Here are some tried-and-true tricks to make the most of your next RV camping trip. Whether you prefer to stay in a campground, at an RV park, or somewhere alone in the wilderness, these hacks are for you. Here you’ll discover how to boondock like a pro, where to find great campsites (even if you are in a big rig), and how to save time and money.
RV Trip Planning Hacks
Use RV Apps and Websites when planning your trips.
We recommend the checking out camping guide and review websites like Campendium, CampgroundReviews.com, CampgroundViews.com, FreeRoam, Harvest Hosts, Hipcamp, KOA, Recreation.gov, Reserve America, RV LIFE, RVontheGo.com, RV Parks & Campgrounds, The Dyrt, Togo RV, and Tripadvisor.
Make sure you are also searching for BLM properties. BLM stands for Bureau of Land Management and they offer free use of public lands for boondocking.
You can also check out our article on Best RV Trip Planner Apps to use.
Don’t over plan your trip.
Give yourself enough time and space to be surprised with unexpected happenings. If your plan is inflexible, you might not be able to adjust to unanticipated chances and opportunities that may come your way.
Initiate all trip preparations in Google Maps.
Google Maps is more suitable for regular cars than RVs. Ideally it can be used for preliminary trip planning – the Satellite and Street View features are useful, and they can also help you locate some stops along the way and be your handy backup, but only if you’re traveling in a very small RV. Otherwise, you should use dedicated navigation. Don’t attempt to take shortcuts to avoid problems later on.
Establish a predetermined destination and route in advance.
Take time to plan your route before you go. It can help you save time on travel days and make the trip safer and less stressful. A larger recreational vehicle has a higher possibility for damage and less maneuverability in tight locations, so careful pre-trip planning is essential.
Planning ahead pays off immensely.
Map your route and save it for later.
Since you can’t count on having cell service in remote areas, it’s important to plot out your route in advance and save it to your phone or tablet so you can use it to navigate safely in your RV even if you lose reception.
Use Google Satellite and Street View features.
You can use these resources to get familiar with the area you’ll be traveling as well as locate gas stations, campgrounds and other destinations, scope out parking, and access points. This is most especially for big rigs.
Book in advance.
Always ALWAYS always book in advance if there are specific places or campgrounds you have been wanting to check out. If you are having trouble finding a opening, consider the flexibility of your dates and try booking at off times.
Save thousands of dollars with RV memberships.
Some campsite networks offer memberships that might save frequent campers a considerable amount of money. Memberships with Thousand Trails, Coast to Coast, Passport America, KOA, Good Sam, and others can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually. Some programs provide access to free camping in a variety of unique locales for an annual fee. Through Harvest Hosts, for instance, you can stay at wineries, farms, golf courses, and other attractions, whereas Boondockers Welcome enables you to stay in private host homes.
Book midweek stays to avoid crowds and save money.
Typically, RV parks have greater availability and lower pricing during the week, so if you have a flexible schedule, try to stay between Sunday and Thursday as opposed to the weekend. The RV Park will be less busy and could also save you money.
Try widening your search.
Most campers make the mistake of believing that to have the ideal experience, they must be in the center of everything. The benefit of camping is the ability to widen your search for wonderful locations. For instance, there are few options for camping on the bottom of Yosemite National Park (four campgrounds). However, if you widen your search to a 50-mile radius around this national park you will find more than a hundred potential campsites.
They added benefit here is they are frequently less crowded and less expensive.
Review the campsite layout prior to booking.
Before making reservations, consult the campground’s website for a map and a list of amenities. You may be able to request a specific site or at least a location near desired amenities. For instance, if you have children, it may be convenient to camp close to the playground so you can keep an eye on them. If you want to utilize campground amenities, and save on your water, rather than use your RV’s bathroom, choose a space near a restroom too.
Get last minute bookings.
You can do this in one of two ways.
If you are attempting to enter a campground that does not accept bookings or they can’t accept your reservation because they don’t know if there will be room, you will discover the most availability of campsites open just before or after the official checkout time.
You can also try to get a last-minute RV camping reservation at fully filled campgrounds by calling the RV park a few days or even the same day before you plan to arrive, as this is when most people cancel their bookings. Prepare a list of four or five potential campsites in order of preference in order to secure a location.
Remember to ask the locals.
