Before you go onto reading this blog piece, please know that we're not expecting the Taj Mahal of RV Parks or Resorts. We know each has their own standards of what Shangri La is to them. Each has their own personality and offerings all their own. What would be incredibly nice is if RV park and resort owners read this article and put some these suggestions into practice. We have needs as full-time, big rig RVers and hope RV park/resort owners and managers take into consideration of what we, and others like us, look for when making our choice to stay. In our three years as full-time RVers, we feel we've become seasoned enough to give our assessment of what attracts us to certain RV parks, resorts and campgrounds. Consider this article as a 'letter to RV Park and Resort Owners and Managers'.
First, the differences...
National Park, State, Corps of Engineers, Municipal and Private - Usually, these are more primitive than parks and resorts. Campgrounds typically have electric and water; sewer on occasion or in updated campgrounds. To us, campgrounds are non-alterable; meaning campgrounds are in more natural settings with dirt or gravel sites. Unfortunately, our visits to campgrounds will be minimal because of their more natural setting and site size constraints of not interrupting natural habitats. In this instance, "size matters". Campgrounds were designed decades ago when campers and trailers were much smaller and more family oriented. They weren't planned for huge motorhomes or 5th wheels; therefore, they have tighter turns, natural obstructions, low hanging trees, etc. Unless fire bans are in place, they allow fire pits, are very family oriented, and no or very few restrictions on age or type of RV/Camper/Tent. Campgrounds may be near lakes and other bodies of water that host outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, etc. Typically, they are less expensive than RV parks and resorts because they are limited in amenities.
RV Parks and Resorts
Privately owned and operated; there's more of a choice that the developers and builders CAN make it appealing to their patron guests. We don't want to stay for any period of time in a 'parking lot' otherwise, we'd just boondock at a big box store or mall. Unfortunately, through the past few years, it seems we RVers are not being heard. We're not saying they're 'doing it wrong', just they could be 'doing it better'. So, if an RV park or resort builder were to seriously ask us 'what would make RVers come to stay?', this is what we'd (meaning us...Liberty Crew) tell them:
1) ACCESSIBILITY - Somewhat close and easy to get to from major thoroughfares. Parks and Resorts don't have to be 'right off the interstate' but we do appreciate we don't have to go through 50 miles of over the river and through the woods. Roads into your establishment should be wide with no or very little curbing. We don't want to rub and bruise our tires. We prefer wider turn radius'; no sharp corners to turn. Oh and please, no speed bumps! Please post on your website big-rig friendly (avoiding low clearances, less than stellar road conditions, etc.) directions to your park or resort; noting any low clearances, narrow passages or impeding obstructions.
2) BIG RIG FRIENDLY - Today, 36-38' foot RV's aren't really considered the big dogs of RVs anymore. In 2009, RVIA broadened their square footage requirements for 5th wheels from 400 square-feet to 430- square-feet. Newer motorhomes and fifth wheels are lengthening to 45' with opposing slides and towering upwards to 13 1/2 feet tall. Newer travel trailers can get close to 40' long. Some may be towing a toy hauler with expensive vehicles or mobile offices. We prefer a spot that's 80' or longer. Please don't state that you're 'Big Rig Friendly' when you only have 3 Big Rig sites out of 50. Be honest in your advertising, phone reception and website or when guests ask. Know your exact site lengths from roadway edge to end of the site without himhawing just to make a buck from us. Please do not estimate (oh, it's 'about 65 feet). We NEED to know exact dimensions and limitations. Likewise, save your 'big rig' sites for 'only' big rigs. Nothing raises the hair on the backs of our necks more than seeing a small camper in a big rig site while we try to cram ours into a site meant for them. Also, we don't want to be passing the Grey Poupon, hearing our neighbor's commodes or their deep dark secret conversations. We should be able to enjoy sitting out at the picnic table for meals or our chairs without having to trip over the neighbors sewer pipe or smelling it. Our awnings shouldn't be able to touch the neighbor's RV. I'm willing to bet that RVers would be willing to pay a few more bucks for their site if they know they aren't going to have to turn their tvs up to drown out their neighbor's.
3) OBSTACLES & PRUNED TREES - You don't know how many times we would come upon our site only to be faced with a tree, permanent grill, light post or sign post that we must swing around; at the same time, trying to not hit something on the other side. Please appreciate that RV's today have opposing slides; we need wider spaces. If you want to number your sites, please paint the site numbers on the site pad or make the posts easy to remove/replace. Please, no curbing as well (read above in ACCESSIBILITY). We're not asking to park in a flat parking lot. We just ask that your developer take great care in planning or altering the layout of the park or resort. If your park or resort does have these obstructions or impediments, please minimize them.
Again, typical newer RV's are now towering 13 and a half feet tall. No RVer wants branches scraping roofs, air vents, awnings or the sides of coaches. Likewise, consider when it gets windy and those branches will sway and bounce which could potentially poke a hole in the rubber roof membrane, scrape the awnings or puncture a slide or topper. As well, trees invite critters and creepy crawlies. We don't want bugs or birds taking refuge or soiling our coaches. If and when your maintenance employees prune, have them cut all the way to the joint leaving no sharp ends. Please keep an eye on insect infestations as this could cause problems to your guests.
