If you have an RV or camper, sometimes finding the perfect campground or RV park that suits your type of camping can take a bit of finagling. From more natural setting campgrounds or busy family friendly camping resorts to quiet over 55 RV parks or luxurious RV resorts, there’s something for every RVer out there! But what are the differences in the different types of RV camping?
So, let’s jump right in and see which type of RV camping you and your RV travel companions may prefer.
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Types of RV Camping: Off Grid Camping to Lap of Luxury Glamping!
Off Grid RV Camping
Camping off the grid is, in my opinion, the most liberating and exciting. But it’s probably because we prefer to be out in the natural environment and enjoy the space, peace and quiet. It’s a total no judgement zone when you’re out there boondocking on public lands (APP: Google Play or App Store) or camping on permissible private property.
Also called dispersed camping, you will have a few concessions to deal with. Off grid camping requires no electric pedestal to plug your RV into; however, you will need ample RV battery storage, solar panels, a generator and an efficient energy management system.
Camping off grid, you’ll also have no water and sewer hookups. So, you’ll need to know how to carefully monitor your water usage and even know how to get water without giving up your campsite with its stellar view. Staying out there, you’ll either need to pee outside so your black tank doesn’t fill up quickly or find a way to empty your black tank without moving your RV (legally, of course!).
Also, you’ll need to manage your electricity and know when it’s appropriate to run your generator. And, when boondocking off grid, it will be of the utmost importance in knowing how to minimize your trash output. Because there are no trash cans or dumpsters out in the forests, deserts or mountains.
If you enjoy the freedom of camping out in the wild or boondocking in your RV or camper out in the desert or along a river, mountain or lake, then off grid camping is for you.
Government Owned Campgrounds
When I say ‘government owned’ campgrounds, I’m referring to Federal, State, County and Municipal (city or town) owned and managed campgrounds. These type of RV campgrounds are typically less expensive as they don’t offer lavish amenities. Campground settings are oftentimes in more natural environments with very basic amenities.
Government campgrounds, especially those more remote or along natural water resources such as rivers and lakes, may only offer dump stations instead of individual sewer hookups at each campsite. You’ll either need to hit up the dump station before arriving or learn to monitor your tanks more stringently.
But what types of RV camping are constituted as government campgrounds.
Federal campgrounds are those managed by the the United States government. They include National Parks, Corps of Engineers Parks, and National Recreation Areas. All of which, reservations can be made through Recreation.gov. Campsite fees can range from as little as $10 a night up to $45-50 a night depending on location and discounts.
Federally owned and managed campgrounds may offer discounts to those holding a current and applicable National Park Pass.
You may be able to find no-cost dispersed camping at some National Forests and Wildlife Refuges that may or may not require a National Park Pass to camp. However, those campsites are located in designated areas and typically primitive with no amenities other than maybe a pit toilet. You will have to check in with that particular Ranger Station to obtain a backcountry permit or camping pass.
Camping is available at most State Parks. We suggest visiting each respective State Park’s websites for details regarding reservations and amenities. But, State Park campgrounds are typically situated in natural environments such as wooded areas and/or around lakes and rivers.
Be aware though, out of state RVers and even tent campers trying to score a campsite may find it a bit more difficult, especially on weekends and holidays. State residents typically get first dibs on campsites as the State opens up the reservation window. Most are through Reserve America booking system.
County and Municipal Parks
Smaller County and Municipal Parks are hidden gems when it comes to finding RV camping spots; especially in less populated areas. We found several states more in the center of the United States that have County and Municipal RV parks or campgrounds. Their camping fees are pretty nominal. Some may offer full hookups while others may offer electric only or electric and water with a nearby dump station.
Military campgrounds, also referred to as FamCamps, are one of our favorite types of RV campgrounds. They may or may not be located directly on a military facility. Most have full hookups and certain amenities based on location. As far as amenities, they are hit or miss. Some may resonate by being an on-base RV resort have amazing water views and palm trees while others may be more like a campground in the woods. And of course, most being located on military facilities, you may have access to the base commissary, PX/BX, Class 6, post office, movie theater, golf course, etc.
FamCamps are managed by each military base or post Outdoor Recreation or Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) departments. Know though, it is up to each military base or post commander to allow on base access privileges based on operational and DEFCON status.
So, before thinking just anyone can camp at FamCamps, you will most definitely want to read our Military Camping: Military and Veterans Camp Cheaply first to know if you fit the criteria!
