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A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about how to survive RV living. Even though Coronavirus (COVID-19) was a part of our lives when that post went up, it already feels like we wrote it in a much simpler time. When we sat down to summarize our lessons learned in nearly five years of full-time RV living and wrote that you should “Expect the Unexpected,” we didn’t know just how “Unexpected” (with a capital U) events would soon become! COVID-19 and RVing are both huge and inseparable parts of our lives now, and it looks like it will be that way for a while.
(Last updated on 4/15/2020)
The Only Constant is Change
It’s always important to be prepared and to stay flexible as a full-time RVer, but never more so than now. Campground closures due to COVID-19 are forcing thousands of RVers to leave their temporary homes, sometimes without much notice. Even when campgrounds remain open, we’ve heard of many parks where bathhouses are closing. This can be a real issue if you have only a small portable toilet like we do, and are counting on campground facilities.
As more and more states implement “shelter in place” or lockdown orders, we’ve heard lots of full-timers asking, “What do we do now?” Coronavirus has created uncertainty worldwide, but it feels especially uncertain for full-time RVers. We just aren’t able to stay in one spot as predictably as those who own or rent a home that’s not on wheels.
Sheltering in Place – Without a Fixed Place
If you’re a full-timer like us and are feeling the stress caused by not-knowing where to stay during the Coronavirus outbreak, we understand! We’ve put together some resources for RVers during COVID-19 that have been helpful to us. We hope they’ll be helpful to you too.
We’ll continue to look for the most helpful resources on this topic, and will add them to this post as we find them. (If you already have a reliable place to stay, jump to other resources for sheltering in place)
Where Can RVers Stay During COVID-19?
Campendium has one of the best resources out there. They have been making updates to their site daily as policies change and as parks make decisions about their opening status. You can find lists by category (National Parks, State Parks, private parks, etc.) so you can jump right to whatever interests you. You can also run a search of all camping in their database and use a filter to exclude spots flagged as temporarily closed. This is a great way to get a list of campgrounds that are open and accepting new guests, based on the best available data. However, campground policies are changing quickly; it’s always best to call ahead before traveling to a location, even if it’s public land.
Rootless Living, a digital and print magazine devoted to full time RVers, has a whole section of their website dedicated to Coronavirus resources. On the State Parks page, they have a handy color-coded list that allows you to see at a glance which states are the most available for RVing in real time. They have also put together a specific list of extended-stay parks that are open and accepting new guests, listed by state, so you can easily find an open campground near you.
This may sound obvious, but find places to connect with other RVers online. The strength and kindness of the RV community is one of the things we love most about this lifestyle, and RVers are coming together digitally to help each other through COVID-19.
The RV Coronavirus News Facebook Group hosted by RVTravel is a great place to find crowdsourced information. We’ve seen answers to questions like how easy travel has been between states and where rest stops or resources were available along specific routes.
For more specific offerings of land and other places to stay, Facebook groups like Displaced Nomads Relocation Resource are great. There is even a Google Doc that owners of private land are using to list property where RVers can take shelter. (If you have space you can add to this list, please consider doing so!)
We’d also suggest seeking out Facebook groups specifically for full-time RVers, where lots of resources like these get shared as they’re created. If you’re not sure where to start, you can search for your RV’s manufacturer on Facebook; there is usually a private group for owners of a brand. This can also be a great way to find your online tribe, and at a time of social distancing, we can all use as much community as we can get!
(Caution: use Facebook with care, as we’ve seen a fair amount of misinformation out there, too.)
The ARVC (National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds) is keeping their site current on the news as it unfolds, including state and county orders. They’re maintaining an online document by state to give you a high-level view of where restrictions have been put in place, and where parks or open. They also have links to the latest CDC guidelines on steps that should be taken to protect campgrounds and RVers alike. This is a great place to find all kinds of relevant resources in one spot.
Escapees is typically a paid membership group, but they have a resource page with their recommendations and guidelines for what RVers can do during COVID-19. You can find links to and updates on availability at the SKP co-op parks they operate on the Escapees site. They also have instructions on the advocacy work they’re doing to ensure that full-time RVers remain a protected community as federal and state lands close.
If you’re looking to shelter in place at little to no cost, it might be worth considering “workamping,” or working at a campground in exchange for a long term site. Workamper.com is an excellent resource for finding these kinds of openings.
