It takes a lot of work to plan an extravagant RV vacation. The most important piece of any RV trip is the RV park. It is so crucial because the location will determine how you plan excursions in the area. If you stay at a park with trains running by all night, that can also have a detrimental impact on your vacation. This is why we are sharing our 9 tips to find the best RV parks.
Tip #1 – Location
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing your location. What is near by? We like to avoid busy roads and rail roads but be a short drive from a restaurant.
What is the surrounding neighborhood like? We have enjoyed stays with outstanding open views near water. Then when you’re facing the other direction you see industrial buildings. A quick satellite view from Google Maps will be a big help. This is especially important when camping near big cities.
We always make sure we check for major interstates nearby. Then we use the distance legend on Google Maps to make sure the road is far away from our site. Using this strategy we were able to find Sweetwater Summit Regional Park for our San Diego trip, and it is one of the best RV parks we stayed at on the west coast in terms of location..
There are certain things you can be flexible on depending on the activities you will be doing. We are a lot less strict on locations near busy roads if we are going to be gone all day.
Tip #2 – Nightly Rate
While we have never had the pleasure of staying at Disney, many people we know have. They rave about how fantastic it is. There is a price for such an amazing experience. Disney is known to be one of the more expensive RV park experiences.
We try to keep our nightly rate under $50 on average. Sometimes we pay a little more and other times we pay nothing! We love to boondock whenever we can. Only you know your budget. If you are taking a 6 week trip and have $2,500 budgeted for RV parks you need to keep your average under $60 per night. We find boondocking two or three nights between longer stays allows us to stay at nicer RV parks.
We recommend taking a moment to look into RV memberships depending on how long your trip is. Take the time to do the math on the cost of membership vs the savings over the length of your trip. If you stay in RV parks more than 3-4 weeks per year, it probably makes sense to look at membership. Its not always a fit though. Some memberships focus on coastal states and others on the Midwest. Its hard to find a true nationwide RV park membership.
Tip #3 – State Parks Rock!
We love staying in State Parks whenever we can. We have stayed at so many state parks, in lots of different states. All of them have been amazing. We have never stayed in National Parks because both our rigs are too big. Most State Parks we stay in have full hook ups but not all of them. If its a State Park with full hookups for rigs over 36 feet, we are in!
Seriously, get out and enjoy your local State Parks. For years we have talked about staying at a State Park within an hour of our sticks and bricks home. We finally did it last year and it was great. We also find a lot of pull through sites at State Parks. Full hook ups with some of the most reasonable pricing and best views are often found too. Honestly, we could rave about State Parks for days.
Tip #4 – Hot Showers
Tip number four to find the best RV parks is making sure they have good showers. When staying somewhere without water we try to keep the tanks full for cooking and hand washing. That means using the RV park’s shower house. Nothing can ruin a camping trip faster than the gross feeling of not being able to get clean. Showers are a big reason some people don’t like the #RVLife.
Check the reviews for the places you are considering for your stay. Every RV park will have comments on the showers. You will find information on how clean the shower houses are, if they charge for usage, and much more. I think RVers know this is such an important issue. That is why we try to leave this information in RV park reviews.
Also, if you don’t like the shower head in your camper check out our recommended RV Shower Head Replacement.
Nothing beats a hot shower the morning after a travel day. Nothing beats a cool shower after a long hike. We do a lot of hiking on our vacations so we like to take a lot of showers. We know some RVers that are on the one shower every three days plan. Whatever you do, look into the shower houses if you will be using them.
Tip #5 – The RV Site
We always look for an RV site that will keep stress down. So, what are the roads like nearby? Are they navigable, or do you have to make hairpin turns and drive through switchbacks? These are very serious considerations to make before even looking at the RV park sites.
Assuming you can make it there, what are the roads like inside the RV park? We prefer heavily tree’d RV parks, but with wide roads and smooth turns. Anything with 90 degree turns or trees overgrowing the wide road we will try to avoid..
If you know you will be pulling in at night then a pull through site is a must have. Nobody wants to back their RV into a tight spot in the dark. If you have a pull-through site you simply drive through and park. (Also, a pro tip… Minimize noise as much as possible when getting in late. If you can set it up in the morning, then wait to do so.)
