They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. However, there is such a thing as free RV camping. In fact, President Roosevelt called for the creation of free campgrounds on Federal lands when he addressed Congress in 1901. (Although at that time he wasn’t referring to RVs!)
Now commonly referred to as boondocking, camping free of charge is real, but it isn’t for everyone. Boondocking isn’t officially defined but the term stems from the expression “boondocks” that refers to a remote area. Overnight RV parking places such as truck stops, Wal-Mart parking lots, or campgrounds in which RV hookups aren’t available may not necessarily seem remote, but are all generally lumped into the boondocking category.
Crisp, cool air and a burst of color from the changing leaves greet you as the sun peeks up over the horizon. Steam from your morning coffee rises, twisting through the morning air. The stillness is only disturbed by the crunch of leaves underfoot as you walk over to sit at the picnic table and enjoy the quiet morning moments. Fall weather is best enjoyed up close out in nature and one of the best ways to get close to nature is with a fall RVing trip.
Benefits of Fall RVing
Skip the Crowds
Summer is the most popular time for camping, so when cooler temperatures arrive, many take it as a sign that camping season is over. This is good news for you! With fewer people camping, choosing the ideal campsite becomes easier. More campsites are open and you’ll enjoy more “elbow room” to experience nature without feeling crowded. Campgrounds aren’t full of the throngs of people who flock to campsites in the summer. But they aren’t ghost towns in the fall (although there may be ghosts and goblins near Halloween). So, if you enjoy socializing with other campers, you’ll still have neighbors, but also more freedom to keep to yourself if you are looking for a quiet commune with nature.
Fall RVing brings milder weather. While summer camping is fun, sweltering heat can make those summer days – and nights – exhausting. It’s easier to dress for the cooler temps and bring a jacket or sweatshirt along. Those campers who enjoy making the most of hiking, biking, or other outdoor activities can do so without having to worry about the risks of excessive heat.
Bye Bye Bugs
One part of summer camping that you won’t miss with fall RVing is the bugs! Fall is too cold for many of those intolerable insects. Camping in the cooler weather means more room to pack marshmallows for the campfire because you can leave your bug spray behind! Your family, including pets, will be safer and incur fewer bug bites or stings when the mercury dips down in the fall.
Best Camping Atmosphere
Fall foliage makes an incredible backdrop to any campsite when you’re taking advantage of fall RVing. Colors pop and there’s a stillness in the air that makes nature come alive. There’s a different smell to the fresh air as you walk down a path or sit on a rock and watch a chipmunk skitter under a log.
One of the best parts of camping is sitting around the campfire. Cozy campfires can take the chill out of the fall evenings and make the best part of camping even better. And with the longer nights, you can spend even more time gathered around the flames, warming your hands, swapping stories, and roasting marshmallows.
Longer nights bring another bonus – better sleeping weather! Not only does the cool night air make for a better night’s sleep, but the shorter days and longer nights means a later sunrise leaves you more time to snuggle under the blankets and savor sleeping in.
Tips for Fall RVing
Pack a Variety of Clothes
When you’re packing for a fall RVing trip, remember that fall weather can take dramatic swings. Pack appropriately and dress in layers because this time of year, a 20-degree change in temperature can happen quickly. You want to be ready for warm days or temps that can be near-freezing. And whether you find it unfortunate or exciting, those temperature extremes can all happen in one day! Fall also brings rain, so pack extra clothes and socks so you don’t have to be miserable and soggy.
Keep Your Roof Clear of Leaves
A clean RV roof helps deter damage. It also prevents blocked vents and keeps your RV cleaner overall. One thing to keep in mind about that beautiful fall foliage – those leaves don’t stay on the trees forever. Falling leaves end up on your RV rooftop, along with acorns, pinecones, or any number of other types of debris. Be sure to check your roof and keep it clear as part of your fall RVing trip.
Choose the Right Destination
No matter what time of year, the right campsite can make all the difference. So, when you consider fall RVing, plan your trip carefully. There are plenty of color tour resources to help you choose a destination. Consider looking into the local harvest festivals and other activities once you have decided on your campground or boondocking location. There are plenty of things to do here in the Midwest and fall RVing is a great way to enjoy the drive and the journey’s end when you’re going on a fall foliage tour, or just enjoying a last hurrah as a weekend warrior!
