08 Feb Our guide to finding home on the road
Campgrounds, RV parks, truck stops and more
- Sam’s Club, Passport America and AAA websites were helpful in locating parks, and offer great discounts at campgrounds throughout the U.S. with the purchase of an inexpensive yearly membership. Get the roadside assistance service through Passport America, it’s fairly inexpensive for the peace of mind it provides! There are also several apps you can download on your phone like the RV Parks App, Allstays and Roadtrippers. We didn’t stay at any KOA parks – They are expensive and resemble more of a theme park, but a great choice if you’re traveling with kids. They’re well equipped with pools, bounce houses, etc. One even had a petting zoo!
- Reviews tend to be extremely mixed when searching for parks, however photos are helpful. Know what’s important to you – Bathroom/shower and laundry facilities were not a priority since we had everything in our trailer, but a strong Wi-Fi connection was. We would definitely recommend calling ahead and talking to someone about what amenities you require, and be honest about the size of your rig to make sure you find the spot that’s right for you.
- Be wary of company descriptions. One place we thought sounded perfect was described as a “peaceful oasis on the pond shaded by giant weeping willow trees.” When we arrived, we found ourselves in a grass field in someone’s backyard across the street from a group of cows. The pond was actually a swamp, and when we got out the air was so thick with thousands of tiny bugs we could barely see. We jumped in the car and kept driving. Luckily we found an amazing cliffside camping spot in the woods not too far ahead, one of our favorite spots to date at Crater Lake National Park.
- Be prepared to sacrifice and compromise . We quickly learned that finding a serene park nestled in nature with with a strong WI-FI signal is pretty impossible, but that didn’t stop us from finding some great parks!
Here’s a few of our favorite parks and campgrounds:
Deer Creek Valley, Topeka KS.
A new, state of the art park. Very clean, good wifi, lots of space and great for big rigs but a bit industrial feeling with lots of concrete. There was a beautiful park, Lake Shawnee, just down the street that we ran/walked the whole 8 mile loop with Lilly. We were lucky to find a great local brewpub, The Blind Tiger, nearby that had a great selection of local beer, delicious BBQ, and live music. The tornado test warning signals came as quite a surprise, but the bathroom facilities double as a storm shelter- just in case!
Camp Lakewood Campground, Effingham IL
This park was a very unexpected haven nestled in the woods amongst the fall foliage. On the older and smaller side, but very comfortable. It felt more like camping in the woods than staying at a man- made RV park. We scored a serene spot on the edge of the lake. Plenty of space to chase squirrels (for the dog) and enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise. It was a nice change of scenery from being on the road and surrounded by big rigs. Highly recommend Firefly, a modern but cozy restaurant with a luxury cabin feel and extensive menu. It was a nice date night and for a moment it didn’t feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.
Bear Cove RV Park, Pigeon Forge, TN
En route to Nashville after visiting Airstream Inc. in Ohio, we somehow landed in Pigeon Forge, TN, which can be best described as country Vegas. What was once a quaint town had been taken over with tourists, thanks to Dollyland and the endless souvenir shops, complete with rustic dinner theatre-style shows like Hatfield and McCoy, and the Lumberjack Feud. Not at all what we expected, but the spirit of life on the road is embracing the unexpected! The first park we stayed at, Pine Mountain, was directly in the center of town amidst craft fairs and mini-golf courses. It was a incredibly noisy and overwhelming. We drove around and luckily found a cute park tucked away in the woods just a 1/2 mile away. We moved the next day and happily stayed in our new spot for the next 2 weeks. We had an amazing trip to the Smoky Mtn. National Park and hiked part of the Appalachian
Trail. We drank a good amount of
Moonshine (free samples wherever you go!) and took advantage of the Go-Kart track down the street. Be sure to visit the next town over, Gatlinburg, for sweeping views of Smoky Mtn. Park and make sure to hike up to the Space Needle Observation Tower.
National Parks are also a great option. However they tend to be most strict with their pet policies. Most allow them, but not on any of the hiking trails, due to efforts to protect both wildlife and your pet. That didn’t stop Crater Lake National Park (OR) and Smoky Mtn National Park (TN) from being two of the most beautiful places we visited.
Where to stay off the beaten path
There’s some great free alternatives to paid RV parks and campgrounds. Here’s a few that we experienced on our travels.
Walmart – Many of these stores allow overnight parking. You can check this website for a comprehensive list of locations and their policies. Always look for signs in the parking lot and check in with the store manager to be sure. We didn’t stay over night, but did pull off for a few hours at the back of their gigantic parking lot to cook dinner, watch some Netflix, and take a power nap. Great chance to stock up on supplies as well. Expect to see one or two fellow travelers, but people tend to keep to themselves. Other options are any RV supply store like Camping World or RV Parts Nation.
Airstream Inc. – No road trip is complete without a visit to Airstream’s Headquarters in Jackson Center, OH. Is there anything better than sleeping amongst these shiny beauties? Visit their site to schedule a tour of their facility, meet their great team and spend the night Airstream dreamin’
Truck stops – I have to admit, I was apprehensive of this at first. Some are more accommodating than others. Expect bright lights noise, and trucks coming and going at all hours. Keeping a fan on helps drown out the background sounds. Truckers are very nice and always appreciate conversation when you are feeling up to it. We met a few couples that worked together, as well as a few four-legged companions. I have a newfound respect for them and their work; The life of a trucker ain’t easy. Love’s, Flying J, and Travel Centers (TA) Truckstops are often big, clean, and offer lots of amenities including separate overnight parking areas, showers, a large convenience store/restaurant, truck and RV wash area.
Rest stops – We never stayed overnight, but they are everywhere. Rest stops are a great place to take a breather, stretch your legs and let the dog out. Frequent stops help you focus better when you have a long day on the road, and give you a chance to interact, even if briefly, with other people besides for your traveling companion.
Is there a campground or park that you absolutely love? Have any stories about interesting places you’ve spent the night? We’d love to hear about it in our comment section!
Want to see pictures of our RV, Nyx?