Camping is the perfect family activity. It gets you out into nature, encourages you to unplug and connect, and gives you the opportunity to explore the world together.
Unfortunately, a campground or RV park that isn’t right for your family can ruin the whole experience. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research and ensure you’re headed to a campground that is going to be just right for your family.
Of course, in order to do this, you’ll need to know what to look for and how to find it. Because my family has stayed at dozens of campgrounds, I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at this, and I’m happy to share some ideas with you to help improve your camping experiences.
What to look for
First, let’s talk about what you should be looking for. This will actually vary depending on a number of factors. You will need to carefully consider your family’s unique needs and preferences in order to make your list of must-haves and wants.
Here are some things to consider:
First and foremost, always consider the location of any given campground. If you are going on a short weekend trip, you will likely want a campground that is within an hour or two of your home so you can spend less time driving and more time camping.
Those going on longer trips may want to venture farther from home. In this case, you should still factor in location. However, instead of thinking about location in relation to your home, think about where the campground stands in relation to attractions you might want to see, as well as to grocery stores and other conveniences.
Cost is also a huge factor to consider. While most state parks will only cost around $20–$25 a night, many private parks charge $100 or more per night. Meanwhile, those who don’t mind primitive camping may even be able to find a spot for $10 or less a night.
If you camp often and cost matters a lot to you, you might consider investing in a campground membership of some sort. Thousand Trails and Passport America are ideal for full-timers. Take a look at your options and see what might help save you a few bucks.
- Length of stay
Ask yourself: How long will you be staying in the campground in question?
If you are only staying one night on your way to your final destination, things like amenities and activities matter much less.
Meanwhile, those who plan to stay for a long while may want to look for campgrounds that cater to stationary RVers with monthly rates and a neighborhood vibe.
For these reasons, you will want to keep your length of stay in mind when booking.
Depending on the type of camper you are, amenities can matter quite a lot or not at all.
Do you plan to spend most of your time outside of the campground doing sightseeing? If so, you may not care about things like shuffleboard and organized holiday parties.
That said, those who like to remain in the campground for the duration of their trip may require that a campground has a swimming pool for cooling off in the middle of the day.
Consider which amenities you’d actually use and how much each one matters to you, then narrow down your choice based on these preferences.
- Site size and spacing
If you have a bigger rig, site size can matter quite a lot. You will want to make sure whatever campground you are considering has sites that will accommodate your RV.
Additionally, you may want to consider site spacing. Campgrounds with very tight spaces placed close together can really take away from the camping experience. This is especially true if you enjoy making campfires, playing cornhole, and just hanging out outside of your RV.
Believe it or not, the campground staff can influence your trip quite a lot. If you call a campground and the front desk staff comes across as rude or unfriendly, you might want to steer clear.
- Kid and pet-friendly
Lastly, you will want to make sure your family is welcome at any campground you book. This means you’ll need to check and double-check that the RV park is kid-friendly if you plan to take the kids.
Likewise, if your pets will be joining you, you’ll want to make sure they are welcome too. In both cases, be sure to ask about any additional fees that may apply for the kids or pets.
Where to begin your search
Now that you know what you’re looking for in a park, you may be wondering how to find that perfect park. There are several ways to go about searching for the ideal campground. However, the most powerful tool for finding the right campground quickly is definitely RV Trip Wizard.
This comprehensive program shows all of the campgrounds along your route, and offers a variety of filters to help you find a campground you’ll love. You can even use this tool to search for campgrounds under a certain membership or chain.
Other options for searching for campgrounds include doing a simple internet search, using the websites of any camping memberships you may have, or searching different regions on Campground Reviews.
Confirming a campground is right for you
After searching and finding a few campgrounds that seem ideal based on listings, you will want to do what you can to confirm that the campground will work for you. I recommend doing the following:
- Check reviews
The first line of action should always be to check reviews left by other campers. The aforementioned RV Trip Wizard provides an opportunity to do this. However, you might also find reviews on Campground Reviews, TripAdvisor, and even Google.
- Visit beforehand
If the campground is close to home or if you’ll be staying long-term, you may want to drop by the park in advance to check it out. Drive around, have a look at the sites and amenities, and see how you feel about the place.
- Call ahead
Finally, you may want to call ahead. Making a quick phone call will allow you to confirm site size, whether the place is pet and kid-friendly, amenities, and whether there are any other fees you should be aware of. This will also give you a chance to gauge the friendliness of the staff.