Where to Park Your Bus: Article

Where to Park Your Bus

(Article as featured in November 2018 Bus Conversion Magazine)

After spending a year and a half converting our ‘99 International Genesis, Chitty Bang, into a Tiny House/Skoolie for our family of four, I started to wonder how hard it would be to park at a typical rv park or campground? What about a resort? Would they love my bus as much as we did?

She definitely does not look like an RV with the few school bus windows that are still showing from either side. The RV door does not disguise her total originality of previously being a big yellow bus that carted kids and boogers around Arizona’s ISD.

Of course, we did not want to “run with the pack” and be in crowded places. We wanted to boon dock and use this amazing solar setup we installed. We wanted to park on friend’s and family’s property while we visited and explored their state and sights.

So who cares if we don’t fit in at an RV Park with all of those unoriginal motor homes? The different “suburbs” of the traveling world, as we came to describe them.

Well, believe it or not, despite our passion for off grid living, we did find ourselves staying at just a few RV parks, campgrounds, and even a resort while traveling around the last 2 years.

Randomly, I would see a post on a Skoolie or Bus Conversion Facebook Group Page where yet another bus converter was turned away from an RV park because of stereotypes, the way their rig looked, the rules of the park itself, etc. It totally happens!

After seeing this become more of a common post, I began to exercise my due diligence before having my husband drive our big rig and entire family somewhere just to get turned away. It really is stressful enough driving our big rigs, isn’t it?

So, I researched. I start with GOOGLE MAPS and search the terms “RV”, “rv park”, “campground”, and “resort”.  Then I search the area where we are wanting to go and search a certain radius. Next, I open up each place’s website (if they have one) and write down any contact info they have.

The website itself can give a lot of information about a place. You can see the amenities, the costs, the rules and regulations, pictures, how close it is to attractions, etc.

My requirements on where we stay usually depend on the reviews, what kind of rules they have, and how it looks. If I do not think we will be comfortable there, then I pass. I also use the street view on the maps as well to get an idea of the surrounding area.

By the time I go through the site, I know if it is an adult park where kids aren’t even allowed, a 55+ park where none of us are allowed, or if they even allow rigs older than 10 years, or my English Mastiff.

Let me tell you a secret though, even though they have these rules, if you really want to go, JUST ASK.

Email them. Call them. I have emailed many places just being honest about how old the rig is, who is traveling with us, that my husband is Retired Army (I think that helps let them know our character as well), and I send pictures of the bus (one inside and one outside), as well as a family pic of all of us. I feel honesty is the best policy especially if you are staying there for more than a few days.

To my surprise, I would get responses from 55+ and Adult parks saying it was totally fine if we stayed, but no more than a month since we did not meet the age/no children requirements. I would get replies from parks that would not allow rigs 10 years or older, but yet we were invited to stay.

Now, a few things, I believe, influenced the decision from these folks. One, we were always asking parks during their non-busy seasons. Two, we keep our bus pretty well maintained and painted, and she looks really nice inside, which is why I send the inside pics. I think it helps to show people that we are clean and will respect their property if we respect our own. Three, I also mention that we were in Bus Conversion Magazine and send the Cover Photo from the Magazine! That definitely helps!

I get the occasional replies, “We are full,” “We don’t take older rigs,” “We don’t take school bus conversions”,  or no response at all! That is fine. Do NOT get your feelings hurt! Just take your answer and move on.

We did not get into this kind of a tiny home or lifestyle if we wanted an easy route or to fit in with the crowd. We just research, reach out, take the answers, and celebrate or move on.

(The park is High Chaparral in Casa Grande, AZ. We have landed in an Adult park with a pool, spa, laundry facility, dog park, level/gravel spots, outside pickle ball courts, etc. and made friends with the management. Come to find out, they love vintage RVs and motor homes alike. They invited us back this year when we drove through again and we were happy to accept. We are always needing a space during their “off season” so the park is pretty empty, which we like anyway! They also own a couple of golf courses near-by for those who like to golf! Let Kay know we sent you!)
(This past summer we were parked at Distant Drums RV Resort in Camp Verde, AZ. They have Full Hook Ups and some great features; fitness room, laundry room, pool, spa, dog park, trails all around, vineyards, Sedona near-by, swimming holes, etc. IT was during their “off season”, but they had a “No rigs over 10 years old” policy. I emailed a couple of months before we needed to arrive and they were happy to accept us. We paid $600 per month +$35 flat rate for electricity. You could also apply to workamp there.)

As the features and amenities added up, so did the price of our rent. We had previously stayed on private land for $100/month, $200/month, with just water and electric hookups; Workamped for Full Hook Ups at a campground; Workamped in the middle of a city with full hook ups and we get paid for that gig as well; on the higher end, the Resort we stayed at was $635/month. So as you can see, the prices vary greatly depending on where you go, what you get, and what work you do.

We are the type of road warriors that like to stay in one spot for a month or more to really figure a place out. We learn about the people, the sights, and the opportunities for the kids to become a regular somewhere. We found that we also save money when we are not always traveling because the cost at places is less for a whole month as opposed to weekly or daily rates. And you save money on gas!