Don’t fully rely on websites and tourist guides for tip on where to go and what to see. We’ve always discovered the best places and hidden gems when asking the locals. Just ask what they personally like and would recommend. You may find lesser-known places helping to avoid the crowds and experiencing a one-of-a-kind trip.
Ask the locals about RV parking spots.
Post an ad on the local Facebook Marketplace or in a Facebook ground if you’re looking for a place to stay with your RV. You may find inexpensive and interesting options to park on locals’ land, or you may exchange your services to earn a few dollars by working on a farm, assisting with a project, or simply keeping a watch on someone’s property.
Always check the event calendars.
Before making a reservation, check for important holidays and local events in the region around the period you want to visit. For instance, if you want to visit Austin, Texas during less crowded times, you should avoid major holiday weekends and significant events like Austin City Limits, which attract enormous numbers and raise overnight camping fees. Plan your journey to coincide with or avoid exceptional events, like music festivals or a total solar eclipse, which can fill up RV parks months or even years in advance.
Visit popular tourist destinations during off-seasons.
If you can organize your vacation for off-peak and shoulder seasons, you will encounter smaller crowds and sometimes better costs at popular tourist destinations. The people are more refreshed and hospitable at the beginning of a tourist season compared to the middle or end of the season, when they are exhausted and ready to take a holiday.
There was one trip I took with a friend to Breckenridge right as the season had ended and it was quite fun to see! All of the hospitality workers were so relaxed and joyful to be around.
Use a travel-friendly credit card.
Utilizing credit cards and loyalty programs that optimize points acquired for use on travel and lodging can allow you to travel for even less. Campgrounds, fuel, and restaurants are the most popular expenses for RVers, and you can earn two or three points for every dollar spent in these areas, so seek for cards that can offer you free travel or additional credit more quickly.
Spend less with extended stays.
Common RV park deals include “pay for six nights, get the seventh night free” or something similar. Of course, even greater savings are available with monthly, or even seasonal/quarterly stays, which can save you a lot of money if you plan to stay in your RV for a extended period of time. A less frequent and slow travel speed will also result in fuel savings.
Pack up the night before.
If you want to leave a campsite early in the morning, do the majority of your packing the night before. It is quicker and less likely to disturb neighbors, particularly if you leave during “quiet hours.” If bad weather is predicted, you’ll also want to do this; nobody wants to pack up in the wind or rain.
Get a free or low-cost national park pass.
Access more than two thousand federal leisure areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and locations owned by the US Forest Service or US Army Corps of Engineers, for free or at a discount with an America the Beautiful Park Pass. Annual passes are $80, however you may be eligible for a discounted or even free pass if you are over 62 years old, in the military (or a veteran or Gold Star Family), have a permanent disability, or are in the fourth grade. Visit www.nps.gov to view all available pass discount choices.
RV Parking and Hookup Hacks
Mark the parking space before you park it.
Use a rope to draw an exact outline of where you want the RV to be positioned when parking in a tight space, driving alone, or otherwise need a highly accurate visual marker to know where to position the RV.
Get creative with RV parking.
If it’s not against the campground’s rules and won’t disturb anyone, try and get creative with how you park your RV. Backing up, forward-pulling, or diagonal-pulling can improve window views. If you work from home in your RV, upgrading your office view is a must. We do, and it can make all the difference!
Place your RV in the shade or sun for ideal temperatures.
Park your RV strategically to take advantage of your chosen weather conditions throughout the year. For early morning sun, park your vehicle so that its windows face east. Position your RV with the patio facing south for a sunny patio. For a patio with extra shade, park facing west.
Use the environment for natural privacy.
Instead of parking in wide-open spaces when boondocking, park near natural features such as creeks, trees, bushes, or other natural boundaries to create a more homey and secure campsite. You will feel more nestled in plus there will be more privacy and separation if other campers arrive.
Before you hookup, always clean the water spigot first.
Use a Lysol or Clorox disinfecting wipe to wipe down the campground water spigot before connecting your fresh water hose. Just to be safe, run water through the faucet before connecting your hose to avoid any cross-contamination from the previous user. No one can know for sure what the prior tenant did.
Know your location in case of an emergency.
It’s easy to get disoriented on the road, particularly if you’ve just woken up or are dealing with a tense or urgent issue. Keep the campground’s welcome booklet with contact information in a visible spot in your RV, such as the refrigerator, near the bed, or the dashboard, as soon as you arrive at the campground. In the event of an emergency, you can easily give your exact location and address to responders. A third option is to snap a picture of the campground brochure’s contact details with your phone and send it to a close friend or relative via text message. Knowing who to contact in case of an emergency and where you are might give peace of mind to worried loved ones back home.
