Are you new to RVing and are planning some trips?
Before you do, you need to know what to look out for when booking campgrounds for family vacations or solo or couples getaways.
The features, amenities, and even rules RV park management highlights on their websites or brochures often are not what you expect when you experience them in real life.
To help beginners avoid misconceptions and disappointments when booking campsites at RV campgrounds, I put together this quick-reference guide. Find out what amenities and features most RV parks offer and what you’ll most likely find upon arrival.
As a full-time RVer with workamping experience, I have the inside scoop on all the tricks campgrounds use to lure you in and give you tips on how to avoid being misled, so let’s dive right in!
How to Pick an Appropriate RV Campground
New RVers need to know which words to look for to help you decipher what different campgrounds offer and how they may suit your camping style.
It can be shocking to check into an RV park that isn’t anything like you expect.
For families who want extra entertainment, look for terms or amenities such as:
- Game room
- Water park or Pool
- Mini golf
- Fun or Excitement
For those looking for quiet or more adult-leaning camping look for these keywords:
- 55+ only
- Pet free
- Adults only pool
- Nature trails
State or National Parks
99% of state and national parks are low-key, very relaxing getaways into nature.
Campsites generally provide more space and foliage between you and your neighbor, which is another bonus over private RV parks.
Expect to reach trailheads, the visitor center, or the camp store via convenient walking paths from the campground.
Many state and national park campgrounds are quite a distance from shopping centers, so bring enough supplies to last your entire trip.
Note that most campsites only fit recreational vehicles 30-feet and under and generally offer only water and electric hookups, with no sewer connection.
If the word “rally” is prominent in RV park advertising, you need to look closer.
Campgrounds that cater to hosting rallies are often busy and chaotic during events.
Many times the rallies are centered around specific types of RV, say Class A motor coaches or Airstreams. Other times they host motorcycle groups or other clubs.
Generally, expect rally events to have a party-like atmosphere where participants will break quiet hour rules and everyone looks the other way.
Rally participants usually book an entire section of the RV park for convenience and use the park’s community spaces to host activities.
If this doesn’t appeal to you, don’t be a party pooper. Ask what dates the park will host rallies and book during off times.
Many southern and western RV parks cater to seasonal snowbirds who stay long-term during the winter months.
Some campgrounds are full of nothing but snowbirds, but usually, RV parks reserve a good number of campsites for overnight or weekly RVers.
As most snowbirds are of retirement age, you may think these parks are quiet or dull, but it’s not true.
Snowbirds love to gather for meals, potlucks, karaoke, games, excursions, crafts, pool time, and most of all, happy hour.
Overall, expect to see an “older” crowd of RVers in the south during December through April in all RV parks.
TIP: If snowbirds (or any other camper) invite you to a happy hour gathering, always bring drinks for you and a snack to share, this is part of RVing etiquette.
RV Travel With Pets
RVing is one of the best options for people wanting to bring pets along on vacations.
RV parks are very pet-friendly, with RVIA (RV Industry Association) data showing 65% of pet owners bring their dogs and cats along while camping.
I find the numbers are even higher in real life, more like 80%. I don’t travel with a pet, and I’m in the minority everywhere I go.
RV parks not only welcome pet owners but often cater to them with dog-park areas, walking paths, or washing stations.
If hearing barking dogs isn’t on your list of relaxing camping activities, look for RV parks that state they are pet-free or opt for state or national parks that provide a better buffer between campsites.
Tricks RV Parks Use to Promote Their Park
Never base your decision to book an RV park by looking at pictures or wording on their company website. Do some sleuthing by checking out campground reviews on other websites.
From franchise or corporate-run parks to small mom and pop enterprises, most campgrounds only feature their best attributes and even alter how they appear in photos.
Here are two real-life examples of how RV park websites led guests to believe one thing, and they found out it was far from true.
Misleading RV Park Website Pictures
Most parks will take wide-angle shots that increase the appearance of the size of their pool, campsites, game room, or other amenities.
Expect these same pictures to avoid park features that are unattractive or may cause concern.
For example, I workamped at a park that had a less-than-average pool area. The angle of their website picture not only made the pool look enormous and well-kept but left out the fact that the bathrooms were outside the fence and required guests to walk across a highly-trafficked park road.
For parents camping with kids, not only was the pool much more cramped than they thought, and there were few deck chairs, but letting the children go to the bathroom alone was dangerous.
Believe me, I got plenty of questions and complaints from guests over this “omittance.”
