I’m a full-time RVer. This means I literally spend my life in RV parks and campgrounds. Some good. Some bad.

And now you’ve clicked this article through Pinterest or Google. And you’re looking at me for some advice. How can you find the perfect RV park for this perfect RV trip you’ve got planned?

Well, I ain’t gonna lie, my new friend. Finding the perfect RV campsite can be daunting. There’s a lot to factor in and keep track of. But fortunately for you, I’ve learned a thing or two and I’m generous.

Here’s my wicked-thorough process on how to find the absolute PERFECT spot for you and avoid all the crappy RV parks and campgrounds out there.

Tips and ideas for finding RV campsites and park from a full-time RV living family. Click to read this incredible guide to planning the best campgrounds to travel to whether you are full-timing, or just going away for the weekend! | www.TheVirtualCampground.com

What To Know Before Choosing An RV Campsite

RVs parked in a nice RV park in Palmetto, FL

First things first, my dear.

Before you even start creating your Pinterest board and alladat, you need to understand a few things.

Not all trips are created equal. Unless you’re Bill Gates with a hobby of collecting RVs, you’re likely to have a few rig requirements and limitations.

Consider the following:

1. Budget

Again, you’re probably not Bill Gates reading this right now. (Or are you? Cause that would be cuh-razy. #callme)

What does your budget look like?

How much can you spend per night on a site? How much are you wanting to spend while you’re on your trip? While you’re in the area?

Figure this number out and commit! Having a clear budget will make things much easier when you’re looking at RV parks and campgrounds.

2. Length Of Stay

How long you gonna be at your final destination?

How many nights is it going to take you to get there? Any one-night stops?

For those, you might think about just finding a free or cheap place to park the rig and sleep for the night. That way you can spend more money on your final destination campsite.

3. Proximity To Planned Activities

Sometimes you want to go out in the middle of the desert and not see a damn thing.

Sometimes you want to take the kids to Disney.

Whatever your RV road trip plans, review the activities you want to do when you get there. Then search for RV parks and campgrounds in that area.

For example… it would be really stupid to choose an RV park or campground 20 miles from the beach during Spring break if your motive is to go to the beach.

You ain’t neva gonna get there, hunny.

On the other hand, it will be worth you while to spend the extra $20/day on a campground only 5-10 miles away. You know, so you can actually enjoy your time in the sun.

4. Your Camping Style

Knowing your camping style will really help you avoid crappy RV parks and campgrounds.

I mean, of course the RV park will seem like a hell hole if you’re expecting a hot tub and you get nothing but a horseshoe pit.

If you’re new to RVing, take some time to really consider what your ideal camping set up should look like.

Are you going to planned activities on site? Or are you tucked away in the woods where you can’t see another soul?

Do you want a campfire just outside your front door? Or does the thought of someone roasting their marshmallows so close to your awning give you anxiety?

For example, I love RV parks with lots of people and scheduled events. I will go to every.single.one. Some people think I’m crazy.

On the other hand, a lot of my RV friends enjoy parking at slower, less accessible state parks to enjoy the solitude. And time in nature.

Answer these questions for yourself and those traveling with you. Then begin your search for RV parks and campgrounds.


Understand Your RV Camping Options

The back of a campsite, showing a travel trailer parked at a campground in Massachusetts

Why are there RV parks and campgrounds? I mean, do you really need to words to describe the same thing?

I get it. It can be confusing navigating all the different RV camping options.

Why is one place a campground? And another an RV park? And then there are resorts? Is it really a resort? How can you tell?

Campgrounds

Just like it says: a grounds for camping. This option is for you if you’re into nature and are looking for a simple place to park the rig.

You’re going to enjoy typical camping activities here: walks, fishing, campfires, hanging out in a lawn chair…the works.

Usually, a campground is simply a flat(ish) place to park with a bit of electric and maybe a fire pit. Some might have full hook-ups, but don’t assume they do.

Dump sites, water fill stations and bathrooms are usually on the property, but may not be available at individual sites.

RV parks.

Less nature. More sites.

While this might sounds terrible at first, they’re popular for a reason. They usually have amenities like a clubhouse, cable TV hookups, and a playground for kids. You’ll also have a sewer connection.

Disclaimer yo: RV parks can vary. Don’t take my word for it just ’cause I’m on the internet. It’s important to review pictures and read reviews to get a good feel for the park. That way you can really truly avoid the crappy RV parks and campgrounds.

RV Resorts

Liz Wilcox sits on awesome outdoor kitchen at an RV resort in Port Huron, Michigan.

Do you want to camp but not really? RV resorts are for you!