Do your research and learn about each FamCamp to know what each offers. You may want to check out this great resource to find out about U.S. Military Recreation Facilities. And of course, network with your fellow Active Duty and Veterans for their opinions.
If your family loves to take the camper to go camping, perhaps family-oriented campgrounds are more your game. These type of RV campgrounds like KOA (Kampgrounds of America, Jellystone Park Camp Resorts are more focused on entertaining or providing a great venue of activities for families.
Family campgrounds typically offer amenities such as jump trampoline pads, pools and splash pads, playgrounds, organized camping craft sessions and scavenger hunts, games, campfires, movies, on-site pizza and ice cream, etc.
And, these family campgrounds really go all out for the holidays. They will usually plan cool events like RV decorating contests and games, trick or treating for Halloween, 4th of July and Christmas.
But, that’s not to say solo campers or camping couples can’t enjoy these type of RV campgrounds. We’re just letting you know that if you’re not into the kid scene or don’t want to be splashed in the pool, family campgrounds or family RV parks may not be your forte or camping style. All of that said, family campgrounds tend to be a bit pricier because they offer more amenities, events and activities.
Over 55+ RV Parks
While families can have their fun at those busy family campgrounds I mentioned above, there’s also a more age-appropriate type of campgrounds for the over-55 crowd. Our friends at Drivin’ & Vibin’ describe these Over 55 parks as, “RV life is perfect for the active retiree and 55+ RV parks cater to the growing Boomer-retiree demographic.”
As we’ve learned ourselves now that we fit this demographic criteria, these types of RV camping venues may be a bit more finicky on age of your RV. They may adhere to that controversial 10 year rule. And, from our experience, they tend to roll up the carpet early in the evenings. Over 55 parks are generally quieter and well…mature. And of course, the young-at-heart RVers won’t have to be offended by lots of kids splashing them in the pool.
While elder RVers and campers get a little more peace and quiet, they still can enjoy events and activities that are more age-appropriate. These older gentlemen and lady RV parks usually have an Activities Director that organizes arts and crafts and hobbies workshops, music and dancing, and cards, outdoor games, and board game nights.
Where are these Over 55 RV parks located? Most of these types of RV camping are in southern Arizona and Florida as those states appeal to the older snowbird generations. Let me tell you though, they fill up fast. Reservations are booked even a year ahead of time to ensure a prime RV site.
Private RV Parks and Campgrounds
Private campgrounds are just that; campgrounds that are owned by individuals or partnerships. There is no typical standard when camping at a private campground. They can range from as little as 5 campsites all the way up to 500 and even 1000 RV RV sites. Each has its’ own appeal and amenities. And their campsite fees vary based on location, amenities and discounts applied.
Some private campgrounds may be located near attractions or just outside a city. Their rates vary depending on amenities and location. To find private campgrounds, a good resources is through Campendium, a crowd-sourced online venue that points you in the right direction in finding the perfect campground or camping area.
RV Parks and RV Resorts
If you’ve been RVing for awhile, you’d by now, know the difference between RV parks and RV resorts. However, there’s a fine non-definitive line of perception.
It seems the description of an RV park is all over the board. RV parks, in my mind, are a step up from the typical woodsy campground setting. They may offer more amenities such as a dog park, nicer showers and bath houses, a pool, community rooms, etc. RV parks, depending on location, may offer RV site pads ranging from packed dirt, gravel and if you’re lucky, a paved pad.
When it comes to RV resorts though, the park layout itself seems to be more organized and planned out, RV resorts do offer a bit more lavish amenities over RV parks.
While RV resorts always come with full hookups (electric, water and sewer) like RV parks, they usually provide a paved pad site, a nice patio to set your chairs out, manicured landscaping, pool and hot tub, nicer bath houses and laundry areas, community rooms, outdoor games like pickle ball and mini golf, etc. But, one thing I did notice is most RV resorts don’t typically allow wood burning fire pits. So, you’ll want to bring your propane fire pit if you want to enjoy the ambiance of a campfire.
That said, when considering an RV Park vs. RV Resort, it’s wise to read the fine print and reviews of what each RV resort defines itself as. Way too often, we’ve found them to be one in the same.
Motorcoach Only Resorts
Motorcoach Only RV Resorts are exactly as they say they are. While some RVers and campers may find these uppity, it’s perfectly okay as not every campground or RV park or resort I’ve listed pertains to every RV camper either.