This same park also uses out-of-date photos. That newly-renovated shower house picture looks so clean and inviting, but you don’t know the photo is eight years old, and the room isn’t nearly as fresh as you think.
Take every picture you see on RV campground websites with a grain of salt.
Instead, look for pictures guests post on general campground review sites for a more realistic view of the park.
Misleading RV Park Website Information
Here’s a funny little story about the information on one campground’s website.
When this RV park’s website loads, you’re greeted by a bright and bold banner that states their park has upgraded free high-speed Wi-Fi.
Sounds great! You can check in with work, research local attractions, or let the kids stream a movie before bed.
Not so fast.
First of all, that “upgraded” wireless internet system was management adding in an extra repeater.
Second, the “high-speed” is only possible during the slow season between the hours of 3 AM to 6 AM, when no other camper is online. The rest of the time, it’s agonizingly slow.
Worse yet, when you arrive at the park, you’ll need to sign a paper agreeing to no movie streaming or gaming on their Wi-Fi.
If you genuinely need fast and reliable internet, the staff tells you to connect to their provider (usually Tengo) via the park’s Wi-Fi sign-in page and upgrade at a charge. So much for free!
RV campgrounds aren’t always intentionally deceiving guests, but many love to boast of amenities that stretch the truth a bit.
To clarify the standard amenities and what you should expect at the average RV campground, keep reading!
Campground Features or Amenities Common in RV Parks
Now I break down each campground amenity into a realistic version.
I want you to have a base-level expectation and be pleasantly surprised when a campground does go above and beyond.
While I understand owners want to promote their campground in the best light, leading guests to book because they believe things that aren’t true can ruin a vacation, so let’s avoid it.
A camp store may have a complete stock of souvenirs, basic groceries, toiletries, propane fills, and RV and camping accessories.
The “store” could also be in the office and have some soda, water, and candy bars for sale alongside a rack of local attraction brochures.
Typically, it’s somewhere between these two.
If you plan to remain in the campground the entirety of your trip, you must inquire about what the camp store holds, so you don’t need to worry about running out of TP or propane.
Pool and Hot Tub
Many RV parks have a pool for guests as it’s an amenity that draws RVing families or those looking to swim some laps while on vacation.
Expect most pools to be much smaller than they appear in pictures and feel even tighter once full of swimmers.
Do expect splashing kids and not the relaxing siesta you imagine from that serene, empty pool picture you see on the website.
Some RV parks push their “resort-like” amenities that include a hot tub.
If your family likes to hot tub together, that’s great, but a couple looking for some chill-out time may be highly disappointed if kids are sharing the space.
TIP: If a park offers a hot tub, find a maintenance staff member and ask how often they empty and refresh the water.
I’ve worked at a park that empties the water every day to ensure a high level of cleanliness and safety. I also worked at a park that would never drain the water, only strain it and add tons more chemicals to clear up the water when it got gross.
Once a week is a bare minimum public hot tub water needs replacement unless there’s very little traffic. If staff can’t give you an answer, I’d bypass the hot tub entirely.
The hottest trend in RV parks is to install water parks to draw in more families and revenue.
Some parks, like the Frontier Town RV Resort in Maryland will make everyone happy, but in reality, most are small as costs to maintain, insure, and operate the equipment is high.
Be aware that campgrounds with cool water parks often charge extra to make use of the amenity. It doesn’t necessarily come with the price of your campsite rental.
Also, note that many campground water parks are open to the general public, which means it’s often more crowded than you’d expect.
Many parks highlight having a fitness center but rarely will it meet your expectations.
RV parks gather a treadmill, a stationary bike, and a Bowflex-style machine, cram it into a small room, add a mirror, and call it a day.
If machines are operational, it’s a bonus! Only rarely will you encounter free weights of any sort.
An RV park touting a game room is rarely going to be a place that will hold your kid’s attention for more than five minutes.
Many “game rooms” are a card table with a bookshelf full of board games, or it only holds a pool or air hockey table, or a couple of pinball machines and nothing else.
Your best bet for a decent game room is to book at kid-friendly campgrounds, such as Yogi Bear’s Jellystone parks.
If you want to ensure there are things to do in the campground during bad weather, call and ask what specific equipment is in the game room.
Also, ask for the operational hours. Most parks won’t leave the game room open 24/7 due to vandalism, and some close them down at the same time as the main office, which could mean early evening just when you want to use it.