They will be very well-maintained, have lots of amenities and be close to “civilization.” If you are new to RVing and camping in general… this is might be the best option for you.

I do have to warn you, though. The RV park and campground industry is not like the hotel industry. There is no standard for the term “resort.” That means that some resorts are much better than others.

Price is usually a good indication of the quality of resort.

You get what you pay for, basically.

In my travels, I’ve learned if a place calls itself an “RV park and resort” it’s probably not as luxurious as a place that simply calls itself an RV resort.


How to actually find RV Parks and Campgrounds

Liz Wilcox looks for campground with a map and computer.

While I usually think Google is a girl’s best friend…not in the case.

Check out these methods instead.

RV Websites

These are sites dedicated to your campground search cause.

Campendium

Not only is Campendium a free site, it’s got thousands of search results.

Just put your desired location in and booyah baby!

You’ll have yourself a comprehensive list of camping spots with information on price, hookups and amenities. Bonus: peer reviews.

This is hands-down the favorite among all the RVers I know. (and I know thousands. #humblebrag.)

Double Bonus: Campendium even tells you whether or not a spot has good wifi.

Good Sam

Good Sam is an RV organization that has a large database of RV parks, resorts and campgrounds around North America. While you must pay to be a member and get the discount, anyone can look online to search through their RV parks and campgrounds.

What I really like about Good Sam?

They have a rating system and each campsite they list is carefully reviewed and scored every single year! This makes it easy to judge the campgrounds because they are all rated on the same system, not just someone’s opinion online.

Using this is a no-brainer if you’re really looking to avoid the crappy RV parks and campgrounds.

Pinterest

This one might seem a little odd, but hear me out. In the last five years, Pinterest has evolved into an incredible visual search engine, and sites like this one use it to get their content out there.

And this content is full of campground reviews!

Hey, you probably found this article on Pinterest.

So definitely go with Pinterest instead of Google. ‘Cause you know Pinterest isn’t going to show you anything but the good RV parks and campgrounds anyway.

RV Apps

It seems like there’s an app for just about everything. Camping is no exception. But I’ve got to warn you: most RV apps aren’t very good.

Here are the three that people actually use:

Allstays ($)

This is a great app if you have an iPhone. It’s ten bucks, but don’t be cheap about it. It’ll show you RV campsites in a specific area. And you’ll be able to find gas stations, rest areas, and stores with it, too.

RV Parks & Campgrounds

Like AllStays but available for Android, too. With this app, you can search over 40,000 commercial RV parks and campgrounds. What I love about this one is you can search based on user reviews. (And it’s free.)

Bingo!

RV Clubs

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, renting an RV for the first time, or living it up in your rig full-time… Joining an RV club can be a great way to find great RV parks and campgrounds while also keeping it frugal, baby.

Passport America

At just $44 for an entire year, this club is hard to say no to. With half-off discounts for over 2,000 parks, it really pays for itself in a couple of nights.

But I gots to keep it real with ya: there are plenty of crappy campgrounds in their database so be careful! Check out the actual RV park or campground website to ensure you know where you’re going.

That said, there’s also some really amazing ones!

We use our Passport America membership as much as possible. And in the last year, we’ve stayed at a few Jellystone parks, resorts, and even found out favorite campground through this club!

Harvest Hosts

If your idea of a perfect RV campsite involves great views, an intimate setting and wine, Harvest Hosts is for you!

This unique membership club brings RVers and landowners together to allow RVers to park overnight at certain wineries, vineyards, breweries and the like — all for free.

Buy this membership for only 40 bucks!!! It is hands-down the absolute cheapest way to get the absolute most fabulous camping spots.


RVer Facebook Groups

man looks through binoculars that show facebook logo

If you don’t know, now you know.

Facebook groups are where I lot of RVers “live” online. And they’re great to help you find the perfect RV park or campground. It’s all about talking to real people in real time about your route and campgrounds along the way.

It’s like your own RV travel concierge service. Kinda.

Where’d You Stay RV

This group’s name says it all.

Members post pictures and personal reviews. I like it because you’re free to ask questions about a specific area or RV park. It’s also wicked easy to use the group search option to see if it’s already been discussed.

Camping Is Our Life

This Facebook group was made for showing pictures and videos of members’ camping trips. It’s perfect for asking questions about any type of RVing — whether you’re looking for campgrounds, parks or resorts.

The Virtual Campground

Yes, this is a shameless plug for our very own Facebook group. Sue me. (Please don’t.)

This is an all-inclusive group meant for sharing stories and helping each other out there on the road. It’s a great place to post your route and get advice on where to stay and what to do.

You’ll love it there.


