Posted July 18, 2022 – Narrated by Jim
The content in this post will be updated as new resources and information comes our way. Check back often
Today we are celebrating our 6th “On-the-Road” Anniversary (2,191 days).
Tomorrow starts our 7th year.
Journeying overland at our own pace, taking side-roads, detours, and changing plans as we go along, would be a disaster without our magic-kit of digital resources.
RVing for recreation and the Forever Camping lifestyle are experiencing a renaissance. National, State, County, and City Parks are updating their reservation tools and camping resources. Travel apps are being introduced at an astounding rate.
Ever since we set out in July 2016, Living in Beauty followers ask us:
“How do you pick your locations and what websites and Apps do you use?”
Every camper knows that pulling a flawless road trip out of your hat requires technology. Luck and swagger will only take you so far before you need additional resources.
But which tools make the road smooth as a magic carpet ride? It’s a good question with no easy answer because every camper is unique and has specific needs and preferences.
There is wilderness camping, fee-free camping, family and group camping. Public and private resorts. Parks that offer cycling, mountain-biking, fishing, boating, climbing, and hiking. Places with scenery, pools, hot springs, farmer’s markets, music festivals, amusements and golf courses – and all can be found in every type of environment from deserts, mountains, beaches, riversides, prairies and estuaries… located in the countryside, cities and suburbs.
Electrical services range from nothing to 15, 30 and 50 amp. Sometimes there is no drinking water at all. Often there is potable water at the campsite, but it isn’t unusual for water and sewer to be miles away.
Unless you are with an organized group caravan, you must be your own concierge – make your own magic. These days – for better or worse – resources to help you access what you need on the road when you need it, are more accessible than ever before.
As our Thank You to our followers and friends, we are opening up our magic kit of digital trip-planning strategies. We believe in sharing. Everyone deserves to be Out There. So, voila …
The Living in Beauty RVer’s Bag o’ Tricks
First and foremost, we are happy subscribers to RV Life Trip Wizard. This is our starting place.
For a small annual fee, we have access to this amazing planning tool.
We enter our rig specifics: height, length and weight, and confirm we are carrying propane.
We also specify that we use diesel / our fuel capacity / how soon we want to be notified when our fuel is at a certain level / and our average miles per gallon.
We indicate what road conditions we will accept.
We can adjust settings to use our average driving speed, or we can select the Routing Engine Estimate to determine our travel time. That feature is our preference because it ‘knows’ the speed limits.
We routinely set our time estimate at 4-hours of driving-time per day.
The map can show the Advanced Driving Radius which factors in the maximum speed limit and our preferred maximum speed to show how far we can drive per day, or we can use the Classic Driving Radius – a circle, encompassing miles as the crow flies. We use the Advanced Driving Radius.
We set the map to show campgrounds along with Points of Interest, and also to show low clearances.
Then, we enter in our current location and set the map to display the perimeters we may reach within 4 hours. The map considers the size of our rig, and alerts us about routes and obstacles we may want to avoid, such as dirt roads, ferries, tolls, etc.
The result is a birds-eye view of where we might choose to camp when we, for example, leave Seward, Alaska.
We know the general direction, so we explore the green area for choices..
In this example, we can choose between Homer, Anchorage, Whittier, Glacier View, Talkeenta or any destination in between.
We can zoom into an area like Girdwood or Whittier to see places, campgrounds and features of interest.
If we know of a town or location, we will explore that area first. If we are unfamiliar with the place, we will implement additional resources (listed below) to determine if and how long we want to stay.
For simple overnight stays between destinations, we usually access the website, Harvest Hosts, because these overnight havens are fun and recreational.
Following protocol, we contact the host ahead to insure there is space for us. We often ask about sights or events in the area we may want to see or experience. This technique has rendered big payoffs for secret swimming holes, small local breweries, music festivals and countless other off-the-beaten-path, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
If there is no Harvest Host close enough to our route, then we research other options on the website: FreeCampSites.net.
