How to Choose an RV Park to Fit Your Needs

Another dead end—after following your GPS directions, you find that the campground you were headed is closed — and not just for winter. The park’s rundown appearance indicates that it hasn’t been in operation for quite some time. Maybe the park wasn’t closed, but none of the available sites accommodate your 43-foot RV, or the campground only provides 30-amp shore power and what you need is 50-amp, or they don’t allow pets or people under the age of 55. The issues on this potentially endless list are all too real for many RVers.

So, how do you decide where to go to prevent these wild-goose chases from occurring? An increasing number of people are seeing the country from the comfort of a motorhome and one of the biggest decisions they make is what type of RV park or campground to choose for their temporary home. For example, do they want to stay in a relaxed campground or pay for a more high-end resort with all of the amenities? There is no one right answer for everyone and deciding where to park your motorhome for the night, the weekend, or the season, boils down to personal preference. Weigh the options against the following information.

Weigh Your Personal Needs Against Affordability

There are several things to assess when deciding where to stay in your motorhome or camper. Depending on the rig, your experience may be more of an all-inclusive “glamping” trip with few needs outside the coach.

If you own a pop-up, however, your campground needs may be more extensive. The preferences and needs of the rest of your group, as well as the desired amenities, also play a role in your decision.

Motorhome Requirements

First, you should consider the requirements of your RV. You need a park that has large enough sites to accommodate the length and width of your motorhome. Plus, if you need a 50-amp connection, make sure to choose a park that has one or plan to use limited power during your stay. Parks that accommodate big rigs and offer full 50-amp service often are a bit more expensive. Keep in mind, however, that although you may be able to survive on 30-amp for a short period, you probably don’t want to have to run out and reset the breaker in the middle of the night.

The Needs of Many

Second, consider the requirements of your group. Are you traveling with children? Although often pricier, parks with playgrounds, game rooms, pools, and other child-friendly recreation areas make the stay more enjoyable for kids and, therefore, for everyone.

Are you traveling with pets? Many parks have regulations regarding the breed, size, or number of pets allowed, and others charge extra for each furry friend. It is equally important to find out whether the campground has pet walks, off-leash areas, or supervised child locations to keep the smallest members of your party safe and happy.

Choose Your Amenities

Some campers enjoy free cable television as a nice evening diversion, especially if they have a rudimentary (or no) satellite dish. For others, Wi-Fi is absolutely necessary for work or remaining in contact with friends and family. If you don’t have a washer and dryer, an onsite laundry facility can be a virtual lifesaver.

These are just a few of the things to consider when choosing an RV park. Plus, if you were planning to primarily enjoy activities at the park, it may be worth paying for the additional amenities. It’s a good idea to compare the features of each campground in your destination area, and then choose one that offers the most “bang for your buck”.

Are You Seeking a Community Environment?

People stay in RVs for a variety of reasons. For some, it provides a less expensive means to vacation with the family, where others use it as a way to “get away from it all” and head for nature.

Many, however, use it as a way to increase their nationwide network of friends. By choosing a campground that fits you and your companion’s preferences, you ensure your stay is a pleasant one.

Are You Introverts?

Some people prefer seclusion and a situation where visitors attend to their own vacation agenda where they visit local sites or spend time communing with nature. For these individuals, the questions of well-meaning neighbors may seem like an invasion of privacy or at least an unwelcome distraction. Shorter-term state and national campgrounds are likely better options, as residents aren’t there long enough to become more than acquaintances.

Are You Extroverts?

Many, however, consider a social environment to be one of the amenities. These campers often spearhead societies, lead events, frequent the clubhouse, and attend each pancake breakfast provided. There are many RV parks that promote visiting with neighbors while increasing the number of people in their active community.

Are You Looking for Rustic or a Resort?

Keep in mind that, when choosing a park to stay in, you’re working with a sliding scale of cost versus amenities. With less expensive options, there are often several limitations, where higher rates bring a greater number of perks. Typically, the options are divided into three categories: campgrounds, RV parks, and RV resorts.

Campgrounds: the Most Rustic

Atmosphere, beauty, relaxation, and economy are what visitors of RV campgrounds typically value. Located in rustic areas like national parks and forests, these options are often the least expensive choice other than boondocking. Along with being reasonably priced, they sometimes offer activities like hiking, horseback riding, or rafting. Although many provide a basic grill or a fire-ring and a picnic table, some forbid the use of open flames. For a naturally beautiful environment, though, you can’t do better than a national or state park.

On the other hand, campgrounds are often located miles from town with few amenities besides the view. Most restrict visits to two-week periods. Some have public bathrooms and showers, or electric hookups and water. It is unlikely you’ll find one with onsite sewer connections, though; most have dump stations. Plus, depending on the time of year, the water may be entirely shut off to avoid freezing pipes.

Occasionally, you’ll find nothing more than gravel or a cement parking spot for dry camping. At these rustic locations, the use of a generator is usually restricted to avoid spoiling the environment with unpleasant fumes and noise pollution. This is why it’s a good idea to charge your batteries, fill your fresh tank, and empty your waste tanks before you arrive.

RV Parks Offer a Bit More

RV Parks offer a greater number of “creature comforts” than a campground and are generally a bit more expensive. With 30 to 50-amp shore power, water, and direct on-site access to the sewer, these parks accommodate extended stay, as well as overnight guests. Their park amenities often include Wi-Fi, cable television, an on-site laundry facility, public bathrooms, and showers. Occasionally, they’ll have a small general store where snacks, camping supplies, and firewood may be purchased.

