Saturday, September 23, 2023


How to make the most of your stay in full-service campgrounds

By Dave Helgeson

There’s much debate about staying in full-service campgrounds versus no-cost locations like Walmart, Flying J, etc. Often, RVers en route to a final destination just want a safe place to stay for the night and don’t want to pay for services they won’t use.

Many RVers come off the road late in the day, and with early checkout times don’t have the opportunity to use all of the amenities provided. Others think checkouts should be later in the day, giving them more time to use the services offered.

My wife and I have found a happy medium. When we require a campground’s full services, we boondock near the desired campground the night before, then arrive early to take full advantage of their amenities. Checkout times are rarely negotiable, or there is an extra fee to stay past the posted checkout time, but no park owner is going to turn away a paying customer at 10 in the morning if they have space available.

By arriving early, my wife and I have plenty of time to do laundry, fully charge our batteries, catch up on email, pay bills and do other online activities. It also gives us time to take advantage of the recreational facilities like a pool, tennis court, etc. Then, when we check out the following day, just prior to the checkout, we handle dumping the tanks, filling the potable water, getting online once more, etc. This allows us to truly receive our money’s worth of services.



  1. Just seems kinda dumb/unnecessary – Boondock night b4, to better enjoy “full amenities?” Just my nickel’s worth, but…..

  2. When I dock in a commercial CG, I’m not looking for bathouses, swimming pools, laundry rooms, or “organized activities”. I’m looking for a clean level site with hook-ups. That is all I need. I boondock sometime, I sleep overnight @ a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or Caballos’. We’ve stayed in regional and state parks. I never want to stay in a NP again (especially in-season). Too crowded, too noisey. I never understood all the noise and debate over where you stay. Once again, that is a personal choice, and what works for some does not work for all.

  3. I have traveled through the Southwest during the winter season for the last 2 years. I find State and Regional Parks are often in great areas with good scenery nearby. They have W/E and a dump site. Most have scenic sites, wonderful trails, are clean with friendly hosts and lots of room between sites for privacy. I have also boondocked and camped in primitive parks if the scenery is worth it. I camp to be in nature/ walk trails and visit with like-minded people. I don’t need amenities. Nature gives me all I need.

  4. The campground I am working at has set a 1PM check-in. If you want to check-in early they will charge an additional 1/2 day fee. We have a two hour window to clean the site and sanitize the utilities. 4 employees can take the full two hours. We all pride ourselves with presenting a good clean site. We also spend about 5 hours a day cleaning and sanitizing the restrooms, showers and laundry rooms.

    • Agree. It takes staff and time to clean up from the prior camper. And many campgrounds have a check-in later than 1PM. I’m not anxious to pay for an extra 1/2 or full day to have a couple hours of access, and I’ve been denied early access a few times, including refusal to leave the rig there pending later checkin. I.E. I’ve just blown half a day or more of time I could have spent taking my time to get there.

  5. Good suggestion for when schedules are flexible. Boondocking close the night before to arrive promptly is great.

    For myself, it’s usually a matter of getting all the AC power I can while plugged in… When “doing something” near the campground, I’ll drop the trailer en route and start the AC before finishing my business in town, so it’s all nice and cool when I return to actually “stay” back at the campground. Similarly, before checking out, I’ll heat the water tank and chill the RV as far as possible on their 120V, so I have a few gallons of hot water and a cool place for lunch while driving onward. I know, 120V is only considered an amenity for us “usually boondocking” folks, but I seldom want pools and other amenities anyway, so my definition of “full amenities” is probably less fancy. 😀


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