Tips For Snagging The Best RV Campsite

camping lights in forefront; campers in background having fun at a great campsite

Last but most important:

Never forget these rules to avoiding crappy RV parks and campgrounds.

1. Read reviews.

I know I’ve mentioned this a million times throughout this behemoth post, but seriously.

Whether you’re on Google or another site, read the damn reviews! Look at the fricken pictures. Use the Almighty Pinterest to search a blog post about the campground you’re considering.

All the digging is worth it.

2. Call ahead.

Think you’ve found the park of yer dreams?

Don’t let phone anxiety get the best of you. Call ahead.

Talk with the park about your rig. Discuss your needs and wants. Make sure they can accommodate you. I promise if you do this right instead of booking online, that lady at the front desk is going to give you a killer spot…yep. That one.

You know, versus the online booking system putting you in the back lot with the people that have lived there for decades.

3. Make your reservation ASAP.

If you’re traveling to a popular destination during the busy season, your chances of driving up and simply finding a vacant spot are slim to none. Just sayin’.

Call as soon as possible to guarantee a spot close to where you’d like to be.

4. Ask about the refund policy.

Sometimes you arrive at a site and it just ain’t what ya thought it would be.

Make sure to ask about a refund policy before they take your payment! Some parks — especially those in popular, high-demand areas — have a “no refund” policy.

But don’t let that scare you off! If you’ve followed my advice, you’re sure to find only the best RV parks and campgrounds.

Love you too.


What’s the crappiest RV park or campground you’ve ever been to?

Pop it into the comments below. We love hearing RV horror stories around here.

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12 thoughts on “How to Avoid Crappy RV Parks and Campgrounds

  1. Liz – thanks for this very helpful overview of do’s and don’ts, sites to seek on on our phones, and RV groups to check out. We also use Passport America and Good Sam, helps in looking up for an area and budget planning. This year is our breakout year for several longer term voyages. Appreciate the variety of tips you offer. Staying home for a while will be okay. Give you time to plan more adventures and the anticipation of hitting the road again can be a way of finding additional creative outlets while waiting.

    1. Hey Virginia! Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you checked out the article. I hope it helps on those long voyages you take this year!

      And oh yes! Passport America saves us so much money!

  2. Well Liz, you are crazy, but then that’s a lot (most?) of your charm. As you know I’m not full timing yet, but I’ve stayed in dozens of campgrounds in my life, and yes most of them were campgrounds because I was either in a tent, or a pop-up. Anyway, the worst campground I have ever stayed in was in, I believe, Indiana. It was Turkey Run State Park. It was a campsite down in this hole with nothing but trees and dirt. No grass anywhere and not much sun. Fortunately we were only there for one night as we were on our way home from I’m not sure where but probably somewhere in the Ozarks. Now having said that it was 50+ years ago so it has probably changed some since then.

  3. We use most of the apps you mentioned however find RV Parky to also be excellent. Just sayin’. Calling ahead is always great if it’s a busy area and campground or holiday. Things like “have you got room for us?” saves you time and you may not need to reserve. Also gives you a “feel” for the camp by the person answering the phone. showing up can be fun. Sometimes they say they have no room but after talking to you and seeing how grat a person you are, suddenly there’s a spot available.

    1. I agree. You definitely should pick up the phone and make your reservations. It can help a ton, plus like you mentioned, if the phone person is nasty…that might give you a clue to move on! Or yes, they might like you and find a spot! Thanks for the tips Jerry.

  4. Hey Liz, great article. After watching you on FTFW I can hear your voice as I read! Here’s a couple additional thoughts for you. In Section 4 Your Camping Style you could also mention that if someone is new and has no experience with RV parks and campgrounds then they might want to experiment. Stay at a State Park, then a KOA, then a resort, some full hook-ups and some partials. Try them all and you’ll know what works best for you. Also, newbies need to think about how they want to use the campground. Is it just a basecamp that you leave during the day and go exploring in a nearby town or city? If so, amenities might not be very important. Or, you want to spend your entire time at the campground so amenities are very important. The duration of stay is a factor too. I can put up with partial hookups (W/E) for a long weekend but not for a two week stay.

    Keep up the excellent articles. Thanks for all you do for the RV community.

    1. Hey Dave! These are great suggestions. Thanks for putting them in the comments for everyone to see. You rock! And I’m glad you could hear my voice. haha

      I hope you’re having a great weekend. Thanks for reading.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your article. Cannot go yet, but all your advice is now saved! Thank yoi.

    1. I just love you Patti. So glad you got value from the article. 🙂 I can’t wait to see you hit the road one day, my friend.

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