Last night we stayed at a cheap campground to balance out our budget after the expensive one we stayed at in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Cheap to us is $10-$20 per night, expensive is $40+ and our sweet spot is $20-$30.
The process of figuring out where we are going to stay each night is relatively simple. There are countless RV parks across America and 99% of the time they have open spots when you pull in for an overnight stay (unless they are very near a major attraction). Before buying our RV, this was like an invisible layer of America to me. Now I suddenly notice RVs and RV Parks everywhere.
When we are looking for a campground, we have three key tools to help in the process. One is a giant telephone book size directory we keep with us and frequently use when our data connection falls off. The other two are apps on our iPhones — one from Passport America and one from Good Sam, both are discount clubs where we have memberships. The campgrounds are all independently owned and unique, they just opt to join these umbrella clubs so people like us will be more likely to patronize their business.
We start with Passport America, which is a 50% discount off the nightly rates, usually with some restrictions like no weekends or only good for one night. This club gets us the best rates but often the parks are on the worse side of the spectrum. There have been times we’ve driven to a participating Passport America campground and then just kept on going because the only RVs there had that “meth lab” vibe.
Of course that’s not the rule, there have been some great finds like Oasis Palms RV Resort in Oasis, CA. Last year we loved this place so much we stayed for a week.
Our other membership, Good Sam, gets us a 10% discount on all participating RV parks and their iPhone app shows participating campgrounds plus everyone else too. Good Sam member parks are often average places and the extra 10% off the rate is incentive enough to help us make the decision. We don’t belong to KOA and steer clear of those due to their typically higher rates. I think it makes sense to pay more for all the fun kid stuff they offer but for us there’s nothing extra there that we need.
Bare bones campgrounds offer nothing beyond hook-ups. Basic hook-ups for our RV are electric and water. Slightly above the absolute minimum services is sewer, cable (we travel with our own coaxial cable) and Wi-Fi. We are happy campers if we have all of the above services for a good rate.
As for facilities, many RV campgrounds also provide bathrooms and laundry. Beyond that you often find a little general store selling supplies and food, sometimes a game room, book exchange, dish washing station, pool, and maybe a lounge with a TV.
If it’s just an overnight stay we really don’t require much. If we want to stay and relax for day or two we like to find campgrounds that have a few extra amenities and are close enough to a town or attractions that we can walk, bike or unhook and drive to see stuff during the day.
Tonight we are in Shamrock, TX at a campground just off I-40 for $25. It’s a typical little mom-and-pop place with big beautiful trees, large grassy spots and a questionable looking swimming pool.