We Stayed At An RV Resort, Without An RV

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Ever thought about staying at an RV Resort, even if you don’t own an RV or camper? I never had until we did our first family vacation to the Redwoods last year. When searching for lodging, RV Resorts came up a lot! We didn’t end up staying in one then, but when we were planning our vacation for Seattle to San Diego along highway 101 this year, we decided to give it a shot. So what was it like to stay in an RV Resort without an RV, and is it something you should consider?

RV Park without an RV...it can be done
We stayed in an RV Park without an RV or Camper…how did it go?

*A big thank you to Thousand Trails for hosting our stays at three of their resorts. All opinions are 100% my own.*

When I was younger, my parents owned a pop-up trailer. (And my sister currently owns one that we borrowed once.) So we sometimes took longer road trips and stayed at RV Resorts. Back then they were very clearly meant for RVs, and maybe some tent campers. But all of that has changed. Today’s RV Parks have cabins, themed lodging options, and more!

So when we were checking out lodging for our Highway 101 road trip that took us all the way from Seattle to San Diego, we decided we would try out some RV Resorts. So now I want to share with you are experience, and give you some tips.

What RV Resorts Can You Stay At Without An RV?

So the big question on most people’s minds is probably- what RV resorts can I stay at without an RV or camper? A lot actually. Many resorts have gone to having either tent spots or themed lodging, like safari tents. But many also now have cabins you can rent. Cabins is where my family chose to stay when we stayed at three locations with the Thousand Trails chain of RV Resorts.

Thousand Trails is a chain of RV Resorts all across the country, and they are pretty cool for RV owners as they have a membership plan so you can go to any of the resorts in certain regions (and can add on extra regions to your plan). But the membership also can include discounts on their cabins and themed lodging.

Cabin at Rancho Oso RV Resort
Our Cabin at Rancho Oso RV Resort outside of Santa Barbara, CA

If you are like us, and just going to use their cabins, you will want to talk to a membership specialist to find out if a membership, or just renting at list price is the better deal for you. The membership specialists we heard from all were very open about possible members needing to do the math to make sure a membership makes sense.

What Accommodations Are There At RV Resorts For Those Without RVs or Campers?

So, now you are probably wondering what are the accomodations like for non-RV guests. Did we feel totally out of place? Don’t worry, I have all the answers.

Whaler’s Rest near Newport, Oregon Was The Homiest Feeling RV Resort With Cabin Communities

The accommodations at the resorts we visited were amazing! In Newport, Oregon, we stayed just a little south of Newport at the Thousand Trails Whaler’s Rest Resort. I have to say, of all the resorts we visited, this one had my favorite set up as far as the layout. The Resort was kind of broken down into little communities. Our community had only cabins in it. It was nice because it really felt like a tiny home community. You can see our cabin tour in this Facebook Live I did on the This Crazy Adventure Called Life Facebook page.

Side note: We have always thought about possibly living in a tiny home. This experience made us really think about how tiny we could really handle.

Morgan Hills RV Resort Had Safari Tents As Well As Cabins For Non-RV Guests

While we stayed in cabins at each location, some of the locations also had themed lodging. The Morgan Hills Thousand Trail property had Safari Tents you could rent. We drove by them and one was open enough you could see inside. They were raised off the ground (thank goodness as they had a heavy rainstorm while we were there) and had bunk beds, a couch, and a table with chairs. They were across from the baths and showers but had no bathroom facilities in the tents.

Morgan Hills was definitely geared more towards RVs than Whaler’s Rest and there were a TON. They had very few cabins and safari tents, and only a few regular tent sites.

Extra day free Disneyland ticket deal. Click to book

Rancho Oso Near Santa Barbara Was The Most Uniquely Themed RV Resort For Non-RV/Camper Guests

The Rancho Oso Resort near Santa Barbara definitely had some of the most unique lodging options. It had plenty of RV spaces, but also had TONS of cabins.

Rancho Oso RV Park near Santa Barbara, CA
Rancho Oso was the most unique of the RV Parks we stayed at

The most unique parts were that it had a western village area. Here guests could stay in covered wagons (circled up for protection), a teepee, or some small cabins that were old store front/false front buildings. The insides of those cabins were much like the safari tents at the Morgan Hills Resort from what guests in those cabins mentioned.

Rancho Oso RV Park by THousand Trails
Old western town cabins at Rancho Oso fit the theming perfectly.

What Other Accommodations And Amenities Were Available At RV Resorts

RV Resorts have definitely come a long way since I was a kid. When we traveled as a family when I was little, we were lucky if the RV park had more than one shower/bathroom building. We were in heaven if it had a swimming pool, as most did not.

Today’s RV Resorts have accommodations and amenities far beyond those from the 90’s.

Is There WiFi At RV Resorts?

Some RV Resorts come with free WiFi, and some we found, had it, but only in select locations. Here is what we found with our locations through Thousand Trails.

Our cabin at Whaler’s Rest had it’s own WiFi, and it was AWESOME! At home, I have to turn off my WIFI to do a live stream on Facebook, but I was able to do a live tour of our cabin, utilizing the WIFI. This was very important to me as I was working, and had no cell service at the actual cabin.

