Recently in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group, a woman named Lutrisha asked:
“How does everyone find out about all the hidden gems along the way, while traveling?! We don’t want to miss the good stuff.”
We don’t want you to miss the good stuff, either, Lutrisha! We’re glad so many RVers responded with over 100 comments.
To help others not miss out, we’ve compiled the best advice into this article and added a few tips of our own.
If you buy something through our links, we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps keep our lights on so we can continue to provide helpful resources for RVers. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
How to Find Hidden Gems on a Road Trip
The best hidden gems aren’t easily found online… that’s why they’re hidden! But there are ways to discover them en route.
Here’s what fellow RVers say works for them, and what we’ve found works well for us, too.
1. Stop at a Local Diner
A great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and cuisine is by stopping at local diners, even if you are just getting take-out. These small, mom-and-pop restaurants often serve up some of the best food in the area. Plus, they can provide valuable insights into local traditions.
In addition to the delicious meals, you'll have the chance to chat with locals, who can give you insider tips on places to visit that are off the beaten path. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with the staff or other patrons They may have recommendations for hidden gems that you won't find in any guidebook.
As an added perk, you support a local small business!
BONUS TIP: The Dyrt
The Dyrt's mission is to expand the camping community and help more people enjoy the outdoors. With 30 million annual camper visits, 50,000 campground listings, and 8 million user-generated reviews, photos, and tips for US campgrounds, The Dyrt is the No. 1 app for camping information and booking. The Dyrt PRO enables campers to find free camping areas on public lands, search for campgrounds without cell service coverage, use the app offline, get discounts on camping and more.
2. Take Roads that Parallel Interstates
Interstates can get you from point A to point B quickly, but they don't always offer the best views or opportunities for discovery. Many RVers suggest taking roads that run parallel to the interstate.
These roads often wind through small towns and scenic areas, providing you with a unique perspective on the region. Be prepared for slower speeds and the occasional detour, but the hidden gems you'll discover will make it worth the extra time.
3. Just Drive & Embrace Serendipity
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Jennifer and I are big proponents of serendipitous travel. We’ve realized that the best way to find hidden gems is to let go of any plans and just drive.
Embrace serendipity and be open to unexpected detours and unplanned stops!
You may stumble upon a charming town, a scenic overlook, or a roadside attraction you wouldn't have discovered otherwise. Don't be afraid to take the road less traveled; it may lead you to your next great adventure.
BONUS TIP: AllStays PRO
Many RVers are familiar with the AllStays app. It is awesome. But since Jennifer and I discovered AllStays Pro, the browser-based subscription site, we rely on it almost exclusively in our RV travels.
We use it for finding interesting places that really stand out, especially out of the way boondocking spots and free places to stay
Using this link and the discount code: rvpodcast you can save 10% off your All Stays Pro annual subscription. and if you want to learn more – listen to our recent podcast interview with the NEW CEO of AllStays right here.
4. Try Road Travel Guides
You may think road travel guides are obsolete, but you’d be mistaken! They can be a valuable resource for finding hidden gems.
Look for guides that focus on the area you're traveling through and offer recommendations for off-the-beaten-path destinations. Be sure to read reviews from other travelers to get an idea of what to expect.
These guides often feature lesser-known attractions and scenic routes that can make your road trip even more memorable. Some favorites are:
- Unique America
- Fodor’s Best Road Trips
- Reader’s Digest The Most Scenic Drives in America
We have a growing list of great books on our Amazon list — Books: Our Favorite RV Lifestyle Travel, Camping, and Survival Books. And, of course, we also share our favorite hidden gems in all our RV Lifestyle Adventure Guides.
5. Try the Roadtrippers App
The Roadtrippers app is a valuable tool for planning and discovering hidden gems on your road trip. The app allows you to create a customized itinerary in advance or on the go.
It’s listed as the best GPS for road trips in the 7 Best GPS Apps for Your Travel Style.
The app provides recommendations and reviews for attractions, restaurants, and scenic routes based on your interests. You can also filter your search by category, such as outdoor activities, historical sites, or quirky roadside attractions.
6. Search Popular RV Blogs
RV bloggers often share their experiences and recommendations for off-the-beaten-path destinations (always double-check details of these places as MUCH has happened in the last few years…). Take advantage of their knowledge by searching popular RV blogs for hidden gem recommendations.
Some bloggers even provide detailed itineraries that include lesser-known attractions and scenic routes. Including us! We have over a dozen detailed RV itineraries that include our favorite restaurants, trails, and much more.
And, of course, you can explore the RV Lifestyle Blog. We even have a Destinations section with dozens of articles on great destinations across North America.
7. Visit the Visitor Center
Visitor centers are a great resource for travelers looking to discover hidden gems. They often have maps, brochures, and knowledgeable staff who can recommend lesser-known attractions and scenic routes.
You may think all this information is online (and it may be), but it’s SO MUCH EASIER to stop in and talk to a local expert. They can direct you based on your interests and tell you what’s really worth visiting.
Be sure to ask about any special events or festivals happening in the area; these can be a great way to experience the local culture and traditions.
8. Join an Online RV Community
Joining an online RV community can provide you with a wealth of information and support for your road trip. These communities often have forums where members can ask for recommendations and share their experiences.
You can also search for threads or posts about the area you're traveling through to get insider tips and hidden gem recommendations. Don't be afraid to ask questions or start your own thread. The members of these communities are often friendly and happy to help.
Of course, we must mention our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group since this article was inspired by our members. We have over 170,000 members that range from newbies to experts, and you can use the search icon to access a wealth of RVer-given information.
9. Ask the Camp Host or Campground Neighbors
If you're staying at a campground, the camp host or your neighbors can be a great resource for finding hidden gems. Strike up a conversation and ask if they have any recommendations for off-the-beaten-path attractions or scenic routes.
You may be surprised at what they suggest or what they have found before your arrival. They may have visited the area multiple times and know of hidden gems that aren't widely known.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as a walking trail with beautiful wildflowers. Other times, it’s a special site that makes you wonder, “How did I not know about this before?!” Online research really does have limitations compared to on-the-ground knowledge.
10. Use Harvest Hosts AND CampersCard!
We are BIG fans of Harvest Hosts because we get to stay in places we never could otherwise. We meet great people, have unique experiences, and get to camp overnight FOR FREE!
You pay a membership fee to join, and then you can stay overnight at different locations for free. While you don’t get charged for the camping, members are usually expected to patronize the place they are visiting.
AND Harvest Hosts has just launched a great new program for RVers called CampersCard!
CampersCard is a campground discount program that connects campers on a budget with high-quality campgrounds.
Campgrounds agree to offer CampersCard members exciting benefits to be part of the program. These may include such amenities as early check-in, late checkout, and discounts on nightly rates.