Like the campers they service, RV parks come in all shapes and sizes. Nothing can make or break your night, your vacation, your month, or even your living situation like an RV park that does not suit your needs. Do you have kids? Do you have pets? Do you want cable TV? Is it a pool you are hoping to end each day with? How important is WiFi to you? All of these things needs to be considered when choosing a campground or RV park to call “home”, be it for a night or a year!
Now that we are “most-timers” in a 27′ travel trailer and have a rather lengthy list of “needs” we are more likely to choose larger, more mainstream parks than we are to boondock in the painted hills of Oregon state! I work full time as a telecommuting white collar. I need reliable and speedy WiFi. We have a 3-year old daughter so a playground or pool or something similar is important. We stay long term (one week to two months) so a good (and affordable) laundry room is priority. The list goes on. But when we are on our own time we seek the aesthetics of the area, the peace and quiet of the park, the natural surroundings, the landscaping of the sites, and the access to state parks/national parks.
I hope the list below helps you see how we have chosen campgrounds so far and how you can find your own for your pursuits.
PEER REVIEWS. There are several ways to find out about RV parks. You can purchase or check-out from your local library a printed guide such as Woodall’s or Trailer Life. These are published each year though so they are quick to go out of date in terms of amenities, contact info., and even site offerings. These sort of guides are also published by groups that oftentimes maintain “clubs” or special groups as well. For instance “Good Sam” or “Escapees”. Therefore the parks that seemed to get better ratings or larger entries were those that partnered with the clubs in offering discounts for staying there. Being in marketing and advertised I also noticed that it seemed the parks with larger, glossier ads (therefore more expensive ad placements within the guide) received better ratings across the board. We definitely didn’t want that sort of biased information. Now we tend to listen more to simple Facebook groups, friends from the areas we are traveling to, and even camping social networks like RVillage.com.
ONLINE RESEARCH. Call me elitist but I feel a lot can be said about a business based on their website. If you are a business and you are still operating a basic Yahoo! “point-and-place” website or you have a generic GoDaddy theme as your online calling card chances are your attention to other details is comparable. However, if you put in time, effort, and resource to provide a quality online experience for potential clients you are in it to win it, so to speak. Take for instance Woodsmoke Camping Resort in Ft. Myers, FL. While the site features a color theme that is a bit hard on the eyes and it is not device responsive it does feature things like a Twitter feed, a Facebook feed, a high-quality park experience video, a reservation system, an up-to-date events calendar, and full contact information. And from personal experience we know the park pays equal attention to their guests offering reliable high-speed WiFi, a heated, year-round pool, a great clubhouse, and well-appointed sites. So when we are looking online we take into consideration a lot more than just ‘do they have a website?’
STATE PARKS. While most state park campgrounds don’t allow stays over two weeks, don’t have WiFi, and don’t offer much in the way of “club” amenities, they are typically quite safe, quite affordable, and near some of our outdoor passions. In order to find out about these parks (their location, their rules, their hookups, etc) we again turn to the web and look at the national park registry by state or we visit RVParkReviews.com. Both are extremely reliable resources.
FOLLOW UP. Even though it seems our decisions have been made without the all important one-on-one communication nothing could be further from the truth. After we choose a location I follow up at least once to confirm rates, ask about Internet, ask about site landscaping, find out what local shopping is available, etc. I have even been known to ask how much it is to wash a load of laundry and if the machines are regularly serviced. Remember, this is going to be your home for some amount of time. Every bit of information is important!
YOU’VE GOT MAIL. This may seem like a no-brainer to some while to others this may be a Eureka moment! But we have not yet reserved anywhere we couldn’t receive personal mail, Amazon.com packages, or UPS boxes. We do most of our shopping online and we still have our mail delivered to our residential address that is then forwarded. If we can’t receive mail at the park we are staying then it is a no go!
SOCIALIZATION. We have never wanted to live in a neighborhood where folks didn’t sit on their porches, wave at each other on their nightly walks, or tip their hat when checking the mailbox. We have always enjoyed interacting with our neighbors at any given time. The same is true for an RV park. Last year when we started by experimenting with snow birding we found our little community to be so encouraging and inspiring. We loved getting to know each neighbor; where they were from, who was in their family, what they did for careers, etc. We loved having Wednesday morning breakfast at the clubhouse, dancing at the Friday night band nights, and attending chapel services on Sunday morning. So now we find ourselves seeking out campgrounds and RV parks that focus on community building. We feel like we are an interesting family with a lot to offer others and we know there are others out there as well so why sit inside and not get to know each other?
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? The last thing to consider when searching for an RV park or campground is absolute affordability. Does the location fit your budget? There is no right or wrong, cheap or expensive, etc. It is completely based on your personal budget and what may work for one will not work for another. But you must consider how a night at any location sits in your personal budget while still making you feel safe and sound.