Have you ever wondered what campground employees think about their camping guests?
Probably not. But, trust me, there are ways to improve your camping experience and even get a few perks when you heed some of my advice acquired from years of experience dealing with campground guests.
Whether you’re a full-time RVer, or you take the camper out a few weekends a year, knowing what staff expects of their guests, and what really frustrates them, will make your stay better for everyone.
In this guide, I have suggestions from workampers and campground management on how to improve your trip and what you can do to keep campground staff eager to help you during your stay and on future visits. I’ll even give you some insider tips to make your stay even better!
Follow along as I go over the correct way to make a reservation, park your camper, make your RV hook-ups, handle pets, follow quiet time, fill propane, and check-out procedures, so everyone from guests to staff has a wonderful experience.
Making Your Reservation
Many RVers make mistakes during a reservation, even those with plenty of experience. I’ll go over each step of the process and give you tips on how to receive the most for your money and prevent things that can confuse or even cancel a reservation.
Making a reservation checklist with each of these points and keeping it handy is a great way never to forget important information.
- Phone in your reservation
- How many guests/pets
- Dates of arrival/departure
- Length, type and year of your RV
- Additional vehicles/boats/jet skis/trailers
- Special needs
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Online or Phone?
Most campgrounds have online booking for campsites. Some booking systems connect directly to the campground, while most are third party booking systems that send over reservations to the campground several times a day.
While national campgrounds and state parks have a pretty reliable system, private parks have a lot of problems with the system that lead to issues.
I have seen office staff forget to look at online bookings for an entire day and then have to turn away a camper that made their reservation online because the park was full and their reservation never got into the system.
INSIDER TIP #1: Trust me when I say call a campground directly when you are ready to book your spot. This will eliminate any potential reservation disasters that happen very easily when you book online.
Most people are unaware that online reservations may take your credit card information, but the booking isn’t complete until campground staff manually book it into their system and send you a confirmation.
If you must book online, follow up with a phone call as soon as possible to confirm the campground did receive your booking and they have the information they need about your stay.
Phone reservations are the smartest way to complete your booking. A phone booking will also note which staff member made your reservation, so if problems arise, everyone knows who to talk to about the matter.
How Many Guests and Furry Friends?
When making a reservation, it pays to be honest with the number of people and pets you’ll be bringing along.
Most campgrounds have hard and fast rules on how many guests (usually six) and pets (usually 3) are included in the price of your campsite. Don’t lie about it to save a few dollars, because…
INSIDER TIP #2: If you are pleasant to the reservationist and open about having seven guests when the rules state six is the maximum allowed, they may repay your kindness and honesty by “overlooking” that extra guest on the reservation. I did this all the time, especially for families that had a lot of kids.
If you are nice and keep things low key, no one will complain to management about extra guests. If you have four dogs, don’t bring them all outside at once. You get the drift. But if you are caught lying about extra guests after you arrive, you may be told to leave.
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Camper Length, Type, and Slide Configuration
Not knowing your RV information is a top area of frustration for reservation staff because this information is critical for them to book the correct site for you.
I can’t stress how many times I have guests tell me they don’t know how long their RV is when they call to make a reservation.
INSIDER TIP #3: Don’t get staff mad at you before you even arrive. We understand not everyone knows how long their camper is, but you should. If you have a travel trailer, include the length of the hitch. Don’t call until you know dimensions.
Parks have quirky sites, and each one may have a specific type of camper to fit it. A small Class C, teardrop trailer, pop-up, or truck camper can fit in a short site or one with lots of trees.
Staff needs to know the style of camper you have and will ask you about slide locations if the only sites left have space restrictions like trees or poles on them.
When you have this information on hand, staff can quickly finish your booking with little stress. When staff is happy, they’ll be more willing to book you into the best site available or may even upgrade you for no additional charge.
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Old or Vintage Camper?
If you have an older camper, please say so. Most parks have a 10-year rule on camper age, but don’t let this discourage you. If your camper looks nice, keep a picture on your phone, so you can send it to management for approval if they ask.
A campground is there to make money, and they don’t make it a habit of turning away older recreational vehicles unless it’s rusty or has peeling paint.
In my two years as an assistant manager at one popular park, I saw thousands of RVs and had only two instances where we had to turn away a guest because of the condition of their camper.
Double Check the Dates of Arrival and Departure
Another point of contention with guests is when they think their reservation ends on a Monday when the park has them checking out on Sunday.
INSIDER TIP #4: Listen carefully to the reservationist when she asks for your dates. Some park reservation systems ask for your actual day of departure, while others ask for the last night of your stay.
Before you get off the phone, double-check the dates and verify the correct dates are on your reservation confirmation email.
Bringing a Boat, Trailer, or Jet Skis?
