When we first started traveling, we had no idea that there was free overnight camping all around us We generally would move from RV Park to RV Park, staying at Walmarts…
When we first started traveling, we had no idea that there was free overnight camping all around us We generally would move from RV Park to RV Park, staying at Walmarts in between. While there is nothing wrong with this way of travel, the cost quickly adds up. Also, we were missing out on much of the adventure / relationships by staying in RV Parks.
After a few months, we realized there were tons of resources available to help travelers find great places to stay. I wanted to highlight our top 5 places to find free overnight camping here so that you can enhance your adventures.
1. All Stays Mobile App
This was the very first tool that we discovered. A developer based on Santa Fe (we know him) started crowdsourcing content in the late 90’s and has continued to do so ever since. This app is the culmination of that data collection. It has everything including:
- State Parks
- National Parks
- Free Places To Park Overnight (Walmart, Cabellas, Cracker Barrel, etc…)
- BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Lands (cheap or free parking)
- Gas Stations
- and more…
The app makes it incredibly simple to find the above near your current location. It usually provides info like address, ratings, cost, reviews, and photos of every location. This app quickly became a source of comfort while we were on the road.
The only downside is the cost. Currently the app falls between $10-$20 depending on the sale. Well worth it in our opinion.
This tool is focused a little more on state parks, national parks, BLM, and smaller campgrounds. It will usually have more places to show than AllStays in these categories and provides a VERY user friendly website. You simply zoom in on a location and tap the icon for each place to stay. The tool can easily show you what’s free, paid, or permitted.
Obviously, the perk of this website is the data is free. The downside is it might not be updated quite as often as there doesn’t seem to be a full time paid person running it.
3. Harvest Hosts
This is one of our favorites and has afforded us some of the most interesting and unique experiences on the road. Per their website:
Harvest Hosts is a network of wineries, farms and attractions that invite self-contained RVers to visit and stay overnight!
The idea behind the service is very interesting. RVers pay a fee of $49/year and have access to a database of over 600 farms, wineries, and other interesting locations. Once you are a member, you are able to stay (for free) at any one of their locations. Usually for a few nights to a week (could be more if you really hit it off with the host). The only hope/expectation is that you patron the place you are visiting (or even help out around the farm).
Check out their website and you will see no shortage of stunning photos. Harvest Hosts really provides a unique opportunity to stay somewhere you might never think of (or have access to) for free.
The only caveat is they require your RV to be self contained. So if you are a renegade who likes to run their gray water straight on to the ground (like some of my skoolie friends), this might not be the best choice for you.
4. Boondockers Welcome
Their website sums it up nicely:
Free Overnight Camping on Private Property
Make new friends and sleep soundly
Locals invite travelers to spend the night, share their stories, and save their money for the real adventure.
Once you become a member, you have access to their database to stay on property owned by other people. So every new destination is a chance to connect with other likeminded individuals and share a meal, experience, conversation, etc…
We have not personally used this service yet, however it’s on our list for the next time we take a long trip. On our property, we sort of have an informal version of this in that we invite other skoolie and tiny house friends to come stay and hang out with us while they are on their journeys.
You can eliminate the $30/year fee if you have property and become a host yourself, which is a super cool perk if you have the means.
Link: http://instagram.com (duh)
Cost: Free/Beer/Meals/Coffee/Conversations/Stepping out of comfort zone
Finally, our #1 way to find free and/or interesting places to park is via Instagram. Finding other folks in the skoolie/tiny living community and parking on their properties has been one of the greatest joys of living this bus life.
What’s really interesting is, there is almost a built-in trust / filtering system when you connect with people this way. While many folks have their reasons for traveling (part or full time), they all seem to have similar values (generosity, kindness, gratitude, list goes on and on). This generally makes for an instant-connection when meeting in real life.
So while the other options above are great ways to find free places to park, nothing quite beats forming real relationships and connections by sharing space with other likeminded individuals.
We hope that you found this post useful and we would love to hear your suggestions for finding great places to park overnight. Please feel free to leave them in the comments and we hope to see you on the road!
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