RVillage is free to join and is focused on bringing RVers together wherever they are. You can update your geographic location on their website and choose who to share that location with. RVillage has negotiated discounts for their members at many RV parks, including some offering up long term stays at discounted rates for full-timers. This is also a fantastic place to find a digital community. You can even see who’s around you so that you know where you can find other RVer friends to meet up with in person, once restrictions on social gatherings are lifted.
RVillage is maintaining a list of campgrounds by state that have proactively identified as open and receiving new guests.
We’ve written in the past about Allstays, which has both paid and free versions of their site. Allstays allows you to search thousands of public and private campgrounds, as well as free overnight spots like Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel, and Walmart, all in one place.
They also have a handy mobile app that you can use to search for campsites if you’re not sitting at a computer. As far as we know, Allstays isn’t allowing for filtering based on which parks or dispersed camping areas have been closed due to COVID-19, so be sure to do some additional research before you head to a location. However, Allstays is a great way to find all kinds of resources on the road, including potable water, dump stations, propane and fuel, so it’s a good addition to just about any other tool you use.
iOverlander is a great place to find paid and free camping worldwide. Much like Campendium, iOverlander users can review campsites, share photos, and help identify available amenities. As a result, it’s a great place to get a good feel for what a spot is like before you travel there.
Freecampsites.net is another place to find – well, free campsites. Some allow for longer stays than others, so be sure to read up on the regulations (and closure status) of any spots you find here. Because users update the site with reviews, you may in some cases find posts from other users who have done this research already, but it’s always a good idea to verify on your day of travel.
The Campground Views website has a searchable list of parks that are specifically identified as being open during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is another great place to pre-filter parks and campgrounds that have closed.
Renting a temporary home or apartment on Airbnb could be a good option to consider, particularly if you’re in an at-risk group and want a place to shelter with easier access to things like door-to-door package delivery than you might have on the road. Some Airbnbs may even have space for you to park your RV, and most will provide a discounted monthly rate.
Safe Travel USA
Safe Travel USA won’t help you find campsites, but it’s a useful resource for checking on road conditions by state. Spring can be a time of turbulent weather and roads in some areas may be closed due to damage or bad weather, so this is one site you can check when planning out your driving days.
Stay-at-Home Order Details by State
As RVers who don’t always reside in just one state, even if we’re sheltering as best we can, it can get tricky to keep track of the current rules and regulations for each state. The Washington Post has a summary article that outlines all government orders in place, state by state.
Another option is to join one or more of these paid membership sites, if you aren’t a member already. While there are a ton of great free resources out there, paid sites can expand your universe of places to stay, either long term or just for a night if you’re traveling from one long term spot to another.
If you’re not familiar with it, Harvest Hosts is a subscription service that allows RVers to spend the night at wineries, breweries, farms, museums, and other unique locations across the United States. If you’ve read our Harvest Hosts review, you know we love it!
Here’s how it works: You pay an annual fee directly to Harvest Hosts, and then support the specific business you stay with by touring their museum, buying a bottle of wine, etc. While some locations are closed due to COVID-19, many are still open and welcoming guests. If you’re headed to an extended stay campground or back to your home state to shelter, consider calling ahead to Harvest Hosts locations to see if you can stay with them for a night. This can be a great way to have a safe and scenic place to park for a night while also helping to keep small local businesses afloat.
Boondockers Welcome is largely run by a community of part-time RVers, many of whom own land or a sticks and bricks home with space to share. A one year paid subscription is $50 (or $25 if you own space where you can host). They have a blog post all about steps they’ve taken to keep this experience safe for everyone in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. We first wrote about Boondockers Welcome when we were pretty new to RVing and we still think it’s great!
If you’re new to Boondocking (camping without sewer, water or electrical hookups), check out our video on Boondocking here:
Good Sam is a paid annual membership that provides discounted rates on stays at thousands of RV parks nationwide. Their website currently has links to updates on National Park and State Park closures, as well as a search for private RV parks in the Good Sam network. If you’re a member, you can use this search to find a park where you’ll receive a discount. Because private parks are highly individual in terms of operating rules during the Coronavirus pandemic, be sure to call ahead.