Don’t “forget” to mention your boat, jet skis or trailer when making a reservation. Some parks have room for you to park such items with no cost, while others may ask you to rent another site to park them, or don’t allow them at all.
Parking is at a premium in every campground. Just because you’re going to a campground near water doesn’t mean there is space to accommodate your boat. Don’t assume if you drag it into the park, they’ll let you keep it there.
INSIDER TIP #5: If you haul a motorcycle or scooters in a trailer behind your motorhome and they are your means of transportation while at a campground, most parks allow you bring it in at no cost. You may have to park the trailer in an overflow area and not on your site, but this is the one time a trailer will not upset staff.
Reservation staff has more leeway than you think when giving out discounts on campsites, but you must ask for them. Most campground management doesn’t allow staff to tell you about available discounts, but will gladly give them out if you ask for them.
Here are the most common discounts available:
- Good Sam’s
- Passport America
- Active or Previous Military Service
- First Responders
- Corporate Campground Value Cards like KOA
INSIDER TIP #6: Ask about discounts when you make your reservation, and again at check-in. Some reservation systems don’t allow you to add the discount until payment is made, which is usually at check-in.
When a customer is friendly and upbeat, staff are more likely to give you a discount of 10 percent or more. It never hurts to ask, and unfortunately, many campgrounds won’t alter your reservation to add a discount after your check-in is complete.
Let staff know if this is your first time with a new RV, if you’ll need the automated chair lift to get in and out of the pool, or have other special needs so they can be ready to assist when you arrive.
Park staff is more than willing to show a newbie how to make proper camper connections and give tips on general camping etiquette. If park rules allow, staff may help park your RV in your site or take extra time guiding you.
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INSIDER TIP #7: Mention anything special, like if your child has autism, or if it’s a birthday trip for someone in your group. You never know what staff may do to make your stay more enjoyable like a quiet site in the park so your child has a more relaxing atmosphere, or some balloons to decorate your place.
I did workamping at a park that kept a special ramp in storage for guests who had difficulty going up and down their camper stairs. Grounds workers would bring it out when the staff made a note on the booking or if they saw a guest struggling. You can only imagine the happy surprise on a guest’s face when they could safely and easily move in and out of their camper.
Arrival and Parking
Another big bone of contention between campground staff and guests centers around arrival and parking of your camper.
DON’T come in early!!! Unless you have an early-arrival permit from campground management, please wait to arrive until the check-in time on your reservation.
Nothing frustrates park workers more than RVs jamming up access roads or having to explain to guests that even though their site is empty, it’s not ready for them due to maintenance issues.
Don’t hound outdoor staff about your site if you arrive early. These workers make minimum wage and as much as they love the RV workamping lifestyle, they are not paid enough to tolerate guests who don’t follow the rules.
You want outdoor staff on your side. If they suggest you pull out of the park and wait in a parking lot nearby until check-in time, do so.
Go into the office and complete your check-in process so when you return the outdoor staff can immediately escort you to your site.
INSIDER TIP #8: Be extremely nice to outdoor staff if you arrive early. When you seem accommodating, staff will bend over backward to get you to your site as soon as possible. They’ll also remember your kindness and offer up things like free firewood, or use of a gas grill.
Staff may do maintenance tasks, like mowing, on your site first thing and have the office call you so you can come back early. If you’re rude, expect the staff to make you wait until check-in time, even if your site is ready to go.
Parking Your RV
Most private campgrounds have escorts in golf carts to bring you to your site and assist you in parking. Here are some ways to make the process easier:
- LISTEN to the escort helping you park-they have done it hundreds of times
- Go slow to avoid hitting the power pedestal or water spigot
- Park far enough up or back on your site to make enough room for your vehicle
INSIDER TIP #9: Come in during daylight hours if possible. Park staff are usually off work by 6 or 7 pm, and arriving at 10 pm at a strange park in the dark is not the best conditions to be backing your 40-foot trailer into a tight spot.
If for any reason you are uneasy parking after hours, please call the park emergency number. A staff member will help you park. They would much rather get out of bed to help you park safely in your site, then wake up to a flood because you ran over and broke the water line.
Campground staff relies on their guests to properly hook up their sewer, water, electrical, and cable connections. When guests do not follow guidelines, disasters happen that can affect the entire campground, which stresses staff.
The biggest way to upset maintenance staff is to not get a tight fit on your sewer connection.
When your loose sewer line spews stinky blackwater and wet toilet tissue all over your site and that of your neighbor, it’s unpleasant, to say the least.
Eliminate this from happening by using screw-in type connectors, or a sewer donut if your hose has a plain end. Use quality chemicals to reduce odors and break down tissue.
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INSIDER TIP #10: Never put “flushable” wipes or grease into your wastewater tanks. Wipes don’t disintegrate for years and clog campground sewer lines all the time. Grease builds up with other debris to cause back-ups inside your camper and out.
