The Best Resources For Finding Free Camping

Van Life Resources ~ We Are Sharing Our Favorite Ways To Find Free Camping

Two years on the road has given us a fair bit of practice finding the best spots to sleep or better yet camp! We are sharing our favorite resources for finding free camping!

This can look very different depending on where you are, and your budget. But if you’re like us, we opt for free spots, wide-open spaces, and we try to save paying to camp for when it’s somewhere that we really want to be!

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Apps and Resources for Finding Free Camping

Ioverlander (U.S.A &Canada)

This free app is user fed and has one of the biggest user-bases of them all. Find free campsites, rest stops, boondocking, Walmarts, propane, water, dump stations, and even showers. It’s usually the first app we check, open the map, search your area, chose a spot and link directions straight from the app. There is also space for users to include pictures.

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**Huge plus this is an app we can use when we are offline. This means we don’t need a cell signal to see a spot on the map or read the reviews.

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The downside:
Being user fed, it doesn’t include everything only places other users have been and contributed the information.

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Also, there is no criteria for information so you may not get the best intel every time.
Use your judgment: we have NEVER had a knock on the door, and this is because we don’t presume to bend the rules. If it’s posted no, if someone has previously been asked to leave, or some other issue, we don’t stay there. No judgment to those who do, but that’s what has worked for us.

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BLM/ National Forests /Wildlife Management/ LTVA (U.S.A).

These are a few of our favorite things! Public lands are one of the best ideas ever! These options are:
-typically free
-often do not require a permit

-can vary from established campgrounds to truly wild places
-usually have a limit of 14 days

LTVA- Long Term Visitor Areas are part of BLM but are more established, do require a permit, but will allow longer stays. Please remember as with any campgrounds to practice Leave No Trace Principles

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Click Here for BLM

For National Forests Click Here

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Crown Land/ Forestry and Recreation Land in Canada

In Canada, over 80% of the land is Crown Land which is federally designated for public use. This includes National Parks, Provincial Parks, Forestry land and waterways. Camping and land-use rules vary though from province to province on public lands so you can click on a province below to link to their resources.

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BC AB SK MB ON QC NB PEI NS NL YK

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Walmart/Cracker Barrel/Cabellas/Bass Pro Shop

These big retailers have a history of being RV friendly. Many allow overnight parking in relatively safe, well lit, even occasionally patrolled lots. Some even offer potable water, and dump stations!!

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The downside: None really, it is important to understand that this isn’t just inherently allowed at all locations see a No Stay List Of Walmarts here. It may or may not be quiet or busy. If it is posted no overnight parking, then yes, that means you too. If you are unsure best practice is to ask in-store. It’s usually ok, but some areas have bylaws and ordinances that don’t allow it. Some stores have also changed their policies as these locations are easily abused. If you’re staying, don’t set up camp, don’t pull out your BBQs and lawn chairs its a business parking lot, you’re not camping! It’s a spot to sleep. Early in, early out and try to be discrete.

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**Parking Tip: we always either back in to protect the area of the van where we sleep, also try to get next to concrete meridians for some added protection, in quiet areas of the lot, not next to a main entrance.

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We woke up to a nasty accident in a Walmart parking lot once, it happened about 10 feet from where we were sleeping (not to our van, but too close for comfort).

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Freecampsites.net

This website provides a user fed database that provides pretty clear details on a variety of free spots. Users can include pictures and review the sites. This again includes everything from wild camping to parking lot options.

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Park Advisor

We like this app for the combination of program and user fed database. It lists gas stations, Costco’s, Walmarts, Cabellas, and other retailers. You also see established RV parks, state parks, national parks, public and private campgrounds.

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Campendium

This user fed site offers well-structured feedback on everything from free spots to RV parks. The review structure provides details on the site, fees, access and even cell service which is a biggy for all you digital nomads.

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Memberships We Use

After 2 years on the road, we have tried a few things, here are the programs we use.

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Passport America

This program is $49/year and offers 50% off at thousands of RV parks all over the U.S. and Canada. We don’t stay in RV parks often, but when we do it’s almost always a P.A park. We have stayed in some great parks with all the amenities for about $22.50/night (sometimes more, sometimes less). Use our referral code R-0301705 when you register here

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Boondockers Welcome

Admittedly it took us a while to wise up and get in on this program. The membership is $50/ year and allows you access to locations all over the U.S and Canada. Mostly these are properties of fellow travelers, so it could be anything from a driveway to a church parking lot, to a farm.

