View Full Version : Overnight Campgrounds?

04-12-2013, 10:05 PM
My wife and I have been traveling up to Maine from Maryland for several years with our popup with an overnight stay in motels. Now with a new Montana on order, we're excited about staying in our fifth wheel instead of motels. But, we're beginning to discover that most campgrounds require a minimum of two nights stay during the summer. Anyone have experience with campgrounds that allow single night stays in the Eastern U.S.A.?

We're not particularly fond of staying at a Walmart when it's 100 degrees outside and no electricity, and campgrounds have lots of friendly people, so that's where we'd like to camp, even if it's just one night.

We're also planning a trip out to Missouri in June, so if someone has some tips for this newbie, it'll be appreciated.

04-13-2013, 03:16 AM
We've found KOA's are good for 1 night stays. Some aren't great...but OK for a place to sleep when on the road.

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04-13-2013, 03:57 AM
That is a strange experience with the 2 night minimum. On our trip from Florida to California last summer nobody had that requirement. A could of years ago from Florida to Maine it was the same story. No minimum. Must have just been the places you looked at staying.

04-13-2013, 04:34 AM
we stayed at a koa on the way to florida- off i95. It actually appeared that many were only staying one nite. It was cramped, but had utilities and was a bit nicer than the prior nite when we slept at a pilot service center. I am sure there must be places along some of the major interstates that are set up for travelers.

04-13-2013, 04:41 AM
Try state parks. Most only have minimum stays for holiday weekends. They will be cheaper than KOAs also.

04-13-2013, 05:57 AM
Last summer we travelled through Mighican, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, Oaklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri. The only time we had any issues with minimum stays was in trying to make advance reservations. Otherwise, we'd look for a campground where we thought we'd be for the evening while making lunch at a roadside stop, Call them about 1 or 2 PM and make a reservation for that evening. We never encountered any minimum stay doing that.

If I were you, I wouldn't worry much about minimum stays. The only time I've ever had an issue with that, even when it is posted in their campground literature or in Woodall's is when trying to make reservations weeks or months ahead. Otherwise, when calling today for a spot tonight, even those have been happy to reserve the one evening. The only exception to that has been the Michigan State Park Reservation Center. If you try to reserve 1 night online, it won't let you, but if you call, they will do it. The reservation fee applies so it's $6 extra to process the reservation. When travelling, we tend to just "wing it" in the State Parks, haven't been turned away yet.

04-13-2013, 06:10 AM
Most state parks in New England do not have electric so that might not work. Some koa campgrounds have 2 night requirements on weekends but if you pull off the street you might be OK. Stay away from resort type campgrounds and look for the small mom a d pop ones, you might have better luck.

Jim W
04-13-2013, 06:15 AM
How big is your Montana? I know that my Cougar which is 35 FT long will not fit in most state park, the sites are two small (length wise). I tend to use COE (core of engineer parks) or KOA for overnight stays when traveling. I tend to get pull thru site and do not un-hook the 5er for one night stays. I did this when we traveled out west to WY and then when we went to SC and GE last year.

Jim W.

Bob Landry
04-13-2013, 06:40 AM
Most COE CGs are $20-24 a night and have everything but sewer. That's pretty cheap for a place to sleep cool and cook a meal. The only problem is that that are usually only located close to a river or lake, so that might not be close to where you are traveling. If you have a NP Senior pass, the campsite is half price.

04-13-2013, 07:11 AM
Up here in Washington the only time most campgrounds want a min is over the holiday weekends.

04-14-2013, 07:08 AM
What will you be using to search for your overnights during your travels?

We have our MS Streets map program, plus we belong to Good Sam Camping Club and Passport America. In addition internet will pull up all state parks and COE's to stay at.

We would usually just call while on the road and we always found a place!


04-14-2013, 08:42 AM
I think the OP was referring to reservations and two night minimums. That's generally the case throughout NYS and certainly in all the state run campgrounds. I suspect other areas are much the same, especially for weekends.

