Over the summer, my family and I packed up our car and headed on a two week long road trip to the midwest! Since my husband and I have really come to love the outdoors, we decided that we didn’t really need to spend the $130+ a night on a hotel room for a free breakfast and a pool we wouldn’t use anyway. So we decided to camp along the way to Illinois. Our kids had never been camping before, so we figured it would be a really fun adventure.
Since we left our home during the night to beat out traffic, we didn’t stay overnight anywhere for the first several hundred miles. Our first stop was at a KOA in Billings, MT located at: 547 Garden Avenue.
While my husband was checking in, I was observing the camping area. At first I was a little discouraged with how many RVs were in the area. I wondered how much traffic would be running through the area, was it safe?, would there be a lot of noise?, and where on Earth are the bathrooms? We were assigned a spot that was in the center of two vacant camping lots. Perfect! We set up shop and decided to check the place out. I was relieved to see there was not a lot of vehicle traffic at all. The place was extremely clean and so were the bathroom facilities, which also offered clean shower stalls. The KOA in Billings offered a swimming pool and hot tub, mini putt, and had a decent size playground for the kids to play on. There was also a dog run available, too. Since we brought our own food, we did not take advantage of the dining facility available. As we settled in for the night, I was pleased with how quiet it was. It really was peaceful listening to nature, watching the sunset, and sleeping right next to my family.
For about $30 (including a military discount), camping at the Billings KOA Kampground sure beat paying up around $149 for hotel room. This KOA offered a pool (that we didn’t use, just like we knew we wouldn’t use in the hotel either) and a hot tub, just like a hotel. But by choosing to stay at this KOA, we saved a ton of money. The best part is the fact that we also introduced our children to camping in a tent and sleeping outdoors.
KOA in Missoula, MT
On our return trip from the Midwest, we ended up in Montana at night once again but this time in Missoula. We looked for another KOA since our first stay at the KOA in Billings had been so pleasant. We found another KOA located at 3450 Tina Avenue.
Now, as we followed our GPS to Tina Avenue, I couldn’t help but notice that we seemed to be driving away from the hopping city of Missoula (which was actually hosting quite a festival the night we passed through) and into what looked like a small industrial area. I figured we might drive through this part of town into the outskirts or “country”. No. Not at all. We made a left hand turn that looked like we were driving into an abandoned part of a warehouse. Since it was dark, I turned to my husband and said that I felt uncomfortable and that I felt like we were driving right into a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sort of setting. There were no street lights and no signs to point us to the KOA. But we kept driving and after driving through a mobile home park, we saw the KOA’s main office. Yes, this KOA is attached to a mobile home park. At this KOA, there was a lot of vehicle traffic and a lot of people. Primarily because the KOA pool is also shared with the mobile home park. We were told the place was sold out for the night so luckily, we had called several hours in advance to make a reservation. We got directions to our camp site and we drove over to the lot. Unlike Billings, where we had the beautiful backdrop of a river and beautiful scenery that surrounded us, here in Missoula, tall apartment buildings overlooked the camp area and our lot was right next to … a large shed? Really? Not to mention our camp site was on a corner lot to which there was plenty of vehicle traffic. As I mentioned before, the place was “sold out” – so it was very busy and quite loud with the noise of people staying up late and … well, being loud.
I can’t say that we were pleased with our stay at the KOA in Missoula whatsoever. The place was very crowded and did not have a “camping” feeling at all. Not when the entire place is surrounded my tall apartment buildings, warehouses, and is nestled in a mobile home park. I think that KOA could have found a better place to locate a camp site. If you wanted to use the main KOA bathroom, you had to have a code to dial in to open the door. Why? They don’t want the residents of the mobile home taking free showers or using their restrooms. Kind of weird. Had it not been so late in the night, I would have been pretty tempted to just get back in the car and keep driving a few more hundred miles to the next available campsite.
Overall: The KOA Kampsites seem like a reasonably priced place to camp for the night (and they offer a military discount!). It sure beats staying in overpriced hotels. At both sites, the bathrooms were extremely clean and so were the shower stalls. We would no doubt stay at the KOA in Billings again if we are in the area! The place and the setting was very inviting, quiet, and enjoyable. The KOA in Missoula? Not so much. Never again.