Several factors determine an RV park’s price, such as its proximity to nearby attractions. Due to their high demand, locations close to amusement parks, beaches, lakes, and tourist destinations charge more than their counterparts. Price is also determined by the park’s age and upkeep. Older parks may have smaller sites and entrances making them less accommodating to newer RV models. Unless they were recently renovated, they likely provide fewer amenities making them less expensive.

RV Resorts: a Deluxe Experience

These all inclusive, high-end locations have all of the features of an RV park with accommodations for big rigs. Along with full hookups, they typically provide individual patio spaces for outdoor furniture. Along with the usual amenities like cable hookups, free Wi-Fi, and laundry facilities, they may have onsite chapels, clubhouses, general stores, golf courses, pools, and restaurants. Many have fitness centers, spas, and tennis courts, as well.

RV resorts are primarily designed for long-term residents and sometimes sell permanent lots. To ensure residents maintain the quality of life that they paid extra for, there are often age restrictions, pet restrictions, and Home Owners Association-type fees and rules regarding the sites.

If you meet the criteria and don’t mind the cost, RV resorts offer a lot. Be aware, however, some park owners are unaware of the differences and advertise their RV park as a resort. It’s best to do your own research before arriving, weigh the restrictions against the benefits and make the choice that is right for you.

Did You Do Diligent Research?

Once you know what you are looking for, research to narrow your choices. Determine its cost, location in relation to places you plan to visit, and the listed amenities. Much of the necessary information can be found on the campground’s website. Then verify through user reviews.

Check for an Active Website

You can learn quite a bit about your prospective destinations from the campgrounds’ websites. Having a comprehensive website provides relevant information and shows the amount of attention the owners or managers give to the park. In other words, if they pay attention to keeping the details of their website up to date, they probably pay an equal amount of attention to the other specifics, such as customer satisfaction. By not having or maintaining a website, they are saying quite a bit about the experience you are likely to have by visiting their park.

Check for Specific Information

Then compare the website’s park description to your personal plans and preferences. Consider the location. If you intend to visit other attractions, shop, or go to restaurants, check the distance to those sites. If you want to entertain guests or do some culinary experimentation, being near a town is helpful unless you plan to stock up ahead of time. The greater the distance, the more time and fuel you spend getting supplies.

However, if your goal is to spend the entire time onsite, you should verify the local facilities. Public bathrooms and showers are nice if your personal facilities are less than roomy; plus, they reduce the cost of toiletries and save wear on your rig. Assess whether there is free Wi-Fi and whether it has limited bandwidth for checking email only. A laundry facility might be at the top of your list, especially if you bring children. Some parks have a resident RV repairman so you can have minor repairs done at your convenience. Being able to purchase firewood, general supplies, and propane onsite is helpful, as well.

Check User Reviews

From a restaurant to a resort — when picking the provider of any service — user reviews can save time, money, and irritation. You can check out printed guides, such as “Trailer Life” and “Woodall’s” at your local library. They often focus on a few campgrounds, though, and are quickly outdated. Online sites are more relevant and reliable. They provide information about the campground, as well as ratings and user descriptions. Popular options include AllStays, RV Park Reviews, Tripadvisor, and Yelp.

Compare the reviews to the website information so you have an accurate timeline. A review may no longer be accurate if the park has since changed owners. Then, compare them to your personal plans. If the biggest complaint about a spot is irrelevant to your needs, disregard it. Pay close attention to reviews that specify access, attentiveness, cleanliness, and safety.

Did You Follow Up?

Once you’ve chosen a few promising candidates, make a phone call to the park office, which should be listed on the website. Make sure that the information you’ve found is correct and up to date. Sometimes, rates vary by season and websites may not reflect that. Also, even if the information indicated that it has full-service sites, parks in cooler areas may offer electric only for the winter.

Inquire about the surrounding areas. Are there shops nearby and what ones? You can even ask about the local fuel prices. There are a several things that only a person at the location would be able to verify for sure.

Snail Mail Services

Even though most financial transactions and personal correspondence can be conducted online, full-timers and vacationers often need to send and receive mail. This allows them to receive important documents and packages wherever they are, which is great for people who shop online or have their medications sent via mail. P.O. boxes and mail forwarding services can be pricey and usually require a 3 to 12-month contract. Knowing that you have mail service at your location provides peace of mind.

Reliable Wi-Fi

Some RV parks provide free Internet, which makes finding nearby stores and forms of entertainment much easier. It enables streaming of movies or music in the evening and social interactions with friends and family. Many, however, require reliable wireless Internet. For some, it is for telecommuting purposes or otherwise working from their motorhome where a weak signal may result in work issues. For others, it makes keeping an eye on local weather conditions possible, which can be imperative. This is when a slow signal — or lack of a signal at all — is more than just an inconvenience; it could endanger your property or even yourself.

If a campground’s website advertises Wi-Fi, ask whether it reaches every site evenly, how fast it is, how reliable it is, and whether it’s protected by a password.

Laundry Facilities

Although many park websites tout onsite laundry, many resemble those found in a personal residence. Verify the park has more than one washer and dryer and that they work to avoid waiting your turn. Ask how often they’re serviced, to avoid ruining your clothes.

You may also want to find out how much they cost and if there is a change machine nearby. Optimally, you won’t pay more than the local Laundromat, since this service is included in the daily fees. You don’t want to pay too much for the added convenience.

In Conclusion

Whether you want the amenities of a resort or the relaxed atmosphere of a campground, finding a great campground may seem daunting. Fortunately, there is no “right” choice; it is entirely dependent on your preferences. Use this information to ensure that your visit is comfortable, as well as memorable for the right reasons.

Please share this on a social media site like Facebook with your friends and family members. Whether you seek the company of new friends in a national community or the solitude of a national forest, with a bit of research you can find exactly what you are looking for.

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