Any stay longer than one night requires more research. That’s when we dig into our personal treasure trove of notes – mostly recommendations from Living in Beauty followers. Also, we search the internet using the words, “Things to do in …, and then add maybe kayaking, dog-friendly, gardens, farmer’s markets, hot springs, breweries …”
Once a destination is selected, we use the resources listed below for crowd-sourced reviews of campgrounds and resorts before finalizing our travel plan.
Sometimes we make a reservation and other times we arrive hoping for an open site. It all depends on what day we arrive and how long we want to stay. Weekends are usually booked-up months in advance, so reservations are almost always necessary for a two-week stay in a public or private campground. Sundays and Mondays are our preferred “move-in days” as weekend visitors wrap up their holiday.
Below, we have listed and categorized the resources, websites, and Apps we use. We have also included other resources we’ve heard about but have yet to try.
When you see the “Living in Beauty Seal of Approval” it means we use that resource and highly recommend it.
Okay, go ahead! Dive into the Living in Beauty RVer’s Bag o’ Tricks, or click here to skip to the conclusion.
Table of Contents
RV Life Trip Wizard – As stated above, this is our primary resource. We plan and map our travels with this program. A paid subscription service allows us to see our route with all the campgrounds, gas stops, points-of-interest along the way and much more. Plus, RV Trip Planner maps our preferred driving distance so we can select destinations to overnight along the selected route, customizing RV safe routes to the height & weight of our rig. Over 20,000 Campgrounds are listed with reviews by Real RVers. RV Life Trip Wizard makes our Forever Camping lifestyle possible. Well okay, we could manage without it, but RV Trip Wizard does the heavy lifting – giving us more time to do the fun stuff. They also have a GPS App and a website to track our RV Maintenance schedule.
The Dyrt – Plan 5-star camping road trips with PRO Trip Planner. Find free camping on public lands with PRO Map Layers. Roam freely with PRO Offline Access and PRO Map Downloads. Save on camping reservations and outdoor gear with PRO Discounts. A paid subscription service.
Road Trippers – Plan your next road-trip route with Road Trippers online and with their phone Apps. Simply enter your Start and Finish and discover the coolest “off the beaten path” places along the way. Their database includes millions of the world’s most fascinating places, making unexpected, exotic and obscure places easy to find. There is a free version, but if you decide to purchase the “Plus” subscription, you will get a $5 discount if you use this promo code: BTR5QTP
Ultra Nomadic – Streamline your planning process with this simple, one-of-a-kind, free RV Travel planner. Works on a laptop, tablet and phone. The free site-finder is good, but they offer a $36 a year Pro Version filled with great features like road directions to avoid low clearances if necessary and hazardous roadways.
Safe Travel USA – This free website accumulates Department of Transportation information in a single-source site. Regardless of which state you are traveling, this website will give you access to highway conditions along your chosen route.
Truck Map – Designed for Truckers, this free site offers truck-safe turn-by-turn routing and navigation in real-time traffic with alerts for low clearance and weight restrictions.
CoPilot Mobile Navigation – This paid App offers route planning and GPS specifically for RVs. They offer RV-Specific Routing, dependable Offline Navigation, Distraction-free Guidance, Smart Trip Planning, and Safety Features with Motorway Guidance & Alerts.
The Milepost: Alaska Travel Planner – This resource has been published and updated annually every April for more than 75 years and is THE guide to travel to and in Alaska. We used it extensively for planning our 2022 Alaska trip, and referred to it daily while on the road. It is the only non-digitized book we have in the trailer. 😊
All Stays – A paid resource for campgrounds, free parking for places like Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Rest Areas, Truck stops, Pull-outs – and where to find Propane, RV Dumps, RV washes, as well as Road hazard avoidance. We use this all the time!
Campendium – A great free resource for crowd-sourced reviews of campgrounds, including boon-docking sites. One of our best resources.
RV Life Campgrounds – Another great free resource for honest, crowd-sourced reviews. There is an upgraded subscription that includes all the features of the RV Life suite.
iOverlander – Overlanding is self-reliant travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. iOverlander is a free tool – designed by and for overlanders – which enables its users to submit, amend and search for information and opinions, primarily about places that are essential for active, dedicated overlanders.
USCAmpgrounds.info – This free service is promoted as the most comprehensive guide to Federal, State, Provincial and Local campgrounds.
