One of the things I felt most uncertain about when we started out with van life was where to stay when RVing! Could we stay in campgrounds? On the street? In National Parks? In trailer parks? Were they even called trailer parks? Ha. So I started researching the best RV camping apps to help us figure out safe and legal places to stay while RVing.
It turns out there are a number of places and resources to figure out where to stay when RVing. Here are some of our favorites!
Where to Stay When RVing
There are a few different options for places to stay when RVing. Here are some of the most popular!
Staying In An RV in Campgrounds
This is perhaps the most popular. National, state, and county parks all often have campground facilities, and there are a number of others that are privately run. Campgrounds are usually our first choice if we’re visiting a specific site like a National Park. This allows us to be close to the sites without having to drive from further away in the morning. Be sure to check vehicle length limits and gear allowances as some campgrounds only allow tents or do not have spots big enough to accommodate an RV.
Some campgrounds will have water available to fill up and may have a sewage dump. It’s rare that these spots will have hookups at your individual site, but it does sometimes happen. More likely is that there will be one or two spigots and dump areas for the whole campground. In this case, you can pull up to fill/dump and then drive over to your site. Campground sites do not usually have electric hookups.
Other amenities may be available depending on the campground, including bathrooms/showers, a picnic table or fire pit, swimming pool, etc. Depending on location, some may have wifi; those deeper in National Parks or in forested/rural areas are less likely to have connectivity, so that’s something to keep in mind if you need to do some work. Some campgrounds are situated with sites very close together; others have plenty of room and trees in between. Many campgrounds book up WELL in advance and there is also a ton of variation between different campgrounds, so be sure to check in advance!
Staying in an RV Park
These are parks that are specifically set up for RVs to stay. These often have water, sewage, and electric hookups (though not always). There are often other amenities available on site, as well, such as swimming pools, laundry facilities, a convenience store, etc. Some even have cabins on site, as well, in case you’re traveling with others who do not have an RV or if you just want a little extra space.
We sometimes stay in an RV park if we want to totally refresh for a night or two. This allows us to do laundry after the kids are in bed (without needing to wait at a laundromat during the day), take a slightly longer shower, or relax with air conditioning if it’s a hot night. RV parks also often have WiFi access, so they can be convenient if you know you need a strong connection and don’t have additional hotspot data even in an area with cell service. Some may even be gated, so you may feel an additional sense of security.
Boondocking in an RV
Boondocking, or dry camping, is a general term for staying somewhere without services, often for free. This can include anything from a store parking lot to a rest stop to BLM (Bureau of Land Management)/US Forest Service land to a side street. Some of these spots may include a small fee (think $10-15) just to stay in a spot like an empty field or yard. Other spots may be completely free. Always be sure to check the rules in that particular place before staying anywhere.
Here’s lots more info on boondocking with an RV!
Best RV Camping Apps
Campendium RV Camping App
Campendium is our #1 favorite app to use when figuring out places to stay when RVing. I love it because it cleanly organizes different categories of stays. There are color coded labels for forest service spots, campgrounds, RV parks, parking lots, dump stations, and more. It includes the price of stay as well as user reviews from past stays. The app itself is totally free, but paying $20/year allows you to remove ads and filter by cell service and find nearby trails.
Campendium is a pretty no-nonsense road trip app. It feels more geared to RV camping than other apps, with functional information. For us, the most important aspects are location (and proximity to where we want to be), type of accommodations (especially when looking for free dispersed camping), and whether there’s cell service available. Campendium has all of those easily available for reference.
The Dyrt RV Camping App
The Dyrt is very similar in its setup to Campendium. It has very similar information in terms of location, amenities, and price. However, I find the location mapping on The Dyrt is not quite as good as Campendium. It seems to not map nearly as many potential spots as Campendium does, even if they are located in the system and can be found when you search by name.
This app does seem to do a better job with sharing recent reviews and details on all the amenities available. It also does a better job in my opinion of sharing those in a clean and user-friendly visual once you click through on the campsite. However, we personally are not usually as concerned with needing hookups every night, whether there are bathrooms available, or whether pets or fires are allowed. For me, I’d rather have those basics done really well and be super comprehensive instead of having the extras shared beautifully, which is why I prefer Campendium vs. The Dyrt. Others may feel differently! This also means that Campendium and The Dyrt are actually really terrific when used in conjunction with one another.
Boondocking RV Camping App
Boondocking is one that focuses on spots that are free and without any amenities. I will say it’s not as comprehensive as some of the others. Still, the Boondocking RV app does tend to have some spots that aren’t listed in other places. It’s a great one to check when nothing is showing up in other places, but isn’t usually my first choice. This one costs $0.99 in the app store and is available iOS.
Allstays RV Camping App
Allstays has several websites to choose from on a paid basis. This app includes everything from amenities to offline download options. Keep in mind that this app is paid so you’ll need to pay a bit to access all the services.
iOverlander RV Camping App
iOverlander is a bit more informal than the other apps listed. It shows a number of spots that might not be official campgrounds, but is perfect for situations when you just need a place to pull over for a night. It includes not only parking lots, but also some residential streets that don’t have rules against overnight parking. It’s especially convenient for those last-minute, late-night stays when you just need a place to sleep. It’s another great boondocking resource for RV camping. iOverlander is definitely one of my favorite RV camping apps that has really comprehensive information.
Freeroam RV Campground Map
Freeroam includes actual campgrounds for lovely stays around the country. This one doesn’t have as much info as some of the other apps listed, though, so I tend to not use it much. Still, it’s nice if you know you want to stay inside a campground.
Harvest Hosts RV Camping App
The Harvest Hosts app is a bit unique because it finds you places to stay at wineries, breweries, farms, and more! It’s great if you want a beautiful and non-traditional spot with plenty of room and not a lot of crowds. It only works for self-contained RVs with a toilet and all facilities included (no tents allowed). This one does include a $99 annual membership.
Other Helpful RV Camping Apps
There are tons of other apps for RVing. Here are a few favorites.
- Wifi Map – this is great if you know you need wifi at your destination. Good to cross check with the info in one of the apps to find RV campgrounds.
- Roadtrippers – this is a great route planning app that has built-in navigation and also provides info for stops along the way.
- Gas Buddy helps you find the cheapest gas along your route.
- iExit tells you the best pit stops and what to see at your road trip exits.
- Freecampsites.net only has a website (no app) and is not an awesome interface, but it has tons of info on free places to stay that’s regularly updated by users.
- Roadside America – if you’re into quirky and slightly odd tourist attractions, this is the app for you.
- Google Maps & Waze – there’s no way I could leave these two off. Google Maps is wonderful because the interface is so simple and clean, and you can also download offline maps for places where you won’t have service. Waze is better with avoiding traffic, so they’re both worth having. (Did you know that Waze is actually also run by Google, so it still has the same strong navigational features?)
I hope that’s helpful in breaking down where to stay when RVing. It really doesn’t have to be confusing to figure out RV camping locations and all of these resources make it really simple. I hope you enjoy finding your next places to stay in an RV!