You’ve found some days to take off work, somehow gotten everyone to agree on a destination or two, and maybe even signed the RV rental papers.
Heck, you might already be all packed up and ready to go. After all, road tripping does have a tendency to inspire some pretty strong wanderlust and excitement.
But not so fast, speedy! Because if you’re new to RVing, you might be overlooking a very key detail.
Where are you gonna park the darn thing?
Even if you think you’ve got everything in order, you’re not quite done preparing for your RV trip if you haven’t done some campground research, or at least looked into what kinds of sites you’ll need. Even though your RV is probably equipped with all the comforts of home, including a bed, toilet, and functional kitchen, it’s not as simple as pulling over on the side of the road when it’s time to catch some Zs!
Even if you decide to forego privately-owned campgrounds with hookups, you need to find land that’s actually legal to camp on. And although we certainly don’t recommend overplanning your trip, mapping every last pit stop and scheduling down to each individual hour, it’s not a bad idea to have some sense of the campgrounds available near your destination(s) ahead of time. If you’re traveling during a popular season, they can actually fill up!
So if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to finding the perfect campground or campsite, this blog post is for you. We’ll break down the basics so you have a better idea of what you need to look for when it’s time to get off the road for the evening.
First of all, let’s dive into the different types of RV camping, and what kind of campsites are appropriate for each.
Many beginner RVers immediately gravitate toward camping in private, resort-style campgrounds.
The campgrounds might advertise extensive extras like a recreation hall, restaurant, on-site grocery store, swimming pool, or pre-arranged social events, and their sites usually come with full electrical, water, and sewer hookups. Your site might even come with fun, outdoorsy extras like picnic benches, grills, and fire pit rings.
Sites in private campgrounds like these are generally paved over with concrete or lined with gravel, and are increasingly built to accommodate even the largest rigs. They may be pull-through sites, which you can drive straight into, or back-in sites, which will require you, obviously, to back in.
Although private RV camping includes lots of extras and conveniences, it can come at a steep price. These campgrounds are generally for-profit organizations which charge daily fees of up to $100 or more, and may also include other services charges depending on their policies. You should also note that these campgrounds reserve the right to turn away rigs that they deem too old or otherwise unsightly for the property, so if you’re traveling in a well-loved model, you run the risk of being refused at the gate.
Public RV campgrounds, such as state parks, are a great middle-of-the-road option. State parks give your family the opportunity to get outside and engage with nature, but may also feature some luxuries like swimming pools and playgrounds. Many also do offer sites with hook-ups, although some only have “primitive” sites, where you’ll have to fend for yourself, keeping an eye on your holding tanks and powering anything you need with either generator, battery, or solar power.
However, although state parks are generally less all-inclusive than resorts, they’re also usually much less expensive. Even with power, a site at a state park might run between $10-$40 per night, instead of the $75 charged at a resort campground.
Finally, there’s dispersed camping on public lands, or “boondocking.” This is the closest you can come to just pulling off the side of the road and hitting the sack — but it still takes a little bit of know-how. Not all land is legal to camp on, even if you pack out everything you pack in (which you always should). And out west, under the big skies where this kind of camping is most tempting, there’s often no way to know if the area that looks like a perfect parking spot for you is actually part of someone’s extended backyard.
You also need to learn how to pay attention to your potable and waste-water levels in order to take on boondocking, since you won’t have a ready source of water or place to dump at your disposal. And keep in mind that some boondocking campsites still aren’t totally free — though at rates of about $25 for two weeks, the cost per night is pretty darn low.
No matter which of these types of campsites appeal to you, let’s dive into how to find the best version of each.
When it comes to RV resorts, finding the best parks is pretty simple. Just look for privately-owned locations near your destination — they’re sure to be well-advertised. Then, access the company website or pick up the phone to see what kinds of amenities the campground has on offer. Depending on how fancy and inclusive you want to get, you can start to narrow down your options from there.
Keep in mind that you’ll also want to ensure that each campground does actually have a space to accommodate you, and be ready with your RV’s dimensions and number of slide outs when asked. You should also consider checking the company’s reviews on sites like Yelp, to see what other customers have to say about their experience.
Once you start looking beyond the privately-owned, concrete-covered campsites, finding the best parks gets a little bit more challenging — but also more rewarding when you succeed.
Start, again, by figuring out how much you’re willing to “rough it.” If you require RV hookups, that’ll instantly knock a good chunk of options off your list.
Keep in mind factors like proximity to entertainment and what kinds of activities you’re hoping to take on during your vacation. If you’re excited to go out kayaking over the weekend, for instance, see if you can find local RV parks with sites available right on the lake.
There are many other things to consider when you’re making your decision about which campsite is right for you, but most of them are fully dependent on personal preference and your own priorities. Do you mind sharing close quarters with your neighbors, or do you want to walk out of your RV and not see a single soul for miles? Are you happy hanging out in the woods, or do you need easy access to a big city? All of these factors and more will impact your final campsite decision.
How Do I Find RV Campgrounds Near Me?
Once you have an idea about what kinds of campgrounds and campsites suit you, it’s time to find a few!
In our technologically-advanced world, finding RV campgrounds and making reservations is a whole lot easier than it used to be. You can simply use Google to search for the nearest RV park to your location, and you can also utilize a host of mobile apps made specifically for campers looking to find a space for the night. (Here are just a few of those apps, and a bunch more to try while you’re at it!)
When it comes to boondocking, always be sure to check with the BLM, or Bureau of Land Management, to ensure that the site you have your eye on is, indeed, public and available for camping. The BLM will also know the specific rules you’ll have to follow to camp there.
Finally, once you find your perfect camping spot… enjoy it! And be sure to clean up everything you bring, leaving without a trace so someone after you can enjoy it, too.