You step outside your RV into the cool night air. A campfire burns nearby and you hear laughter from behind the glowing embers. Your senses are tempted by welcoming sights, smells, and sounds. The crackle of logs makes you want to stop by and join in, as the scent of toasting marshmallows (S’mores!) waft toward you.
You continue your evening walk enjoying the twinkling lights from nearby campers. You may hear the strumming of a guitar or a babbling brook as your flip flops tread down a path through dewey fields. You peek into the windows of fellow campers, taking in the soft glow of candles and the sounds of families settling in for the night.
These sights and sounds could come from an adventure story but instead they’re from your ‘backyard.’
Best of all, when you return, you’re welcomed by the warm glow of your own lights as you open the door to your cozy home-on-wheels.
The morning brings similar vibes as you awaken, and when you sit out with your first cup of fresh coffee. From the sounds of songbirds to the smell of a fresh-mowed lawn, you relax into your zero-gravity patio chair as your neighbors wave at you with an easy smile.
If you’ve been camping before, you know what I mean.
While our settings may not be quite this idyllic all the time, our RV campgrounds do afford us many of these simple joys every day!
RV Campgrounds = RV Park + Traditional Campground
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘campground’? I picture myself immersed in nature with fellow tenters in a natural setting like I just described. Or it might be a state or national park, with towering cliffs surrounding me.
Now how about the word ‘RV Park’? Sounds like a small, cramped park tucked along a major freeway – usually without a sound wall. The RVs are stacked like cordwood within a few feet of one another in a parking lot with barely enough room for slideouts – let alone awnings or a patio. These types of parks don’t appeal to us, although we recognize they’re usually located in more populated areas. So clearly they’re a good cost/location fit for the right situation.
I call out the distinction, because most RV parks we stay in feel more like traditional campgrounds, which happen to have room for RVs. They have hundreds or even thousands of acres, lots of trees, usually a lake or river, and the RV sites are spaced a reasonable distance apart. We like to call these types of parks RV Campgrounds or RV Resorts.
They’re often located down a quiet dirt road, nestled in the trees of a remote preserve, or tucked into the mountains far from the sounds of freeways and cities.
They offer the best amenities you expect from an RV Park – security, pools, service, sports courts, pools, lodges, and long or short-term reservations.
They also provide us with the best that campgrounds offer, which I’ve been describing: great locations, natural settings, sites with trees and enough space around us, campfire rings, and a friendly laid-back atmosphere. They often have rivers or lakes so we can use our SeaEagle Kayak, too.
These are the places we seek out and most often where we ‘live’.
10 Things I Love Most about Living in RV Campgrounds:
#1 – I love the vibe!
Ever since our tent camping days I’ve always loved the campground vibe! It feels laid-back, peaceful, and fun to me. Maybe it’s the mix of vacationing families, perpetual travelers, and retired folks all enjoying life in the moment. In any case there’s a sense of ease and a call back to simpler times as we disconnect from the rush of modern life.
#2 – There’s a unique sense of community
When Rich and I were planning the full-time RV lifestyle, I wondered if we were just a little crazy (we are!). But the moment I stepped foot in an RV Campground, I found myself surrounded with like-minded travelers. The gypsy spirit was evident and I quickly felt at home! For the past 3 years we’ve enjoyed many casual conversations about travel…exchanging ideas with others and getting inspired about new places to see! Neighbors watch out for one another while giving each other privacy, too. Today our neighbors left us a stack of firewood and some others invited us to happy hour. We all come and go fairly quickly, but there’s still a great sense of community.
#3 – We get a lot of privacy
We make most of our reservations online so that’s pretty simple. When we check in the park members welcome us with a friendly smile. From there we’re on your own! As long as you follow the basic park rules (quiet after 11pm, etc..) there are no hassles, no knock on the door, or anything. The same goes for the neighbors. As I mentioned they’re friendly – but most aren’t nosey. We’re pretty busy and enjoy a little privacy, so this aspect of the lifestyle works for us.
#4 – We’re usually immersed in nature
As you can tell by now, we love the great outdoors. Most of the parks we stay in are located down bumpy back roads in fairly remote locations – and we prefer it that way! These ‘preserves’ are often hundreds of acres in size, and devote a relatively small area to campsites. We rarely hear road noise, and usually wake up to the pleasant sounds of tweeting songbirds.
When you live in an RV your patio is only a few steps away – and we take advantage of that by eating almost every meal and drinking every beverage (coffee & beer) outside. We love to grill and have picnics, too. On workdays our morning outdoor ‘coffee time’ replaces our commute and gives us a chance to chat – and we work outside sometimes too. We also bring our cat outside – and enjoy taking her on walks in her kitty backpack or with her harness.
#5 – We like the adventure of visiting new parks
As we usually reserve our RV parks ahead of the time we have an idea of cell service, site choices, full or partial hookups, size, and proximity to towns that we’ll encounter. However, each new park brings a new experience.
RV Parks are very different from one to the next, and we enjoy the variation. For example: when we first started RVing we moved into a well-run, traditional RV park. It had an orange tree in each site, well-manicured lawns, sprinklers, sign posts, a laundry — and was in walking distance to a quaint little town.
When we hit the road one of the first places we stayed was quite the opposite! Cactus RV Park was located on historic Route 66 in Tucamcari, NM. The ‘park’ was situated in the parking lot of an old, run-down motel with boarded-up windows. It felt a bit creepy at first, but we still had our home with us so we felt safe.