How it works: You request to stay directly with the host, and once approved, they contact you with details for your arrival. You get a safe and unique place to park up. We have done this a few different ways: arrived late in the evening(with approval from the host) and basically went straight to sleep, we have also sat and visited with and shared a coffee or a meal with hosts! It is a great way to meet fellow travel enthusiasts, and hosts have the best inside scoop on their areas and love to help you plan your visit! Sign up here

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Harvest Host

We are still fairly new to this program but we love it! For $79/year you gain access to hundreds of locations in the U.S and Canada. Harvest hosts are categorized as Vineyards, Farms, Breweries, Museums and more.

How it Works: Request a stay directly with a host, you get a cool, safe place to campout, and it’s always a bonus to do a wine tasting. Furthermore this program asks that you purchase something from your hosts in exchange for your stay. So you can stock up on wine, beer, do a tasting or buy local fresh produce! Save 15% off when you sign up here!

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We hope these resources for finding free camping help you plan your next trip!

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If you’re interested in wild camping we wrote about our Epic Trip in the True North to the Arctic Ocean here

The Best Money-Saving Apps For Life On The Road

Van Life Resources ~ The best money saving apps for fulltime travelers

Here are some of the best money-saving apps and cash back programs we use while traveling full-time!

Definitely use them whether you travel or not these money-saving apps are useful for everyone

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Gas Buddy:

This app provides current fuel prices at gas stations in Canada and the U.S. so you can plan ahead and avoid paying top dollar. American users are also eligible for discounts and free fuel offers!

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Get Upside

Fuel is one of our biggest expenses after 2 years on the road and 90,000kms (almost 56,000 miles). Every penny we can save in fuel adds up! Get Upside offers cash back that can be deposited to your PayPal account. The app is user-friendly and allows you to chose between different stations and different fuel grades. Just chose an offer, fill your tank, and snap a picture of your receipt! Earn an extra $0.15/gallon bonus when you sign up with our referral code: A2KEH

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Shell Fuel Rewards

This one’s a no brainer! Shell isn’t always the cheapest station, but we have come to rely on them. They are found from coast to coast, so it takes the guesswork out of finding fuel. The rewards program starts you off at $0.05/gallon discount at all Shell stations. You don’t need to carry a card you can use your phone number! Their app is also straight forward and easy to use, it also makes tracking your fuel spending easy. You can also earn extra fuel discounts when you make in-store purchases (if it’s a snack and fuel stop you could easily triple your savings!) Sign up here and Never Pay Full Price For Fuel again!

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Rakuten/Ebates

We use the American and Canadian versions of this cash back program. Hello online shoppers, this app is for you! Cash back offers on everything you buy online! From your favorite housewares stores, to shops like Sephora, save money planning your next trip, flight deals, hotels, car rentals ( we cleaned up booking our Ireland trip in 2019!) and of course Amazon !! If you are traveling or building out a van you are likely doing a lot of your shopping on Amazon so start earning cash back on the stuff you are buying anyway! Easy to use just head over to the app, find your store and you will be linked directly to their site (your purchases are still from the store, this program just tracks the purchase and gets you cash back! They have also started offering some instore offers, so honestly, there’s money to be saved any time you shop.
You can get a $10 bonus cash back for signing up when you use our affiliate links!

U.S.A shoppers click here

Canadian shoppers click here

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Fetch Rewards

This user-friendly app offers a super simple rewards program! Scan receipts from grocery purchases to earn reward points. Then redeem your points for great stuff like gift cards and prepaid credit cards!! Earn 2000 bonus reward points when you use our referral code: 3WURW

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Ibotta
We use this cashback app for groceries, but they have offers on a lot of different stores and branded items. Easy to use just check the app for offers before you shop, scan your receipt and start earning cashback! Get started by clicking here!

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Thanks for checking out these money-saving apps, never leave money on the table, happy savings to you!!!

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We also wrote about ways to Stick To Your Budget While On The Road click here to check it out!

Renting A Car In Ireland ~ Resources For Planning Your Trip

Renting a car for your visit to Ireland? We share our experiences based on our travels in 2019 to help make it easier for you!

Renting a car in Ireland and Tips for planning your trip!

Car rentals are a whole other process in the Republic of Ireland. We had a really hard time finding up to date information online when we were planning our trip. The general consensus seemed to be the insurance is expensive, and the roads are narrow. We also had a tough time getting accurate information from the rental companies themselves. Calling their customer service often lead to someone in North America who knew as much or less than we did.

Why am I sharing this?

If you are anything like me arriving jetlagged in a new country on no sleep doesn’t prepare you for the car rental line-ups. The general confusion and being inundated with questions and options at the counter. There is enough to focus on, like driving on the left hand side in a manual transmission. Showing up with your license and credit card and getting the hell out of there and finding caffeine and a warm shower is more ideal. So I have put together information from my experiences and research as of 2019.

Lets start with the lingo:

CDW

Collision Damage Waiver is the basic insurance that is required for car rentals in Ireland (covers the car in an accident, not the driver), the cost varies from about €7/day and up in to the €20 range on typical rentals.

