Campground stuff beginners don't know

Campground Stuff Beginners Don’t Know (But Should!)

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Have you ever you walked into a situation where you looked around the room and you knew who was a rookie and who wasn’t? In the RV world, it’s not much of an issue. Those that live the RV lifestyle, both veteran and newbie, are always there to help each other.

Yet walking into a situation never doing it before can feel pretty uncomfortable. Here’s everything an RVer needs to know that they don’t tell you on their websites. We’ll point out those things many experienced campers take for granted.

How Campgrounds Operate

The Camping Season

Motorhome vacation camping

The campgrounds that stay open seasonally, generally open around Easter. They finish off the year around Halloween. Most seasonal campgrounds are in the Snowbelt states, but there is a growing number that keep their gates open in a limited capacity all year round.

For those that stay open up north, they shut off their water and sewer lines to prevent ice from breaking the water lines. Many do offer electricity hookups. For water, you’ll have to bring it in yourself and find a safe dump station nearby.

If you like to stay at the public parks (National, State, or County), their opening and closing can be a little confusing. The parks stay open all year for winter sporting, but their camping facilities close seasonally in the northern states.


The closer a campground is to a tourist attraction, the higher the rates are. A great way to find a better rate is to focus on the outskirts of the area. If you’re willing to travel 10-20 minutes further, you can find some great campgrounds with great rates a little further out.

Camper Smarts Tip: Signing up for discount clubs can save you from paying full rates at campgrounds. Passport America has a low yearly fee and has discounts up to 50% off. Good Sam’s Club not only gives you discounts on campgrounds, but you can also save at places like Camping World and Pilot/Flying J.

Reservations and Cancellation Policies

Before you make your reservation, make sure you understand the campground’s cancellation policy. The average campground cancellation policy requires 72 hours prior to arrival to receive your money back. Otherwise, they won’t refund your money.

If you decide to take an impromptu camping trip, most campgrounds have an open-door policy. If they have space, they’ll accommodate you. You’ll have a better chance during the week, and non-holiday weekend.

Common Rules and Procedures At Campgrounds

RV park camping at night

Camper Smarts Tip: The most important campground tip we can give you is always read the campground rules. Even experienced campers will read through them. Many of the rules are common to other campgrounds, but there might be a unique rule in there you need to know.

  • Quiet Hours: Hours usually range from 9 pm to 8 am. Some campgrounds extend those hours on Sunday mornings. Quiet hours allow people to sleep, or enjoy the evening quietly.

    You must keep your generator off during quiet hours. If you’re using a generator, more than likely you have a power cord that plugs into shore power. You may want to reserve a campsite with electric hookup as a solution to this issue.

  • Water Sports: A popular feature is swimming. If they don’t have a natural body of water, the campground will probably have a swimming pool. If you have young children that want to swim, assume the campground doesn’t staff a lifeguard.

    Those that have lakes, may have personal watercraft rental. Canoes, rowboats, paddleboats, pontoons, and other boats may be available for an hourly rate. If it’s motorized, you may have to purchase third-party liability insurance for an additional cost.

  • Bathhouse: Owners have sunk a lot of time, money, and effort to make their bathhouses inviting places. You’ll find them clean and well-stocked. Campgrounds are now winning awards and high star reviews based on how well they keep their bathhouses.

    After you set up your RV, its always a good idea to take a walk over to the bathhouses. You may use your own the entire time, but you never know when you may need to use theirs. Check to see if the showers are coin-operated, are the facilities up to your standards, and if you would be comfortable using their bathhouse.

  • Dogs: When it comes to dogs, campgrounds have rules about our four-legged children. These rules don’t necessarily come from the management themselves. Many insurance companies and government authorities have regulations about this issue.

    Keeping your dog on a six-foot leash in common areas is a must. Excessive barkers are one of the top complaints, so try getting toys that keep them occupied. Never leave them unattended in case the power goes out and your RV heats up.

    Generally, campgrounds will allow up to two dogs. Their restrictions may pertain to a certain weight or specific breeds. If they do have breed restrictions, they do publish it on their webpages and you can call them for details.
  • Store and Food: The majority of campgrounds will have stores in the front desk area. They’ll usually have camping supplies, campground merchandise, and other convenience store type items. More developed campgrounds have snack bars and restaurants in them.

Camper Smarts Tip: When you check-in at the front desk, you’ll receive a map of the campground to help you find your campsite. Local businesses use the sides of the map for advertising including food delivery services. If you don’t want to cook one night, these places are familiar with delivering to campsites at your campground.

  • Maximum Stays at Public Parks: National and state parks allow you to stay up to 14 days consecutively. Even if you don’t stay the entire time, there is a 14 day “cooling off” period before you can stay at the same park again. This allows others to enjoy the parks.
  • Private Park Rates: For those that are looking for extended stays, private campgrounds have daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal rates. If you calculate the per day rate on the extended prices, the longer you stay, the cheaper the daily rate. If you want to take advantage of these rates, we recommend calling in advance since the monthly and seasonal spots fill up.

What To Expect At Your Campsite

Mountain campground
  • Space on your campsite: Campsites don’t allow too much space between each other. You’ll have enough room for your RV with the awning out, your tow vehicle, and one freestanding tent. Campground rules are going to be specific on what is and isn’t allowed.
  • Levels of campsites: There are different levels of campsites based on offered services. Campsite rates increase based on the amenities. The park may use different words, but here are common labels used and what they mean:
  1. Primitive- This is a basic campsite without any hookup services.
  2. Partial Hookup- Water and electric hookups only (shore connections).
  3. Full Hookup- Water, electric, and sewer. Full hookups may include basic cable.
  4. Premium- This level has full hookups and offers a cement pad to park on, or use as a patio.
  5. Premium Plus- This is the same as a premium level, but its location is more advantageous (closer to the beach, etc.)
  6. Beach Parking/Dock Parking- This level may or may not have full hook up services. The appeal is camping on the beach or having a dock at your site. Some campgrounds on the East coast of Florida with beach parking require a reservation a year in advance.
  • Electrical Shore Outlets: The shore power electric post will usually have a breaker and four outlets. One 50 amp, one 30 amp, and two 20 amp outlets. Turn off the electric post’s breakers before you plug into it to prevent damaging your RV’s electric system.
  • Campfires: This is another issue government and insurance companies have influence over. If the campground doesn’t provide fire rings on your campsite, they may either have designated campfire areas, or not allow them. When you’re done with the fire make sure it’s completely out for the safety of everyone.
  • Insurance and Liability: If you read your RV insurance policy carefully, you’ll see that there’s a section that covers the liability of the individual campsite you’re on. Property damage or injury is your responsibility on your campsite. The campground’s insurance covers common areas and campsites not in use.

Camper Smarts Tip: Respect other people’s campsites. Walking through their spaces without permission is a courtesy misstep. RVers friendliness comes from the courtesy and respect they show each other.

  • Family Environment: Even if you’re not at a family-oriented RV park, act as if you are. Everyone wants to enjoy their own vacation. They don’t want to know how you’re enjoying your vacation.
  • Campground Online Reviews: More people choose a campground based on customer reviews than any other source. The management takes all reviews seriously. When you get home, make sure you write a review of your experience.
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Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations

You’ll see six-figure Class A motorhomes parked next to $10,000 pop-ups and everything in between. It’s common to meet people from all over the country and from all walks of life. Enjoy the diversity, the relaxed atmosphere, and (to save you from newbie hazing) there’s no such things as “left-handed smoke shifter.”

Product data was last updated on 2021-01-18 at 04:55.