Dear Joe and Vicki: How does a newcomer to RVing go about selecting campgrounds? What’s the difference between campgrounds, RV parks and RV resorts?
Joe: Most campgrounds and RV parks fall into two basic categories: en route and destination.
En-route parks are those in which you intend to spend only a night or two while traveling from one major destination to the next. When you just want a place to spend the night, easy access and convenient site setup will probably be more important than scenic surroundings, a swimming pool or the availability of a golf course.
The ideal en-route campground or RV park is reasonably close to the highway, yet far enough away to avoid the sounds of traffic. And, in the best of all worlds, you’ll get a level, pull-through site that’ll save you the time and trouble of unhitching and leveling. You’ll also be able to leave quickly and quietly the next day.
The importance of facilities such as utility hookups, laundry rooms, swimming pools and game rooms at an en-route park is a matter of personal preference.
A destination campground or RV park is one where you intend to spend some time. This facility may be located in a public land you wish to explore, near a relative you want to visit or on the shore of a lake that needs fishing.
When you intend to stay for a few days, the size, orientation and scenic surroundings of your site may be more important than the time it takes to back, level and hook up to utilities. In fact, you might even consider full hookups and the availability of a laundry room, convenience store and recreation facilities as necessities when you’re in a destination RV park.
Vicki: RVers have a variety of overnight facilities available to them. Primitive or basic campgrounds typically have dirt campsites, a campfire ring and perhaps a picnic table. Restrooms can be anything from pit toilets to those with flush toilets. You won’t find hookups, but there’s usually a source of drinking water and perhaps even a waste-disposal station. Primitive campgrounds of this nature are usually found in national, state and county parks.
Improved campgrounds will offer gravel or paved campsites with electric and water hookups. Sewer hookups may or may not be available, but you can count on a dump station. The campsites in improved campgrounds will typically have a picnic table, campfire ring and perhaps a charcoal grill. Restrooms, usually with showers, will be available along with a convenience store, pay phones, laundry room, swimming pool and playground. Most improved campgrounds are commercially owned and operated, but you’ll also find them in some government parks.
RV parks are essentially campgrounds that have been designed or upgraded to accommodate today’s RVs. Their paved or gravel campsites will be reasonably level and will offer electric, water and sewer hookups. Some of these facilities may even have cable TV and telephone connections. Today’s RV parks will have modern restrooms with showers, a laundry room, playground, recreation room and pay phones. Most will have a swimming pool and possibly a spa. An increasing number of up-to-date RV parks are adding some kind of Internet access to enable those with laptop computers to access their e-mail or surf the web. Almost all RV parks are commercially operated, but don’t be surprised to find a few located in the larger government parks.
RV resorts offering the same facilities as an RV park have paved campsites, professional landscaping and recreational amenities such as a golf course, tennis courts or a marina. RV resorts are usually found in a luxurious setting and are occasionally associated with an adjacent resort hotel. Guests who stay in this kind of RV resort are entitled to the same privileges as guests of the hotel.
Enlightened RVers are aware their RV camping doesn’t have to be limited only to designated RV parks or campgrounds. There are portions of government land, such as those controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, where camping is allowed even though there are no official campsites on the property.
Overnight parking of RVs is permitted in the rest areas along many highways and interstates. Truck stops, restaurants and chain department stores have been known to give RVers permission to spend the night in their parking lots. And, of course, there are those friends who have long driveways or big yards that can accommodate your rig.
In a nutshell, there’s a campground, RV park or overnight accommodation to suit just about every RVer’s interests, needs and budget.
Joe: If you’re wondering how to go about choosing a campground, we suggest you take advantage of your next RV trip to experiment with a variety of RV parks and campgrounds.
Begin by learning how to read the listings and accompanying information in the 2008 Trailer Life RV Park, Campgrounds and Services Directory. This comprehensive resource will help you select the RV parks and campgrounds that best suit your needs.