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Old 10-19-2015, 10:10 PM   #1
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winter travel without reservations

We would like to go to warmer climates this winter. For the months of January and February. We haven't decided where. we would like to site see and take our time and perhaps move from location to location if the spirit moves us. My question is to those of you experienced travelers... Is it possible to do this in Florida, Arizona, Texas etc or are all parks reserved ahead of time for these prime times. Will we be scrambling looking for a place to stay and end up in Walmart's parking lot? We haven't travelled a great deal so just learning. thanks, Cathy

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Old 10-20-2015, 03:50 AM   #2
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You will be hard pressed to find a spot in Fl. this time of year. Also many counties and cities have ordinances against staying over night in the parking lots. You might have better luck in Az.

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Old 10-20-2015, 05:09 AM   #3
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Dave and Cathy-

My wife and I traveled from New Hampshire to Arizona and back last January through April. Our route was south to Florida, and then across Route 10 to Arizona. On the return we "clipped the corner," running through Alabama and Georgia. It was our first long-distance trip. Here are some observations:

1) Determine how far you can comfortably travel in a day. For us it was about 225 miles, or five and-a-half hours. This sets a "normal maximum" distance for your planning.

2) My wife listed potential RV sites before we left. Some we actually used, some we changed for others. It helped that she was already familiar with options in our areas of interest. She used the Good Sam book and the Internet a lot in her planning.

3) The night before we moved on, she and I would go over the candidate RV sites (at or near our "normal maximum" distance) and narrow the list to one to three. After we were underway (usually at our lunch break) we would call the top candidate and make a reservation. At that time we'd know about when we'd arrive, too. Note: Calling before noon increases your chances of getting a spot in the RV park of your choice.

4) One RV park we had our eye on (in Tucson) was almost full, but we got in. The Grand Canyon RV parks (ones inside the park gates) were booked up such that the best we could get was a three-night spot for 10 days hence, and in Mather Campground (combined tents and RVs, no hookups), not Trailer Village (hookups).

5) The federal and state parks sometimes use a central reservations number. The people there may not have the correct information. This happened to us when we tried to reserve for Fort Pickens State Park in Pensacola. The federal web site said there were open spots, but the reservation person said the park was full. We went to the park, and they had openings (cheap at $13 a night, if memory serves).

6) We used a mix of commercial RV parks, and federal and state parks. Commercial parks CAN have nicer facilities (I emphasize "can," because we stayed in our share of ones with not-so-nice facilities), while the federal and state parks have some of the nicest sites, and sometimes dated or simpler facilities (e.g., central sewer dump rather than dump at your RV parking site). My point is that it pays to cast your net as widely as possible when looking for places to stay.

My general feeling is that you can get away without reservations, if you're flexible, but also that it's prudent to make reservations more than a day ahead for places that are on everyone's "must see" list.

If you'd like some specific recommendations, send me a private message.

Enjoy your trip!

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Old 10-20-2015, 06:10 AM   #4
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My wife and I have spent the last 3 winters from Florida to South California largely without an itinerary. I hate to have to be some place, because I might come across a place where we like to stay and explore. The last 2 winters did South Utah, Las Vegas, AZ and South CA mostly. There is a great number of boondocking spots in AZ, as well as full service campgrounds. South CA is the only place where we made reservations, but only a week or month ahead. For instance we like San Clemente State Park which is impossible to get reservations for on a weekend. So would stay in San Diego on the weekend and move to San Clemente for the week days. Sometimes when Winter storms are expected then the weekend spots open as cancellations.

Three years ago when we started in Florida, only stayed in northern Florida, without problems, then did the Gulf Coast over to Texas, then to AZ. In New Orleans we stayed a week, then moved on the Thursday before Super Bowl weekend, rather then pay the triple the price per night, 4 night minimum stay requested.

When we hit an area, we normally use our toad to explore it for spots on our next trip through. Have never been stuck for a place to stay overnight. Yes some of the spots were advertised as a resort, but would have preferred a Walmart. Some of the places are excellent and economical, and when going through again, we always stay there.