The other locations we stayed at did not have WIFI except at their adult only lodges. Which was okay at Morgan Hills as I had great service. I was easily able to do lives, use my phone data as a mobile hotspot (thank goodness for unlimited data), and get some work done.

Rancho Oso in Santa Barbara, CA teepee
It really felt like we were in the old west because Rancho Oso had no service.

Rancho Oso had no service and no WIFI except at the adult lodge. We did however find there were a few places in our cabin we would magically get 4G for a few minutes, but then it would cut out. Rancho Oso is an extremely remote location. The address may say Santa Barbara, but it is a good 25-30 minute drive to get into town. Because of this, and because I work while traveling, I would love to see them offer WiFi in the cabins, even if it is at an extra charge.


What About That WiFi At The Adult Lodge?

The WiFi at the adult lodge is okay, but as a parent with young children, I just could not get over to an adult only lodge to utilize it. Wasn’t going to happen. Again, I think a great solution would be to have WiFi available in the cabins, like it was at the Whaler’s Rest Resort. I would be more than happy to pay an extra fee for it, like you can with some hotel networks to upgrade your speed.

Do RV Parks Have Swimming Pools, Playgrounds, Games?

I think the biggest improvement to RV Resorts from when I was a kid… Activities! All of the RV Parks we stayed at with Thousand Trails had stuff to do.

Swimming pools were available at all of the parks. One thing some people might love is that all of their resorts also had adult only swim times for the swimming pools. This is very nice for those wanting to swim without worrying about watching your kids, or without worrying about tons of splashing and yelling.

*Note: the swimming pool at Morgan Hills was under contstruction while we were there

Other Activities And Entertainment

I think what surprised me the most is the other activities and entertainment available at the RV resorts and parks. For example, our cabin at Whaler’s Rest had several board games stocked up in it. They also had pool tables, candy bar bingo, and more at the lodge.

kids on cabin porch at RV Park
Our Cabin at Whaler’s Rest was equipped with WiFi and board games.

Morgan Hills had grassy areas for kids to run around and a play ground. They had activities as well. Sadly, a big rainstorm hit while we were in Morgan Hills, so the day we were there, we ended up staying mostly in our cabin. I mean, it was a lot of water!

Rancho Oso again won for best activities. This resort had horse back riding, hay truck rides, Friday night shindigs, awesome dinner events, square dancing, and more! There was no shortage of entertainment while we were there.

Hand-led horse rides at Rancho Oso near Santa Barbara, CA
My son enjoyed the hand-led horse rides so much, he asked to do them a second time.


RV Park Or Hotel? What Are Our Thoughts

I think one of the biggest questions is why would you choose to stay in an RV Park instead of a hotel. Originally, I would have just weighed the cost. Honestly, if you are staying in a cabin, the RV Resorts may cost close to the same as a hotel. But there are still plenty of other reasons to stay at a RV Resort, even when you don’t own a RV.

Your own space

Staying at the RV Resort was nice because we had our own space. More so then in a hotel. We had our own little outdoor area that we could let our kids play. This was especially true at Rancho Oso, where we scored a cabin that basically had its own yard. Seriously, if you stay at this resort request Bobcat in the Get Away Club. It has the best view and the most yard space.

Child in cabin by fireplace
Our living room in the cabin at Rancho Oso even had a little fireplace! It felt so cozy.

On top of that, you don’t have to share walls or have people above or below you. We stayed in a hotel this trip where the people above us must have been dropping bowling balls, I swear.

Comforts of home

We loved that we had some of the comforts of home in the RV Park. Laundry was readily available. Our cabins also had kitchens so we could cook home made meals. The living rooms were comfy and we were able to spread out a little bit.

family in front of cabin at RV park
All of the properties had BBQ Grills at our cabins

We were also able to park right next to our cabin, had outdoor BBQs, and picnic tables that we could eat at. It really felt like our own little tiny home.

The Community

One thing I learned during this trip is that it isn’t just about the saving money or having the comforts of home. RV Parks are about the community.

There was a sense of community in the RV Parks we stayed at. There were activities, dinners, and people talked to their neighbors. Kids hung out together, and everyone was so friendly. I can definitely see why people choose to go to RV Parks for extended periods of time.

Would We Do It Again?

So would we stay in an RV Park without a camper again? Absolutely! In fact, we are hoping to get back to Whaler’s Rest this year or next. It was an amazing resort and we didn’t get to spend as much time exploring the area as we would have liked.

I loved having the comforts of home while we traveled, and not having to haul a camper to enjoy the RV community.

2 thoughts on “We Stayed At An RV Resort, Without An RV”

  1. Its good to know that its a common thing for there to be swimming pools at RV parks. I recently purchased an RV for my family to go on more road trips and I was worried that my kids would get bored on these road trips. I’ll be sure to let them know that swimming pools are available when we stop at RV parks.

  2. My niece just came up with a (not so) crazy idea recently: she plans to spend her spring break by travelling around Texas with her boyfriend using a rental RV. Upon hearing that, I quickly remember the things you said about how essential it is to check on the RV resort we prefer first to see if they offer lots of fun activities. I’ll advise her to comply with this information so she could enjoy the trip eventually.


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