Van camping is a lot of fun whether you are camping in the wilds or camping in a developed campground. Campgrounds vary a lot and sometimes you get a great one and other times not so much.
How do you choose the right campground for van camping? Choosing the right campground is hard, but here are some of major factors we look for when selecting a campground:
1. Campground location
2. Costs of staying at the campground
3. Site size
4. Campground maintenance
6. Can you choose your own site?
7. Rules and regulations
8. Campground entertainment
Your family is depending on you to select the perfect campground for your next camping adventure and you have to get it right or you are going to have — you guessed it a lot of unhappy campers!
Picking the right campground goes a long way to having an enjoyable van camping experience and there are factors that you can research ahead of time to make sure that you have the best chance of ending up with a super campground choice.
It is my hope that after doing your research that you will find a campground that meets all your requirements and is someplace that you and your family will visit repeatedly year after year.
1. Where is the campground located?
When selecting a campground look for one that is in close proximity to all the parks, casinos, museums, shopping, recreational areas and anything else that you will want to do while there.
If you want to be right in the action oftentimes you can stay right at the campground at or near the water park or theme park you are visiting. These campgrounds tend to be real big and are usually noisy and very busy.
On the other hand if you want peace and quiet in a natural setting select a campground located in the trees with bigger sites so you aren’t right on top of neighboring campers, preferably in a more rural location.
2. What are the costs of staying at the campground?
Camping fee rates usually allow two people at the campsite. Primitive sites without any electric, cable or amenities will start at about $20, with water and electric $25 or with water, electric and sewage $28 per night.
While I was doing research for this post these rates were the lowest that I found, most campgrounds had prices that were quite a bit higher.
Prices are going to vary greatly depending on if the campground is close to a whole lot of attractions, out where there is nothing or near busy interstates.
The campground will charge more for extra people; this will usually be $2 per person. There may be fees for extra vehicles, if you are using a tent on your site that may be extra, visitor fees and in addition the campground may have other fees.
You will want to know how much is required for a deposit when you reserve a site, is it refundable and how far ahead do you need to cancel?
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3. How big is the site?
How spacious are the sites? How big of an area will you actually have to set up camp on? Is there room to put camp chairs, a screen house or shade canopy? It is nice when your site is big enough to spread out a little.
Are the neighbors right on top of you or will you have a little breathing room? All of these aspects affect the experience of your camping stay, so be sure to research what size of site you will be getting.
4. How well is the campground maintained?
When picking a campground it is helpful if they have a website, you can look at the pictures that they have to get an idea of how the campground is maintained.
When considering a campground that is close to where you live you can actually drive there ahead of time to check out what it looks like. Also you can ask friends that camp about the campground to find out whether it is a campground that they would recommend.
You will want to know how good the campground maintenance is. Do they mow the sites and keep them trimmed? Are the roads smooth and not full of potholes? If you are going to want to use the swimming pool is it well maintained and not full of green slime?
Check out the playground equipment to make sure it is safe for your children to use. Is the bathhouse heated and clean? Does the hot water work?
Your camping experience depends hugely on the campground that you pick so make sure to do your research on how they are with maintenance.
5. What amenities are available?
Having a good camping trip depends on a multitude of factors and picking a campground with a camp store, picnic tables, pavilions, playgrounds and fire rings adds a lot to the experience.
If you need to wash clothes do they have a laundry room? Is there a game room for the kids to use? The right campground should always have amenities like this to make your camping trip more enjoyable.
6. Can you choose your own site?
A campground that lets you pick your site is another plus. That way if you want to be close to things like the bathhouse, the playground, to pick a site that has shade, is along the creek or close to something else, you have an option to pick it.
Campgrounds will usually have a map online that will give you a feel of where things are located in that particular campground.
7. What are the rules and regulations?
Can you check out the campground rules and regulations online? I am sure one of the things that you will want is a set quiet time so you can get some sleep, does the campground have certain quiet time hours in place?
Are you allowed to have pets and must they be on leashes at all times or do they have an off leash area?
What is the campground policy about visitors? Must the visitors register? Is there room for visitor parking?
What time can you check in and what time must you be out?
Safety for yourself and your family are always a top concern. What policies does the campground have in place for your security? Do they allow fireworks or firearms? Is there a campground speed limit for children’s safety?
8. Does the campground provide entertainment?
If you enjoy mingling with other campers or are planning a week long stay at the same campground, entertainment might be a high priority on your list of requirements.
Some campgrounds provide all kinds of entertainment or social activities and they will usually have a list of upcoming activities listed on their website.
Activities will include things like bingo, corn hole tournaments, pot luck dinners, corn roasts, crafts for the kids, treasure hunts, a DJ, dancing, bocce tournaments, flag football and many other activities.
With all these activities happening right at the campground you will wish you could stay longer!
9. What services are available?
One of the top services that most people can’t live without is Wi-fi, does the campground you are researching have free Wi-fi? Do you plan to use your cell phone while camping if so is there reliable cell phone service at the campground? Do you enjoy watching a little TV at night, is there cable access available?
This post has covered many of the aspects that you need to research when trying to find the right campground to camp at to finish up I would like to include a few other observations.
Research the campground you are considering online, look at their website and check out the reviews on Campendium or Allstays. Contact the campground by phone for any additional questions you have and to get a feel for their customer service.
It makes a stay at a campground more enjoyable and saves a lot of hassle if you don’t have to drive to get things that you might want. A campground that sells firewood, ice, has a convenience store, a snack bar and an onsite laundromat are all great features to look for when researching a campground.
A campground that has tennis & basketball courts, horseshoe, shuffleboard, volleyball, softball and soccer fields, pool tables are all great perks to keep in mind.
Campgrounds in certain areas operate seasonally and will only be open part of the year, so when planning a trip make sure to check out the open dates for the campground.
Do campgrounds allow generators? Rules on generator use vary between campgrounds. Some campgrounds don’t allow generators, others only allow them to be in use between certain hours and others only allow use in the RV section of the campground. Check the policies of the specific campground where you are considering staying.
Do campgrounds allow golf carts? Some campgrounds allow golf carts with a permit, some charge an extra fee, some rent golf carts and others do not allow golf carts at all. Campgrounds are going to have different policies regarding golf carts, so when making a reservation ask what their policy is.