Saturday, September 30, 2023


Right site, wrong campground? Make sure to look at the details before booking a campsite

Thanks to detailed descriptions of campsites, often with video, we see every detail of a campsite before booking it. But do we really have the big picture?

The campground says it’s pet-friendly, but do you know the rest of the story? The RV resort lists Wi-Fi, but is it free, high-speed and at every campsite? The RV park has amenities galore, but did you notice that there is a resort fee to cover use of those amenities?

Here are seven things that I suggest taking a more careful look at the campground and beyond.

Details to note before booking a campsite

Check the copyright date

Check the copyright date on the campground’s brochure or website The tiny © symbol with the year is usually at the bottom of a website. You may be looking at outdated information.


In addition to checking maps and your GPS, get directions from the campground. Look at a map of the location to see if it’s next to a noisy highway or within walking distance of points of interest. How about the overall location? We once spent a miserable night in a Florida campground that is downwind from a pulp mill that spews a rotten egg smell.


If you chose this RV park because of certain amenities, call to verify that they are up and running. Check the calendar. As seasons change, swimming pools and snack bars close. The camp store has limited supplies and shorter hours. Freezing weather may mean all the plumbing is turned off. If the new campground is opening in phases, ask specifically what amenities are fully open.

Before booking a campsite: Know the campground rules

Published campground rules can run on for several pages and they make dull reading. Yet you can save yourself grief by reading them carefully online before booking. “Pet-friendly” may mean only dogs under X pounds, or a cleaning fee, or a daily or one-time charge per pet. In some places, local laws also prohibit some breeds that are considered “dangerous”.

When are quiet hours? Check-in and check-out times? Do you have to sign a liability waiver? Can you receive mail there? Package services? Restaurant deliveries? Is there a strict 10-year rule or can your clean, well-maintained oldie be accepted?

Read on to the penalty phase. Breaking a rule—perhaps a rule you didn’t even know existed—could get you evicted with no refund. It’s increasingly common for fees to be charged for late check-out or for checking in without a reservation.

Rate information

Rate information is rarely complete. The chief culprit is that little phrase, “plus taxes”. The base rate may be subject to city, county and/or state sales taxes, tourist taxes, impact fees, or resort fees. This can add as much as 20-24% nightly to the quoted rate. Usually, rates apply to two adults and two or three children per site.

Will you pay extra for an extra child or adult, or for pitching a tent or parking a boat trailer on your site in addition to your RV? Do you have to show proof of state residency? Military ID? Proof of age? (Not just to get a senior discount. Some places don’t rent to anyone under age 21.)

Make sure you’re reading rates that apply to the season or nights of the week. If the rate is quoted as a package, exactly what is included? It’s a common practice to require a minimum two- or three-night stay during some periods, to get a mid-week discount, or to pay more during special events.

Reservations and cancellations

Is the reservation fee non-refundable? Cancellation rules can be complicated and fines costly for a no-show.

Read the reviews before booking a campsite

Don’t believe everything you read. Know who said it, their qualifications for saying it, and when they said it. Perhaps the complaints have been resolved. Maybe the writers gave a glowing review in exchange for a free campsite. Or maybe they wrote a bad review because they have a personal beef with the managers. I recommend seeing at least three reviews from three different sources.

Bottom line: Your campsite is just one piece of the delicious pie that makes up a memorable RV experience. Check out the entire recipe.




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Bill Maceri
1 month ago

Wow! Things sure have changed. When I was a kid in the mid-60s we didn’t even have online booking or anything. Most US campgrounds didn’t even take reservations. The state and privately owned did, but only by calling. Half the time no one even answered the phone. Camping back then was still considered ruffing it even if you had the latest technology on board. Here in California, during the summer most campgrounds were full most of the time. We usually you had to arrive on days that usually meant other campers were leaving just to get a spot. Most of the popular campgrounds in certain popular areas In the Sierras for example, required waiting in lie at the campground entrance and there was no way to know how long the wait would be. There was no Google earth, no GPS, and campgrounds only had a few sites with full hook-ups, and that didn’t include cable. The ruffing it part was part of the excitement. Even in the 90s it wasn’t like you could go online to make reservations and get information. However, Rand McNally had software you could add to your computer and it was great. It came with 4 or 5 diskettes to load and it was very good. It included excellent trip planning, campgrounds, restaurants seasons of operation, and it could all be stored or printed in full color. It was great. I remember there were a couple of revisions released in the 90s so it was always current. Now it’s no longer available. There are websites that do the mapping, but it wasn’t very good. I did find a couple sites that sold the application released in the 90s, but it was used. I never did find any other vendor that had anything close. We planned our trips in October of every year, it made it less crowded, the weather was always pretty cold in the Sierras and Rockys, but it was a lot more fun having the campgrounds empty and waking up to occasional fresh snow cover on the ground. The road conditions were sometimes a problem, either closed or requiring chains in the mountains, but I liked that. It made me think about how traveling in the western US in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Well, this is an article that AI would never have gotten right. Great stuff, Janet; thank you!

1 month ago

Having a printed, personalized, reservation form, consisting of all your own questions has proved helpful to us. Refined over time, it helps us address all of the questions we may have about the Park and the site while on the phone with the reservationist. As a last question on the form we ask if there is anything else we should be aware of? Like low hanging limbs? low overpasses? Bad roads? We attach the emailed receipt and stuff them both in order into our dedicated travel folder. It works well and is also great way to be informed of local festivities during your stay that you might otherwise miss.

Jim Johnson
1 month ago

Heads up park owners: the worst rules I have read are the ones that try to list every possible offense; and then are not uniformly enforced – usually because the laundry list of rules was for a specific offense… like no dogs over ‘X’ pounds was aimed at some snarling mongrel but not applied against the happy go-lucky well behaved mutt. Why not shorten the rules to simply say, we love our guests and want to make money from this campground. We want well-behaved guests & family (furry or otherwise). We will ask trouble makers to behave differently. Or we will ask trouble-makers to leave. And park managers have the authority to define who is making trouble.

Greg Sorenson
1 month ago

I look at all campgroumds and sites on Google Eartn before booking. It will show things as they really are.

Jim Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Greg Sorenson

If you use Google Earth Pro, you will see when the satellite image was obtained. It can be several years old. Not knocking Google Earth, but just like any reference, it may not tell you the whole story.

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