5) AMPLE PARKING - This applies to RV toad vehicles or trailers if we need to detach. Please don't charge us extra for parking in a lot; especially if you don't offer long sites to accommodate big rigs or towables.
6) LEVEL - Nothing is more frustrating than being told on the phone, website or resource that your sites are level only to pull in or back in and find our tow canted so much that it's painful or even dangerous to disconnect. We shouldn't need to stock a lumber store full of leveling blocks.
7) FREE WIFI, AMPLE AMENITIES & FREEBIES - First, WiFi is just as important as is electricity and water. For some of us, it's our life-blood for communicating with family and friends. Some full-timers work on the road and young families may be home schooling. Advertising 'Free Wifi' yet we can't even having simple access to check our email will entice bad reviews which will impede profitable business for your establishment immensely. Its probably the number one complaint. Spend the money to get a viable system that accommodates and supports the entire park and users...its better to over-engineer than under-serve. Monitor streaming abusers by shutting them down for 24 hours (this also goes under 'rule enforcement').
Please provide clean doggie park(s) or exercise areas for Fido to play and relieve themselves. Reading various RV forums and social media outlets, dog owners not cleaning up after their dogs is one of the top complaints and abuses. Nothing is worse than going out in our own site to sit or enjoy an outdoor meal and stepping/seeing/smelling dog doodoo. Put more doggie waste bag recepticles throughout your park so dog owners don't use the excuse, "I forgot a bag". Everyone, even dog owners, will thank you.
Having limited washers and driers for a park with 50 sites isn't going to be helpful. Please supply ample laundry rooms with several of each. A wash tub is a must for rinsing out or hand washing. As well, might we recommend having a totally separate washer for washing/drying pet beds. Nothing worse than throwing your clothes in a washer/dryer that was used to wash pet beds and our clothes coming out covered in hair or odor. Please clean daily; especially the floors in case we drop clean laundry.
Bath houses should be clean, safe and with lockable doors. Clean your shower fixtures often; hard water deposits hinder good water flow.
If your park or resort is in a heavy storm or tornado area, please provide a safe evacuation building.
Your park's workout gym should be accessible at all hours. Seriously.
...and FREEBIES! Always offer BOGO deals, honor rewards programs like Passport America, Escapees, etc. and military/first responder discounts. Network with other local businesses to offer deals and coupons - like restaurant discounts or a free round of golf - to your guests. Plan social activities like Taco Tuesday, ice cream socials, potlucks and mixers.
8) ADULT AREAS - Some may strongly disagree but designate areas for ADULTS ONLY please. We love kids but there's also a time and place. A lot of us work, exercise, go on long hikes or just had a long, stressful day. We really enjoy using the hot tub but not when there are children present. Its our 'down time' to de-stress, want a therapeutic soak or simple adult time to talk and enjoy the quiet. Also, children aren't the cleanest in such settings. In otherwords, save the hot tubs for "adults only". Please post the rules and remind parents of children of these off limits areas.
9) RULES & ENFORCEMENT - We understand the need for rules but please don't be overbearing having two-pages of small print. Likewise, there's nothing more frustrating than seeing no enforcement of rule infringement.
Speed limits have to be a priority. Please don't allow golf carts, scooters and 4-wheelers to race up and down the park roadways. There are walkers, children playing, hearing and sight impaired guests, etc. Please don't look away if there is rule infringement. If you're going to have rules; enforce them...for ALL.
10) KNOWLEDGABLE STAFF & VOLUNTEERS - Did you know that the reputation of your establishment is set upon the first 20 seconds of interaction? First impressions are always lasting; whether it's on the phone, social media, website or in person. Please be approachable, available, accommodating and friendly. Your first reaction to a question, comment or frustration will make you or break you. Realize that today, social media is a powerful tool amongst your patron guests. We share our experiences globally through social media, phone apps, blogs and websites like RV Parky and RV Park Reviews. Please enforce your rules consistently. If we are in front of you at the desk, please finish with us before reaching for the phone. Know and honor the hospitality code of ethics. Respect your guests and the fact that they CHOSE your park or resort; they could go elsewhere.
BE TRUTHFUL on all channels (ie. website, phone, etc.). It's said, "a picture says a thousand words"...well, seemingly, pictures also could be deceptive. When posting photos on your website, please show what the park and sites look like with coaches actually in them. Show photos of your facilities and amenities on a busy day or season. Show us the views we will see. Again, we do not want to stay in 'parking lots'. We enjoy green grass, pretty gardens, tidy and clean sites and grounds, and something nice to look at instead of a bunch of parked vehicles. Deceptive photography is a no-no.
So, do you still want to build or manage an RV park or resort? OF COURSE you do because it's a lucrative business now. RVers are getting younger in age which means they will be patrons longer. As in the movie 'Field of Dreams', Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) heard voices 'build it and he will come'.
COMING SOON!! Our 10 Favorite RV Parks, Resorts and Campgrounds! Watch for it!