There’s been a significant resurgence of people escaping the confines of suburbia and embracing the nomadic lifestyle of RV living. Young and old alike are packing up their entire existence into retrofitted RV’s so they can get a taste of freedom from the typical day-to-day life featured in every family sitcom.
I say more power to them. Enjoying a lifestyle where you can be at the Grand Canyon one day and on the coast the next is a great way to get more out of life.
While this on-the-road style can be beneficial, it also helps to know a few things about staying safe by finding a great place to park your RV.
You want to be able to get a good night’s sleep and wake up to an excellent view that will satisfy your wanderlust. You also need to occasionally hook up to some electricity, sewage, water, and other amenities.
But, like most things in life, there is a balance to strike. Let’s take a closer look at where you can park your RV to live.
First things first
Where you can park your RV to live is going to depend on your personal financial situation. Not everyone can afford to stay at the RV equivalence of the Ritz Carlton every single evening.
If you are commuting on a budget, then you probably want to consider some cost-effective alternatives.
You also want to consider the time of the season, what kind of RV you have (size, amenities, hookups), and the capabilities of the parking spot.
The easiest solution is to park where you work. Some people call this workkamping. It means having a campground or land available that houses seasonal or temporary workers while they are doing local jobs.
This is an excellent solution for those who want to earn some side scratch while having a pretty secure spot to lay their heads at night.
Boondocking or bust!
This is an excellent alternative for a place where you can park your RV to live and an entertaining word to say aloud. You tried it, didn’t you!
This means living without amenities on public land operated by the Bureau of Land Management. You won’t have to pay anything for parking, but you also won’t find any hookups for electricity or places to dump your black water.
Unless you are a fully self-sufficient RV, this is the equivalent of roughing it.
If you’re boondocking then you’ll probably also be interested in my other article on how to heat a camper without electricity: 5 Creative Ways to Heat a Camper Without Electricity
The great and powerful Wallmart
I’m not 100% sure how it got started, but practically everyone has heard that Walmart will let you camp out in the rear of their parking lots for free overnight. For the most part, that is true, and you get excellent access to restocking your stores and a fully functional bathroom.
Always check the local signage first to make sure you won’t be violating any city ordinance. You may also want to check out local crime reports. Walmart may not have a problem with you, but the 2am bum fight in the next parking space might be cause for a restless night’s sleep.
Many other stores and truck stops will allow you to camp overnight in this same way. If you get a full-service truck stop, you may even get a shower for cheap.
Joining the Amazon camperforce
I’m including this option on the list only because I want to be thorough. This is a way for people to live on land or in parking spots near Amazon warehouses in exchange for working inside and helping people get their packages.
The downside is this ties you to one area. Always check upfront if they will let you transfer to a new location after a time so you can get back on the road.
The gold standard
The best places to park your RV and live are inside national, state, and local parks. You get some RV amenities and often have a place to dump your dark water, but it will cost some money, and there will most likely be a restriction on how many nights you can stay. National parks like to cut you off at 14 days.
This is a great way to meet other RV enthusiasts. A lot of nomadic travelers prefer to spend their offseasons in the parks systems. You can learn a lot from those who have spent years on the road. They’ll know some of the best locations for living in your RV.
That knowledge is worth the extra cash and more crowded roadways.
The membership route
A few membership plans you can pay for every month give you access to exclusive campground sites throughout the nation. Clubs like Thousand Trails, Passport, America, and Good Sam’s are excellent solutions.
This also brings up one of my personal favorites – Harvest Hosts. I’ve tried this service before and was blown away by how much fun it can be. Basically, local breweries, farms, wineries, and artisan growers will offer you land to camp on as members, and in return, you get to browse their locally sourced goods.
I cannot tell you how magical it is to wake up next to a farm stand that does made-to-order omelets for workers on the side of the road. Truly fantastic.
Long-term rentals and purchase points
The luxury RV owners like to use the same locations over and over each year. I knew a retired couple that spent each season in a different part of the states. Summer was in Michigan, fall in New England, winter in the Southwest, and Spring in Ohio.
They did this by making use of long-term rentals where they had a working agreement to always rent the same time period every year. Kind of like a working sub-lease.
There are plenty of people that purchase land and RV spots as their summer or winter homes. They pack up the RV and head out to Arizona for the winter or Maine for the summer.
No matter what, remember that finding a good place to live in your RV has more to do with your personal situation than anything else. Your financial resources and type of RV will matter a great deal as well. It might make sense to park at your cousin’s house for a few months or head out to your private beach in Washington that you recently purchased.
RV life is a beautiful escape from the day-to-day labor of “normal” living. It just takes a little planning to really nail down well. Make sure you find a place that will let you dump out the necessities, and always bring your own TP just in case.
Don’t be afraid to call out to a bunch of local spots in your area and do a test run of off-the-grid living for a few days to get a better feel for what you’re looking for in a spot. You can even call the destinations you want to live in and speak with their chamber of commerce to see where people park for extended stays.
Most of the time, people are more than happy to offer suggestions they have heard about. The best information you will ever get always comes from a little human interaction every now and then.
If you’re looking for a way to store your RV, I’ve written an article covering 5 of the cheapest ways to do it: 5 Cheapest Ways to Store Your RV