Camping beyond the city lights is always a good way to relax, unwind and get back to nature. But have you ever thought of taking along the RV when you visit big cities? Once you compare the expense of hotels, restaurant meals and rental cars to the convenience and affordability of RV camping, urban RV campgrounds become an attractive alternative.

But where can you camp that makes sense when visiting larger cities?  We’re glad you asked, because we’ve put together our list of four favorite urban RV campgrounds that keep you close to the action.  Keep in mind, we’re not talking about stealth boondocking on city streets. These are places where camping can be comfortable and affordable while putting you within easy reach of big city attractions.

Urban Camping Ideas for RVers

* Greenbelt Park, twelve miles north of the Washington DC metro area in suburban Maryland, is an affordable, comfortable alternative to pricey DC-area hotels.  You won’t find electric and water hookups in the one hundred seventy-four wooded campsites, but you will find hot showers, flush toilets, potable water, and a dump station.  Your self-contained RV does the rest!  You’ll also be a mile and a half from a DC Metro station, making it easy to access all DC-area attractions.  Consider camping at this NPS-operated campground next time you visit our nation’s capital!

* Campland on the Bay in San Diego was voted one of the 10 Best Urban Campgrounds in 2014. With its own stretch of beach and a boat launch on Mission Bay, as well as an amazing array of year-round planned activities, RVers may be tempted to stay on-site their entire vacation.  But you’ll also be right across the Bay from SeaWorld, less than twenty miles from Coronado Island and within easy reach of San Diego’s many vibrant suburbs.

* Winter Island Park in Salem, Massachusetts is a destination unto itself.  Designated a Marine Recreational Area, the park offers 30 amp and 50 amp campsites from May to October. Boating, lighthouse tours, Salem walking tours and dozens of other attractions in the Salem area can keep campers busy, but you’ll also be within an hour’s drive of most Boston attractions.  Bring the towed vehicle if you plan to drive in Boston (restrictions on propane in certain tunnels) or take the Salem Ferry or MBTA into Boston for more flexibility.

* McKinney Falls State Park, fifteen minutes south of the Texas State Capitol in Austin,

Lower Falls, McKinney Falls State Park

Lower Falls, McKinney Falls State Park

is an urban RV camper’s dream.  With 30 amp and 50 amp campsites, hiking trails, fishing and swimming on Onion Creek and many other ways to play outdoors, this state park also provides low-cost Austin vacation lodging (less than $25 per night!) It’s a short drive to Austin’s world-famous entertainment districts, Lady Bird Lake and fabulous cultural icons like the Paramount Theater.

These are only four of the urban RV campgrounds that can change the way you travel to larger cities. Pick a city and start investigating the state parks, city parks and private campgrounds that might be hidden near popular attractions. Isn’t it time you joined the growing trend of urban RV camping?

Does the wild call to you, tempting you to come find the places where mountains, coastlines and forests surround your campsite? Does that mean giving up the comforts you’ve found while RV camping? Good news—there’s a way to combine your love of wild places with the convenience of RV travel. Developed campsites on BLM lands help you balance the ‘off the grid’ experience with RV convenience.

But how do you find that happy medium, the campsites tucked away among the trees, along the shore or on a mountainside, that accommodate RV camping? A good place to start is at the Bureau of Land Management website, where you’ll find a map of public lands and a guide to recreational opportunities.

We’re going to be sharing more in future blog posts about special places where you can camp on public land. For now, let’s take a quick look at the kinds of places where the Bureau of Land Management has created opportunities for camping and other outdoor recreation.

From Alaska to Arizona, Colorado to California, the BLM manages wild and scenic rivers, wilderness areas and national monuments. Some of these locations are set aside to allow study of eco-systems, some are preserved to allow outstanding outdoor recreation, still others center around preserving the habitats of threatened species.

These public lands surround more than five thousand miles of national scenic and historic trails. They’re home to more than two hundred protected wilderness rivers and national monuments as varied as the Grand Canyon and the California coast.

San Juan Islands WA

San Juan Islands WA

No matter which type of wilderness experience you’re hoping for, there’s a way to bring along the comfort of RV travel, if you do your homework. You won’t be camping in a paved campsite complete with full hook-ups, but you will be as close as it gets to the natural wonders of the American West.

Tips for BLM RV Camping

To completely enjoy your experience ‘off the grid’ camping on public lands, it’s important to follow the guidelines that are consistent for most of these wilderness areas. Here are the basics:

* Leave no Trace – in other words, pack out what you bring in, don’t leave trash and leave the campsites, trails and waterways as you found them.

* Follow Posted Restrictions – for example, if bear boxes are required at all campsites, make sure you have them for food and scented items. Same goes for rules governing where pets are allowed. Motorized vehicles such as RVs or tow vehicles aren’t allowed in all wilderness areas, so be sure you know the rules before you drive through. Ignoring posted restrictions like these can endanger you, other campers and the wilderness environment.