Pin your RV on google maps when boondocking.
When you arrive at a boondocking location, use Google Maps to mark your location so that you can share it with others and use GPS to find your location in the dark. Even if you are not too far away, it may be difficult to locate remote campsites in the dark.
Keep your wheels grounded to reduce suspension strain.
If your motorized RV has difficulty leveling on a sloping RV site, use leveling blocks to even things out and keep your tires planted firmly. While leveling jacks are useful, you should not rely solely on them if they lift your tires off the ground, causing your RV to take off! This is less stable and places unnecessary strain on your RV’s leveling system and suspension. If you are still unable to level your RV, consider parking it in the opposite direction at your campsite, even if it means running the water hose and/or power cord from underneath the RV to reach hookups on the opposite side.
RV Glamping Hacks
Host an outdoor movie night.
Outdoor movie night with family or friends is always a perfect idea. Hang a white sheet on the side of your RV to create an outdoor projector screen, then use a mini-projector and speakers to display a movie or share photos on a large screen. If you are staying in a campground, you should be mindful not to disturb your camping neighbors.
Use campfire smoke to repel insects.
Did you know the campfire smoke on your clothes is an effective insect repellent and will leave your clothes and RV smelling like a campfire the following day? Surprisingly, a lot of people enjoy this smell too.
Circle up with your traveling buddies.
When traveling with friends and camping off-grid, you may wish to create a central gathering area by parking in a circle. With all patios facing one another, this created a strong mini-community and makes it easy to share the camping area. As day turns to night, the shifting position of the sun and shade can cause the gathering spaces to shift from one RV to another.
Use water jugs as weights.
Carry empty plastic milk jugs with handles to your campsite, fill them with water, and use them as weights on windy days. You could, for instance, place them on your camping mat, secure them with a rope to your TV dish, or attach them to the arms/stakes of your awning. These water-filled jugs can also be used for a light-duty weight lifting workout.
You could also try using collapsible buckets to save on space when traveling.
Only use local firewood.
If you intend to build a fire with wood, use only locally sourced wood. Transporting wood from outside the region can unintentionally introduce pests and diseases.
Prevent unexpected run-ins with spiders.
Some campsites have the water connection buried underground, requiring you to reach into a hole to access it. Before reaching in, put on gloves, if desired, and swirl a stick around the hole to remove spider webs and ensure there are no unexpected creatures down there.
Start a fire with your snacks.
As a campfire starter, use a handful of corn chips wrapped in a paper towel.
Create a portable paper towel holder for outdoor use.
Utilize a metal garden flag stand as a portable and convenient paper towel holder for outdoor use. Simply insert into the ground near your grill, picnic table, or wherever you’re performing dirty work around your RV, so you’ll always have easy access to rags.
Enjoy campfires safely year-round.
Use a portable propane fire pit if you’re camping in a region with frequent fire bans.
Generally, propane fire pits are permitted even during fire restrictions. Even a gas grill can use the same propane tank. Propane fire pits ignite and extinguish rapidly and safely, do not emit smoke that can irritate eyes or allergy sufferers, and provide a more predictable flame, so sparks do not fly out to frighten or injure people or animals. When you are not camping, you can use the campfire in your backyard to provide warmth and ambiance.
Use nonlethal tools for protection.
Increase your personal safety by carrying bear spray or a flashlight with an integrated PepperBall launcher. Maintain near the RV’s entrance door during the day, and by the bed at night as a strong, nonlethal deterrent against all threats, four-legged or otherwise. Contrary to firearms and other weapons, bear spray is legal in all fifty states and throughout Canada for its intended use. PepperBall launchers are generally legal in more states than firearms, however you should still check your state’s legislation prior to actually using one.
Give the image that you’re not home alone.
If you are a solo traveler or are concerned about your safety, purchase a secondhand pair of large men’s footwear from a thrift store and consider leaving them outside your RV. You can also set out two camping chairs or large dog bowls at your campsite. These will convey the idea that you are not alone at home and can increase your safety and peace of mind.
Dehumidify your RV using an air conditioner or heat pump.