In the spirit of saving money, let us not forget about the FREE places that most already know about, but why not list them here too? Places like BLM land where you can stay up to 2 weeks for free boondocking, but there is no special requirement for your rig and they have some pretty great spots to camp (i.e. South Rim of the Grand Canyon)!

We have even stayed at truck stops from one night for up to 3 days! Rest areas are a great stopping place for a break too, as well. Most have a “No More than 8 Hours” Rule, but we have always stayed like 10 or 12 hours and never had any issues.

(FREE! Parked at a Rest Area in New Mexico completely off grid!)
(Parked at a Truck stop in Roswell, New Mexico for 3 days to check out the alien sights. We went to Walmart on the 2nd day and asked to borrow their outside hose at the garden center to fill our fresh water tank. They were super nice and had no problems with us doing that.)

You may ask, “How do you know when a rest area, truck stop, or free place is available and how far are you from it?” Great Question! Technology has really come a long way helping those of us who live a life of traveling!

I use the apps TruckersPath and FreeCampsites.net. There are also a number of great RV park/campground applications you can download that all pretty much do the same thing for those search options.

I mostly use the two aforementioned apps while plotting the course to our destination before we head out, as well as during travel. TruckersPath will have up to date information on if there spaces available at rest areas, truck stops, and parking lots (i.e. Walmart, Home Depot, etc) as long as people are using the app.

FreeCampsites.net app links you to their website and shows a map of places people have personally used and reviewed to camp or park for free or small fee. Lots of BLM land, state land, parking lots, truck stops, etc. Use the tools at your fingertips to make traveling less stressful!

With every place we went, the price changed, the effort for services was different, and amenities were variable. You pay to play. If you are traveling in your bus conversion and just never bothered with the perks these other RVers are taking advantage of, take it from me, it is definitely worth the ask.

Just make sure you research and do your due diligence before you roll into a place, get rejected, and have a bad night at a rest stop somewhere! Take advantage of technology and apps, prepare as much as you can, and enjoy the journey! Safe Travels! 

 (Parked on site at our winter Workamping Gig (managing a pumpkin patch, tree lot, fireworks stand) in Arizona. Totally fenced in, with lock and key. We were the only ones on the site and had water from a local business, gray water dump service, and generator power provided by the company. We also had 2 weeks off in between seasons and were allowed to stay and use the generators and all while we went and explored. Free Hookups and Paid Gig.)
(Private property in East Texas near my parent’s house. This spot had a 30 amp electric hookup meant for a food truck. There is also a big building pretty far from the hookups that the owner runs a flea market out of Friday-Sunday. Gray water was leached onto an area she wanted us to water via an old hose, and there was a dumpster on site for our trash. We had lots of privacy here too! Paid $200/month.)
(We met a local farmer whom we sold some honey for while we workamped the tree lot who offered us a spot on his private property for as long as we needed. We only stayed a few months, but we had a water hookup, 30 amp electric, and the gray water leeched a dead area he wanted some grass to grow at, a dumpster was on site, and it was fenced off too! The people you meet on the road may surprise you so keep an open mind and be friendly! $200/ month +electric which was normally $75)
(Parked at a friend’s house in Washington State Spring-Summer with water hook up only. The panels and batteries provided 100% of our power and the gray water went into a drain that was installed on the property. They let us use their laundry room and did not charge us to stay. Great friends!)
(Parked on a friend’s private property completely off grid with full water tanks. We stayed a week before hitting the road. Ask friends and family what they may think is available, because you never know who has a piece of property you can boondock on for a bit! The neighbor even let us fill our tanks when we got low towards the end of our stay. No payment!)
(Workamping at Kamp Klamath in California the Redwoods during our first Summer in the bus. We had a spot away from other RVers, Full Hook Ups, local attraction discounts, free laundry, free BBQ on Saturday, food from the garden we would help tend, and a store discount. The cost was us working 4- 5 hour days in the office/store. We were in charge of reservations, selling items from the small store on site, rv escorts, and simple store/office cleaning duties.)
(In Cortez, CO at Mesa Verde RV Park in late March. We got a snow day which had us extend a couple of days, but it was our first RV park ever that we stayed at and a great learning experience. A great spot to stay for a few days. This was about $30/day for full hook ups and a laundry room.)
(We stayed at Black Canyon City Campground in Black Canyon City, AZ about 45 minutes North of Phoenix. The spot was cool and out of the dust of Phoenix for the month of May when we were there. The pool and hot tub they featured was not cleaned very well. We paid $575 for that month and were ultimately disappointed. They ended up charging us $175 for electricity that month as well, which is by far the most I have ever paid. Bus Conversion friendly, but at what price?
(Stayed at a friend’s house out in the country in Central Texas for a couple of weeks. This was actually our first trip after the conversion was complete and was our half way point on our trip to East TX. We were totally dependent on the solar for two weeks with access to water to fill the fresh water tank They also let us use their laundry room! Great friends!)

Also check out my other blogs/vlogs that will correspond with this article and more on our experiences. Links are below:

Places to Park Your Skoolie/Tinyhouse: Differences in Features and Costs

Where to Park Your Skoolie/TinyHouse and How to Research

How to Set Up You Skoolie/Tinyhouse at an RV Park

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