Campground Locating Apps
Finding fantastic campsites at great prices is something partially a science and partially an art. You must have the right tools and resources but you also need the knowledge and skill to use them effectively.
Many new RVers and those using an RV for only a short time each year tend to gravitate to KOA campgrounds and the Good Sam campground directory when looking for campgrounds other than state, federal and provincial campgrounds. These require little knowledge and campground awareness. Unfortunately, that same lack of knowledge and awareness also means they have less campground selection available and they often pay a premium price.
Others, with a little more experience and enjoying more RV hours may continue to use these but also use RV Parky, Allstays and others. Some also begin using commercial pay-to-use trip planning services such as Trip Wizard.
Many of these are great products while others are deceptive and self-servicing. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to understand the difference.
Below are descriptions of some of the current tools and resources I find useful and use regularly when seeking places to stay in our RV. Each of these is available to you, free of charge, unless noted otherwise.
Not only is Google Maps the most widely used and powerful location search tool available today, but it is also the most proficient resource for finding campgrounds. In direct head-to-head testing, Google Maps is able to identify more campgrounds than any other campground program and more than twice as many as some of the most commonly used tools. Furthermore, Google maps search results are not influenced by paid participation programs like many others.
Google Maps provides two levels of search campground capabilities. For one, you create a travel route between two or more places and then search for "campgrounds" along that route. This identifies most major campgrounds close to your planned route, but not all.
The second search method, which finds more than any other, is to use the search term, "campground near X", with X being an identifiable location.
Using either method, the campgrounds are identified by map pins. When you click on a map pin, additional information such as contact details and their website link are displayed.
My Maps is related to Google Maps but different. It can be used to search for campsites but its search capabilities are not good as Google Maps. The outstanding power of My Maps is that it empowers you to create custom maps in which you can store campsites and other locations you might be interested in including in future travel plans.
These archived locations can be categorized into groups and even linked to create turn-by-turn direction from one to another. This powerful online mapping and data system has many additional uses, including being the best no-charge RV trip planner available.
This resource is available online or in the form of a mobile app. It is the best resource for information on campground amenities and the second-best campground search engine.
Using RV Parky, it takes only a glance to determine if a campground has what you want and their phone number, weblink and other information is only a click away. For those with big-rig RVs, their route mapping system also identified low clearance locations.
Allstays also does an admirable job in finding campgrounds plus it enables searching for truck stops, rest areas, truck washes, Walmart locations and more.
There is also a paid version called "Allstays Pro" that offers additional capabilities.
This is the king of boondocking locations. It has proven to be superior to all other boondocking location apps and resources I am aware of and includes the GPS coordinates for each location, which is important as many are unnamed and difficult to find otherwise. A handle "Show in Google Maps" make it easy to integrate these locations into your travel plan.
The downside of iOverlander is it's odd and sometimes awkward to use interface. If you can persevere and become comfortable with it, it will reward you with some great boondocking opportunities.
The last resource I have to mention is, always carry a hardcopy map with you. Electronic devices can and will fail and having the ability to go old school can save headaches and strife.
Earlier, I mentioned products that I consider to be deceptive and self-servicing. These are products offering programs promoted as saving you money and enhancing your RV experience. Here are a few of them and a brief summary of why I see them in this light.
KOA: Their locations are typically priced high than all others in the area. Their discount card helps bring the cost down a little, but seldom enough to compensate for the higher than normal initial price.
Good Sam: This organization promotes itself as an RV club but is clearly designed to add revenue to the bottom line for its parent, Camping World. In addition to identifying only a fraction of the available campgrounds, most are those who have paid Good Same thousands of dollars each year to be listed and show up in search results.
I hope you have found this insight beneficial and that it saves you time and money, so you can direct it toward more RV time.
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