When we started our full-time RV journey having never RVed before, we didn’t have a clue how to go about finding an RV site that was right for us. Like everyone else, we were overwhelmed by suggestions from friends, ads from websites, forums, apps and every other imaginable source under the sun. Some of these suggestions were better than others, and some were downright awful!
Through trial and error, we’ve narrowed down the process of finding a perfect RV site to a simple two-step system. These steps take a little time, but they will make all the difference in your RV stays.
Step 1: Make a Personalized and Prioritized List
Your priorities are most assuredly different than ours when it comes to finding an RV site. But it’s probably safe to say that the following list covers the essentials we all look for:
- Desired location
- Size of site
- Electric connection
- Water connection
- Sewer connection
- Cable connection
- Laundry facility
- Pet friendliness
- Site pad material
- How level the sites are
- Propane availability
- Pull-through vs. back-in
- Big rig friendliness
- Connectivity (Wi-Fi and cell coverage)
- Discounts available
The first thing you need to do is prioritize and personalize your own list. Maybe you have something to add to the above list that makes it your own. Go ahead and do that.
Chances are your personal priorities won’t change that much from site to site. So take a quick look at the items listed above, add any others that are applicable to you, and create your own list. Get your personalized list down to a science and prioritize it in order of importance for you and your lifestyle. You can use a 3 x 5 card, a note on your phone or tablet, or even a document on your computer with a checklist. But our pro tip is to write it down! You’ll only have to do this once, unless your personal preferences change.
Our list in priority order looks like this:
- Location: It’s all about location for us. We want to be where we want to be!
- Connectivity: We work for ourselves online and need an Internet connection to keep paying the bills. No connectivity = not staying.
- Rates: We’re frugal. Not cheap, but frugal. Price is very important.
- Discounts: I’m a military veteran and a member of Passport America, AAA, and Good Sam. We always check to see what discounts are available.
- Electric, water and sewer: We’re a little spoiled and want to have full hookups wherever we go.
- Big rig friendliness: Our 40-foot Tiffin Phaeton diesel pusher that we lovingly call Meriwether is a beast. So big rig friendliness is vital.
- How level the sites are: Our rig weighs a LOT and we tend to leave craters in the ground if sites aren’t level, even with wood blocks.
You’ll notice that our personalized list doesn’t include laundry, pet friendliness, site pad material, propane availability, pull-through vs. back-in, or cable. In our case, these items aren’t priorities. But they might be for you. Now that you have your list in hand and know what you’re looking for, let’s get to finding an RV site!
Step 2: We Live in the Information Age--Use Technology
Remember when we had to break out old-school atlases, maps and encyclopedias? Well, those days are long gone. In the age of information we live in, we have options, and plenty of them. Some of you may feel that websites and apps are difficult to use, while others may be more familiar with using them. Regardless of where you land, we believe we’ve found three online sources that anyone reading this should be able to use.
The best resource we’ve found that addresses most of the items on our list from Step 1 is the AllStays Camp & RV App. We literally use it every time we move. (Before I go any further, let me say this is not a paid advertisement for the AllStays Camp & RV App. The fine folks at AllStays have no idea I’m writing this. The product is just that good. Since we use it every single time we change locations, it had to be included in this article.) The app costs $9.99 and is worth every penny. It’s cheaper than buying a paper atlas that will be outdated next year, and it’s chock full of information vital to RVers.
Here are just two things this app allows you to do:
- Search by desired destination.
- Filter your RV site search by a variety of filters. There are too many filters to list, but they include Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds, county and city parks, Elk lodges, national parks, independent campgrounds, KOA, military campgrounds, Moose lodges--heck , AllStays even includes Walmart stores that allow you to park overnight!
One of the really useful features of the app is that once you’ve selected an area and filtered your search, you can learn more about any campground on your map with one click. Campground details include:
- Distance from current location
- Address of campground
- Telephone number
- Link to campground website
- Reviews from folks who have stayed there
- Average “Star” rating from 1-5
- Tips on entering the campground
- And one extra click will get you directions via Apple or Google Maps
Okay, we're almost done finding an RV site that is tailor-made for you. Here are the last two online resources we check before locking in our campground.
Stay Connected and Keep It Social
The Coverage? app from the amazing duo of Chris and Cherie at Technomadia allows you to see what type of coverage is available from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile at any spot on the map. For those needing a cell or data signal at their RV site, this app is indispensable. We check the Coverage? app every time we change locations, and it only costs us $2.99.
There is only one website we know of dedicated to helping RVers find other RVers, wherever they may be. That site is RVillage.com. This is the final online tool we use before making our RV site selection. RVillage.com is a social network like Facebook, but for RVers only. It’s free and allows you to connect with like-minded RVers. No matter what you’re interested in, there are groups and communities about topics you enjoy, waiting to be discovered. The nicest feature, however, is that you can see where your RV friends are on a map! We’ve met some fantastic folks during our travels, and of course we’d like to see them again. With RVillage, we can keep track of where friends are and make it a point to meet up. The site is easy to use and growing daily. As of this writing, they have over 10,000 members! If you aren’t on RVillage yet, take a look.
(Just a note that neither of these apps are paying us to say this--we're just telling you what we use in our travels!)
Closing Thoughts on Finding an RV Site
We use this system, and it works for us every time. Keeping our priorities in focus guarantees that we'll stay at campgrounds that fit all of our needs. If you’ve taken these steps to heart, you’re armed with your personalized and prioritized list from Step 1, the AllStays Camp & RV app, Coverage? app and RVillage.com account from Step 2, and you’re well on your way to finding an RV site that perfectly meets your own needs every time.
We hope to see y’all out on the road! Please don’t be shy about leaving a comment. We’d love to hear from you.
About the authors: Eric and Brittany Highland are full-time RVers who travel around the country in their 40’ Phaeton by Tiffin Motorhomes named Meriwether. They love to share their adventures and do so on their blog at RVWanderlust.com.
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