Free or Cheap Campgrounds, Boondocking and Campground Reservations

resources-main[1]_largeIt’s surprising to me that you spend all this money to purchase an RV so you can be free-spirited and travel on a whim. Only to find out some of these darn RV parks and campgrounds cost as much as a luxury hotel. What’s up with that? If you’re like me and want to travel for as long as you can you have to make a buck stretch and stretch and stretch. So I wanted to share some of the options that my inner tightwad has found to be useful. Some are free, and others are cheaper or discounted, but in any case, it will hopefully help you stretch your budget a little.

Free or Reasonably Priced Camping Options

  1. Camp In My Garden: Ever want to camp in a stranger’s backyard or garden? No Sh.., you really can do it on the cheap or for free
  2. Free Campgrounds: Places you can camp for free or nearly free, it’s a good source to find campgrounds for $10 or less! Though it is geared towards the RVer, I am sure regular campers can find locations on here as well.
  3. GreatRVEscapes: Free on-line directory for RV Parks and Resorts
  4. Bureau of Land Management (BLM): The BLM manages open expansions of land all over the country. For the most part boondocking is free, with some areas that charge a small fee. Normally amenities are minimal or non-existent (true boondocking). But they have some beautiful and rustic places.
  5. National Park Service: Nowadays most National Parks require reservations in advance books through recreation.gov. The popular parks can fill up a year in advance during peak season. However, during the off-peak season you can often find first come first serve spots. Note many national parks close or limit some of their campgrounds during off-season do to staffing. Also be aware that many of these parks and camp sites were laid out in the 1940’s – 80’s and were designed for a 30ft camp space. So if you have a longer rig check with the park in advance as they may not be able to accommodate you. There can be some tight turning radius.
  6. Casinos: CasinoCamper.com is a good resource to find casino camping (click on the casino’s link). Many Indian casinos offer free overnight parking; you will have to call them to check. In major gambling hubs like Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City some of the major casinos operate RV Resorts. Check the casino for pricing, they can be really convenient on the strip in Vegas, but might not be a bargain as you’re paying for location.
  7. Walmart: Most Walmarts still offer free camping for RVers. Though some cities have started to ban this. The nice thing is they are often conveniently located near restaurants, and you can grab those few necessities you might need. It’s not glamorous, but when you are just driving through it’s a nice free and typically safe place to spend the night. I recommend always going inside and asking the manager just as a courtesy. Click on the Store Finder to find a location near your travels. Walmart Official Policy for Overnight Stays in RV’s
  8. Cracker Barrel: These restaurants are also known to be RVer friendly, though some of their lots may be on the smaller side. Like Wal-Mart always go inside and ask permission, it may prevent a knock on your door at midnight. (Those are never fun 🙁 )
  9. Camping World: Allows overnight camping in some of their parking lots. I haven’t found a printed listing, so I recommend looking for them online.
  10. National Forest Campground Guide: Fred and Suzi Dow have created a comprehensive website based upon their research of 155 national forests, 20 national grasslands, one national tallgrass prairie and 2,383 developed campgrounds.
  11. Boondocking.org: Not the best site, but if you a GPS you can use their GPS coordinate database, they also have a comprehensive list you can view if you don not GPS coordinates.
  12. Army Corps of Engineers:  Has a book for inexpensive campgrounds predominantly in the eastern states available on Amazon. Or you can check the Army Corps Listings on recreation.gov, many of the Army Corps sites are free to use.
  13. Truck Stop Locations: Though they can be a little load, many truck stops will let you stay overnight for free.
  14. US Forest Service: Is a good resource for paid National Park Campgrounds and cheap or free Boondocking sites.
  15. FreeCampsites.net: Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. They give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.
  16. Boondockers Welcome: Be my guest RV parking – 820 free overnight RV parking locations available … and counting!
  17. US Army Corps of Engineers: Campgrounds and Recreational Areas
  18. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA): Camping and Recreational Areas
  19. PG&E Recreational Areas (California): Most of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E’s) campgrounds provide tent space, tables and benches, fire rings, refuse containers, water, vault toilets and parking.
  20. FreeCampsites.net: Free campgrounds can be hard to find. Freecampsites.net makes it easy. They give you a simple, map based search engine to find free and cheap camping areas. Community reviews and ratings provide you with up to date information and help you select the best camp site for your next camping trip.
  21. The Ultimate Public Campgrounds Project: The Ultimate Public Campground Project was born in 2008 to provide a consolidated and comprehensive source for public campgrounds of all types. It all began with a simple POI list of coordinates and names, nothing more, totaling perhaps 5000 locations. As the list grew and information was provided, a website was designed to display the data on a map.
  22. Forest Camping: A huge rundown of virtually every U.S. Forest Service campground in the U.S. Many are still free or $10 or less. The purpose of this publication is to provide factual information about campgrounds in National Forests that will assist campers in making selections for overnight camping. Only organized (developed) campgrounds with ten or more designated sites and accessible with at least the family sedan are included.
  23. RV with Me offers a great resource when it comes to finding available land to park your RV. You can search by city or address. Some listings are free while others charge a nightly fee.

