Choosing a Campground

Every year at the RV Shows, we are always asked, “how do you find the campgrounds or RV resorts for your rallies and caravans? How do you pick the campgrounds for your vacations? What do you look for in a campground?” These are not easy questions to answer today. When we started camping back in the 70’s, most campgrounds were just about the same. An electric hook-up was considered a full hook-up, water was available at a filling station, and sewer sites were unheard of. So picking out a campground back then was easy. We would get a campground book from the tourist department in the area we planned on visiting and we would pick out the closest campground to where we were going.

Today, camping – or as the new term puts it – “RV’ing” – is a whole new lifestyle. Your RV will, in most cases, dictate what facilities you will be looking for in an RV campground and campsite. Today, we have so much choice in deciding where we want to go and what type of Campground/RV Resort we want to stay in. There are many RV Resorts that treat you like you are staying in a first class hotel. They have a golf course, Olympic size swimming pools, campsites that have everything from full hookups to patio furniture, cable hookups, phone hookups, WiFi hookups and more. In a resort setting, the upscale RV site is very large and very private and has a cement pad to park on, a cement patio to party on and the landscaping is groomed almost every day.

We have seen campsites with fountains and even your own personal Jacuzzi. The RVs you see staying there are your forty-foot motorhomes and your converted buses. You generally find these RV resorts in the southern United States, where they can stay open all year, but there are new resorts opening every year, and the phenomenon has spread as far north as Canada.

42-3_choosing_a_campground_01We have many different types of campgrounds in North America. Not all are like the fancy RV resorts we talked about above. Today, you will find campgrounds with facilities that range from rustic to very modern. The rustic campground has no TV or internet hookups, no electric service, no water hookups, but it probably has a dump station. Some of our Provincial Parks still have camping sites like this and many of our camping friends use them. There are many campgrounds that offer a variety of facilities at the individual campsites – they will have some sites with 20/30 amp electric hookups and water hookups; some sites with full hookups offering 30/50 amp electric power, water and sewer and maybe even cable TV hookups. These campgrounds will probably have a swimming pool and they will generally have a store in which you can buy your supplies.

While many campgrounds/RV resorts specialize in seasonal accommodation which classifies them as RV vacation destinations, many offer one and two-week packages, and some reserve a section of their grounds for overnight visitors. These overnight stops are set up to cater to the highway travelers who are on their way to a vacation destination, and the sites are usually located near the entrance to the park, where the frequent arrival and departure of RVs will not disturb the long-term visitors.

Campgrounds that are located along the major tourism routes, but not close enough to the scenic attractions to be considered destination campgrounds usually offer around 100 sites and have a variety of facilities to choose from. The RV destination campground/RV resort caters to those who have come to stay awhile and enjoy the amenities the campground/RV Resort has to offer.

RV destination campgrounds/RV resorts can be near a city, on a lake, or by the ocean, and some are located in or near a theme park. We have stayed in many of these RV destinations over the years and enjoyed them. Campgrounds on a lake or by the ocean usually have a nice sandy beach you can walk to and those that are near a city often have transportation to the city, or shuttle buses that will pick you up at your campground and take you downtown.

Destination RV campgrounds/RV resorts are fully self-contained areas where you don’t really have to leave the grounds to partake of a full range of amenities and entertainment. Selecting one of these destination resorts may seem a bit expensive at first glance, but when you consider all of the attractions available on-site, they are an excellent value because they can provide a relaxing, stress free vacation, and that is one of the major goals of the RV traveler – finding a place to stay that the whole family will enjoy, and a spot that will bring back many fond memories.

How do we find these RV destination campgrounds/RV resorts? For our Canadian travels, we use the same directory that you are now holding in your hands…the legend at the beginning of the directory section explains the facilities available at each campground, and the listings contain the website and e-mail information you need to obtain additional information. For our travels south of the Canadian/US border we buy a campground directory for the section of North America that we plan to visit. In these directories you will often find ads for campgrounds and RV resorts.

42-3_choosing_a_campground_02These days, most of the campgrounds have a web page. We check the website and if they have a virtual tour of the campground we can see what they have to offer. From campsites, swimming pool, store, entertainment, to what type of hookups they have. We can also see what is in the area, if we want to tour around. We buy a new copy of the North American directory every three years just to keep up with what is going on in the Campground/ RV Resort industry. We also like to try campgrounds that have been recommended to us by other RV’ers.

When you have decided on where to go, and the type of campground you would like, it is time to call ahead and make a reservation. Tell the campground operator when you are planning to visit, and what type of RV you will be travelling with – if you have slides on your RV, let the campground know how many slides you have, and on which side of the vehicle – we have seen RVs arrive at a site only to find that they could not get all their slides out, as the campsite was too narrow. If you have a large rig, you may prefer a pull-through site. If you have pets, a spot near the “dog run” may be convenient. Many of our friends like to use the showers at the campsite rather than the shower in their RV – a location near the campground facilities would be their preferred campsite.

Today, some campgrounds/RV resorts state in their ads, “motorhomes only, no units older than 10 years”. We stay away from these RV Parks, as we feel all RV’ers are good people, no matter what they drive, or tow, or how old the RV is. Some RV parks will only allow seniors and some specify no children or no pets.

As we said earlier, your RV will dictate what type of campsite you will want. We have met people who want no hookups at all and their idea of paradise is to camp in the backwoods, relying only on the facilities available in their own RV. We have also met people who insist on a campsite with everything from full hookups, (50 amp service) to cement pads to park on.

We know an RV’er who wanted to go to Newfoundland on our caravan. He had called all the other caravan companies in the United States who go to Newfoundland, before he tried calling us in Canada. He wanted us to guarantee that he could have a full hookup (50 Amp Service) pull-thru campsite with phone and cable hookups at every campground we stay at on our Newfoundland Caravan. I told him that while many campgrounds now offer modern facilities, not all of these facilities simply do not exist in every area, and he replied that he would not be going with us. It is important to know that depending on where you travel, campgrounds can be very different. Those that have a short camping season generally do not invest as much money in the facilities as a campground that runs all year.

Today, you have to do your homework on your RV Vacation. Call the Province or State you want to travel to. Have them send you information on the area you want to visit. Ask them to include campground listings for the state. Buy a North American Campground Directory. Check the campgrounds out on your computer. Phone or e-mail the campground and ask questions and let them know the type of RV you have. If you do this in preparation for your trip, when you arrive you will be able to sit back and enjoy a wonderful holiday.