We walked Route 66 that night and took pics of old neon-lined motels and restaurants. We watched a group of bikers, holed up in one old motel, barbecuing and listening to tunes. It turned out to be a fun and unique experience!
#6 – We’re often near desirable destinations
Because we need to work during the week, we don’t often stay inside national parks since most have no or little cell-service. That said, we’ve camped close to Zion National Park, near Vancouver, on ocean bluffs overlooking the Oregon Coast, in Wine Country, in the rolling hills of Vermont, near Disney World, at the Gateway of Cape Cod, and so many other cool places.
On our weekends and evenings it’s easy to head to a nearby destination. We may take a great hike, see the sights, go for a bike ride or paddle, or just meander around for the afternoon.
Essentially, home is where we take our RV, and that’s often in desirable vacation destinations. Even when we’re not in a ‘destination’ there is always something to explore, learn about, and appreciate in any area. We love history and culture and I’ve learned a lot in little towns that were off the beaten path – and in cities alike.
#7 – RV Campgrounds are everywhere!
I grew up as a bi-coastal child. When I was younger we lived in CA, and at school-age we moved to MA. Today I’m still bi-coastal at heart and I appreciate so many parts of the U.S. We don’t really know where we’d settle if we stopped traveling – and for the foreseeable future we don’t need to decide. We can visit the Southeast for the winter, the Northeast for the summer, and meander around areas in between. Plus Rich and I have family and friends around the country, and we love to visit them during our travels.
#8 – We’re in a village
RV Campgrounds are like compact little villages. They have laundromats, sports courts, pools, and hot tubs. They also have lodges where you can do puzzles, watch a sports game, play game of pool or poker, and enjoy other social and holiday events. They also offer movie rentals and grocery stores, and many even have a gym.
This setup is handy for us when we’re working, since we can just stay in the park for days at a time. I think we stayed inside one park for an entire week without leaving!
#9 – We feel safe
While we aren’t overly security-minded people, we do want our kitty Lexi, and our stuff to be safe. We had a bike stolen from our first RV Park, which happened to be non-gated. While it’s not necessary, we appreciate that many RV parks are gated and require a gate code to get in.
There are also dogs in most parks that will alert you to prowlers or issues, and neighbors are often out and about too. If there has been any recent theft in the neighborhood word gets out quickly in the park, and as mentioned, neighbors look out for each other.
#10 – If you don’t love it you can pick up and leave!
Every so often you’re bound to run into one of those parks that doesn’t agree with you. We had one park in WA state that was set up with RVs in a tightly-spaced row. It happened to be jam packed with summer visitors and full-timers like us, and we did our best to put up with it for a few weeks. Ultimately, we were glad we could just pick up and move on!
The next park was super spacious, and just what we wanted. We stayed there for a month and loved every minute of it.
There’s one thing I didn’t include in my ‘top 10’ but is worth mentioning. Because we use campground memberships pretty extensively, our lifestyle value equation is excellent. The monthly cost is very reasonable – we usually pay less than $300/month in ‘rent,’ which is largely all-inclusive, since most of our parks have full hookups with no electricity usage restrictions.
We also love that the landscaping, yard, and pool maintenance are all done by campground staff. We appreciate that we get to enjoy the beautiful settings, while being able to use our free time exploring the area and hiking, biking, or paddling around.
That said, there are certainly a few down-sides to even the best RV Campgrounds, which we’ll discuss in an another article.
In general, we’re very happy living in RV Campgrounds. It’s a great life and we’re glad we took the plunge!
If you can relate to any of the above, or have anything to add, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Until next time, happy camping!
This is invaluable insight for anyone, like me, who is doing research about whether the RV life is right for them. I’m loving your articles! Thank you!
Could you elaborate on campground memberships. Which ones do you use? How much do the memberships cost?
The membership we have is to Thousand Trails. They have 86 campgrounds around the US, with many clustered around the two coasts, but also some in between. They are sold in 5 “zones” which generally run $545 per year. Or you can purchase an Elite Membership, which gives you access to all zones. This is a one time fee and they can run from $5,000 and up, depending on whether you buy the membership directly from the company or purchase one from an individual who is reselling it. (I’ve heard Thousand Trails offers all 5 zones for closer to $3,000 on occasion but I haven’t witness it and ours was around $5K). With Elite Membership you pay $620 in annual membership dues on top of the one-time fee.
With this membership we also have access to RPI Resorts across the U.S. This is a nice benefit as you can camp for up to 2 weeks at $10/night in RPI parks. TT membership also provides access to Encore Parks, which are often located in nice places like the Florida Keys. We camped in the Keys for $25-30/night when other non-members were paying upwards of $100/night during peak season.
Overall Thousand Trails has been a great benefit to us, and may be worth looking at for their zone pass as a starter. Then you could evaluate whether a full membership might be a benefit to you – or if you prefer to go with 1 or 2 zones. It all depends on your needs.
There are obviously other park systems around the US such as Coast-to-Coast, Good Sams, and such and we aren’t as familiar with those memberships at this time. I hope this answer gave you some food for thought, and happy trekking to you!
I love your description and pictures of RV Campgrounds, They are certainly more appealing than RV Parks! When you are considering campgrounds, how do you make sure you’re getting an RV Campground and not an RV Park?
Hi Don – Google Maps is surprisingly helpful. If you type in the address of the park, zoom in, and turn on the ‘satellite’ option then you get an aerial view of the campground. We look for trees, space between sites, ponds/lakes, etc.. And also look to see distance from major roads and highways. I hope that’s helpful and good luck!