Full-time RVer, Diann, shares what she looks for when searching for the best RV parks.
The newer you are to RV culture, the less you know about the different campground facilities and amenities that will make your stay as enjoyable as it can get. There are seven things I look for in the best RV parks — and they’re commonly found at the best RV campgrounds around the country.
This past April, my husband and I started full-time in our fifth wheel and as we get more experience and visit more parks (five in just the last three months!) we also get more particular about what we look for in an RV campground.
Of course we want the property to be clean, well maintained, and have working facilities. But more specifically, we keep our eye out for RV parks that have a designated pet area, one that has a single hookup station, and lot sizes that are comfortable and spacious. To make it easier to find the best RV parks for us, I put together a list of attributes I look for. For campgrounds that are lacking in more than two or three of these areas, Dan and I will not hesitate to move on and put that park on our “No-Go” list.
Dog Parks and Pet Friendly Trails
Because we travel with our dogs, a border collie mix named Hannah, and springer spaniel mix, Sadie, it’s really important that there is a designated spot to for the girls to stretch their legs and get some exercise. Four of the five parks we’ve visited in the past 10 weeks have designated runs or dog-friendly trails. We’re big fans of the two grassy, off-leash areas at Pecan Park Riverside RV Park in San Marcos, Texas.
There’s one park in Van Horn, Texas, not far from Big Bend, that has a huge dog area. Unfortunately, there were too many prickly burrs and stickers, so we couldn’t use the run and had to keep the girls on-leash the entire time. Of course, we realize that the park has no control over native landscaping in this part of Texas. So we don’t fault management, but it is something we’ll keep in mind the next time we’re in this part of the southwest. If there’s another campground nearby, and that site has a dog run with a crushed gravel or packed-dirt surface, we will likely choose that location next time.
One RV park we visited in Williams, Arizona, doesn’t have a dog park at all, but there is a trail that loops around the property. This one is covered in large rocks that Sadie and Hannah had trouble navigating. I am happy to report that the girls love our current location in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There’s a small, gravel-covered park for them to run and play off-leash, as well as a three-quarter mile dirt walking trail with a variety of picturesque views for humans, and our rescued pooches can get their exercise.
Right now, we really like that our rig is parked near a number of trees. On the other hand, each campsite has a numbered wood post that is a little too close for comfort when backing in, especially in our 38-foot fifth wheel. We much prefer pull-through sites, which is the layout at Pecan Park, Eagle View, and the sites in Van Horn, Texas and Williams, Arizona.
Full Hookup Stations
I know many RVers who don’t mind using a dump station. To each their own! But our preference is to have water, electric, and sewer hookups in the same location so when we pull out of the park, we can leave without having to make an extra stop. As for the hookups, we need 50 amps — something not all parks offer. While we can convert from 50 amps to 30, it’s not the most efficient way to run an RV because we can only use our front air conditioner, which means only one section of the RV is cool.
Level Hard Pads
The lot we’re at now is level with a gravel pad, but it turns out that we’re lucky. Some of our neighbors are stuck on a slightly slanted hard pad. This is something that will not be repaired before the end of the weekend.
When the grade is off enough, campers in may actually notice a slight angle whenever they’re inside. The last time that happened to us, the water backed up in the corner of the shower. Some people will also notice that they’re standing on a slant. Ultimately, there’s just no good outcome when your pad is not level. It’s definitely something that would turn us off from making reservations here again. We were pleased with the condition of the asphalt and gravel pads at Eagle View and the park in Arizona.
Our RV doesn’t have a washer/dryer, so it’s important to have access to laundry facilities on-site, or at least a Laundromat close by. The place we’re staying at now has a very small laundry room and only a few machines, which is great when I have a small load. When I have a lot of laundry, rather than hoarding all the machines, we drive into town. While Dan and I prefer staying on site — especially since the park’s fee includes laundry facilities — we use the trip into town to run errands.
One favorite campground for laundry facilities is the Eagle View RV Resort in Fort McDowell, AZ. It has a number of washing machines and dryers. The biggest plus is the park’s air conditioned office that doubles as a clubhouse, of sorts. While waiting for the laundry to wash and dry, we got in a few games of pool, surfed the ‘net on their computers, and read the newspaper. This is a park we would definitely consider revisiting when we’re back in central Arizona.
Spacious Lots and Patio Space
We have three slides on our RV and it’s important for us to be able to open them easily. So far, we’ve been happy with the large lot sizes at the last several parks we stayed at. However, we’ve seen a bunch of bad reviews online complaining about parks with lot sizes that barely allow a couple rigs to park side-by-side. Some are so close that we wouldn’t be able to open our slides at the same time.
One of the biggest complaints you will see in online RV park reviews is not enough space to sprawl. At the very least, lots should be spacious enough for campers to open slides the way they’re designed. Dan and I like having lawn chairs and a grill in front of our RV. We’ll definitely avoid parks that pack us in too closely.
This is a bonus, but definitely worth mentioning. Eagle View has an on-site security officer that patrols the park in a marked vehicle. We noticed the officer at least three or four times during the day and at night. Knowing there’s an actual human — and not just cameras at the office — looking out for us at our temporary home certainly is comforting.
What are some of the characteristics you look for in an RV park? Leave a comment and let us know!