* Stay Aware of Fire Conditions – Smart campers check for up-to-date conditions where they’ll be camping, so they know if it’s safe to start a campfire or if there is heightened fire danger in the area.

* Camp Only Where it’s Allowed – By using the BLM website or contacting their regional offices, you can obtain maps that show both developed campsites and places

where dispersed camping is allowed. Make sure you know the rules about parking near water sources, roads and natural features.

* Prepare for ‘Off the Grid’ Camping – For the most comfortable camping possible, prepare ahead by emptying waste water tanks, carrying sufficient water for your trip (don’t assume potable water will be available), whether generators are allowed and if weather extremes are possible.

* Know How Long You’re Allowed to Stay – The typical limit on camping at a specific campground or dispersed camping area is fourteen days, so if you’re planning a longer trip, make plans to move to another area, if allowed within the management area.

Camping away from it all, in vast wilderness areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management, can open a whole new outdoor experience for RV travelers. Don’t miss your chance to find your own balance between camping ‘off the grid’ and enjoying all the comforts of traveling by RV.

Hanging out with fellow fans in the parking lot can be more fun than watching the actual game. Some football games are famous for their fans’ over-the-top tailgating tactics. Tailgating is something to look forward to—unless it’s hot outside. While taking an RV to your tailgate is terrific because you can cool off inside, you don’t want to miss out on all the action happening outside.  RV Tailgating adventure

Tackle scorching hot tailgating with a cool game strategy. It will make an exciting event with friends even more fun, and you’ll be able to hang outside and stay comfortable.

 

Five Ways to Keep Your Cool

  1. Stock Up On Ice

Warm drinks are the bust of a hot-weather tailgate. You want to have plenty of ice on hand so you can keep drinks and coolers cold. However, you won’t need to worry about where to pick up extra bags of ice or where to store it if you make your own ice instead.

There are portable and freestanding ice makers that simply sit on your countertop. Plug it in, let it run and make over 25 pounds of ice in 24 hours. Keep one in your RV for instant ice during a tailgate.

To avoid having the ice melt too quickly, store your coolers in the shade. Chilling drinks at home before you put them in the cooler is another great tip for making your ice last longer.

  1. Have It Made in the Shade

If you get to your tailgate location early, scout out a spot for afternoon shade even if your RV has an awning. There’s a tremendous heat difference in and out of the shade, so you’ll want room to spread out.

Consider shade when you decide which way to face your RV as you park. During some parts of the day, the RV itself will provide a shady rectangle from the hot sun. Face your side door toward the afternoon shade.

Never fear if there aren’t any shady spots. Plan ahead to provide your own shade. Pack a pop-up-tent to get quite a few square feet of shade, or pack a patio umbrella and stand. Since the umbrella collapses, it’s easy to transport. Having the umbrella means you can place it separate from the tent so you can shade a drink table or the person manning the grill.

  1. Let Off Some Steam

Just like the water misters found at big outdoor theme parks, you can provide your own cooling mist at a tailgate.

There are a variety of misters that can travel with you. Some use a bucket full of water, some attach to a hose and others can be attached to your shade tent. There are even personal, hand-held misters you can hold and mist yourself as you chill in your chaise lounge.

  1. Pack a Breeze

A breeze makes all the difference on a hot day. If Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, be prepared by having some fans on hand. Battery-operated fans are super handy to have when tailgating or camping. On the other hand, if you are tailgating with an RV, then you’ll be able to plug in a fan outside to create a breeze for everyone hanging out.

  1. Fill Up on Cold

Be sure to stay hydrated. Provide plenty of icy cold drinks for all your tailgating guests. Remember hot weather can cause you to sweat and you may need to drink even more water than normal. The Institute of Medicine suggests an adequate intake for men is roughly about 13 cups of beverages a day while women should drink about nine cups.

Cold foods are another terrific cooling trick. As much as tailgating is all about the grill, offer cold sides to your grilled meat. Serve cold salad, pasta salad, cut up fruit and slices of veggies with a chilled dip. In fact, watermelon is an exceptionally good choice because the fruit is 93 percent water.

Professional Organizer Tips for Tailgating

  • Store beverages separately from food. The beverage cooler will be opened more frequently, so storing the food separately will help it stay cool.
  • Keep zippered plastic bags on hand. Fill them with ice and use them in coolers of food. As the ice melts, it won’t get the food in the cooler wet.
  • Bring extension cords. You can use these to plug items like a fan or portable ice maker into your RV’s power but still keep them outside and easily accessible.
  • Dampen hand towels and store them in the refrigerator or cooler. They’re terrific to pass around when people are hot and sweaty.

Lea Schneider is a home organizational expert with years of experience combining home organization with design styles. She spent a lot of time traveling, camping and RVing with her family when she was growing up. To research coolers and other tailgating gear like those described by Lea, go to the Home Depot website.

Image provided by Lea Schneider.