Tip #6 – Avoid Finding the Best RV Parks
It may seem ironic to read a tip to avoid RV park in an article about how to find the best RV parks. Though ironic, it is true in specific situations. For example, if you are camping on the 4th of July, you likely want to avoid the popular RV parks. They will be crowded, full of people and lots of noise.
On popular holidays we try to stay in remote locations and do a lot of boondocking. We love the social aspect of RVing, but not on the holidays. Its our preference to stay away from the popular areas during those times for a more enjoyable experience.
If you still prefer staying in a tourist location during a holiday, do so knowing you will have neighbors. Its not uncommon to get to an RV park to find plenty of room during the non-holiday season. During the holidays that will not be the case. You will certainly have neighbors on both sides. They may not know RV park etiquette. You may be stuck waiting and watching as someone struggles with getting into their site. We have all been there, so please remember to have patience.
Tip #7 – RV Park Amenities
We love RV parks that have lots of amenities to keep the kids entertained. We often work remotely so keeping them busy from 8-5 can be a challenge. An RV park that has an arcade/game room is awesome when we stay somewhere with colder weather.
We also love RV parks that have hot springs. We stayed at Belknap RV Park in Oregon and their hot springs pool was amazing. It was such a relaxing treat after a long day of fishing/hiking. The places we have stayed at with hot springs pools are always fabulous.
RV parks with pools on the other hand are not so fabulous, in our experience. It is no secret many suffer from an aging infrastructure. It is because of this that every RV park with a pool has had the pool closed during our stay. Maybe its simply a run of bad luck, but I suspect pools are great to say you have, but expensive to maintain. Make sure the pool is working before you commit, if that’s a must have amenity.
Tip #8 – Check the Local Activities
Maybe you are traveling to a destination because you want to hike a certain trail. You probably want to enjoy that experience. Make sure you know what kind of local activities are taking place during your stay. We like the peace and quiet of nature on our hikes. Hiking the Manitou Incline the same weekend of the Manitou Casket Races could cause a bit of an issue.
We once stayed at an RV park that was next to fairgrounds. Normally that is not a big deal, but when the hog sale started going on it turned into a nightmare. The trucks pulling in and out with livestock and the smell of what they left behind was a lot to handle with a southern wind. If we would have looked into the towns upcoming activities beforehand, we would have seen this was a huge event for that small farm community and could have adjusted our expectations.
Tip #9 – Relax, Have Fun, Expect the Unexpected
There are times when we are so excited about a destination before we get there. The expectation is everything will go to plan. We have considered every aspect to find the best RV parks and activities to fill our stay. Then something happens, and our expectations aren’t met. A feeling of disappointment settles in. Here’s an example:
I was so excited to stay at an RV park near Seattle that was on the water. We didn’t have full hook ups, but I didn’t care. It was going to be an epic adventure full of kayaking, hiking, fishing, and some big city nightlife mixed in. When we got there we found out there were no fish biting. The lake was full of speed boats so Kayaking wasn’t an option and the hiking trails were packed full of people. Big City Nightlife was expensive, crowded and exhausting. All of those things started creeping into my mind towards the end of our stay.
Looking back now, I know the RV park was exactly as advertised. It was that my expectations were set so high, it would have been impossible to meet them. I am not saying do not get excited, because that’s the entire point of RV travel! I do, however, think its important to go into your travels with the mindset that occasionally things won’t go as planned.
The fact that I couldn’t kayak on this portion of our trip damaged my opinion of the RV park itself, as well as my opinion of the city. I let one small disappointment creep in, and it spread like cancer. That is an easy thing to do during stressful situations.
Relax, and remember you are traveling to make awesome memories with your family. If you have to visit Pike Place Market instead of hiking to Snoqualmie Falls, your kids will still have a good time as long as you do.
Hopefully these 9 tips to find the best RV parks help you plan an awesome adventure. If so, come back to let us know in the comments section. If you haven’t already, please check out our YouTube channel and consider subscribing. We would love to share our adventure with you.
Bonus Tip – Have a Backup Plan
This tip doesn’t help find the best RV parks, but it will help avoid a disaster. Always have a backup plan if you are boondocking. Verify the location of a nearby campground just in case you find out that boondocking spot isn’t open. We found out the hard way when going to the Grand Canyon. A road was closed, and it made our spot impossible to reach. We didn’t have a backup plan and ended up sleeping in the visitor center parking lot.