Typically, Motorcoach Only RV Resorts only allow Class A Motorhomes only. And, if that isn’t stringent enough, only those less than 10 years old may be an additional requirement to enjoy this type of RV park.
There are some campgrounds that you can gain access only through active paid memberships.
Thousand Trails is a membership campground system of over 80 campgrounds around the country. Members can buy up to 5 zone passes and camp at the campgrounds in their zone or zones they purchase. Also, with your membership, members can receive discounts at Encore RV Resorts. However, know that there are several different membership levels. Each level has its own criteria; including length of stays, time out of the system, etc., But, it’s super important that you understand the membership package you’re going to buy into.
Similar to Thousand Trails is another membership campground called RPI; short for Resort Parks International. RPI is a reciprocal camping membership with hundreds of campgrounds across the US, Canada and Mexico. Once you become a member at an RPI affiliated resort, you then can stay at RPI qualified resorts for a nominal fee of $10 per night (2021). Again though, know what you’re getting in your particular membership package.
Coast to Coast
Coast to Coast camping memberships are not available to the general public at any cost, but instead are offered to you by one of our network resorts at the time of your resort membership purchase. This RV membership provides a vast range of vacation choices for you and your family.
The Coast network includes some of the nation’s best outdoor resorts with immaculate campsites, on-site security, superior amenities and legendary reputations. All available to you at a cost of only $10 per night (2021) at RV resorts where Coast to Coast memberships are accepted or a special Coast-member discounted rate* at Good Neighbor Parks.
If you’ve not heard about it yet, Hipcamp is a cool online marketplace company that offers outdoor stays and camping experiences via a website and mobile app. Private landowners primarily list campsites, glampsites, RV spaces, cabins for users to discover and book based on listing type, location, landscape, activities offered, and amenities. And though we’ve not used Hipcamp yet, we are looking into utilizing these awesome types of RV camping opportunities and locations.
Fraternity and Organization Memberships
There are several fraternity and organization memberships that allow either overnight parking or even great campgrounds for current members in good standing. Many of Loyal Order of Moose and Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks lodges have either full or partial hookups.
As members of the Benevolent Order of Elks myself, we enjoy staying at their campgrounds that we’re afforded through our memberships. Elks Lodges bring so much more to their communities than just a building, campground, golf course or pool. They are places where neighbors come together, families share meals, and children grow up.
Moose Lodge and Elks Lodge campgrounds are generally inexpensive and range in different offerings.
If a campground isn’t available and we seek a safe place to park overnight, we either make a monetary donation or we also support each lodge through bar and food sales and fundraisers.
Short Term Overnight RV Parking
Parking your RV for an occasional overnight in a parking lot of a business (with permission!) is another option for a single overnight. However, I say with a hefty sigh of hesitation, these are not types of RV camping. Overnight RV parking is more restraining than actual camping.
We, RVers, refer to them as lotdocking and it comes with a set of important rules to follow. Because, we certainly don’t want to lose our overnight RV parking privileges. All of that said, here’s some great examples of places where we’ve found free or cheap overnight RV parking:
- Cracker Barrel
- Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shop
- Camping World or Gander Outdoors
- Fraternal or Veteran’s organizations
- Some churches
- Travel Centers or Truck Stops
However, it’s important to know that you need to call ahead to see if they even allow overnight RV parking as some city ordinances disallow the practice.
But also, there’s ways to stay at generous RVers or other people’s properties through a membership called Boondockers Welcome. One of our favorite overnight experiences is being allowed to park at Elks Lodges. However, as I mentioned earlier, those require current paid memberships.
However, be aware, none of these types of RV camping aren’t really ‘camping’. So, please heed my advice by not setting up camp. Do not put out your welcome mat, camp chairs, fire up the bbq grill or light the fire pit to roast marshmallows.
And while these short term overnight RV parking suggestions, I did want to include them as options. There may be a time or place where campgrounds or RV parks won’t be where you need them. But they’re wonderful overnight RV experiences. They’re also a great place to catch some rest on the road to your RV destination.
Final thoughts on different types of RV camping
As you see, there is no one-size-fits-all campground or RV park or resort. There are all different types of RV camping available for every camper, all ages, every RV type, membership based and other criteria. Whatever your style of RV camping will determine which campground or place you’ll want to camp at. There’s plenty for everybody out there! Whichever you choose, just go have FUN!
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