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 RV and any 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. This was trickier when we had a 44 ½ foot long fifth wheel with slides on both sides, pulled by a dually pick up truck. We’d often book what some campgrounds call “premium” sites, so that we weren’t too boxed in. It is definitely easier now that we have a 29 ½ foot long fifth wheel with slides on one side. However, we still like to find sites where there is plenty of room for our truck. We also prefer campgrounds with plenty of room between sites so we’re not awning to awning or sitting on top of someone’s sewer when we’re at the campground.
- Hook ups. We like our creature comforts, so we prefer full hookups (water, power, and sewer). We have a residential refrigerator and two air conditioners, so our RV is wired for 50 amp power. However, we can easily use 30 amp power with our adapter. We’ve also selected an RV with rather large holding tanks so that we can stay at partial hookup campsites without sewer if needed.
- 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
When you are trip planning, you can use a free program or a premium (paid one). I’ll share both options below.
A free search tool to find the best RV campgrounds is Campendium. You can use it both from their website or app. Watch the video below to see how I use it.
My favorite tool that I started using this year is RV Trip Wizard. Watch the video below to see how I use it for trip planning starting at the 9-minute mark. Or you can watch the entire video to see what else is included with it.
RV Trip Wizard part of the RV Life family of products, so if you purchase it, you get everything for the price of one. It is more than just a trip planning tool. It also includes an RV GPS app that you can use on your phone or tablet. Sean also likes the Maintain My RV program that comes with it as well. So for $49/year it actually saves us from paying for a bunch of other programs. They have a free 7-day trial you can sign up for. Just click here and select Start Your Free 7 Day Trial Now.
Some things we consider for a stay:
- We’re usually planning to visit a general area and will first conduct a search on Campendium 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.
- Once we’ve narrowed down some top choices, we move on to reading reviews.
Step 3: Read Reviews
Before booking a stay I always read the reviews on Trip Advisor and RV Park and Campground Reviews. You can read them for free, but if you have the paid RV Life / RV Trip Wizard package, you’ll get additional details on the reviews. When reading reviews I consider the following:
- One thing we really like about these particular review sites 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.
- 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.
Be sure to sign up for my FREE RV Camping Guide. It has over 30 pages of tips and 4 printable worksheets to help you plan your RV travels whether you are a full-time time traveler or weekend warrior.
If you want a more deluxe version, click here to see the planner my friends at Streets Wander created to keep track of my reservations, must-see sights, and much more!
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Mark Finch says
Thank you for sharing your tips. My dad and I recently bought an RV, and we’re very eager to try it out. Since it’s our first time, we want to make sure we avoid the common mistakes committed by newbies. I like your tip on checking reviews on camping grounds. I’ll be sure to check recommendations from someone who has made multiple camping reviews. We’ll surely benefit from that person’s experience and maybe get tips specific to that particular camping ground.
Congrats on the new RV! Hope you have some great trips in it!
Ellie Davis says
Thank you for pointing out that you are going to need to consider how long you are going to be staying when picking an RV park. My husband and I love camping in our RV and are looking for some new sites. I’ll have to look into finding the best ones possible.
Larry Weaver says
Thanks for the tip to conduct an initial search when finding an RV park. My parents would like to spend their retirement living in an RV park. I’ll recommend to them that they should start looking around to find what will be a good match for what they are looking for.
Julie Chickery says
Terrific! If they want to stay in one place and not travel, there are RV resorts that have what are called Park Models. They may be best for full-time stationary living.