When your camper sewer system works properly, you help the campground too. If you cause a big mess with a back-up or blockage that you could prevent, you may end up on the park blacklist and find the campground is always “full” when you call for a reservation.
Before you complain about low water pressure, remove your water pressure regulator if you have one on your camper. Most parks have weak water pressure as it is, and your regulator will kill it even more.
Before you bother campground staff about your fuzzy cable reception, make sure your 12-volt antenna booster is off. Nothing upsets staff more, especially if you pull them out of bed to fix it, when you insist you either don’t have a 12-volt antenna button or that you know it’s off.
Time and time again, we hear this complaint, then spend five seconds to push a button and you magically have a clear cable connection.
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INSIDER TIP #11: If you hook up to park cable and your TV is fuzzy, 99 percent of the time it’s because you still have your regular 12-volt antenna booster on. Know exactly where this button is in your RV, so you can avoid embarrassment and bothering the staff.
Be aware that some parks forbid staff to enter any guest camper, so even if they know where to look (behind the TV or inside a cabinet), they will have to resort to explaining to you where to find it.
People love to get out camping to let loose and relax. If you’re a late night partier, choose a remote location to camp. When in a campground, quiet time should be religiously followed. This includes noises from pets, doors, music, and laughter.
INSIDER TIP #12: You don’t have to be inside during quiet time hours, just be thoughtful of other guests when sitting outside or around your fire. This is not the time to break out your favorite jokes to share with family. Noise is a huge cause of late-night phone calls to management from other guests complaining you are keeping them awake and is another reason for you to end up on a campground blacklist.
Campgrounds are one of the most pet-friendly places around. Most campers have a pet or two. I have seen guests bring not only cats and dogs, but birds, a raccoon, and even potbellied pigs.
Cleaning up after your pet in a no-brainer, and you can get immediate ejection from a park if the staff sees you not picking up your pet’s waste.
Don’t anger staff by thinking your pet is so well-behaved they don’t need to be on a leash or you can leave them alone within fencing on your patio. Park rules about maintaining control over your animal are not only for the safety of other guests but for your pet as well.
Wild animals are common at campgrounds, and cars and RVs are continually moving about the park. If you love your pet, you’ll keep them on a leash and under your control at all times.
INSIDER TIP #13: Although there are some parks that refuse breeds of dogs such as pit bulls or rottweilers, most parks do allow them as long as they are not aggressive or you offer to keep a muzzle on them while on walks. Don’t assume your pet can’t come camping, just ask!
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Don’t upset the person filling your propane tank by ignoring filling protocol set by campground management and state regulations. Fines for filling a tank that is out-of-date are huge, and that staff member making minimum wage is the one responsible for paying it.
Propane tanks are such a common RV item, but many campers know little about them. So stay behind any lines set for safety and put out that cigarette. Employees are typically not able to load full tanks into vehicles for insurance reasons. Never lay a propane tank on its side, it can jam the regulator valve.
Learn how to locate the date on your tank. Don’t beg the staff to fill your old tank, take it to be re-certified or exchange it for a new tank.
INSIDER TIP #14: It’s helpful to write your name and site number a piece of tape you stick on your tank, so no mix-ups occur, especially when you are at a park where staff members pick up, fill, and return tanks to their guests.
If you are super friendly and possibly even tip your propane filler, they may add some extra for free or agree to fill two partial tanks and charge you for only one.
Your trip is almost over, and the only thing left is for you to check out. Outdoor staff count on guests to leave on time, so they can prepare the site for the next guest or deal with a maintenance issue like a broken light.
Most campgrounds don’t need you to stop at the office to officially check out, they will assume you will leave on time.
INSIDER TIP #15: Outdoor staff is the key to getting you a late check-out for free.
Unless the park is full, asking outdoor staff for a bit of an extension is way smarter than asking office staff, who’ll want to charge you extra. Maybe it’s a beautiful day and you want your kids to enjoy an extra hour of pool time before your long trip home.
Most parks keep an hour or two between check-in and check-out times, and if you ask outdoor staff, you can almost always get to stay up to this amount of time if they feel they can turn over your sight quickly. All it takes is for them to go into the office and make up some reason you can’t leave right away, like a bad trailer light connection, and no one will bother you.
Having a great campground experience goes both ways between hard-working campground staff and friendly and considerate guests. Following these guidelines and watching this video will help you be the best camper you can be and have campgrounds looking forward to your next visit.
One final tip to gain favor with park staff is to leave a great review on their website, as well as on other review sites like Google or TripAdvisor. If you can do this while still staying in the park, you can bring it into the office and show it to them. They may give you a free night on your next stay or give you and the kids free ice cream. I have done both of these!
Did you ever receive an awesome perk for being a great campground guest? Share with us and inspire other campers to be the best camper they can be!
Product data was last updated on 2020-01-29 at 00:00.