When I plan a long trip, I figure roughly where we want to make our overnight stops and then pick a couple of campgrounds there from the Woodalls or other directories. I'll give them a call or send an email to find out what their occupancy might be. More than a few will accept single night reservations over the phone even though their online reservation system will not. Others may not take one night reservations, but will give you a good idea of their occupancy for the night in question. Armed with that information, I can make a good guess as to where I might find an overnight site with a good deal of reliability.

GC's that cater to transient traffic and one or two week stays generally have sites set aside for walk-in's and more than a few have overflow areas. CG's that are predominately seasonals are a little harder to figure out. For example, there's a large resort style CG outside of Gettysburg, PA that is probably 50% seasonals. But they do want the one or two week campers as well as the overnighters. Their online reservation service didn't allow one night reservations last I looked, but a call to the office will usually get you a site for the night.

Many of the big truck stops will accept RV's for overnight. More than a few have areas set aside for this away from the truck areas. If you have to park in or near the truck area, I would not be too concerned about running my generator as many of the trucks, especially the refrigerated ones, idle their engines a lot. They've usually got dump stations and water fill stations. Their shower facilities are available too. They've mostly got a chain restaurant in there, too, usually one of the ones that has good breakfasts and home style lunches and dinners. Again, look 'em up on line to see what they offer and if necessary give them a call.

We've always avoided the Wal-Mart thing but I would not rule it out if all else fails. It's probably better than taking a chance in an unattended rest area on the interstate somewhere.

04-14-2013, 11:31 AM
One thing to consider, and I'm sure everyone has encountered at one time or another, is the "rigidity" of reservations while travelling. We enjoy the unrestricted opportunity to travel at will. Occasionally, we will get up in the morning, have breakfast, break camp, hit the road and might find a sign on the side of the road advertising something that really sounds interesting. With reservations 300 miles away, can we stop or must we continue and bypass what we'd really like to stop and see? There have been times when we may only travel 30 or 40 miles before we stop for the day.

When we were travelling with our employment, we had a set schedule and were forced to keep our eyes on the road and keep the road miles close to the clock. Now, we're retired and that just isn't the priority. We know when we need to be at a specific spot or when we need to be back home and we travel with that in mind, not tonight's reservation as the driving factor. If we make it as far as our "planned destination" fine, if we don't, that's fine also. If we happen to get a day or two behind, it's easy to call the destination and inform them of a one day or two day delay.

We've found that when the destination is the priority, reservations might be beneficial, but when the journey is the priority, we don't set anything "in stone" weeks ahead. We take each day and, at times, each hour or each mile as it comes. Enjoying the trip, for us, beats having to bypass interesting sites to get to a "nonrefundable" campsite before dark.

Around lunch, we decide where we think we'd like to spend the evening, then around 2 or 3, we call to check on availability. Most often we're told that they have a site available and would be happy to "save it for us." Often times, they don't even ask for a credit card to reserve the spot. If the first choice happens to be full, at the next rest area, we check Woodall's again for alternative campgrounds and call them as we continue to travel. So far, in the last 5 years of travelling this way, we've never been without a campsite with full hookups. Works for us, if you've got the luxury of an unscheduled itinery, and time to enjoy the trip, give it a try.

04-14-2013, 05:41 PM
A little while after posting my query about over night camping, I did hit upon the KOA system. Then everyone's great stories were added here and it's the way we'll be going in the future: some trips will require reservations and other trips more spontaneous. I can say, though, when I grew up camping in California back in the "good old days," we'd have to wait one or two days at times to snag a reservation at popular state parks. So, some reservations via the net are essential in some states as noted above.

From reading all the comments here, the one big benefit of moving from a tent trailer to a fifth wheel is advantage of having a home on wheels. We're not always going to be so worried about all the amenities if we're just staying overnight in our new trailer. Again, campers are the best people out there on the road. Thanks for sharing all the insightful comments.

04-15-2013, 02:57 AM
Our park for the big holidays we have 2 night minimum if your making a reservation but we still leave 10 sites or so for transient. We had a lot of issues with people reserving the 3 day weekend then showing up late or leaving early. It's not bad with over 120 sites we can usually fit all the transients in somewhere especially if they just want electricity. Were think of putting in some pull thrus with just power and charge 15$ we have room for about 8 of those