We’ve found that folks ask many similar questions when we tell them what we’re up to. One of the common questions is, “How do you know/decide where to stay?”
We have been incredibly blessed by the campgrounds we’ve found to stay in during our trip. I’m trying to think of one we really did not like, and I don’t think there is one! We definitely have our favorites, but overall we have had great places to stay. Here’s the process I go through to find a place to put our wheels up (in exchange for not having to drive the 22,000 pound beast pulling a car, I get to do all the trip planning ):
- We pinpoint an area we want to visit. If it’s an attraction or landmark, I find the closest decent-sized city, say Santa Cruz. We wanted to be close enough to San Jose so that Chad could drive there for some meetings, but prefer to stay in more natural/rural settings. (We’d love to stay inside national parks or on BLM land, which is often free or something like $10/night, but we must have internet for Chad’s work, so it’s usually not an option.)
- I use www.google.com/maps to figure out where it is, what main roads lead to it, get the basic lay of the land, or find out what towns are nearby in case we need to branch out our search. In this case, I couldn’t find anything we liked in Santa Cruz, so we ended up at a campground in nearby Felton.
- The next stop is usually www.rvparkreviews.com, which has hundreds (thousands?) of RV parks listed, along with visitor ratings. For us, all I usually look at are the most recent reviews, the rate, and whether they have big-rig access, then I do a quick glance at the hook-ups (most campgrounds that take big-rigs have some sort of hookups, and we can really do fine without any for a few nights if we need to, but we do prefer at least electric and water).
- In new tabs, I open links to websites for all the parks that sound decent (reviews higher than 7 or so, on average).
- I then visit each website, checking on rates, amenities, and photos (which are a huge plus, but not all RV park website have them). I also try to get a general feel for the place from their website, but I’ve found the two don’t necessarily reflect one another.
- Once I find one I like, I go back to Google Maps and find the campground there. I make sure there isn’t anything weird around it, like a water treatment facility, big highways, stadiums, etc.
- If I’m debating between two or more campgrounds that are similar in price, amenities and general feel, I start searching for what is around each, using Google Maps. It’s nice to be really close to some sort of grocery store, preferably Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or Sprouts. A Costco and Chipotle nearby get a place bonus points!
- If I can’t find anything on rvparkreviews, I head to www.woodalls.com and search there. They often have many of the same sites listed, but not all, and some new ones. They tend to list campgrounds by area, rather than specific city, which can be helpful when there are suburbs with different names, for example, that I might not be familiar with.
- I also check the state’s website for state parks and recreation areas. Arizona had AMAZING state parks. California, not so much, at least none that we’ve been able to stay in—most are either completely full months in advance, or we are too big, or we can’t get internet at them, or they don’t have the hookups we need. (Or they might be first-come, first-serve, but I generally prefer to make reservations, if we can.)
- I sometimes look at www.recreation.gov for federal public land, and www.reserveamerica.com, a recreation reservation provider.
- Occasionally we’ll get a recommendation from someone, but even then, I check the reviews and the website. Everyone has different needs and it’s important to find a good fit.
- So that’s the basic process, but to actually make a reservation, there are a couple more steps:
- CHECK INTERNET!! This is a big one, since Chad’s job depends on a good internet connection. Since we have Verizon, this means a check on their coverage map.
- Check Google Maps for the route to get there. Some roads, Rocky just can’t do. In the case of the Santa Cruz campground above, it was on a road going south through the forest that Rocky wasn’t allowed on (nor would it have wanted to, I’m sure), so we had to come in on another highway and come down from the north.
- Check availability, either by calling, or reserve online (most campgrounds do reservations online).
- If any of these 3 aren’t favorable for us, it’s back to the drawing board!!
It does take a bit of time, but it works for us! Next time, I’ll answer what is probably the most frequently asked question, “How/what do you cook in there?!”
Thanks for reading!