Excess

Excess is essentially a deductible for the CDW insurance and is held in the form of a deposit. With basic CDW the excess deposit was around €2000.

To lower this Excess deposit you can chose to pay non refundable amounts to ‘Reduce your Excess’.

This is pricey for sure, and there is really only one work around.
Rental companies will not accept third party insurance in lieu of the CDW. However you can purchase third party to get reimbursed if you end up making a claim. The car rental company won’t deal with them for you. They will accept letters confirming insurance through your major credit card. This letter has to clearly state that you have coverage in the Republic of Ireland. After confirming with the insurance department at Visa I had no problems getting this letter.

Here is where is gets interesting

Most of the rental companies will accept this letter. However, even with this letter they require a refundable deposit of €5000 to decline the CDW they are selling. The deposit of €5000 held on that same credit card that has the letter, and is paying in full for the rental. That seems to be the going rate after checking with a several rental companies. If you go this route make sure you have enough space on that credit card to cover: the full cost of the rental, extra deposits, and the €5000 hold.

A note about reducing your Excess:

We chose this route with our campervan rental, and it seemed like a good idea. We paid €600 to reduce our excess deposit to €2000.. great right? Stay with me here… so now I have paid €600 non-refundable to lower my deposit. In the event of an accident the rental company will still keep the necessary funds up to the total excess deposit. So if there was €600 damage (say a windshield) they keep that from your excess deposit….at this point I would be out €1200 for €600 in damage.

So if you have the room on your credit card or can have your limit increased for your trip…it actually costs you less in the long run even if the worst should happen and you have to make a claim.

What about your insurance back home?

I went back in forth with ICBC who I will say is not the best, I also contacted other private insurers. It was like I was speaking another language when asking about insurance to drive in the Republic of Ireland….
In the instance of the camper van rental, a rental agent tried to tell me not to worry. If the there were any damage costs, I could always claim back that money with my own insurance back home….not the case. Also that “rental insurance” on your credit card needs to be understood clearly, Visa’s coverage does not include RVs, large passenger vans, cargo vans, or luxury vehicles. So ask those questions very specifically when you are inquiring about insurance.

Since our experience was different with 4 vehicles and three rental companies, let’s recap. The two cheapest options we found at the time of our trip: Easyrent, and Budget Rentals.

Budget Car Rentals

We had a €2000 excess deposit held on my Mastercard. This did not show up as a payment so no conversion fees were applied…and over the course of 21 day rental the funds were still accessible on my card. The shuttle service from the airport was simple and direct. The checkout was quick (though they do to try to sell you more insurance at the time of rental, the basic CDW does not cover windshields, mirrors or tires, and even some of the higher tiers didn’t include them)

The Experience:

There was no walk through, we were given a carbon slip with markings of existing issues with the car, and told to go check it out on our own and just take pictures of any other issues….our page had three issues marked to start, we took about 40 pictures and a walk around video just in case. We had two vehicles from Budget and the normal state seems to be scratches on the sides, hubcaps, and mirrors. (Chalk it up to alot of first time left hand drivers on Irelands very very narrow roads).

The return process was equally easy. We showed up they did a walk through and we were on the shuttle in minutes. They were never really clear on what kind of damage they look for (so I documented every little scuff just in case)

Our second vehicle with Budget was an easy exchange. We were in Dublin (and flew to Scotland for three days) the little hatch back we received was basic, and making alot rattling noises. I called budget, and asked about exchanging the vehicle, they were happy to oblige. I also asked if I could keep the vehicle parked in their secured lot over the weekend as it wouldn’t be in use (saved me doing two separate rentals with two deposits, also saved me parking costs).

Upon pick up the process was the same, a self guided walk around, pictures of all the scuffs and scratches, and we were on our way in a small s.u.v. The return was just as smooth the second time, a quick walk through and they called us a cab to our next destination.

Easyrent

We booked this through carrentals.ie and learned a couple of good though annoying lessons. When we arrived at the offsite pickup/drop off location the office was full and every customer had the same issue….”I bought Excess Reduction when I booked online, but now at the counter Easyrent is still taking the €2000euro hold.” We took a chance and bought the excess reduction when we booked as this was just for one day it seemed simple, we were flying out the next day and wouldn’t leave with a huge hold in our credit card. We were wrong.

If you are booking with a travel site (think carrentals.com, Expedia.com or Booking.com), you are not buying ‘their’ insurance. You are buying third party, and that means if you need it, you have to claim any incidentals back through this other company….this does NOT lower any of the fees or deposits with the actual rental company, it actually has nothing to do with the rental company.

