I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to make the most of their RV vacations.
The current popularity of recreational vehicle travel has allowed campgrounds to come up with rules that create problems for unwary RVers. These days, many parks cherry-pick the types of people and equipment that they allow to stay in their facilities and will actually refuse admittance to people who are unable to comply with their rules.
In the old days, when RV travel was not highly popular, parks were not quite so discriminating because they needed as many people as possible to stay with them in order to make a profit. But today, more and more places are jumping on the bandwagon of setting rules and guidelines that can make it difficult for some people to even find campsites! This is especially true when travelers search for sites at times when special events are taking place in the area they plan to visit.
Furthermore, many campgrounds have started to keep these standards year round, so those of you who travel often need to make sure that when you plan your vacations, you’ll be able to find campsites along the way as well as at your final destination.
Reservations and Refunds
One of the things I find most irritating is the business of parks requiring reservations. This is because when you’re on the road, all sorts of things can happen to delay or even terminate your travel plans.
RV travel is not the same as flying, where you know exactly when you’ll arrive. When driving to a destination, people can get sick, suffer breakdowns or even have accidents.
When things like this cause people to break reservations, they don’t get their money back. In fact, even when they are already camped, if there is an emergency situation that causes travelers to depart, many parks now will not refund their fees to them.
So, to protect yourself, always
- ask park managers what their policies are with regards to reservations and refunds before deciding to stay at a particular park,
- avoid reserving a site if at all possible, and
- pay one day at a time instead of paying for your entire stay up front.
By doing this, you can avoid paying unnecessary charges and can also eliminate the stress of feeling that you must arrive at a facility on a specific day.
RV Type and Age
Another restriction to watch out for is the limit some parks put on the age or type of recreational vehicle. Some places only allow motorhomes, and many refuse to accept vehicles that are more than ten years old, regardless of their condition. This second restriction applies to all types of RVs.
Even when you have an older travel unit that you have done a good job of maintaining and that looks great, many parks will stick to their guns when it comes to keeping you out of their facilities. Sometimes you can talk them into bending, but not often.
So, when making your plans, be sure to call parks you wish to visit to find out if you’re OK to stay there. Otherwise, you might get some nasty surprises along the way.
One of the reasons many people travel in recreational vehicles is that they enjoy keeping their pets with them during vacations. However, doing this can sometimes create problems.
For example, a campground may
- limit the size, weight or type of animal they will allow in their park,
- make you park your coach only in certain areas,
- insist that you pick up after them,
- require you to keep them on a leash when they are outside of your unit,
- require you to not leave them alone in your RV,
- insist that you keep them from barking or
- prohibit pets altogether.
I have actually seen people RVing with full-grown pigs and small horses and imagine that they probably have difficulty finding sites!
Pets, while great to have when traveling, are often cause for difficulties, especially when owners are sloppy about keeping them under control. I can remember coming out of my RV one morning to set the picnic table for breakfast only to find that someone’s dog had left a pile of poop on it!
It is pet owners who don’t respect other campers who have caused most of these rules to be put in place. You can’t blame the parks for creating these rules, given such situations!
Few people realize that there are different types of campgrounds that have been created to serve the needs of varying types of people. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make sure that the parks you wish to stay in are those that are a “fit” for you. For example, there are parks that cater only to nudists, adults, families, groups and people with horses.
Some will allow anybody to stay, but others will not. Furthermore, if you try to stay in a park that caters to a group that is not a “fit” for you, you could be very uncomfortable and also would not be well accepted by other campers.
While cost is not always considered to be a “restriction”, it definitely is. The average RVer can afford parks that charge around $20 per night, but when prices soar to above $60, they are not likely to stay in them because at that price, they’re no longer affordable.
Parks often keep high prices to eliminate “riff-raff,” as they like to refer to lower-income people. It’s a technique that usually works well for them, but keeps regular campers out of parks they would have enjoyed visiting.
You can get around some of these restrictions by joining a good discount camping club or by finding free and low-cost facilities. The Guide to Free and Low Cost Campgrounds will help you to do this. My husband and I have used this handy book for years, and it has saved us hundreds of dollars every time we've traveled.
Many state and national parks have length limits, as do some older privately owned facilities. People who travel in big rigs often are disappointed to learn when they arrive at one of these parks, they can’t stay there!
Greenbelt Park, which is located just outside of Washington, DC, limits length to 34 feet. Even then, rigs that size barely fit into their sites. Many other parks keep 22-foot length limits.
So while owning a big luxury coach makes travel more comfortable, it can also severely limit the number of campgrounds owners can visit.
The amount of time you can stay in a campground is another restriction to consider. In many public parks, 14 days is the maximum. However, some are even more strict about stay limits. On the other hand, privately owned parks may allow unlimited amounts of time for camping.
If you belong to a discount camping club, you will also have time limits.
- Some only allow reduced prices if you stay at certain times of the year or specific days of the week.
- Others have limits on how often you can use your membership.
You can learn more about the different camping clubs if you read Reviews of the Most Popular RV Camping Clubs. Always gather the info you need before you go!
Check-In and Checkout Times
An important question to ask every time you camp concerns the time limits parks require for checking in or out. Each park is different. Some are lax, others hold you to the minute and can charge extra if you enter too early or leave too late.
Always ask about this prior to choosing a site. If you need more time, ask the manager if they will bend the rules a bit for you. Often they will, but you should always request this waiver if you need it.
Some Good News
If you have been RVing for many years, as I have, you don’t much care for all of these RV park restrictions. They make traveling more difficult and get in the way of enjoying the freedom of the open road. The good news is that there still are places out there where camping restrictions have not yet been set up.
These are the facilities you should seek out so that you can enjoy your vacations!
© 2017 Sondra Rochelle