Hipcamp – Hipcamp is a growing community of good-natured people and a comprehensive resource for unique outdoor stays. They work with landowners to offer tent camping, RV parks, cabins, treehouses, and glamping—everywhere from national parks to blueberry farms. Free service.
Sēkr – Plan your next trip the right way. Explore 50,000+ campgrounds and overnight options in one easy-to-use map. Lean on their travel community to find reviews, campsite photos and WiFi wherever you may be. A paid service.
Moble RVing – This free site is a growing movement of RV travel enthusiasts that continually try to improve the outdoor experience for all of us interstate gypsies. Their platform is intended to keep in touch with the “road family” by sharing and generating content that is useful to those that enjoy the nomadic lifestyle.
ParkAdvisor.com – This website was developed to help people find great RV Parks in North America (USA, Canada, Mexico). Completely FREE with NO ADS. Commercial RV parks are sorted by rating and can be viewed in list mode. If you zoom in tight, you will see gas station, rest areas, stores, etc.
RV Buddy – This free service gives visitors the opportunity to post their campground and RV park experiences, good or bad, for other campers. With hundreds of quality reviews covering campground and RV parks throughout the United States, you’re sure to find what you need to know before you go.
RV Parking – This free service lists extensive information about every RV park they can find. Over the past four years, they’ve compiled detailed information on over 20,000 RV parks. In addition to listing all of the standard information about park locations, number of sites, etc., the listings include extensive insights from the actual users.
RV Parky – A free RV Park directory built by a full time RV’er with the help of the RV community to assist fellow RV’ers. Here you can find information, images, and reviews for the most complete collection of RV Parks and campgrounds in the United States and Canada.
Living In Beauty Campground Reviews – Here is a list of campgrounds we have enjoyed with comprehensive reviews and links to nearby attractions in detail.
Wandering Labs – This free program, designed by Tim Watson at Watsons Wander, checks popular campgrounds for availability within a particular window of time. Since many campers cancel reservations at the last minute, this program opens the opportunity for RVers to find campsites in popular, hard-to-reserve parks. It has pinged us several times when a site has opened up. The premium membership costs $30 for additional features.
CampNab – Unable to reserve a campsite? Be notified when a sold-out campground suddenly has an available space. You set the dates and specifics for when, where, and how long you want to camp. It will notify you (via SMS) when a suitable spot opens so you can nab that sold-out campsite reservation! This is a paid subscription or pay-per-scan.
Arvie – Find it Fast. Book it Faster. With nearly 5,000 Campgrounds, Arvie finds and books campsites for you quicker than you can reserve on your own – even in places you thought were completely sold out. This is a paid subscription.
Campspot – Campspot is the leading online marketplace for premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins, glamping options, and more. No matter how you choose to stay, Campspot makes it easy for you to create lifelong camping memories by helping you book instantly from over 130,000 campsites. This is a free service available online or via their phone App.
Harvest Hosts – We love Harvest Hosts. A paid resource for complimentary overnight places like wineries, breweries, museums, farms, and golf courses. Some of our favorite places to stay have been through Harvest Hosts. We have stayed at more than 115 Harvest Hosts locations so far. You will get a 15% discount on subscription by using our link.
Overnight RV Parking – This paid subscription service lists free and “under $20/night” places for a one-night stay in your RV. It also advises you of places where Overnight RV Parking is currently not allowed. Even with more than 14,000 listings, this tool is constantly updated. Get 3 extra months free when you subscribe using our link.
Boondockers Welcome – Have you heard about this awesome community of RVers that can also save you money? Boondockers Welcome is not just a service that allows you to camp on private property for free but it’s also a great way to connect with other RVers and/or learn more about the RV lifestyle. A paid subscription service.
Casino Camper – A free site listing of casinos which encourage RVs to spend one night or more at no cost.
FreeCampSites.net – This service is one of the best free resources for free camping. It is one of the first places we go to when looking for a free location.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – The BLM administers public lands that encompass roughly 1/8 of the total land mass of the United States. Most of these lands are in the western states. Free dispersed camping is allowed on most BLM land for up to 14 days. Even if land is leased or has mining claims, you may camp there unless posted otherwise by BLM management.
