Currently Wandering » Outdoor Family, Adventure Travel, Simple Living - Family of 5 Traveling the United States in an Airstream.

State Park vs. RV Campground: Deciding Where To Stay Once We Get There

RV Park vs State Park

Now that you know how we loosely decide where we are going, where do we stay once we get there? There are many options and we try to vary it up from time to time depending on what is close by and how we are feeling. There are advantages and disadvantages to each one which is why its nice to have a few choices. Most of the time we’ll find campgrounds via, but as I’ve said previously, we also follow other Instagrammers and see where they stay as well.

If you’d like to see the map version of where we’ve stayed, check it out over on Pinterest HERE. I try to keep it up to date, but no promises. I also added our courtesy park locations so that its a complete map of the places we’ve been.

As far as specific campsites go, we actually prefer back in sites over a pull through. Our Airstream has these beautiful panorama windows in the back, and backing into a site generally gives us a fantastic view. In a pull through site we typically get a view of the parking lot or street. Not as exciting.

All the campgrounds differ on the amenities offered. Some have water, electric, and sewer. Other just water and electric. Or just electric with spigots nearby. Most of the National Parks have no hooks up at all and are considered dry camping. The type of amenities offered also plays into where we stay. If we want to be there longer, we try to find a spot with at least water and electric. Without a generator, our battery can only last 1-2 nights depending on how cold it is (our furnace fan runs on electric). Our black tank can last about a week. Our gray tank, if we are careful, 4-5 days. Water I think we can last about 3 but we have never really tried to push that one.

State Parks


I didn’t think much of state parks when we left Utah. Growing up, we always just camped in the mountains close by and never really visited any of the local state parks (with the exception of Goblin Valley which has always been a favorite). As we started looking at travel plans headed east, we began to notice the variety and abundance of state parks in each region. There’s quite a few, and most states do an excellent job as far as upkeep, check in procedure, nature centers, playgrounds, and other amenities. Some even have their own Jr. Ranger programs and booklets you can do while you are there. State parks tend to be our preferred choice these days. Near the coast/beach they can often be crowded, even parking lot-ish, but most have decent space. Some are close to cities, while others are more remote. A few of our favorites have been Skidaway Island State Park, Huntington Beach State Park, and Huntsville State Park.

Brazos Bend State Park

Regional/County Parks

In addition to parks and campgrounds run by the state, there are also some run by either the region or the county. I’m pretty sure the designation comes from the funding, but I could totally be wrong on that one. I don’t find much difference between these and state parks. The two that come to mind are Usery Mountain Regional Park in Arizona, and El Chorro Regional Park in California.

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National Parks

Since we try to visit most of these anyway, its nice to stay inside the park. Many National Parks, however, don’t have much by the way of utility hook ups. Maybe because they are older? Maybe because some have less space? I’m not sure. We stay however long we can and then move on. Joshua Tree was only one night, Pinnacles National Park will be more like 3 as they DO have hookups. There are also quite a few National Parks that don’t have places to stay at all (Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands) so we find either a state park or an RV park close by.


RV Parks/KOA/Good Sam Park

We have both a KOA & a Good Sam Park discount card. You basically pay a yearly subscription and then receive 10% off your stay. We are finding, though, that most of these parks offer a weekly rate that is better than 10% so we try to stay a week to capitalize on that. The biggest perk for staying in an RV Park is that they are usually close to the city, if not IN the city. When there are a lot of touristy type things we want to see (museums, zoos, family) we’ll stay in one of these to save on gas and driving. Yes, we could stay farther out for cheaper and then drive in, but we’ve discovered our time is worth more than that. Most are fairly crowded with tight fitting spaces and not a lot of wiggle room. Some have pools, laundry, and playgrounds, others are more bare essentials. Definitely not our favorite, but usually the kids and I are out on field trips anyway and don’t spend a great deal of time at the Airstream.

RV Park

Dry Camping/Boondocking

We would LOVE to do more dry camping. This basically means that you are in a space where there are no hookups, but its also typically free from overnight fees. Our first “real” experience boondocking was in Arizona and you can read about that HERE. Water and power conservation come into play, as you have only what your tanks and battery can hold. Knowing that we can go 3-4 days on our water tanks, its really our battery power (charging the laptops so Sam can work is a big one) that holds us back. Once our generator arrives in a few weeks, we plan to do more of this. There are websites that list free camping spots, but we’ve heard the best ones come by word of mouth.


Wal-Mart/Truck Stops

We have stayed over night at a few of these as well. Often times we’ll scope it out before hand (or call) to make sure they welcome overnight guests (there are many Wal-Mart parking lots in Florida that will kick you out). We try to plan our schedule to avoid these though. Most times we are not driving far enough to need a quick overnight stop, as we need time for school and work. Back to back driving days are not really fun. We did a drive through day at White Sands, NM (coming from Alamogordo) and since there was no place to really stay near there, we spent the night at Wal-Mart in Las Cruces before continuing on to City of Rocks the next morning. Even though we don’t choose this option frequently, its nice to know its there.

Lots of options for parking your trailer for the night. Some good, some bad, some better than others. We generally like to mix in some city with some out of the way trees/forest/beach. Helps keep things interesting and exciting for everyone.

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  • David - Thanks so much for sharing your experiences – your story is a inspiration to many of us!ReplyCancel

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