Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.
There Are Great Campsites, and Then ….
When we pull into a campground we RV campers expect our assigned campsite to be a fantastic one that we and our family can enjoy.
But most campgrounds will only have a few of those great campsites you were expecting, and often these ideal campsites already have other campers on them.
If you're a newbie camper I hate to tell you this, but there are more mediocre campsites than great ones, plus a few horrible campsites that will have something that makes them very undesirable.
We RV traveling souls soon learn that it’s really up to you do your research and do everything possible to be assigned a site that truly suits your family's needs.
Probably the first thing you need to ask yourself is; just what kind of campsite do you really need?
Sit down and take a few minutes with your spouse and family and just have a good conversation about exactly what all of you expect to do while traveling and camping. That way you have an idea what will make their travels fun for everyone.
Some family members like to go out to eat every evening, while others want to stay at their campsite and cook their own meals on their grills.
Some families are pool people and want to swim in a nice, large, clean swimming pool for hours each day, while others may be hikers who could care less about the campground pool and want to drive out to the nearest scenic hiking trails.
Campgrounds and Ratings
I recommend that every camper join a few camping organizations so you can have access to their accumulated ratings for campsites that are affiliated with them.
None of these memberships provide information on every campground in the USA, but there are a few very popular ones that you should join which will have several thousands of affiliated campgrounds that they have spent the time to visit and rate.
You can find Camping World stores and RV service centers all across the USA. And even if you never visit one, you should at least go online and become a member.
They have an excellent catalog that members can get annually that includes detailed ratings on several thousand campgrounds in the USA and Canada, along with a standard 10% discount on the member campgrounds' nightly rates.
Passport America has over a thousand affiliated campgrounds that you can use at a 50% nightly rate discount. Their discounts are usually only for one or two nights, but their system makes them great for overnight stays if you are making a long camping trip.
And often, if the campground isn’t very full, they may extend their Passport Americarate for another day or two; so you should always ask.
But make sure you read the details well, because many campground discounts are only available seasonally or on certain days of the week.
Reserve America is another campground membership company; in addition to private campgrounds, it has responsibility for renting state-owned campgrounds in a number of states such as New York, Florida and South Carolina to name a few.
They provide a lot of great information on the campgrounds they manage, including great maps showing whether each site is rented or not for the timeframe you are looking for.
Big RV Resort Chains
Large RV resort chains own and manage hundreds, even thousands of campgrounds. Most of these offer discounted rates to members and consistently clean campsites, bathhouses, and amenities. Two standouts are Sun and Encore. You just need to check if they have campgrounds where you will prefer to travel.
Then there are the independent campgrounds. I have had great experiences with some of these campgrounds and then again I have been surprised over how poorly managed some of these campgrounds are.
They are a gamble, but then again, I will often stay in one of these for an overnight layover, just for the adventure of it all.
Things to Consider in Your “Perfect Campground”
Today, most campers will demand that a campsite at least have the basics available: a level campsite, a clean water supply, a steady electrical power system and easy-to-use sewage hookups.
But you need to check other aspects of the campground and the site they want to put you in.
Some websites, such as Camping World above, will use past campers' reports on their stay in a campground, on conditions including;
- Is construction going on when you plan to be there?
- Are the campground’s streets well maintained?
- Is the bathhouse in good condition and kept clean?
- Is the pool maintained by a professional company and will it be open when you plan to stay there?
- Are the staff, including the maintenance people, polite, dressed neatly and ready to help people with problems?
Campsite Proximity to Facilities and Amenities
When you call to make your reservation at a campground, they may provide you a certain site number, or they may tell you, “We don’t guarantee specific sites to our customers, we just guarantee you a site."
For the average camper, this may not matter, but for some campers the location of a site can be very important, for example because of medical requirements for someone in your family. If that's the case, ask about the site’s proximity to the following; bathhouse, office and WiFi, pool, children’s play areas, and pet walking areas.
The Physical Campsite
Don’t be afraid to ask if they have a picture that shows the campsite they are planning to put you on. If not, ask about the cleanliness of the campsite, as well as just how level it will be.
Check if they allow campfires, and even look for a fire pit, both on your site and your neighboring campsites. Campfires can be a lot of fun but the smoke from one can drive you inside on a windless night.
Check for wet ground, especially where your camper will be set up. Sometimes rainwater will drain onto your site and you will be camping in a mudhole.
Trees can provide some nice shade, but they cam also block your satellite signal. And you should expect falling acorns and small limbs on a windy day.
Sad to say, you absolutely must ask about party people. Some xampgrounds cater to groups, both small and large, that will camp together and party together.
Because of this, you must confirm that they have a Quiet Time, for example between 10 PM and 7 AM, when everyone must keep quiet, and that they enforce this with any campers who are making too much noise at night. In most states, the campground management has the right to call in the local police when a person or group refuses to quiet down.
All in all, good campgrounds are easy to find and reserve, if you are making your reservations a month or two before your trip.
Do not wait until the last couple days and expect to get a great campsite; in fact, you will usually be lucky to get a campsite reservation at all.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Don Bobbitt
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on December 16, 2020:
DW Davis - State Campgrounds are popular and they are surprisingly well maintained. I have found that many of them only have a limited number of campsites, so I tell people who want to see local Nature at its best, to plan their trips well and make sure they have reservations well ahead of the season.
Thanks for the response.
DW Davis from Eastern NC on December 14, 2020:
Another source of great camping in many states are state parks. Here in NC we have several that offer water/electric with dump stations and two very nice campgrounds with some full hook ups. Their rates are reasonable.