If you’d like to learn more about planning your first and subsequent RV camping trips, then check out my list below for making RV campsite reservations.
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Types of Campgrounds
Based on what I’ve seen, there are 3 types of campgrounds where you can make a RV campsite reservation: National & State Parks, Regional Parks and Private Campgrounds. See my article for in depth explanation of these types of campgrounds: 3 types of campgrounds.
I have personally stayed at regional recreation area campgrounds, but not State or National Parks yet. We do have some reservations for state parks in the near future, so I may be able to update this article after my stays. The regional park campgrounds have been great in terms of ease of making reservations, offering full hookup campsites, offering great amenities like equipment (boat and kayak) rentals and access to hiking trails, fishing and beaches.
I have stayed at privately owned campgrounds and our experience has been similar to staying at regional park campgrounds in that it is easy to make reservations, some offer full hookup campsites and they offer great amenities.
We have not stayed at membership based campgrounds like KOA. We also have not stayed at any campsites at private lands. I learned about these types of arrangements through a website called HipCamp.com. See my article 3 types of campgrounds for more information.
Most campgrounds have online reservation systems, but I’ve seen some that only take reservations via phone calls and credit cards over the phone. I even encountered one campground that only took reservations if you mailed them a deposit check.
If you’re using an online system to make your campsite reservation, typically the website will ask you for the length of your RV when you are searching for a RV campsite. Also, typically you can view the max RV length allowed for each campsite (and sometimes the max width), so you’ll want double check on your RV’s dimensions (especially if you have slides). You can always call the campground if you have concerns about the size of your slide(s) if you have one on your RV. If there are trees present at the campsite, then you may want to check with the campground if the staff believes the trees will pose issue for your RV.
What I’ve seen is that national and state parks get booked out a year in advance and that you have to make your reservation first thing in the morning when campsites are released…that was the only way that we were able to secure some campsites at state parks.
Regional recreation areas and privately owned campgrounds are typically easier to book a campsite and they book out a couple of months to a year in advance. Regional recreation areas and privately owned campgrounds website reservation systems are usually easier to use and if you have any problems you can typically get someone on the phone to discuss your questions.
Each campground has different cancellation policies, so you should review them carefully prior to booking your reservation. Some do not give refunds, some give refunds for specific situations and some charge cancellation fees…read the terms carefully. Note, there may be special terms for holiday weekends.
Rules, Terms & Fees
Read the campground rules, terms and fees information carefully before you book your reservation. Each campground has different rules that you must follow, such as quite hours, generator restrictions, check-in/check-out times, pet policies, automobile policies, guest policies, etc. Be sure that you review these rules prior to making your reservation.
Note, some campgrounds terms allow a specific number of people to stay at the campsite given stated rental rate and if you go over in number of people and/or automobiles at your campsite, then you may have to pay additional fees per person/automobile per night. Same goes for pets and other things, so read the terms carefully. Note, some campgrounds do not allow tents at RV campsites, so you should verify with campground if you desire to have family/friends stay at your campsite in tents.
If you arrive before your official check in time or leave after your check out time, you may be hit with extra fees. So, again read the campground terms prior to making your reservation.
Campground & Campsite Layout
When you’re camping with an RV, road and campsite dimensions and terrain are really important, especially if you’re new because you have to maneuver your RV into the campsite space. The width of the road and the layout of the campsite, as well as any large trees and/or boulders, can impact level of difficulty when parking your RV.
I would recommend, if possible, that you visit campgrounds before you stay there so you can pick out campsites that you would feel comfortable parking at. If that is not possible, then examine the online campground map (if available) carefully and talk with the campground staff. The online map and/or reservation systems will usually note the RV usable area dimensions like length and width that can be accommodated. Note, if you have a slide in your RV, then you’ll want to check the width of the RV usable area too.
Sometimes the campgrounds have pictures of the campsites on their website. If the campground doesn’t have pictures of the campsite you’re interested in, then their are websites that provide campsite pictures like campsitephotos.com.
If you’re new and you’re just learning how to park your RV, then you may want to choose drive through campsites so you don’t have to back into a campsite. Backing in with a trailer takes patience and practice, but eventually you’ll get more comfortable with it.
When I was new, I read having walkie talkies helps when communicating with your significant other when you’re backing into a campsite. We used walkie talkies initially, but as we became more experienced we stopped using walkie talkies for backing into spaces and now use them primarily for keeping in contact when cell phone signal is weak. Below are the walkie talkies we purchased:
Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios – https://amzn.to/37JPhU0
You’ll want to verify what amenities your campsite has, as well as what is provided by the campground. Most common campsite amenities (not guaranteed) are:
– Picnic table
– Fire pit
– BBQ grill
Below are amenities that some campgrounds may offer (verify with campground and any related fees):
– Full hookups (water, sewer and electricity)
– Partial hookups (either water, sewer or electricity)
– Community water spigots (check if spigots are threaded or not)
– Community garbage dumpsters
– Food storage lockers (if bears or other large animals are in the area)
– Dump station or mobile dump (for grey and black tank draining)
– Campground store, bathrooms, laundry facilities
– Pool, play structures, equipment rental, onsite river/lake/ocean access, etc.
Note, some campgrounds do not allow campfires, so if important to your family you should verify before making your reservation. Campfires are really important to my family, so we usually only stay at campgrounds that allow campfires. Some campgrounds do not provide fire pits, so you may have to rent them or bring your own, like in the Santa Cruz area of California. We have a portable fire pit that we keep in our trailer and have used for years, below is a picture and link to purchase if you need one.
Best Choice Products Folding Steel Fire Pit – https://amzn.to/2P0cWZS
I often see other campers bringing their own bikes, scooters, boats, etc. You should check with the campground what is allowed and if allowed bring your own equipment.
I hope you learned something new from this article Making RV campsite reservations. Happy camping!