Did we whet your appetite with ideas for surfing and RV camping your way through Northern San Diego County? Well hold on, because we’re just getting started. This week, we’re going to keep moving south and talk about the places where the breaks bring big waves and camping keeps you near the beach.

Where to Camp Near San Diego Surfing

As we move down the shoreline into San Diego surf territory, the prime surf spots stretch to the Mexican border. Before we highlight the best surf beaches in San Diego, let’s talk about where to camp in your RV. Coming from the north in San Diego County, your next opportunity to camp where there’s surfing nearby is San Elijo State Beach near Encinitas. There’s a large campground with standard electric campsites and views to blow you away at sunset.

Farther south, on a spit of sand extending out into San Diego Harbor, Silver Strand State Beach is another option for RV campers who love to surf. Surrounded by both San Diego Harbor and the Pacific Ocean, you can’t beat the scenery and with more than one hundred campsites, the chances of getting a campsite are good.

One more possibility for camping near San Diego surf beaches is to stay at Campland on the Bay, a huge private campground on Mission Bay. It has every amenity you can imagine, so if you’re not able to book or find a site near a state beach, consider camping here instead.

Where to Surf Near San Diego

There’s no shortage of good surfing near San Diego,san_diego_shutterstock_380691118 with natural features like reefs and beachbreaks and several piers to keep things interesting. You’ll remember in our last post that we ended the ride at South Carlsbad State Park. If we pick up our journey to find great surfing by heading south on I-5, our first stop will be the surf beaches near Encinitas.

If you’re camping at San Elijo State Beach (see above) you’ll be just north of Pipes, an area popular with beginning to advanced surfers, depending on which breaks they choose. Continuing south, the twin breaks at Cardiff State Beach, near the iconic SoCal surf town of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, combine with the endless waves at Cardiff Reef to make this town a spot where you’ll want to stay awhile.

When you’re ready to continue south in search of San Diego surfing, plan a stop at Del Mar Beach. With reef and beachbreaks, swells and tricky river mouth currents to add a challenge, this is another SoCal beach worth spending more than one day surfing. Just south of Del Mar, the wicked beachbreaks at Blacks are best left for highly-experienced surfers.

And that brings us south to Scripps Pier at La Jolla, a good place to test your skills on the ledges formed on the pier’s south side. Farther south, La Jolla Shores promises consistent waves that can be conquered by less-experienced surfers, making it popular with local surf schools. A less predictable surf beach can be found at La Jolla Cove, but the waves aren’t always breaking there. If you have the time to wait, you might find yourself in the ride of your life off this beach.

When you finally reach the city of San Diego, you haven’t run out of good surfing. Ocean Beach, out on the point on San Diego Harbor, has all those features that keep the surfing consistent. A reef, pier and two beaches produce breaks in both directions for waves that will keep all levels of surfers busy.

Our final destination, just five miles north of the border with Mexico, is Imperial Beach, a city where surfing is a treasured pastime. Spend time on the south side of Imperial Beach Pier for a lineup to challenge your best moves. Not as busy as other surfing hot spots near San Diego, Imperial Beach is worth making a stop as you near the end of your camping and surfing vacation.

There you have it, our best tips for camping and surfing your way through San Diego County from Encinitas to Imperial Beach. Keep it easy by picking up a San Diego RV rental, booking campsites ahead where you can and planning lots of time to get to know the beachbreaks, reefs and other secrets that make Southern California surfing so exciting.

Northern San Diego County Surf & Camp Vacation

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San Diego County, California, stretches along I-5 from the border with Mexico north to the Orange County line at San Clemente. All along the way are legendary surf beaches, waiting to be explored by RV travelers. There are also exceptional …

 

RV Owners – Prepare for a Cross Country RV Trip

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If you are reading this, it probably means that you are considering taking a cross country RV trip. After all, what better way to enjoy your RV fully than taking it as far as possible to really have some fun …

 

Three More Reasons to Visit Las Vegas by RV

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RV travelers flock to Las Vegas year-round—for the gaming, for the shows and for the 24-hour glitter this desert gem displays like no place else. But there are three more important reasons to consider visiting Vegas by RV, and we’ve …

 

Camping and Fishing at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

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Imagine a place where you can enjoy RV camping, desert mountain views and first-rate fishing year-round. You’ve just caught the vision for Arizona’s Dead Horse Ranch State Park. This pleasant place in the Verde Valley draws RV campers in search …

 

Fall Camping Spotlight: New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Country

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RV travel to visit wineries is a delicious way to explore the joys of autumn. One wine region that offers RVers abundant opportunities to taste, camp and sightsee your way through fall is New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Country. No …

 

College Football and RV Rentals, Win-Win!

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We’re deep into college football season and stadiums across America are hosting eager fans. For fans who travel to watch their favorite teams, that can mean hotel rooms, restaurant meals and no way to tailgate unless the stadium throws a …