An air conditioner or an electric heat pump will be essential in dehumidifying the interior of your RV. While the propane furnace helps to heat the RV, it does increase the humidity levels tremendously. When conditions permit, use the electric heat pump instead of the furnace to keep warm on cool evenings. However, electric heat pumps typically do not work well below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you must run your furnace, crack a window to reduce humidity.
Be cautious if you carry a firearm.
If you intend to carry a firearm, be sure to research the laws of the places you intend to travel through and to. Even if you hold a permit to carry in your home state, it may be illegal in other states to possess these weapons. Check websites like GunLawsuits.org before traveling to or through states to determine what is legal and what is not.
Do your research well in advance of crossing international borders because firearms are subject to stronger restrictions in Canada and are prohibited in Mexico. Before traveling abroad, check the websites of US Customs and Border Protection and each country for the latest restrictions and requirements.
Change your locks.
It is more secure to conceal valuables in a stealthy location than to simply lock them in the RV. The entry and storage bay locks are frequently of inferior quality compared to home locks. In fact, many RVs have the same key, so configure an aftermarket key lock or even a smart key door lock that allows you to enter a code you set.
Protect wood cabinets from drying out.
Keep a bucket filled with water in your RV if you store it in a hot, dry environment between camping trips to prevent the wood from drying out. The water helps normalize the temperature while increasing the humidity inside the RV. Keep the bucket in the shower or the kitchen sink to prevent water from spilling onto the floor if you forget it the next time you move the RV.
Stay warm with a lightweight and inexpensive DIY sleeping bag.
Purchase two identical-sized, inexpensive, fuzzy polyester blankets (the kind you find at a dollar store). Stitch them together along the bottom and two-thirds of the way up the two long sides. This will result in a lightweight, inexpensive, and spacious sleeping bag that is simple to clean and store. The polyester fabric does not breathe as well as natural fibers, so by sewing the edges together, the blankets retain heat more effectively than loose blankets. These are warm and cozy, and they weigh and take up very little space in the RV.
Save your RV light power.
If you have limited battery power while unplugged, use battery-powered lanterns instead of your RV’s interior lighting. Change your RV’s standard halogen or incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient LED bulbs.
Prepare to move immediately in extreme weather conditions.
Prepare a go bag with medications, a cell phone charger, and essential documents before traveling during tornado or hurricane season. Keep warm clothing and a rain poncho within easy reach so that you can flee to a concrete or other safe building, such as a bathroom block, or to the nearby home of a family member or friend. If you own a smartphone, it will frequently warn you of impending severe weather. Install alert-equipped apps such as NOAA Weather Radar Live or Weather High-Def Radar, or carry a weather radio, to stay informed of approaching storms.
Prevent mold and mildew in humid areas.
Mold and mildew can be prevented by keeping dehumidifying products (such as DampRid) in your RV when traveling or storing it in humid climates. Wipe out an empty fridge and leave its door ajar and keep cabinet doors wide open for more air circulation. Mold and water are the most frequent causes of RV damage.
Allow cabinet doors to remain open during extreme weather.
If it is extremely cold or extremely hot outside, leave the cabinet doors of your RV open to help maintain a more moderate temperature inside, particularly if you store temperature-sensitive goods within it.
Insulate the vents in your ceiling.
To prevent overheating during cold nights and during hot days, stuff pillows or RV exhaust cushions into your ceiling vents.
Use Bubble Wrap for insulation.
Using foil Bubble Wrap in your RV’s cabinets and windows is an effective insulator, but it also prevents light from entering. Use transparent Bubble Wrap to insulate windows without obstructing light.
Bring your slides in during cold weather.
Consider bringing in one or more of your slide outs if you’re RVing in very cold weather. This will reduce the required heating area. Additionally, the RV will be better sealed. With less air space and outer wall space, the RV will heat and retain heat more effectively. Ensure that the closed slide does not obstruct the major heating vents.
Insulate using rubber gym mats.
Rubber gym flooring mats that interlock are useful as additional insulation and padding beneath the bed. They are particularly beneficial for pop-up campers and beds inside slide outs that are exposed to the outside environment.
Use a portable propane heater when boondocking.
Use a portable propane heater to keep warm while boondocking. Since these utilize radiant heat rather than a blower fan, they do not require battery power to maintain heat. Ensure that a window is slightly open for ventilation and fresh air while the RV is in use.
Optimize solar energy usage.
