How to Choose the Best RV Campgrounds for Your Camping Style
What Campground Features Fit Your Camping Style?
When RVers look for a campground, they have certain criteria in mind that influence their decisions, and they may be willing to compromise on certain amenities in order to have other more important features.
What's Your Camping Style?
What Kind of Camper are You?
I. Campground Features for Luxury Campers
Those RVers who drive a large, luxuriously appointed rig typically want all the luxuries of home while camping. The features of the best campground for these comfort loving RVers will include:
- Hookups: Full hookups at each campsite are required; WIFI and cable TV should be available.
- Campground amenities: Level parking areas with cement pads and level cement patios for picnic tables, nice landscaping; BBQ grill or campfire ring may not be important, but nice outdoor seating area for socializing is important. A Clubhouse with games and activities, exercise room, pool or swimming beach and a place to walk comfortably are necessary.
- Campground Location: Would like to be near restaurants, stores and local attractions.
- Price: Flexible on price. Would be willing to pay more if all criteria are met.
- Other features: Nice views and convenience to restaurants and local attractions are a plus. Price might not be a big consideration if they can have it all.
Recommendations for Luxury Oriented Campers
Check out the larger private camping resorts for beautiful full service campsites with all the amenities. Look for resorts that have day and evening programs, happy hours and community dinners. Some will even offer trips to nearby attractions and casinos.
II. Campground Features for Off-the-Grid Campers
RVers who enjoy long term camping off the grid will have their own solar panels, generators or windmills for power, and might even carry a satellite dish for TV and computer access. They might be bird watchers, rock hounds, hikers or just nature lovers.
- Hookups: They can forgo the usual electric hookups and would be willing to give up water and sewer hookups in order to have more private and spacious sites. Off the grid RVers will often be prepared with a satellite dish or broadband modems that to provide their own TV and computer service, or they are prepared to live without these amenities.
- Campground Amenities: A fire ring for campfires, a campsite with both sun to warm their rig in the cool mornings and shade to keep cool in the afternoons and a level area to set up outdoor living area for long term stays are all important. Dump stations and water stations should be available.
- Campground Location: Easy access to hiking trails or 4X4 roads, nearby areas to watch birds or wildlife. Easy driving distance to groceries, laundry facilities.
- Price: Off the grid RVers are looking free or very inexpensive camping in National Forests, National Parks, BLM lands or other public lands.
- Other features: Private, spacious campsites with beautiful scenic views.
Recommendations for Off-the-Grid Campers
Look for off-the grid camping in National Forests and on BLM land. Some National Parks have more remote camping. These places also usually have wonderful bird watching and places to view wildlife.
III. Campground Features for Family Vacation Campers
Vacationing camping families come with kids of all shapes and sizes, and often arrive in several rigs that they like to park close together. Campground features that vacationing families would look for include:
- Hookups: Generally would like electricity and water, but sometimes prefer more primitive sites.Depending on the family, they may not care about TV or computer while on vacation because they concentrate on family oriented outdoor games and activities.
- Campground Amenities: A fire ring for campfires is a must. The campsite should have a picnic table, a place for an outdoor grill and a level area where an outdoor living area can be set up. The family needs a little space between other campsites so that children and adults have room for outdoor games.Convenient dump stations and water stations are a necessity. Clean, convenient restrooms are a must. A playground, swimming area and hiking trails are attractive to this group.
- Campground Location: Off the beaten path, but with access to grocery store or camp store. Local, family-oriented attractions may entice families to stay longer than a few days.
- Price: Looking for reasonably priced camping, and prefer not to pay for many luxuries that they won't use.
- Other features: Private, spacious campsites, areas to observe nature and wildlife.
Recommendations for Vacationing Family Campers:
Look for state parks that offer hiking trails, playgrounds, water sports or group activities. Look for private parks that have kids programs and playgrounds. Check to see if campfires are allowed and if reservations must be made in advance.
Whether you are an RVer camping in a luxury RV, an Off-the-Grid camper roughing it in the wilderness or an RVer on vacation with your family, there are certain things that you will look for when selection the best campground. Here are some of the most common features of the best RV campgrounds:
Spacious Campsites and Beautiful Views
While "spacious" may mean different things to different people, at the minimum a campsite should have enough room between you and your neighbor so that you have room to put out your awning, have a picnic area or seating area on the grass and park your tow vehicle off the road. In my opinion, a campsite should have enough room for a picnic table and fire ring, room to park your tow vehicle, room to put out at least four chairs. You should not feel hemmed in, nor should you be able to look directly into your neighbors windows.
Personally, my ideal campsite would have 50 or more feet between campsites without back-to-back parking.
A campsite with space and a beautiful view is ideal for a longer term stay. With some research, you can find campsites with ocean or water views, beautiful mountain views, or secluded woodland views.
