One major and ongoing cost of RVing is the fee you pay for a place to park your RV overnight and hooking up to utilities—i.e., your campground fee. RVers may choose to stay just one night while traveling from point to point while others may stay several months at one location—like the classic “snowbird” who spends several winter months in the warm south. Regardless, unless you own the site, you must pay to rent it.
There are four types of places for RVs to park overnight or longer for a fee. These include campgrounds, RV parks, RV resorts, and mobile home parks. Consider this brief comparison…
Campgrounds… This term is applied to just about every type of paid “camping” facility whether it accommodates an RV or not. Campgrounds may allow tent camping. All campgrounds do not have utility hookups for RVs—especially those in state or national parks.
Many campgrounds are older—again, in state or national parks or the classic “Mom and Pop” campground built 30-40-50 years ago. The large RVs manufactured today may not conveniently fit into some of those
campsites and you may not even be able to drive through the campground due to trees, overhanging limbs, tight corners, and crowded conditions.
A Personal Story… We had been away from RVing for several years but were on our first big trip in our new Class A. I called the reservation number for the National Park Service and asked if we could get into Yellowstone Park for one night only. We wanted to drive through the park heading north to Montana but had to stay somewhere.
The reservation person told me there was one site left that was big enough for our coach—at the time, a 39-foot motorhome. It was a “primitive” site (no hookups) but he assured me we would fit. We went in.
The camp host nearly had a stroke when he saw our rig. I told him our site number. He rode his bicycle up to see the site. Then, he guided me the only way into the site by taking a loop road the wrong way while his wife stopped traffic the other direction. We fit, but barely. We managed to put our slides out on one side only. Tight was an understatement!
While pulling out the next day, the pines did a great job of dusting off my coach while getting out of there, again, going the wrong way. Never again!!!
RV Parks… Typically, these commercial ventures are set up to accommodate RVs for overnight stays or longer and will likely have some utilities—50-amp at best but 30-amp is also common. It should be noted here that for the largest of motorhomes, 100-amp service may be required. Many of these parks are older and sites may be a bit small for today’s huge RVs. “Small” means both length and width. I like to check it out by actually going back to the site before committing to it. Pace it off if you think it’s too short for your rig.
An RV park typically does not have tent spaces but you will find exceptions. These parks can be great or a real pain. We have been in RV parks that, although they looked perfectly nice from the highway, were a
mess once you drove in. We’ve been on hills and slopes and although rare, sometimes too much of a slope to level the coach. We’ve driven though mud to get to our site.
We were put on a grassy site (not uncommon) and immediately sunk—the rear wheels sank into the grass. I managed to keep moving and made it to the other lane but our friends didn’t. Their rear duals just sank into the ground clear up to their axle. It took a crew of volunteers and one huge tractor to finally get them out. As shown here, in a rainy drizzle, playing in the mud, lots of help was required to get the
coach out of this mess.
We were put on a site in a Florida RV park that looked fine with lots of RVs on both sides of us. We were backed up to a grove of orange trees. The next day when we started to pull out, I discovered my rear wheels were buried in the sand! We called and waited for a tow truck to unstuck us!
If you have a big RV—drivable or towable—don’t take a chance in a questionable RV park or campground. Be sure to go down into the actual sites (potentially, your site) and look. Check the site but also check your tree-limb clearances and decorative rocks on the way in and out. The Park office will usually have a golf cart handy just for this type of issue. Ask them to take you.
My best advice is to not meander into one of these parks with your big RV and just hope for the best. If you are like me, you just aren’t that lucky. Check it out first.
RV Resorts… Ideally, resorts are built around the concept of long-term stays and may offer unique amenities (golf, exercise rooms, swimming pools, tennis courts, and spas, even permanent restaurants, for example).
True resorts may also offer RV sites for sale. These resorts will almost always be more expensive on their nightly rate than parks or campgrounds.
The problem is that you may not be able to “trust” the term “Resort” so be prepared to ask detailed questions. The term “Resort” does not automatically mean that an RV park or campground is some big, modern facility laid out to accommodate any size RV. Unfortunately, it may be a real loser. But, many are great parks, perfectly well-maintained, with wide streets, and outstanding sites. You must visit and get a first-hand look to really know.
Mobile Home Parks… These parks were definitely set up for long-term rental spaces to accommodate the giant mobile homes more or less permanently set in place. Most were not originally designed to accommodate RVs. Some of the mobile home parks have RV spaces for rent and many are perfectly nice. We have stayed in several and they were all fine. Most are basic and may offer only a few amenities (such as a pool) but the nightly fee is usually appropriate and reasonable. Also, their streets are usually wide enough to easily accommodate the largest RVs since they move those giant mobile homes in and out occasionally. You will have no trouble driving your big rig in a mobile home park.
Typically, not all of the mobile home parks are listed in the traditional campground directory—I’m not sure why this is. If you do a Google search for “campgrounds” and “RV parks,” often this will bring up local mobile home parks that can accommodate RVs. However, you must call to make sure.
Unless you own the property, you are going to have to pay a fee to some campground or RV park at some point. Even those individuals who manage to boondock for long periods (months—yes, months) will occasionally use a campground (and pay the fee).
Before you get involved in a lengthy RV trip, take your car and look at local campgrounds—just to get a feel for the differences. You can certainly go into their offices or just call them to discuss what they offer compared with what you need. That way, you will have a better understanding once you hit the road on that long trip. Doing this may also save you some money and make your stays a bit better.