One of the best things about camping is the food! There’s
nothing like a golden brown marshmallow that’s been roasted over the campfire
for s’mores. The best thing about creating your RV meal plan is tailoring it to
your own preferences! Love to cook but always short on time at home? Camping
may be your excuse to plan special meals since you’re away from the 9-5 world
and you’ll have more down time to cook. Maybe your camping vacation is packed
with adventure so cooking needs to be as simplistic as possible. Or you
could be somewhere in between. Whatever your cooking style, RV meal planning
starts with the menu.
Not all RV kitchens are alike. Some RV kitchens are tiny,
others much larger, and some even have an island providing a great deal of
counter space. But even with a larger RV kitchen, you still don’t want to go
overboard on the food.
You may have all the space and tools you need to prepare
extravagant meals, but it’s possible you’d rather spend your day relaxing or exploring
rather than cooking. Your RV meal plan can reflect your activity level and
food-prep time available. You can plan simple
meals that are filling and let everyone get back to having fun!
Use Ingredients for Multiple Meals
No matter the
type or size of your RV’s kitchen, one thing is certain: storage space is always
at a premium! One way to maximize storage in the kitchen is to use ingredients
across several meals. This can be anything from a base food like a meat or
vegetable to your favorite spices.
A loaf of bread can be used for toast in the morning,
sandwiches for lunch, and garlic toast for a spaghetti supper. Ground beef or
ground turkey can be a versatile base food. Use some in the spaghetti sauce to
go with that garlic toast and the rest for burgers the next night. There are
plenty of websites
that are great resources for camping recipes. Or, you can do a search for
simple meal plans and find some ideas that fit your cooking style and your
The Right Tools for the Right RV Meal Plan
When you’re building a birdhouse, it’s easier if you have a
hammer and some nails. Likewise, when you have the right
cooking equipment, it’s easier to build your RV meal plan. Two of the most
popular must-haves for any RV kitchen are cast iron pans and a slow cooker.
These two staple items can give you the convenience and flexibility to cook
almost anything when you’re on the road – or even when you’re way, way off the
Another favorite and extremely versatile kitchen cooking
tool is the Dutch oven. Everything from soups and stews to popcorn and desserts
can be prepared in this gem. If you want to cook something fun with the kids
(or simply feel like a kid again) try cooking with pie irons. From sandwiches
to pizza to fruit pies, this campfire kitchen tool takes the fun of roasting
hot dogs or marshmallows and combines it with the versatility of a Dutch oven.
Convenient Food vs Feeling at Home
Your RV meal plan works best when you create it with your
activity level and overall expectations of your time on the road. If you are
the type who wants their RV to feel just like an extension of home, planning
large, sit-down meals that everyone
can enjoy together will be at the top of your list.
Others may be on the opposite end of the spectrum and plan
simple meals and some grab-and-go foods for busy days full of activities.
Whether you’re the type who’s on the go looking for the next adventure or the
type who’s relaxing with your feet up reading the latest novel, you can make
your RV meal plan work for you. You can even mix it up and plan one or two big
meals with easy, quick meals sprinkled in for “flavor” and variety.
Don’t Forget Snacks
Exploring, hiking, fishing or even just getting some time to
relax makes snacks a must-have. Fruit is a great fast-food snack, but don’t
forget to add plenty of non-perishable foods when working up your RV meal plan.
Things like protein bars store easily and travel well; they may even serve as a
meal-replacement if you’re on a long hike or away from your RV for an extended
period. No matter what your plans are, it’s always a good idea to have a
healthy supply of snacks on hand.
Restocking on the Road
Sometimes you may be just a weekend camper. Other times you
may take longer trips. It’s fairly easy to figure out your RV meal plan for
just a weekend, but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed when you do take
extended trips. Planning your meals in advance is still a good idea, but unless
far away from conveniences, you don’t need to pack it all at once.
It is very common to take a mid-week shopping trip when you’re vacationing for a week or longer. When you plan a shopping trip right into your week, you’ll have less to pack initially. This will save you refrigerator and cupboard space as well as avoiding the frustration of food spoiling before you have a chance to prepare it.