US Forestry Service (USFS) – THE USFS administers the 175 national forests and grasslands in the United States. The forestry service provides many developed campgrounds and a large number of ‘official’ dispersed free camping sites. Regulations vary based on the ranger district, but most dispersed camping is permitted for up to 14 days.
NPS.gov – A listing and resource for the National Park Service.
NPS App – One app puts every National Park on your device. The NPS App is the new official app for the National Park Service with tools to explore more than 400 national parks nationwide. Find interactive maps, tours of park places, on-the-ground accessibility information, and much more to plan your national park adventures before and during your trip. It’s FREE!
Recreation.gov – Reservations on Federal land from 12 Federal partners
Reserveamerica.com – Reservations at about half of the State Parks
Here is a listing of each State Park
Here is a listing of Canadian Provincial Parks
Campground Site Photos/Videos
Campsite Photos – This free site allows you to search photos of individual campsites in over 1,600 State Parks, National Parks, U.S. Forest Service, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and other campgrounds throughout the USA. This has come in handy many times, although is doesn’t have data on all campgrounds.
Campground Views – This paid subscription (there is a free version) is the original and only tool available to campers and RVers which allows a visual perusal of more than 850 campgrounds and RV parks across the United States. With over 3,000 first person videos, 35,000 photographs, and thousands of reviews this is a great source to discover your next get-away.
Memberships and Clubs
Passport America – Join the “Original” & World’s Largest 50% Discount Camping Club! Only $44 a year. Save 50% at Over 1,450 Quality Campgrounds. We keep this membership since only a single visit, annually, at 50% off pays for the service.
Thousand Trails – Since 1969, they have welcomed generations of families to campgrounds across the US and Canada. They are one of the largest networks of RV resorts and campgrounds in North America, with over 80 locations in 23 states and British Columbia. Thousand Trails offers a variety of membership options depending on your camping needs.
Good Sam – Members receive 10% savings at over 5,000 GoodSam campgrounds and discounts on purchases at Camping World retail stores. We joined Good Sam and, for us, it pays for itself in discounts throughout the year.
Escapees – The Escapees RV Club is dedicated to supporting the RV lifestyle with everything you need to make RV travel more affordable, safe, and carefree. Members enjoy a comprehensive suite of discounts and support services, as well as numerous education options.
Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) – They educate, equip, and empower RV owners to carve out the outdoor lifestyle they dream of and deserve.
Happy Camper Club – Happy Camper is a discount club for RVers and campers from weekenders to full-ltimers. As a member, you can stay at hundreds of quality RV parks in full hook-up sites for discounts which can save you up to half the price. Unlike other memberships, Happy Campers requires no contracts, no home parks, and no point systems.
Coast to Coast – This membership operates the highest-quality network of RV resorts where Coast to Coast is accepted in North America. These resorts specialize in outstanding hospitality, quality and value. Many of these sites are located near some of North America’s most spectacular scenery and treasured national parks.
Gypsy Guide – It’s like having your own tour guide along for the ride. Audio tours play automatically, as you drive, based on your location. The App is for iPhone or Android phones. Each tour location is priced individually and displayed on the individual tour pages and as in-app purchases.
Google Maps Offline – Did you know you can download areas & navigate offline? You can save an area from Google Maps to your phone or tablet and use it when you’re offline.
Finding Fuel and Highway Exit Services
Gas Buddy – We use this free App to find the closest and best fuel prices. It can be set to find Diesel or gasoline.
Upside – Save on gas. Earn cash back on every fuel fill-up. When you join Upside, you’ll save every time you fill up. Get cash back at over 45,000 locations nationwide.
Truck Master Fuel Finder – This free tool lists the cheapest diesel fuel prices at truck stops between any two points in the United States, or every truck stop in a 100 mile radius around a specified city.
The Next Exit – They claim to be the most complete and accurate composition of U.S. Interstate Highway exit services available. You’ll find a thorough exit-by-exit listing of every road trip service: gas, food, lodging, camping, shopping, and much more. This is a paid subscription.
