Camping season is starting across the country and your family is ready to get out there! Now the question becomes, where do you want to stay? If you’re wondering how to find the best campgrounds, then we’re here to help. Here are the steps you need to take to find the perfect camping location.
Step 1: Define Your Camping Style
Whether or not a campground is considered the “best” in an area depends on you and your preferences. That’s why defining your travel style is so important.
Ask yourself what amenities a perfect campground for your next trip would offer. Here are some examples:
- Community areas like pools, playgrounds, and game rooms.
- Organized activities for all ages, especially the kids.
- Urban campground close to tourist attractions.
- Natural setting, far from the hustle & bustle of the city.
Keep in mind that your criteria may change depending on your destination. Some trips you may want to be near a city and plan to spend most of your days out and about. Other trips you may want to find a destination campground that you never have to leave.
Step 2: Make a List
Now make a list to use as a reference when you begin your search.
Start with the necessities:
- Budget – Before you begin planning your trip, be sure you’ve established a budget. Consider how much of your budget you are willing to allocate towards your campground.
- Location – Do you want to be within a certain distance of a specific destination or are you flexible across a regional area?
- Travel Dates – Identify your arrival/departure dates and if they are flexible or not.
- Campsite Length (based on your RV & tow or towable vehicle) – Some campgrounds have a separate parking spot for your car/truck, while others expect both vehicles to fit in the allotted space.
- Hookups – Do you need full hookups (water, sewer, electric) or can you do without? Don’t forget to add things you would consider as substitutes. For example, are you willing to give up sewer if the campground has a dump station? Can you forego water if there is a bath house and a place to fill your fresh water tank?
- Extras – Things that are important to you such as wifi, cable, or laundry.
- Amenities – Now add those items you selected from Step 1 above in priority order. Keep in mind that the longer your list gets, the harder it will be to find a campground that has it all. Also, the more a campground offers, the more they charge. Be sure to keep an eye on the budget.
Step 3: Begin the Search
There are some terrific tools out there to help you find the best campgrounds. However, not everyone has the same camping style as you so it is important to read reviews to see what people care about. Then you can compare it to your list.
I recently read a review where the only complaint about the campground was the noise of jet planes because it was near an Air Force Base. As a 20 year Air Force veteran that is the sound of home to me.
There’s nothing better than asking people you trust for their ideas and recommendations. Be sure to give them some details on what you are looking for.
So instead of asking, “Do you have any campground recommendations for Florida?” try “Do you have any recommendations for campgrounds with full hook-up on an east coast beach in Florida?”
Websites and Apps
There are a lot of websites and apps you can use to find great campgrounds as well. I’ll share two free options that have websites and apps:
Campendium is a terrific free tool to use because you can cast a wider net by choosing a location and how many miles away you’re willing to be from it. I prefer going to their website so the screen in bigger, but you can also use it on an Android or iPhone. The larger screen is especially helpful when you want to look at a map view.
Another great thing about Campendium is that you can filter on different things like public (national/state parks) or private campgrounds. The only drawback I’ve found so far with Campendium is there is often not a significant volume of reviews.
TripAdvisor is one of my favorites, especially for reviews because you can find campgrounds, activities, and restaurants in the area. All have visitor photos so you can see what it looks like today (not when it opened many years ago) and reviews. The only drawback is that you need to have a city to search on.
For best results, use a combination of these tools. I often use social media & Campendium to make a short list of potentials, then TripAdvisor to read reviews and find activities. Again, with reviews, I am reading them not just looking at an overall rating because I want to see if the pros/cons are things that are important to me.
Step 4: Book the Reservation
At this point, you should have two to three potential campgrounds and you can now see who has availability for your RV vacation.
So now you might wonder how far in advance you need to make your reservation? That depends on some things like:
- Dates of Travel – Spring break and holiday weekends often book up far in advance
- Geographic Location of Travel – Tourist areas and places in high demand (like the beach or lake in the summer) can also book up far in advance.
- Popular Destinations – There are some destinations like Disney World that book up far in advance regardless of the time of year.
I pretty much always make reservations at least six months in advance, but I have a rule that allows for a change in plans. I only make reservations that either don’t have a cancellation fee, or if they have a fee it is no more than $15.
That way I have the peace of mind knowing that I have a great place to go camping, but it won’t break the bank if we change plans.
Where are you planning your next RV vacation? Leave us a comment below and let us know what great campground you found.