Jul 062010

In the eleven years that Terry and I have been on the road as fulltime RVers, I can probably count the number of times we have made reservations at an RV park on my fingers. We usually prefer to travel at our leisure, and stop wherever we find ourselves at the end of a day, without the pressure of having to get someplace.

However, we currently have not one, not two, but three reservations awaiting us! That’s quite a difference from our usual style of traveling. But each reservation has a specific purpose; I booked a week at the Pony Express RV Park in Salt Lake City, Utah starting Thursday so I can do some genealogy research; then we have a five night reservation at the River Dance RV Resort in Gypsum, Colorado, which was the closest place we could find to Vail, where we will be attending a family wedding on the 18th; and then, in September, we have a fourteen day reservation at the Hershey, Pennsylvania Thousand Trails, where we will be staying while we work the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show.

We’ve stayed at the Hershey Thousand Trails before and know what to expect, but with the other two RV parks, location swayed our decision. There really were not many options in Colorado, and in Salt Lake City, there wasn’t a lot to choose from either.

Even with all of our time on the road, we’re still pretty green when it comes to selecting an RV park. Given a choice, we prefer Passport America campgrounds, Escapees RV parks, Elks and Moose lodges, fairgrounds, casinos, and the many free campgrounds around the country, but those are not always an option. Then we have to find a place.

We learned a long time ago that the ratings in most campground guides seem to be based more upon the size of the ad than the quality of the facilities.

Sometimes we get recommendations from friends, and if not, I start looking around online for reviews. I find it interesting reading reviews of RV parks online at Yahoo and the RV Park Reviews website. Some people will give a campground the highest rating, while others will slam it bad. How can two RVers stay at the same place, have two very different experiences, and come away with such different opinions?

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious, when you read comments like “Nothing for kids to do here” or “No planned activities.” I ignore those types of complaints, because we don’t travel with kids, and we don’t need to be entertained. I’m more concerned about comments about things like dogs running around unleashed, permanent residents with seedy looking trailers, or rowdy neighbors.

How about you? How to you choose an RV park to stay at, in an unfamiliar area? What’s your protocol for finding a place to stay for a few days?

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  14 Responses to “How Do You Choose An RV Park?”

  1. When looking at campgrounds I use google maps satellite view or google earth as a quick way to check out the area, are there railroad track running next to the campground, what does it really look like, etc. This also is helpful checking out alternative dry camping spots, walmart and others, is it a stand alone facility out in the country, does it have a large parking lot.

  2. Unlike you, I find the guidebook ratings reasonably reliable. I simply deduct a point or two if they have a large display ad, or are a Good Sam park.

  3. I like to go to their website. If it has been kept up to date and seems professional, the campground will be well kept. If there is no website, I try to find something on line with comments from previous RVers.

    I, too, find the campground guides a good place to start.

  4. We stay away from “Family Resorts” and campgrounds that brag about their activites also. I will look at the campground from Google Earth for clear skies for our 3 roof mounted satellite systems. We tend to stay at Passport and Happy Camper parks, state parks, Escapee parks/Escapees discount parks and fairgrounds/county/city parks. The only time we might stay at a destination park/resort would be for a rally

  5. We do use ROD the most it is a membership park, we like having reservations when we travel and we have used it enough to justify the ridiculous price we paid, we did not know about resale agents. We also us RPI, Passport,Escapee’s, city parks, and fairgrounds.

  6. Usually I start with Passport America for overnight stops, and then check out RV Park Reviews and the park’s website. For longer stays I start with RV Park Reviews.

    In areas we have traveled before we hit parks we liked the last time in the area.

  7. I am making spreadsheets–one for each state. They each list all the parks of every type I’ve been able to research so far. Then we look for the best price with appropriate amenities in our destination area. We prefer Corps of Engineer parks when we can get them because they usually have quiet beauty with electrical hookups plus my National Parks Access card makes them half price for us.

  8. Geeks that we are, we tend to use the Internet for choosing our stops. I love Google Earth and Streets and Trips for planning, and it is what we teach.
    We often make reservations when we want to stay more than a few days and over holidays. When we are in “travel mode”, Discount parks with a sprinkling of Walmarts is normal.
    The campground guides usually have good directions for finding them once in the general area. Ratings, not so much.
    I take most web reviews with a grain of salt. Too much griping. Consider the source. Campers are different from casual RVers and both are different from Full-timers.
    Recommendations from friends are useful, but they don’t always coincide with our need for connectivity. Beautiful places with no signal won’t allow us to stay more than a day or two, max. We have work to do.


  10. I may select a passport park if it is listed in the Trailer Life Directory. That book has been pretty important to us the past 3 summers. It is the most comprehensive of all the directories. I would like to have a discount, but in the end, I have to make my judgement to our size and ammenities that we require. I wouldn’t be able to go very well without that book! I am also going to get a big rig book because lots of times these smaller parks say they are “Big Rig Friendly” and although the sites may be big enough, the roads and drives are not! I am not finding very many places to use my Escapees membership..in three years I’ve only used it once. I do use passport or at least try to give them a chance, but they are few and far between and I will always check reviews if I consider them.

  11. We choose an RV park which is convenient for what we are doing. That might be just a stop along the way (would like an RV Park not to far off the main road), visiting relatives (which RV park is close and reasonable), staying longer in an area (what is the weekly rate). We also would like at least 30 amp electric. Water and sewer are not as necessary but we don’t like to boondock and pay for it.
    We use Trailer Life Directory (yes, their ratings are too high), Passport American Directory, Elk’s Directories, etc. We do like to get the best price but sometimes there just aren’t many choices.
    We came off the road around 1:30 pm today. Temperature hovering near 100 (Milford, PA). Just couldn’t take the heat anymore. Presently in a destination park (tubing rides, the river beach, etc) but we needed the electric hookup for AC. At these temperatures our generator overheats in it’s compartment and we don’t have any AC then. So time to get the first available campground. It’s cooling down inside but it’s an incredible heat wave on the Eastern Seaboard.

  12. If I do make reservations I like to talk to the park staff/owner first. My family operates a park and our biggest focus is customer satisfaction and friendliness. When asking questions the park staff needs to be informative and helpful with info I need. If the staff is not friendly I usually keep looking. I will return to a park most often based on their attitude and customer service. Passport America parks have usually been good to us and although I’m not an escapee, at my park the escapee campers are a great bunch.

  13. First thing we look for is “Big-Rig Friendly”….we have a 40ft 5th wheel….we also look for pet friendly. The WHOLE family has to be welcome, including our dog. She is 14 years old, but loves her walks. And thirdly…our motorcycles have to be welcome. We are avid motorcyclists. We do not have loud pipes, and we do not tool around the park with our bikes, in and out.
    We love Passport America parks….have stayed in quite a bit of them up and down the east coast. When we are traveling to a certain location……we look for a campground closest to that specific place. But we also love to just “wing” it. We end up wherever we may be……one of the greatest advantages of full-timing.

  14. I seem to remember reading about a website by fulltimers for fulltimers reviewing campgrounds, but can’t find it now. Anyone know of one??

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