Over the years, we've stayed in our fair share of RV parks and campgrounds. We've found some fantastic places, a few mediocre ones, and everything in between. With each stay, we learned something new, and created this simple 3 step process to find the best RV campgrounds.
Step 1: Define Your Needs
Before even beginning your search to find the best RV campgrounds, its important to define your needs. Consider the size of your fifth wheel or travel trailer and your tow vehicle. Do you want full, partial or no hookups (water, sewer, electric)? Are there any particular amenities you want? Here's our list:
- Size. We have a 44 1/2; foot long Heartland Cyclone, a fifth wheel toy hauler with slides on both sides, pulled by a dually pick up truck, so we need room. We often book what some campgrounds call "premium" sites, so that we are not too boxed in.
- Hook ups. We like our creature comforts - one of the reasons we chose our Cyclone - so we prefer full hookups. We have a residential refrigerator and three air conditioners, so we need 50 amp power. We also prefer hookups that include sewer unless we'll only be there a night or two.
- Extras: Wi-Fi, Cable, Laundry. We have a Wi-Fi hotspot and satellite dish, so we don't need free Wi-Fi or cable, but they are nice as they save us the time of setting up our external stuff. We have a washer/dryer hookup in our RV, but have chosen to use it for storage, so we like staying at places that have a laundromat.
- Length of Stay. Many commercial RV resorts and campgrounds offer discounts for weekly and monthly stays, and we like to take advantage of these whenever possible. These can be significant. For example, we booked a one-month stay this winter in South Florida. The daily rate is $49, but the monthly rate was $746, which comes out to $25 per night, saving 50%. If we're only staying for a night or two, we'll try to use our Passport America membership. It costs $44 a year, but with a 50% discount on a single 2-night stay in a place like Florida pays for itself with one stay.
Step 2: Conduct an Initial Search
My search tools to find the best RV campgrounds are Trip Advisor, All Stays, Passport America, and my favorite Facebook Group: Where'd You Stay RV. We also enjoy reading blogs of fellow RV travelers. A great resource to find blogs by geographic areas is North American RV Travel. Although these are the websites we prefer, there are many others out there. Some things we consider for a stay:
- We're usually planning to visit a general area and will first conduct a Google and/or Trip Advisor search to see the RV parks in the general vicinity of our destination. We usually like to find spots outside of the city proper.
- We look at the size of the available spaces, as well as the size of the park from Google Maps. When reading reviews, we will usually nix a place if folks are complaining about tight interior roads.
- RV parks can offer a wide range of amenities such as swimming pools, fitness rooms, hiking trails, restaurants, activities for children/adults, and many more. These aren't as important to us, but they can be the tie breaker.
- One thing we really like about Trip Advisor is that you can see visitors' photos, not just the park's official advertising pictures. Obviously a park will want to show the best photos they have. They may even be from when it first opened 20 years ago! We'd rather see a candid photo of folks enjoying the pool than a glossy ad photo of it.
Step 3: Read Reviews
Before booking a stay I always read the reviews on Trip Advisor and RV Park Reviews. When reading reviews I consider the following:
- Over time we have learned that some folks just like to complain. In addition, when you're smoking mad about something, you want to log on to the internet and share it with the world. Therefore, we take emotionally charged reviews with a grain of salt. You can usually tell when reading the review if a person was mad at the time.
- Reading Between the Lines. While there are those who only review when mad, there are also folks who are reluctant to criticize. With that in mind, sometimes you have to read between the lines. If reviews are terse and simply say, "The park was as described," chances are it wasn't that great.
- Number of reviews. We try to balance this by looking at as many reviews as possible. If something is coming up repeatedly, good or bad, it's more likely to be true.
- We tend to put more weight behind a reviewer who has written reviews of more than one park. Unfortunately, some business owners will have friends and family write positive reviews for them. By reading reviews from folks who have posted on several places across a greater geographic distance, you have a better chance of finding an impartial review from someone with experience to compare it to. This is another reason we enjoy reading blogs.
Create Your Own Checklist
I hope this article helped you with strategies to find the best RV campgrounds. Everyone has different expectations for their perfect RV Park, so your checklist may look quite a bit different from ours. The important thing is that you have one so you know how to evaluate one from another. The more you use the RV Park sites, the more you'll learn about how to pick the right one for you. You may not always find one that meets all your criteria, but if you determine your priorities in advance, you're more likely to enjoy the stay.
*A version of this article was originally published on chickerystravels.com. It is published here with permission. All opinions expressed are solely those of the author.*
RV Park and Campground Reviews from Heartland Owners
Visit the Destination section on the Heartland Blog or follow our "Sights to See in your Heartland RV" Pinterest board for more on parks, campgrounds, sight-seeing spots, and interesting travel stops.