Thousand Trails allows for the purchase of a camping pass that enables you to stay at any of their parks for free for 14 days. After that, you need to spend 7 days out of their system entirely, after which you can stay for another 14 days at no charge. Thousand Trails parks aren’t necessarily an ideal place to shelter for the long haul, as you’d have to move every 14 days at minimum. But if you’re looking for a place to stay for two weeks at a time, their parks remain open and might be a good option for you. We’ve enjoyed staying at Thousand Trails parks ourselves in the past. These camping passes can be expensive depending on how you want to use them, so it’s worth doing the research to see if they’re a good fit for you.
Preparation and Prevention
Once you’ve got a place to call home and take shelter, it’s a good idea to make sure that you’re ready to stay quarantined for a while if needed. We’d never recommend hoarding or stockpiling things like food, sanitizer and toilet paper – after all, in an RV, where would you keep it?
However, Kait and I always like to be prepared to hunker down in our RV for a month or so if we should run into unexpected trouble. Below are some tips and resources to help you do the same.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The best place to get the most accurate information as we learn more about COVID-19 and the best way to prevent and treat it is the CDC website, which has sections for both prevention of Coronavirus and what to do if you get sick. Whether you’re in an at-risk age group or not, it’s good to be familiar with these guidelines so you can keep yourself and others safe.
Jason of PassioInventa wrote an article that answers some of the frequently asked questions about COVID-19. Some of the questions addressed include:
- What makes CoVID-19 dangerous?
- Does wearing masks and gloves out in public help?
- Will this go away come summer?
- Why do we quarantine?
RV Podcasts and Blogs
In an excellent episode of the Beyond the Wheel podcast, Dr. Sabrina Campbell discusses how COVID-19 has impacted full-time RVers in particular, and what steps our community should be taking to ensure that we all stay healthy and help do our part to “flatten the curve” of infection.
Mike and Jennifer Wendland have also put up recent episodes related to RVing and COVID-19, and are releasing new episodes with updates each week.
RVLove has also done a great job of compiling a whole host of resources into one central location for easy access.
While we would never suggest hoarding critical supplies that others may be in need of, we think it’s always a good idea to keep a month’s supply of food in the RV, along with a selection of useful tools and the ability to purify your water if needed. It can help to prevent exposure if you don’t need to go to a physical store to purchase items or borrow them from a neighbor. And when you don’t necessarily know where you will spend the night, a good water purification system like the Berkey provides peace of mind.
Stocking up on Groceries
Shelf-stable foods like rice and beans, while a bit tricky to find these days, can be a great way to fit a month’s worth of food into even the smallest rig. They’re lightweight and can be purchased in bulk at places like Costco. (And you can cook some great meals with them in your Instant Pot!)
Instacart and other delivery services can bring groceries right to your front door, even at some campgrounds! Many large retailers like Walmart will have their own in-house service, too, so shop around to see who delivers in your area if you aren’t comfortable leaving to get supplies. Curbside delivery (purchasing items online and having them brought to your vehicle) is also increasingly popular.
Prepare – But Don’t Panic
It’s always a good idea to let your family and friends know where you are whenever you’re traveling, to keep extra supplies with you, and to engage (safely) with a community of people nearby in case you need urgent help.
Those guidelines certainly hold true now. This doesn’t mean that you should be panicking if you’re in an RV away from your home state, just that you should be thoughtful about where you take shelter. For example, a global pandemic may not be a good time to adventure to an extremely remote area solo, where it may be difficult to get medical care if you do get sick.
If COVID-19 has reminded you that your first aid kit is a bit on the light side, Outdoorsy has a great list of medical supplies that you should probably always have on hand in your RV.
We talk a lot about being prepared and staying flexible in this lifestyle, but those things are more important now than ever. We’d encourage everyone to take steps to ensure that you can be self-sufficient for a couple of weeks at a time if needed, since the landscape of RV travel is constantly changing. If you do find yourself in a situation where you or a family member get sick on the road, you want to be prepared and able to care for yourself and your loved ones.
P.S. If you want an escape from all the mayhem, here’s our video about our first week on the road in Leo, our new truck camper! It’s a flashback to that far off time I like to call “a few weeks ago.” A simpler time when we were still hugging strangers, forgetting to wash our hands and hanging out in groups of more than two. A time when the toilet paper supply seemed endless and it was still normal to travel and see the world. We’ll get back to those times, hopefully sooner rather than later. Until then, enjoy this drive down memory lane.