Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is tighter than a wax doll's eardrum. He will pull off on a wide spot in the road for the night before he will pay a campground fee that exceeds fifteen dollars. I am not comfortable with his questionable campsites and it causes constant arguing. We have been asked to leave these sites several times in the middle of the night. It’s scary, to say the least, dealing with people in the dark. I am always sleeping with one eye open. He tells me I read too many headlines and that we are perfectly safe. Safe or not I feel like we are playing “Russian Roulette” every night we spend in a questionable spot. I am all for boon-docking, but he is obsessed with camping as cheaply as possible no matter the risk I feel, perceived or real. Do you think I am overly cautious? I don’t want to be a “Nervous Nelly” but I don’t want to be reckless to the point of ending up in an uncomfortable situation while trying to save a couple bucks.
--Ole One Eye in Ely
Dear One Eye:
Everyone has their own comfort level and budgetary restraints when it comes to camping in various parts of North America. It sounds like you and your husband are polar opposites when it comes to the boundaries of those levels. The secret of a successful relationship is compromise. Meeting in the middle should be no problem in your circumstance. You should sit down and decide what type of overnight sites are off the table. Perhaps it will be rest areas, undersigned wide spots, closed businesses with large parking lots, or any number of questionable spots that might look inviting but come with no invitation.
Secondly, you should accumulate as much information as you can, keep copious notes, invest in reference material, talk with other RVers and become an expert at locating places where you will enjoy camping, feel safe and not break the bank.
I am assuming you are talking about staying in questionable sites while traveling from one destination to another. That should not be a problem if you spend some time doing your homework. Your husband should have no problem staying somewhere you feel comfortable if there are enough alternatives.
Many companies besides Walmart now offer overnight parking as part of their customer service. There are several computer Apps that easily show numerous camping opportunities. With a wi-fi connection you can find directions, rates, images of the facilities and reviews from other RVers.
You can buy campground guide books that specialize in low cost camping that are updated constantly. Keep a calendar or journal of where you have been, places you have heard about from other travelers, places you have read about in travel articles or brochures you have picked up at Welcome Centers.
In the SW portion of the US we use these guidebooks
Click here to visit Frugal Shunpikers Guides to RV Boondocking.
Each one of these guides pay for themselves in a one or two night stay.
You may find you enjoy this type of research. It can be like collecting coins or stamps but make you a lot more money in savings, safety and piece of mind.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink
These folks need to subscribe to www.OvernightRVParking.com, so they'll know where they can and can't park overnight for free.
An excellent web site is www.overnightrvparking.com Subscription is about $25/year (cheap!) and I believe you can get credit that helps reduce that fee if you post reviews. We've used it for years -- very helpful and provides enough detail that we have a good idea of what we're getting into before stopping. We can also add them as waypoints in our GPS routing, so we can find them along our route.
I know without a doubt that my wife would refuse to go RV'ing if I insisted on camping in such places. I agree with her as I believe it is my responsibility to make her feel as safe as possible when we are travelling.
Wish there was a one time use for the people that only use their RV a couple of times a year. We would use it if we were full timers, but we are not there yet..
Try Boondockerswelcome.com. They have people offering a free nights stay in their driveways, or on their land. You can be a host or just a visitor. We have met some wonderful people and it is a great alternative to parking lots and truck stops.
If "hubby" will not pay over $15 a night, just what kind of "go see America" are they seeing? Let me guess, pay $5 to dump your tanks "no way" side of the road looks good enough. These folks are not "RVing" or seeing the USA. How are you going to see any historical place if they want $20-$30 to get in and has nothing to do with parking. I find this very sad.
He's not totally unwilling to pay for camping - just not for (campground) services he doesn't need. $15.00 is already plenty when you have everything you need on board and just need a parking spot for the night.
And it doesn't mean he's not willing to pay entrance to the attractions or to dump his tanks. In fact, the camping savings might allow them to see MORE, and travel farther and more often.
If he was totally a cheapskate, he would be sitting at home eating Kraft Dinner and not have an RV or be traveling at all.
It's really too bad the RV parks haven't caught on to this. If they offered dry camping for $10-15/night, many of us would jump on it and probably pay for dumping and filling as well. My hubby and I fall in to the 'cheapskate' category, I guess, because we hate to pay for swingsets, slides, sandboxes, sewer and electricity we don't need, etc. We gladly pay $10 to dump and get water, then cast about for the above-mentioned free camp spots. We never leave a sign we were there, not even using our jacks on private parking lots and feel like we're even doing a favor in some light industrial complexes, because thieves probably wouldn't bother a business with an occupied rig in the lot--the schools in Alaska even pay rvers to camp on their grounds so the bad guys leave them alone.
What I'm saying is that if we're as polite as can be, ask permission when appropriate, and don't leave any sign we were there, we could be seen as an asset to businesses.
We use Passport America, Good Sam, Freecampgrounds.com, Walmart, Boondockerswelcome.com, and Flying Js. Under $20 (PA), $20-$25 (GS) with full hookups to free or nearly free with the others. We generally stay in campgrounds on the PA or GS list and have been very satisfied. We use the others in a pinch or where the campgrounds are closed in late fall when we are heading south. I always ensure that the better half is secure and happy and when she is so am I. Don't be cheap, you only go around once and is your partner's happiness not worth it?
We use the Harvest Host program. Pay an annual fee, and you can park at vineyards, farms, etc.
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