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 You may be looking at outdated information.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 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.