The deposit they held at Easyrent went through as a charge on my card and I was told it could take up to 6 weeks to reverse it after I returned the rental. The girl at the counter was not friendly and her response to my concerns as “you should read more clearly next time”. This hole process was never communicated clearly, and not just to us as was obvious from the crowd of stressed out renters pleading with their credit card companies and reservation companies to help them….

So what’s a traveller to do?

Price compare for sure, talk to your insurance and credit card providers but there’s more…

This is a sneaky little tip:

When searching online, search the “.ie” sites.

Budget.ie

Enterprise.ie

Europcar.ie

sixt.ie

thrifty.ie

avis.ie

The .ie sites are the Ireland domains and they price differently. They build the CDW into the cost of the rental automatically and it is less expensive.

Here is our example:

When we rented through Budget our rental cost ended up being under €400 for 21 days (our Excess deposit was €2000, + €100 for a fuel deposit). After hours on the phone and online, this was a pretty great deal!

My parents rental was booked using Aeroplan points, their options were to buy CDW from the rental company, decline it and leave the €5000 Excess deposit, or pay to reduce…..they paid over €400 to have full coverage on their car, their rental was for a week!

When calling, find the toll free number for their Ireland customer service or at minimum a European customer service. The most accurate information for renting a car in Ireland is from the location directly. (Speaking with a 1-800 agent from more than one company actually led to even more confusion as they don’t always actually know the policies for Ireland)

All in all the rental costs in Ireland were actually very reasonable (probably cheaper than home). Preparing for the deposits and holds is important, and unavoidable without buying insurance right from the rental company, so plan ahead to avoid being caught off guard at the counter. Decide what kind of coverage feels right for you.

One more suggestion is to use Ebates/Rakuten when booking your tip whenever you can. We earned hundreds of dollars in cashback when we booked our trip. Check out Rakuten/Ebates and other money-saving programs for travel here.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for renting a car in Ireland? Please share your experience with us!

Finding Free Camping In Junction, Texas

So excited to share this free camping in Junction, Texas!

We have now made the journey across southern U.S several times. We have taken different routes but often find ourselves at some point on Interstate 10 in Texas. It is a long stretch from San Antonio to El Paso or from the Guadalupe Mountains to the Gulf coast, and finding free spots along the interstate can be a little underwhelming.

Free Camping in Junction Texas

Fort Stockton Walmart & Dominos Again…

Most of the spots you find along the way come in the form of rest stops, picnic areas, truck stops and Walmarts. We have stayed at the Walmart in Fort Stockton on 3 separate occasions now. Rest stops in Texas are also really nice and well maintained. We appreciate these types of stopovers to break up a long driving day and rest our heads for a night. But they aren’t really the places we hope to camp along the way.

Free Camping in Junction Texas Van Life

Our most recent trip from the Guadalupe Mountains along I-10 heading East brought us to the little town of Junction, Texas. This sleepy little town lies on the shores of the Llano River.

Free Camping in Junction Texas Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip,

We were fortunate to make it to Junction and have a few quieter days to enjoy our free campsite and explore the town.

There are several options for camping around Junction. These included Llano River State Park and a few RV parks. We were stoked to find a super picturesque free spot right on the river.

Free Camping in Junction Texas

Schreiner Park is a county park located on the west bank of the South Llano River. The park allows 3 days of free dry camping!

Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip, Fulltime Travel, Living in A Van, Free Camping, Boondocking, Junction Texas, Traveling with pets

The park offers: an outdoor community pool, the home of the women’s softball team, beach volleyball courts, playgrounds, a huge picnic area, and a massive community smoker.

This area was devastated earlier this year by flooding, and we did see some of the aftermath. The city park across the river as well as the RV Park were being repaired.

But as far as free camping in Texas goes this spot was pretty perfect.

When we arrived most of the pull-through spaces with covered picnic tables and barbecues were actually being used by locals. So we opted to pull right along the bank of the river. I think the park is actually more dedicated to day use, but no one seemed to be spending time in the area we parked.

We enjoyed hot Sunny days with the park basically all to ourselves. Got to take a few dips in the river to cool off. Long walks with Holly, and she loved swimming in the river. Park workers, as well as police randomly made rounds throughout the day so we always felt safe. Every time a local drove by they smiled and waved.

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The park is clean and well kept. There are restroom facilities that leave a little to be desired, but if you need a free washroom this park has it. Covered picnic tables and BBQs are scattered through the park.

The pool was not open while we were here but if the timing worked out it’s $2 to use the public outdoor pool and I would assume that there are showers available here.

While you’re here pop into town grab a bite at the local diner, visit quaint local shops, take a scenic drive, grab an ice cream cone and slow down. Don’t forget to take your camp chair over and cheer on the Eagles Ladies Softball Team!

If you enjoyed this info on Free Camping in Junction, Texas check out our visitor guide to Big Bend National Park