By Betty Linneman
How long is a person considered to be an RVing newbie? Is it so many camping trips or days before one graduates from this title? Is it a year? Dan and I were newbies just over a year ago when we purchased our 23-foot Micro Lite travel trailer. During this year, we have taken six trips and camped 43 nights. Staying at a variety of places, the average cost of our nightly campsite has been $37.05.
As newbies, we didn’t know (or maybe didn’t fully realize) all the different types of campgrounds and the nuances of each type. Of course, we knew about state parks and a few others, but we mostly learned along the way. We learned that, at our age, we really like the full hookups, and we learned that we really don’t want to deal with a honey wagon. Here’s what we discovered about places to camp:
Corps of Engineer Campgrounds: These are the crown jewels of campgrounds. Factor in the 50% fee reduction for those with a senior National Parks pass, and the deal can’t be beat. I use campendium.com to search out those with COE sites with full hookups. A favorite of ours, right here in Missouri, offers just water and electric hookups. There is a dump station and a shower house available. The view and facilities are beautiful, and we were lucky enough to have a spot right on the lake. As we left this favorite, we bragged about it to the guard shack attendant. She proudly replied that this particular campground was rated number three in the nation. If you know what numbers one and two are, please tell me in the comments.
State Fair Campgrounds: We used this option as we made our way to Washington, D.C. I found this option to be very utilitarian. Yes, there were full hookups, but no trees, flowers or scenery. We weren’t in nature; it felt as if we were on a football field. It did the trick, for a one night pass-through stop though. One benefit of the state fair campgrounds is that no reservations are needed (except during the fair). That’s because there are so, so many spots. The night we stayed, there were no other campers nearby. While some may relish this solitude, I felt somewhat uncomfortable. Not my first choice.
Boondockers Welcome: We’ve joined Boondockers Welcome, but we have only used this option once. Since the cost is only $30 per year, we figure it has already paid for itself. Our one experience worked out great with our kind host and the location was perfect. Our host did lend us a 30-amp extension cord, so this could be something we may need to purchase in the future.
City Parks: I found this option offered at Fairview Park in Casey, Illinois. The cost was $25 per night and offered only water and electric hookups; however, there was a dump station. While there was only one other camper, we were right on the edge of the park with the campground keeper’s house within eyesight. I enjoyed being in a park, and the area folks were quite friendly. We also learned that not all 30-amp hookups have the same outlet. Fortunately, the campground keeper had an adapter for us to borrow.
State Parks: We know about state parks, but what we’ve come to realize is that when a state park borders on a beach, the campsites are packed in. The demand is high, and while we tried to get in when the window opened, we had to rely on cancellations to find an open spot. We also discovered that many of these beach state parks do not offer full hookups, but since we were there to visit family and friends, this was our only option. At this Michigan state park, there is a pump-out service offered, which comes in twice a week and for $25 cash, they will pump out your tanks. Talk about a smile on our faces!
Are we still newbies? Yes, I think so. There’s much more to learn. But something this past year has taught us: We love camping. We love our travel trailer. We love adventures, and we can’t wait until we go again!
Betty Linneman is retired and enjoys traveling with her fiance, Dan Chambers, in their Micro Lite. Betty is the proud mother of grown children, Talia, Michael and Zachary; Dan is the proud father of his grown son, Danny. Betty enjoys playing Scrabble, walking, bike riding, reading and writing. She is the author of the blog Chambers on the Road.