Campground Sites: Reservations and Locators

  1. ReserveAmerica: Is the largest provider of campsite reservations in North America, facilitating millions of transactions each year. Reserve campground, lodging, marina, and day-use locations online.
  2. Hipcamp: Search over 280,000 campsites across the US. From public parks to private land, we’re the most comprehensive guide to camping across the country.
  3. Camp Florida: Florida is nature’s playground with gorgeous parks throughout, offering the finest Camping Sites for your RV, Tent, or Cabin camping desires.
  4. CampgroundViews.com: Find and tour RV parks and campgrounds across the US. 2,397 videos, 14,632 photos, 15,497 parks.

RV on a Farm

  1. Harvest Hosts: How cool is it that you can stay (RV/Camp) at wineries, farms and agri-tourism sites for FREE! Hot damn, I’m there…………… There is a $40 annual membership fee to join the site and get the listing, but that’s cheaper than 1 night in some RV Parks. But to be honest 1 or 2 nights pays for the annual fee and they have some great locations.
  2. RV with Me offers a great resource when it comes to finding available land to park your RV. You can search by city or address. Some listings are free while others charge a nightly fee.
  3. Farm Stay America offers B&B and RV spots out on the farm.
  4. Farm Stay US. is another great place to find lodging and RV opportunities on a variety of farms.
  5. Care Taker Gazette is the place to search if you’d like to park on a ranch of farm long term. You can RV on a farm in exchange for land management all over the country.
  6. Rural Bounty offers tons of great info on agritourism including places to RV.

Membership Discounted Options

  1. Harvest Hosts: How cool is it that you can stay (RV/Camp) at wineries, farms and agri-tourism sites for FREE! Hot damn, I’m there…………… There is a $40 annual membership fee to join the site and get the listing, but that’s cheaper than 1 night in some RV Parks.
  2. Boondockers Welcome: Be my guest RV parking – 820 free overnight RV parking locations available … and counting! There is a $24.95 annual membership fee, but they offer a $5 discount to Harvest Hosts, so join this one before HH to save the extra $5.
  3. Passport America: Passport America invented the 50% Discount Camping Club in 1992 and had continued to improve on that great concept. Over 1900 campgrounds across the US, Canada, and Mexico are currently participating in the Passport America Program. There is a $44 annual fee, but I think you’ll save this with the discounted campground spaces in a couple of nights.
  4. Thousand Trails: Thousand Trails is the largest and most successful provider of RV resorts and campgrounds in North America with over 80 locations in 22 states and British Columbia, Canada. They have combined the beauty and relaxation of a scenic nature preserve with the resort-style amenities and security of an exclusive club. Now you can book a zone area to utilize the campgrounds, in earlier years they were more pricey because you had to by the whole package. Now for a $545 Zone pass you can camp 30 night a year for free of charge, and after that there is a daily usage fee of $3. I think the trick is to see their booth at an RV Rally such as FMCA, Good Sam, etc. I have seen them offer a free zone with a paid zone before. So 2 zones for the price of one, check for the same on-line special from time to time.
  5. Escapees RV Club: Escapees has four RV parking options. Whether you are looking for short-term parking, deeded lots, or lease lots, we have the park for you! Rainbow Parks offer an RV park, deeded lots, and lease lots. ERPU parks offer an RV park and five-year-lease lots. SKP Co-Ops offer an RV park and lifetime Co-Op memberships. Our Travel Guide Program includes commercial parks that offer a 15-50% discount to Escapees members.  The annual membership is $70, but they offer discounts to Good Sam, Passport America, and Woodall’s members.
  6. Good Sam Club: Membership has its privileges, and they still offer a huge directory of Good Sam campgrounds.
  7. Overnight RV Parking: This is the only place you can access a searchable database of the most complete, accurate and up-to-date listing of places where RVers are and aren’t allowed to park overnight. Their words not mine, but it comes recommended by some very savvy full timers.

 RV Park Directories

  1. GreatRVEscapes: Free on-line directory of quality RV Parks and Resorts. They also have a paid Premium membership which offers more benefits.
  2. www.overnightrvparking.com: Database: Contains 11,275 RV Parking and No Parking locations in the US and Canada. There is  $24.95 annual membership fee.
  3. US Forest Service: Is a good resource for paid National Park Campgrounds and cheap or free Boondocking sites.
  4. Day’s End Directory: Available to Escapees RV Club Members for purchase and offers free and low-cost RV parking, overnight or longer, by and for members of the Escapees RV Club.  The Directory is over 750 pages of listings in almost every US state and Canadian province.
  5. Army Corps of Engineers:  Has a book for inexpensive campgrounds predominantly in the eastern state available on Amazon.

You can also check out RV Park Reviews if you want to see what other RVer/Campers say about a park.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

3 Responses to Free or Cheap Campgrounds, Boondocking and Campground Reservations

  1. Robert McClendon March 23, 2016 at 2:20 am #

    Thank you for sharing this with us. This will definitely be useful when we are traveling or camping to save up on cash.

    • Tom Robertson March 23, 2016 at 8:56 am #

      I love boondocking (wild camping), I hate RV parks where you open your door and walk out into the side of someone elses rig, having people walking through your site or loud neighbors who just love to PARTY on the weekends. Not to mention I still haven’t wrapped my head around the notion of paying as much as a hotel room a night when you brought the room with you. Don’t get me wrong, I do love (I mean LOVE) a long hot shower, but other than that I enjoy being able to open the door and being out in nature and enjoying the natural beauty we have around us. Keep checking back, I have some new links I’ll be posting in the next week or two.

  2. Roland Edwins March 29, 2016 at 11:40 pm #

    This will definitely be helpful when we are traveling with loved ones.Thanks for sharing your blog.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge