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 rates for electricity. You could also apply to Workcamp there.
After spending a year and a half converting our ‘99 International Genesis, Chitty Bang (Read our article in the May 2018 issue of BCM), 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 our bus as much as we do?
She does not look like an RV with the few school bus windows that are still showing on either side. The RV door does not disguise her total originality of previously being a big yellow bus that carted kids and eggheads around Arizona’s ISD.
Of course, we did not want to “run with the pack” and be in crowded places. We wanted to boondock and use this amazing solar setup that we installed. We wanted to park on friend’s and family’s property while we visited and explore their state and sights.
So, who cares if we don’t fit in at an RV Park with all those unoriginal motorhomes? 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 a few RV parks, campgrounds, and even a resort while travel-ing around the last two years.
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 pickleball courts, etc. and made friends with the management. Come to find out, they love vintage RVs and motorhomes 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 nearby for those who like to golf! Let Kay know we sent you!
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 some-where just to get turned away. It is stressful enough driving our big rigs, isn’t it?
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!
Their websites themselves 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 as to 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 want to go, JUST ASK.
Email them. Call them. I have emailed many places to 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 has 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/any children's requirements. I would get replies from parks that would not allow rigs 10 years or older, but 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 well maintained and painted, and she looks 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 Mag-azine and send the Cover Photo from the Magazine! That definitely helps!
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 two weeks off in between seasons and we were allowed to stay and use the generators and all while we went and explored. Free hookups and paid gig.
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!
I stayed at a friend’s house out in the country in Central Texas for a couple of weeks. This was our first trip after the conversion was complete and was our halfway point on our trip to East TX. We were totally dependent on the solar for two weeks with access to water to fill the freshwater tank. They also let us use their laundry room! Great friends!
I get the occasional replies, “We are full,” “We don’t take older rigs,” “We don’t take school bus conversions”, or there is 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.
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 hookups at a campground; Workamped in the middle of a city with full hookups and we got paid for that gig as well; on the higher end, the resort we stayed at was $635/month. 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 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!
Workamping at Kamp Klamath in California the Redwoods during our first summer on 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 four to five hour days in the office/store. We oversaw reservations, selling items from the small store on-site, RV escorts, and simple store/office
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 truck stop or free place is available and how far are you from it?” Great Question! Technology has come a long way helping those of us who live a life of traveling!
FREE! Parked at a rest area in New Mexico completely off grid!
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 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 a lot of privacy here too!
I use the apps TruckerPath and FreeCampsites.net. There are also several 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. TruckerPath will have up to date information on if there are 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 a 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 worth asking.
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 at a Truckstop in Roswell, New Mexico for three 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 freshwater tank. They were super nice and had no problems with us doing that.
We met a local farmer and we sold honey for him 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, 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 plus electric which was normally $75.
Morgan Crabtree lives in a self-converted 1999 International Genesis School Bus, Chitty Bang, with her husband, Ryon, of 15 years; two daughters, Rion and Laila; their English Mastiff, Mila; and their orange cat Micio. They have been living tiny since November
2016 and enjoying their many adventures while traveling together. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Science in Management, works online via her website and social media, is also a contributing writer to Bus Conversion Magazine, and a Young Living Distributor. She is also the wife of a U.S. Army combat veteran (also her high school sweetheart)!
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