So in a nutshell, you would have no problems in the West. I have to add, that America is a very beautiful country to see and explore and you will enjoy it.
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Old 10-20-2015, 06:39 AM   #5
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I'm not the greatest at finding places "on the fly". The pilot in me likes to pre-flight a lot. Recently I started using RV TRIP WIZARD. (No...I don't own stock in it. LOL) I am liking it both for planning and keeping records of where I have been. Here is a screen shot of a trip we will be making starting in a week or so.

It has some nice features that I like including the "range rings" that you see. I set my range rings at 150, 225 & 300 miles. You select a starting point or any of your intermediate ones and as you build your route it gives you a good idea of CGs within those ranges. Clicking on any of the CG symbols will pull up information on that CG including reviews and contact information. It also has the ability to customize your RV set up including height (which will display low clearance warnings) and what speed you normally cruise at.

It isn't a free site but for $39 it satisfies the OCD part of me.
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Old 10-20-2015, 06:41 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by IlliniCathy View Post
We would like to go to warmer climates this winter. For the months of January and February. We haven't decided where. we would like to site see and take our time and perhaps move from location to location if the spirit moves us. My question is to those of you experienced travelers... Is it possible to do this in Florida, Arizona, Texas etc or are all parks reserved ahead of time for these prime times. Will we be scrambling looking for a place to stay and end up in Walmart's parking lot? We haven't travelled a great deal so just learning. thanks, Cathy
We have traveled in the south from Dec. through April for the past 12 winters taking our time and moving from location to location as the spirit moved us.
I can't tell you about FL, but I can tell you we have never had a problem finding a campsite, in a national park, state park, Corps of Engineers park or private RV park, (with NO "advance planning" or "reservations"), whenever and wherever we traveled in AL, MS, LA, TX, NM, AZ and/or southern CA.
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Old 10-20-2015, 06:54 AM   #7
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I have been doing Fla for past 6 years and never had a problem with private parks. The State and Federal could be a problem . There is a better chance of getting into one of them on a weekday.

I started out with nothing and I still have most of it left
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Old 10-20-2015, 07:12 AM   #8
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We sure hope this can be done because we plan to do the same thing right after Christmas. We've never traveled in the SW US in winter and this will be our first time. It is really our first winter exploration of warmer places other than Florida. Our plan is to leave VA and head to Pensacola to visit the Naval Air Museum, then head west on I-10. We plan stops in Texas (around San Antonio), thru southern NM and on to southern AZ. Since we have no firm routes or schedule, we hope to find places to stay for at least a few days.

We have been told by others that as long as we don't plan to stay for more than a few days in the more popular locations, we should be able to find RV spots.

I do wonder if the surge in RV sales this past couple of years with more folks on the road will change all of this.
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Old 10-20-2015, 08:11 AM   #9
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I've found that if your willing, as we are sometimes, finding 'off the grid' parking spaces is pretty easy to find, anywhere you go. I especially find that inside cities you have many options, such as the typically large box stores with large parking lots, church parking lots, and especially large corporate building parking lots on weekends, especially if they have parking areas behind the building.
When it comes to finding an rv park or campground, I use the typically PA or GS apps if I know a general area I'm heading toward, or use Google map 'overview', with a search for 'rv site', or 'campground' or 'park' will many times reveal places you would never know were available. We are in in a city park in Orlando right now, which has full service rv park amenities, just down the road from the major entertainment parks, and yet would be very hard to know existed without 'accidentally' finding it. pretty cheap too.
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Old 10-20-2015, 08:23 AM   #10
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In our experience, you need to be careful of Friday and Saturday nights in the Fl. State Parks, especially in the more popular areas (mid and southern parts of the state). Those can be hard to come by/have a tendency to fill in advance. Not only due to snowbirds, but locals like to camp as well! As long as you are willing to stay flexible though, generally there are private parks (of mixed quality) that can accommodate you without notice.

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