that has detailed descriptions on campgrounds? I want to find one that will give information like distance from a highway, fees, amenities, etc.

  20. Hazel Owens March 18, 2016 at 8:22 am #

    I like your philosophy that our response to circumstances is more important than the circumstances themselves. If you go into an experience (or, in your case, an RV campground) expecting to have a bad time, you will, so looking for the good will usually lead to a good experience. I also like that you ask what people’s goals are when looking for a good RV park. Some people want to be out in nature as much as possible, while others want to have a lot of hookups and technology. Thanks for the article.

    • Becky March 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

      Life is 10% what happens to us, 90% how we react to it Hazel. Realizing this made my life so much more pleasant. πŸ™‚ Glad you enjoyed this, take care.

  21. Zubair @ GearHose April 2, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Hi Becky,

    I love your advice is that if you dont like a place, find a better one. At the same time, I’m one of those who like soaking up the experience. I mean for me it is like how worse can it get if I camp here. And if things really get unbearable, just move on.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Zubair @ GearHose recently posted..The best microfiber towels for cleaningMy Profile

    • Becky April 2, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

      Your welcome Zubair.

  22. Cosmo May 29, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    Thanks for the info.
    I use trip advisor. I have to pick through the posts but it often provides some good information (along with the noise)

    Maybe its just me – the light color hyperlinks are difficult to read on a white background – not much contrast (at least on my monitor).

    Cosmo

    • Becky May 30, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

      You’re welcome Cosmo, glad you enjoyed this.

  23. Artie November 29, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Hi Becky just a note that if your get a chance to come to Anza Borrego State Park (we live in Borrego Springs, CA) many winter visitors stay parked (for FREE) just on the outskirts of town. There are locations to dump (for FREE) also. Our town has a permanent population of about 1,800. In the fall and winter months that number can swell to 12,000 to 15,000 visitors. Depends on the economy and the rate of exchange. Gets a little hot in the summer months but that’s pretty much when we’re on the road. Perhaps we’ll get to meet you and show you some of the great hiking trails and off road trips. Take care

    • Becky November 30, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

      Yes I’ve heard a lot about Anza Borrego from other RVers, it sounds like quite the destination! Although I heard last year that the land available for boondocking dropped significantly due to new zoning laws or something, do you have more details on that?

      If I end up getting out that way this winter I’ll announce it on the blog of course and we can try to meet up.

      • Artie November 30, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

        You are right about the state attempting to take greater control but the community residents have protested. The state is even thinking to charge the people visiting and setting a maximum date of stay. But all is still somewhat in the air. Their problem is that they are limited budget and to do some of the things they are trying, they would need more help. A catch 22 for them. But still there are many, many areas to camp and visit. If you do get this way we would love to share some great trails. Our neighbor is in the archaeology group and has vast knowledge of the area. So he would be able to act as a guide. Great fun!

        • Becky December 2, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

          Thanks for the info Artie!

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