If you intend to do a numerous boondocking with solar panels on your RV, ensure maximum hours of drawing power from the sun by installing tiltable solar panels (manually or electronically). Keeping your panels exposed to the sun generates substantially more energy than mounting them flat on the roof. This is less of an issue in the summer than in the winter, when the sun rises lower. Consider adding a portable solar panel which you can readjust as needed to maximize the benefit of solar rays for a flexible and cost-effective alternative.
Save energy by brewing coffee without electricity.
Use a French press coffee maker or an Italian-style stovetop coffee maker like a MOKA or boil water in a kettle on a propane stove to conserve energy when preparing coffee.
Create a campsite lantern.
Wrap a headlamp around a transparent-water-filled bottle or jug (such as a soda bottle or milk jug) with light shining into the bottle to start creating a diffused lantern that lights up that is gentler, more relaxed, and less blinding than a headlamp light.
Easily locate your RV with a distinctive flag.
Install a flagpole with a distinctive flag or LED lights to help you locate your RV campsite, whether you’re camping in a remote area or at an RV rally with hundreds of RVs that look identical. The majority of RV flagpoles can be placed on the RV’s ladder or hitch.
RV Water Saving Hacks
Wipe your dishes clean.
Use paper towels to wipe dishes in order to reduce the amount of water required for dishwashing.
Wash dishes once a day.
Allow pre-cleaned dishes to sit overnight and wash only once per day.
Reuse your dish-water.
Save the water from doing the dishes to flush the toilet.
Replace showers with body wipes.
Skip showers or take them less frequently, and instead use wet body wipes to refresh and remove grime.
Take a Navy shower.
Get wet, turn off the water to lather, and then rinse, done. This is a great way to save water while boondocking.
Conserve the shower’s cold water.
While waiting for the water to warm up, do not pour it down the drain. Capture in a bucket or pitcher and reuse in the kitchen or for toilet flushing.
Turn a trickle of water on when necessary.
In most cases, a trickle of water is sufficient for brushing teeth and washing hands.
When reheating, precooked meals save time and reduce the number of dishes required, especially for foods with a high water content, such as pasta and rice.
Use paper plates and then reuse as fire starter.
Use your dirty plates to start a campfire and avoid dishwashing at all costs
Create a hand washing station for outdoor use.
Create your own outside hand washing station to conserve water and reduce RV entry/exit trips. Fill a laundry detergent or plastic beverage dispenser with soapy water after thoroughly cleaning it. Keep it outside on a table with a roll of paper towels on a stand, a pump dispenser for hand sanitizer, and hand wipes as well. It’s an excellent way to keep kids outside and hands (and the RV) clean(er) without having to use water from your fresh tanks, particularly if you’re boondocking.
Use fresh and gray water bladders.
Managing water is typically the greatest obstacle for longer stays on open land, so acquire a couple of large water tanks to avoid breaking camp. With a small pump, you can empty your RV’s gray tank into a bladder in the truck bed, which you can then transport to a dump station. Then, fill a freshwater bladder specifically for transporting water back to camp. Definitely do not be confused about two bladders/auxiliary tanks!
Reuse sink water.
Do not completely fill your kitchen sink for dishwashing. Just fill the sink halfway (or less), and do not pull the drain plug when you are finished washing. Leave the dirty water in the sink to soak or rinse the dishes for the following day. Each time you wash the dishes, you won’t require nearly as much fresh, hot water in the sink.
Use paper towels to pre wipe dirty dishes.
Before washing, wipe soiled dishes with a paper towel immediately after eating. This prevents smelly and oily food particles from entering your wastewater tanks and enables you to use considerably less water when washing dishes, as the dishes are primarily clean. This will also reduce the amount of food scraps and greasy gunk entering your gray water tanks, which can become stinky on hot days.
Make your own toilet.
Make your own dry toilet to drastically reduce black tank usage while camping. Take a 5-gallon bucket, line the top with a pool noodle for comfort, and hang a roll of toilet paper from the handle. To collect solids, place a plastic bag from across the opening, which will be secured by your weight when having to sit on the pool noodles. Thus, you can conduct business within your van or RV, and then dispose of waste appropriately.
Dump your gray tanks without breaking camp.
If your campsite does not have a sewer connection and you do not wish to transport a large portable waste tank on wheels, you can use a portable toilet. Use a 5-gallon water jug with a large funnel to collect a portion of your gray wastewater. Carry or drive it to the dump station so that you do not have to move your RV. Depending on the size of your RV’s gray tank, this may require a few trips, but it is a convenient and inexpensive solution.