Most RVers put a ton of time into researching the best campgrounds for their family vacations and weekend getaways. They will pour over catalogues, read online reviews, post questions in forums, and binge listen to podcasts.
But when it comes time to reserve a campsite, these same research junkies just put in their travel dates and leave the actual campsite selection to an impersonal computer algorithm.
We have stayed at hundreds of campgrounds around this country and can say one thing for certain: even the best campgrounds and RV parks have a couple mediocre (or just plain bad) sites. Even more importantly, there is no one-size-fits-all ideal. The best campsite for a family with small children might be a young couple’s worst nightmare.
The key to enjoying campground bliss lies in knowing the exact type of site you want, and then making the effort to reserve that spot. Here are ten questions we recommend asking before booking your next great adventure.
Can I talk to a reservationist at the campground?
This is our number one piece of advice for RVers: whenever possible, talk to a member of the staff who knows the campground well. These days, we all want to take the easy way out and book online, but that won’t guarantee you a slice of campground heaven. We open up the campground map on our laptop, and then settle in for a nice long chat with the reservationist. They are usually more than happy to answer our long list of questions.
Sometimes booking online is unavoidable. Many national, state, and county parks exclusively use online reservation systems. In that case, we will still chat with a ranger ahead of time to learn more about the individual sites and identify ones that will be ideal for our family. Booking at an RV park during the off-season? In that case, we make online reservations and then follow up with email or voicemail, detailing our personal campsite preferences or requesting particular areas of the campground.
What hookups do I want?
Campgrounds usually provide a range of hookup options. Some sites will have full hookups, with 30 or 50-amp electric service; other sites will offer just water and electric. If the campground is rustic, there may be no hookups available at all.
Decide in advance what you prefer. If you are hoping to use the sink, toilet, and shower in the RV, even the prettiest site will leave you disappointed when you find it doesn’t have a sewer connection. On the flip side, you may be perfectly content to use the bathhouses in exchange for a beautiful campsite with limited hookups nestled by a creek.
Do I want a pull thru or back in?
People with bigger RVs or limited towing experience often prefer pull thru campsites because they are much easier to navigate. However, these sites can also be less private and less aesthetically pleasing. A back in site might be trickier to get into, but it could also offer you the scenery and space you are looking for.
Do I want to be close to the action, or far away?
Many campgrounds have hubs of activity where playgrounds, pools, and shuffleboard courts are located. Study the campground map to determine where you prefer to be in relation to all that excitement. Have young children? Then you might dream about watching your kids play while relaxing on a zero gravity chair at the campsite. A solo traveler in search of peace and quiet might consider a spot far away from crowds.
Do I want to be close to the bathhouses or far away?
If you plan on using the bathroom in your RV, then there is no reason to be located near the bathhouses where you might find increased foot traffic and early morning door slamming. Search out a site far from the bathhouses if possible.
However, if you do need to use the bathhouses, look for a site that is close but not too close. No one wants to walk a mile in the dark to use the potty, but the site right next to the bathroom is never a good one.
Can I hear road noise from this site?
RVers who travel in motorhomes and run the air conditioning at night may not care that their campsite is backed up to a highway. But pop up campers and hybrid travel trailers won’t block out that road noise at night. Light sleepers should make this issue a priority when choosing a campsite. Also, be on the lookout for any railroad tracks that run by the campground.
Will a lot of campground traffic pass this site?
Here is another reason to study that campground map online: traffic flow through a campground will definitely affect your campsite experience. If you are near the entrance, consider that every single vehicle entering and exiting will likely pass by your site. Sites at the end of rows may see more traffic as well.
Camping with kids? Make sure you find a site with road visibility in both directions. Being right on a curve or bend in the road is not as safe for young children.
Do I want shade or sun?
Are you looking for lots of trees where you can hang a hammock and nap under rustling leaves? Or do you dream of sitting in the sun with a glass of iced tea and a good book? Whatever your preference, this is a job for the satellite view on Google Maps. Simply type in the campground address, and see what kind of shade or sunbathing options are available at the different campsites.
Do I want a waterfront site?
There is a reason why so many campgrounds are located on lakes, rivers, and streams. Sitting at your campsite and listening to the sound of rushing water may just be the most relaxing experienceever. And being able to put a kayak into the lake right next to your RV just about tops any campsite for some.
But these sites are usually the most popular, and they fill up quickly. If you want to reserve waterfront property, you will have to book far in advance…sometimes over a year ahead of your planned vacation.
Do I want a buddy site?
If you are traveling with family or friends, one of the best things you can do is look for buddy sites at a campground. These campsites are set up so that your RVs can be parked awning to awning, with camper doors facing each other. This creates a wonderful shared space in the middle where you can comfortably gather for meals and campfires. We love this arrangement and always seek out buddy sites when group camping.
There is no such thing as the perfect campsite. Some RVers want rustic and private spots, while others seek out immaculate landscaping and access to amenities. The trick to finding your perfect site is knowing exactly what you want and doing a little bit of extra work to make sure you get it. Ask these 10 questions before booking your next RV vacation, and you will leave every campground feeling like you scored the very best spot on the lot.
See you at the campground!