Shade and Sun
Depending on the season, shade and sun are both important in a campsite. In the winter months, campsites facing east or south will get full sunlight to warm their rigs in the cool mornings and will make the interior sunny a bright. In the warmer months, a campsite with a shady area to sit outdoors is important. In the hot summer, a campsite that will shade the bedroom area of the RV from the afternoon sun will keep it cooler and be easier on the air conditioner if you use one. A combination of sunny and shady spots in the campsite is usually ideal.
There are places, like some of our favorite desert areas, where there are no trees. In this case, park so that your awing will shade the RV from the afternoon sun as it helps tremendously in keeping it cool, and will give you a shady spot to sit outdoors.
One note for people who travel with satellite dishes: You will need a place to set up your dish so that it faces in the right direction without obstruction. This may mean that your idea campsite is in full sun away from trees. When making telephone reservations, you should be sure to ask about shade trees if you plan to set up a satellite dish.
Privacy and Quiet
The ideal campsite is one that has some level of privacy. Even when campsites are situated close together, a good campground is designed so that the RV's are staggered and not facing directly into each others windows.
Trees or bushes planted between campsites help buffer voices from carrying and provide a visual barrier for privacy. Sites that are arranged side-by-side or that are located back to back will provide very little privacy.
Campgrounds that enforce rules about quiet times and noise levels improve everyone's level of enjoyment. An ideal campground is one that has rules about quiet times and enforces them. Where campgrounds do not have hookups, regulated generator hours will cut down on noise levels so that you can enjoy the quiet of the mornings and evenings without hearing motors running.
Activities and Things to Do
While overnight campers might not care about anything other than a place to park, anyone who is camping in an area for several days or weeks will want to have something to do. The ideal private campground would have some planned, free activities where campers can get together to socialize. This might include pot luck dinners, craft classes, jam sessions, exercise classes, travel lectures or an afternoon happy hour. A library, puzzle room, video and book exchange is also a plus!
A place to walk or hike is great, and helpful campgrounds have lists of nearby attractions for their campers.
Hookups, Dumpstations, Restrooms and Water
RVers have different camping styles, and full hookups (water, electricity and sewer) are more necessary to some than to others. Generally, if a campground has full hookups, you will find that the campsites are a little closer together because the sewer, water and electricity lines are easier and cheaper to install in a smaller area. Ideally, a full hookup site would still have a modicum of privacy and space.
In our case, we are perfectly happy to camp without hookups as we carry our own water and our holding tanks will allow us to camp for about 7-10 days without dumping if we're careful. Our solar panels run our lights and TV. Our idea campground without individual hookups would have a free dump station, a place to get water, and restrooms with hot showers. An on-site laundry would be a real plus!
Selecting a Campground Sight Unseen
Selecting a campground, sight unseen, is always a bit of a gamble. The descriptions on a website or in a directory can sometimes be deceiving and are often incomplete. Here are a few things you may want to consider before selecting your campground:
- How large are the sites? Will my rig fit comfortably?
- Is the access road suitable for my size RV?
- Are the sites pull-through or back-in sites?
- Are any discounts offered? (AAA, Good Sam Club, Senior discounts, etc.)
- How full is the campground? Do I need to guarantee my site with a reservation?
- Is there shade on the site? or can we choose our own site upon arrival?
- Is there a charge for dumping (if not at a full hookup site)?
- Are there hot showers?
- Is there an on-site laundry?
- Generator hours (if you will be running a generator).
- Pet restrictions if you travel with pets.
- Check out time if you are only staying overnight.
- Is Wi-Fi available and is there a charge?
How to Find the Best RV Campground
You can find suitable campgrounds by checking out some of the excellent campground directories listed here:
Full Time RVing Camping Books, Field Guides and Directories. Here you will find some of the most commonly used campground directories for private and public campgrounds. Unfortunately, there is no one directory that has it all, so you may need a couple of directories to get complete information.
RV Park Reviews Website. Reviews posted on this website are by people who have actually camped at these locations. Keep in mind that some of the reviews are a couple of years old, and things may have changed.
The websites below will allow you to search for campgrounds on Federal and public lands.
- Corps of Engineers (ACOE)
- National Parks (NPS)
- National Forests (USFS)
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
In addition to the above resources, you may wish to join a camping club which provides a directory of associated campgrounds and which usually gives hefty discounts.
Campsite with a Desert Sunset View
First Time Campers or Experienced RVers
Whether you are novice campers renting an RV for a family vacation or experienced RVers, your camping trip is sure to be an adventure. Selecting a campground that is right for you will be an important factor in the level of enjoyment you get from your trip.
I hope that this has helped you to clarify your needs and expectations when selecting the perfect campground. Just remember that flexibility is a key to enjoying a camping vacation. When you are in an RV, your hotel room is on wheels - you can easily pack it up and more to a different spot if your campsite isn't perfect.
A Great Article on How to Prepare Your RV for a Trip
- TRIP Preparation - You and Your RV - Prepare for the Worst and Enjoy the Best
How to prepare for your trip in your RV whether it is a motorhome, a camper, a fifth-wheel, or a pop-up. The basic things that you need to do to make sure that your trip to your vacation site will be safe and without incident.