USA Rest Stops Locator – Easily find all rest stops throughout the entire United States on your iOS or Android device.
iExit – Find the best gas, food, lodging, and more along the Interstate
Finding Dump stations
Sanidumps – This free service includes recreational vehicle dump stations – everything from private to public, RV park to non-park such as municipal, truck stop, rest stop, commercial. Everything from fee-based, to donation, and free. This has saved our bacon many times.
RV Dump Stations – This free site primarily focuses on locations other than RV parks and campgrounds — places like rest areas, truck stops, gas stations, and others. There is also an App for your phone.
Social Media Groups
- Air Forums
- Facebook RV Travel Groups
- Camping & RV Fun Ideas *no rules* (almost)
- Cool Campers, Vans, RVs, and Trailers
- Fifty and Over RV’ers – Life on the Road
- Full time RVers
- Full-time RVers (different from the one above)
- Living the RV Dream
- RVillage.com – RVillage is a social platform for RVers, RV-dreamers, holiday campers and nomadic and lifestyle RVers looking for friends, activities, and others to connect with on their journeys. RVillagers can find other travelers based on their current location, destination or along their route and remain connected through smart mapping technology and social interactive tools.
- RVs for Sale Sites
Here is a listing of travel bloggers we follow.
AccuWeather – This, along with RV Weather (below) serves as our two “go-to” forecast. Since 1962, AccuWeather makes us safer by combining weather data, technology, and human insight.
RV Weather – This fantastic FREE website offers an overview of forecast weather conditions in the U.S. relevant for traveling and camping in our RV! We signed up to receive a daily update to help us plan our travels. We love this resource!
Wind Alert – This handy website plus Apple App or Android App tells you the wind predictions for any area. Weather Forecasts Where You Are. Multiple Forecasts for all locations worldwide! Also shows projected temperature and sky conditions. Don’t lose your awning. Use Wind Alert.
Weather Channel – Since 1982, they have been forecasting and offering weather-related news and analysis, along with documentaries and entertainment programming related to weather.
Weather Underground – Since 1993 Weather Underground has challenged the conventions around how weather information is shared with the public.
RV Travel Tips
RV Travel Tips – Over the years we have addressed some of the challenges facing us and freely share them here.
We recorded the short video above talking about what we’ve learned from traveling full-time since 2016.
Our Gear – We list reviews of each item of gear we use including items for the kitchen, plumbing, electronics, maintenance, road-preparedness, outdoor, personal care, dog stuff, recreation, tools, sleep and books. We don’t sell anything, but we provide links to online retailers like Amazon. We try to keep this updated, entertaining and informative.
RV Technology Resources
Camp Addict – Camp Addict is where you get your RVing product answers in one place. More importantly, they aim to be the RVing source you trust on the internet.
Mobile Internet Resource Center – Their goal is to provide a central resource center about mobile internet options for US based travelers – RVers, boaters, truckers and nomads. They have made this their focus so you can save time & money and focus on exploring.
Geeks On Tour – Jim and Chris travel the country by RV and specialize in teaching technology for travelers. Google Maps is their #1 smartphone app, and they teach you how to make your own travelog website with Blogger. Nationally known, popular seminar presenters, Jim and Chris have been professional computer trainers since 1983.
TechnoRV – TechnoRV has been in business since 2009. They supply leading RV technology products to enhance the RV lifestyle. Their warehouse is located in Theodore, Alabama.
AAA – We are satisfied American Automobile Association members for 40 years.
Better World Club – Their claim is to be America’s only Auto Club with 24/7 green roadside assistance.
Coachnet – Since 1987, Coach-Net has provided roadside assistance paying careful attention to the specialized needs of the RVer.
Paragon Motor Club – Paragon Motor Club offers progressive levels of emergency roadside service and expense protection, designed to fit your budget and help you when you really need it. Roadside Assistance dispatchers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the US and Canada.
RV Advisor – Provided by the RV Advisor Motor Club. They offer services such as Roadside Assistance, Extended Warranties, Tire and Wheel Protection, RV and Auto Insurance, Legal Advice, and you can even hire the Founder of the RV Advisor to guide you through a purchase, sale, repair, or warranty issues with your RV.