Boat, Bicycle, or Golf Cart Rental
Some RV parks offer rental of equipment for use around the campground or on a connected waterway.
Unfortunately, many parks have a canoe or a couple of bikes for rent so that they can add another enticing “amenity” to their website.
Once, I went to rent kayaks for a group of six, only to learn the campground only had two kayaks, and one was for a single person. So much for that!
If the park does have ample quantity, expect rentals to come with an hourly charge, age restrictions, a deposit, and strange hours that may not work well with your schedule.
Always call the office and get direct answers about rental rules, charges, and hours if you think you want to use this amenity.
Unfortunately, accepting website-stated Wi-Fi quality as accurate can lead to extreme frustration, mainly if you chose that campground over another precisely because of the amenity.
As my story above points out, most “free” internet will lack speed or reliable connection. The more campers that get on the system, the worse it becomes.
If you think your RVing trips will require a secure, fast, and reliable Wi-Fi connection, always bring your own hotspot.
Never, ever rely on the campground internet. Period.
TIP: If you need a Wi-Fi connection randomly during RV vacations, sit outside the park’s office. The signal is usually best at this location.
Even an old, not-so-clean laundry room is a fantastic perk many RV parks provide. Being able to wash clothes is wonderful, especially when RVing with kids.
Expect all the machines to be coin-operated, so carry a roll or two of quarters and a small bottle of laundry detergent in your travel trailer or motorhome.
It’s about 50/50 that an RV park laundry room has a change machine, a vending machine for detergent, or an open machine when you need it.
Expect to pay anywhere from $2-$6 to wash and dry a load.
TIP: Housekeeping at campgrounds varies. Bring along some disinfecting wipes to wipe the tops and tubs of dirty or linty machines.
If you have pets, shake off as much fur as possible outside the room before putting items into the machines.
A community room is often on a park amenity list, but it isn’t always open for guests. Usually, it’s used for specific events, like potlucks or game night, or rented out for parties.
At one campground I worked, the community room was closed from April-October, which irritated summer guests who wanted to use the space to watch TV or play games, as was advertised on their website.
Many parks offer planned activities all year. Some will cater to kids, such as crafts or scavenger hunts.
Others may be for families, like making smores around a campfire, pool Olympics, and ice cream socials.
Adult activities are generally game nights, potlucks, karaoke, and cocktail hours.
RV parks with high numbers of snowbirds usually have a full calendar of events that only happen when “the gang” is there. Activity directors hire on only for the winter months, so there are more activities over other times when regular park staff handle them.
Depending on the RV park and group of snowbirds, overnight or weekly campground guests may be welcomed with open arms or given the side-eye as “outsiders” if they show up for activities.
The majority of the time, snowbirds love having fresh faces around, so don’t feel shy joining in if something interests you.
Do be aware that most campgrounds charge a nominal fee for activities to cover the cost of supplies.
Playgrounds at the average RV park are a small playset with a slide and maybe a swing or two and generally are best for kids 4-8 years old.
Rarely will a private campground give up premium land for a spacious playground unless the park is catering to families.
One park had some stairs up to a 6×6-foot “treehouse” on a platform and called it the playground!
Many RV parks have a fenced dog park so you can exercise your pet off-leash.
In a few parks, this area may be large and have separate sections, which are great if you don’t want your dog interacting closely with others.
Most likely, expect the area to be reasonably small and may not provide enough space to allow dogs to get a good run going especially larger breeds.
Many RV campgrounds offer cabins for rent that can sleep anywhere from two to eight guests.
Cabins may be a basic shelter with some beds or have a bathroom, bedrooms, a full kitchen with a dining area, and a sleeping loft.
Most cabins come completely stocked with linens, pots and pans, and basic toiletries as part of the rental rate, while some parks charge extra for towel or linen packages.
RV parks with cabins are ideal for RVers who want to vacation with non-RVing family or friends.
Final Thoughts For New RVers
If I knew more about campground amenities before I hit the road RVing, I could’ve saved some disappointment, stress, and money by avoiding particular campgrounds.
I wrote this article to help all you new RVers have an edge in planning the best vacation that fits your camping style. If an amenity is vital to your trip’s success, call the campground and get more details about it before booking.
You certainly don’t want to spend precious vacation time in an atmosphere you don’t find fun or relaxing.
When you find the right RV campgrounds, you’ll immediately feel at home. These are the parks that call you back time and again and will become part of your RVing traditions!