Looking for a good overnight stop while traveling with your RV? Here are five that are on our first choice list.
We’re not full-time RVers by any means, but we do put quite a few miles on our Airstream travel trailer (“Ginger,” named after our first Collie) and towing vehicle (“Big John,” a massive F-350 named after John Wayne). In fact, in 2018, we booked nearly 15,000 miles, mostly from a big trip from Illinois out to California (by way of Goshen, Indiana and — twice — Shawnee, Oklahoma).
Being frugal RVers, we’re always looking for a free — or low cost — place to stay, especially if there are great views, fun nearby attractions, and something interesting and unusual to see. Here are five types of places that are no- or low-cost and meet at least most of those criteria:
Okay, this will be our little secret, right? For the bargain-basement price of $49 per year (until December 31st, then the prices raise to $79 a year), you get to overnight at wineries, farms, brew houses, museums, and other odd and interesting places of interest — FOR FREE! There’s even a new add-on (for a few bucks more a year) to overnight at some golf courses.
At the time of this writing, there are nearly 500 places to stay overnight in the U.S. with more added monthly. We’ve stayed at fantastic breweries and wonderful wineries. They’re free — and rarely is there electric or water hook-ups — but all they ask is that you patronize (i.e. buy something) their business.
Want to lock in the $49 annual rate for as long as you’re a member? Just click here and use our discount code.
On our trip out to California, these provided our most frequent overnight stop option. The experiences were so good, in fact, that next to Harvest Hosts, our go-to overnights are now casinos (rather than the old, broken down, off-the-highway RV parks).
Two favorites were the Route 66 Casino RV park just west of Albuquerque, New Mexico (spacious sites, wonderful desert views, great amenities, casino food and drinks pretty decent, pricing not bad) and the Downstream Casino RV Park on the Oklahoma-Missouri border. This last one features electric and water hook-ups, a dump station, and shuttle to the casino (really exceptional restaurants, BTW) and — get this — is ABSOLUTELY FREE! All you need to do is join the casino’s Members Club and get 24 hours of free camping. You can see how two people — you and your traveling companion — can make this a good, multi-day deal.
Large retail chain stores
Everyone knows that most every Walmart is a great place to stay overnight for free. Just check with the store manager and be sure to follow some RVing etiquette (don’t unhook, no chairs or awnings, no generators, etc.).
Other great stores are Cabella’s, Bass Pro Shops, Lowes, and Home Depot. Be aware that some municipalities have ordinances that prohibit overnight RV parking, so check ahead.
Some restaurants are glad to have overnight RVers, especially Cracker Barrel. Even some fast-food chains such as McDonalds, Arby’s, and Burger King provide secondary parking lots with spots for overnight RVers.
Just be sure to ask the restaurant manager if you can stay, where the best place to park is (don’t interfere with traffic), and be sure to eat your meal (or meals) there.
Definitely at the bottom of our list — but still worth consideration — are roadside truck stops. They have their own advantages (easy to find, get to, fuel is right there, there’s usually a restaurant and convenience store) and disadvantages (all-night noise, all-night lights, danger of theft). We’ve stayed at Flying J’s with pretty good results.