Roadside Debacle Busters – We wrote a blog post on how to prepare yourself for a roadside emergency. Tips, tools and suggestions.
RV Service Reviews – Here is your chance to thank those RV repair facilities that have done a great job for you and at the same time warn others about places that have not delivered as promised. This free site contains actual reviews of RV service facilities made by the RV owner’s themselves. You can research where to take your RV for service and what establishments you may want to avoid.
InReach Satellite Communicator – After our close encounter with a timber rattler snake while hiking several hours from any ranger station and in a ‘no-cell-service’ area, we purchased this satellite communicator that does not need WiFi or Cell service to reach our loved ones or send an SOS for help. We recently used the device on the Top of The World Highway in Alaska to rescue a driver and his disabled vehicle after being run off the road by a herd of caribou.
Snail Mail Services
iPostal1 – This is the mail service we have used since July 2016. It allows us to choose between 2000+ addresses in the US, so we can choose our own State of residence.
Escapees – Considered by many to be the best choice, but your address will be in Texas, South Dakota or Florida.
Traveling MailBox – They have more than 50 addresses from many states to choose from.
USA2Me – A family owned and operated company founded in late 2004 in a small warehouse in Houston Texas with the mission of becoming a quality leader in the then emerging mail and package forwarding industry.
RV Average Monthly Costs
Travel Maps and Facts – Ever wonder what people spend on average monthly expenses? Everyone is different, but to help others who are considering the Forever Camping lifestyle we have accumulated most of our costs since 2016 and present them here in terms that are easy to understand.
State Road Laws
Campground Hosting Websites
- Camp Host
- Campground Host Jobs
- Facebook Group – Work Campers
- Facebook Group – We Love Workamping
- How To Become A Campground Host
- Indeed.com’s listing of Campground Jobs
- Live Camp Work
- Recreation.Gov’s article on Camp Hosting
Working On The Road? Here are some Websites:
- Workamper – They list jobs Monday through Friday every week. Everything from driving a tour bus to running an RV park can be found on this site. Workamper requires a yearly membership in order to receive job information.
- Workers On Wheels – Free newsletter offering weekly updates on employers seeking mobile workers. This newsletter also features helpful strategies for hacking the RV lifestyle.
- CoolWorks.com – Employers listed on this site offer RVers the opportunity to work and stay.
- Working Couples – If you and your significant other are looking for work, this website is for you! Every job listed is for couples. A small monthly membership fee applies.
RV Parks for Sale
RV Park Store – If you are thinking about buying an established campground or RV Park, this is an excellent resource. It also includes RV lots and memberships for sale.
To Sum Up
In the end, planning is illusion.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“The plan is nothing … planning is everything.”
What can be better than everything going according to plan? How about scrapping all of your plans at the last minute and doing something even better!
Planning is an ongoing process to schematically organize and process the details. If “Plan A” fails to materialize we move on, undaunted, to other options.
The world is not static. Everything is in flux.
Expect surprises when you are navigating through chaos.
With good planning unexpected developments open a doorway to adventure and become your favorite travel stories. Dynamic planning makes the most of our limited time in each location.
As you rummage through this Bag o’ Tricks we hope you find just the thing to give your trip-planning that special magic touch.
If you know of a camping resource that is not listed here, please tell us about it in a comment box below
Here is or latest animated travel map as of today July 18, 2022.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.
Here are all our “On-the-Road” Anniversary blogs posts.
- Saying Goodbye
- Published on the day we started – July 18, 2016
- Facts of LIB
- Published on our One Year Anniversary – July 19, 2017
- Canadian LIB Moment
- Published on our Two Year Anniversary – July 19, 2018
- Counting Moments: 3 Years
- Published on our Three Year Anniversary – July 19, 2019
- Four Years and Counting
- Published on our Four Year Anniversary – July 18, 2020
- Captain’s Log: Stardate 2021.0718 – Five-Year Mission Update
- Published on our Five Year Anniversary – July 18, 2021
- RVer’s Bag o’ Tricks
- Published on our Six Year Anniversary – July 18, 2022