Along with RV ownership comes the daunting challenge of choosing where your next great vacation will take place. The options are endless, and RVers often enjoying the trip planning almost as much as they enjoy the trips themselves.
So how do experienced RV owners decide where to go on their next grand adventure? The key is to narrow down the options by focusing on what you are really looking for in a getaway.
Many factors go into our personal decision making process, including the time of year and the length of the trip. Spring often finds us heading south where warm temperatures allow us to kayak, bike, and swim. Summers are a perfect time to explore the mountains, and fall usually tempts us towards a great urban destination like Washington DC or Charleston, South Carolina.
If you are overwhelmed by all your destination option, narrow down your list by asking the following 5 questions…
5 Questions that will guide you to the Perfect RV destination:
1. What type of location do I want to visit?
If you close your eyes and imagine vacation bliss, do you see mountains, beaches, lakes, or cities? Is your dream vacation a trip to a national park, or a tour of craft breweries? Now consider the time of year, and whether you will really enjoy the best features of a destination if you visit off-season. Visiting a national park when many of the trails are closed won’t give you a very dreamy experience. Likewise, if you try beach camping during the rainy season, the trip might be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Make sure you are honest about your personal preferences when choosing a destination. If you really don’t enjoy the outdoors, then a national park trip is probably not for you…no matter how pretty the pictures look on Instagram. The great thing about an RV is the freedom to travel anywhere in the country and enjoy the comforts of home. Think long and hard about what your happy place looks like, and choose a destination that fits that mold.
2. Do I want a multi-stop or one-stop trip?
This is a preference that varies greatly from RVer to RVer. Some folks love to settle down in a ‘basecamp’ and then explore the whole region around them. Other travelers enjoy spending three or four days in each location, soaking up the local attractions and then moving on.
We enjoy both, depending on the individual trip. Regions such as the White Mountains of New Hampshire are exceptionally sprawling so we stay at different campgrounds and really explore the immediate area. Some large national parks like Glacier offer east and west entrances, and visitors enjoy staying on both sides.
However, if packing up, hitching up, and towing your rig to the next campground seems like a lot of work, you may just prefer to set up at one campground and do longer day drives to soak it all in.
3. How far do I want to drive?
You want to think about how many days you have for vacation, and how many days you are willing to spend driving to and returning from the destination. Are there any stops along the way that you would enjoy? Are you the type of traveler that enjoys the journey, or is the drive something to get through as soon as possible? It’s important to know your comfort level when planning a trip, so you don’t end up exhausted at the end of a vacation.
We often set a comfortable distance range for a trip before we choose a destination. We don’t like to travel more than six to eight hours in one day, so we plan accordingly. We only go past 10 hours of driving if we have at least 10 days to travel. That allows us to take our time getting there and back without getting stressed out.
4. What types of activities do I want to enjoy?
Make a list of the type of activities you want to enjoy on your vacation, and make sure they are offered before settling on a destination. Not all mountain, beach, or lake regions are alike. Some famous beach regions are remote and offer little by way of organized activities. Other locations will offer opportunities for surf lessons, deep-sea fishing charters, and parasailing.
If you love dining at wonderful restaurants, shopping for unique gifts, or enjoying live music, dig around online a bit to make sure those activities are available before making any reservations. It also helps to make sure there is something for every member of the family that will be on the trip. If you love golf, but your partner loves hiking, try to find a destination that offers both opportunities.
5. Do I want action-packed excitement or a peaceful getaway?
For some folks, a great vacation means doing absolutely nothing at all. For others, it means cramming in all the adventure and excitement they don’t have time for at home. Make sure you pick a destination that will offer the right balance for you.
Every national park, lake region, or city is unique in the amount of entertainment offered. The Great Smoky Mountains area is hopping with amusement parks and attractions, while Mammoth Cave is more about the hiking and horseback riding. An RV can take you to Death Valley or to the middle of New Orleans. Choose wisely if you want your destination to match your own style of vacation bliss.
5 Questions that will help you book the Perfect Campground:
Once you accomplish the difficult task of choosing an RV destination, you have one more important hurdle to climb. There are often dozens of campground options in popular vacation destinations, so how do you pick the best one?
The most important thing to understand is that there is no such thing as a perfect campground. Everyone is looking for different qualities in a campground, so you need to know what you like and then find a spot that suits you best. Read the online reviews, but don’t let them do the thinking for you. Some people might complain about outdated bathhouses, but you might use the facilities in your own camper. Other folks might rave about the pool, while you don’t even enjoy swimming. Look for an atmosphere that matches your camping style, along with the activities and amenities that matter to you.
Here are five questions that will help you narrow down your campground options…
1. What size campsite does my rig require?
Pay careful attention to size restrictions before settling on a campground.
Most public campgrounds (i.e. state and national parks) are scenic and lovely. But they are also older and do not often accommodate RVs over 30 feet. If you have a larger RV, read reviews carefully, noting where people had difficulty making tight turns in the campground or backing in to unleveled sites. For those with larger rigs, campgrounds with pull thru sites might be a more comfortable option.
2. What hookups do I prefer?
Your RV has electric, water, and sewer hookups, but not all campgrounds offer the capacity to use all three. Some public campgrounds are ‘dry camping’ meaning there are no hook ups available at all. Others might offer just water and electric. Many RV owners are very attached to the level of comfort their rig affords them and are not happy if they do not have full use of the amenities. If you love using your own RV shower, and recoil at the thought of using the public bathhouses, make sure you find a campground with full hook ups.
3. What kind of on-site amenities so I like?
There is a huge range of amenities offered at different campgrounds, and it’s important to find one that ticks off all your necessary boxes. For example, some people couldn’t care less about cable and WiFi, but for other folks, these are the most important services they are looking for at a campground. Other popular campground amenities include a pool, playground, camp store, concrete pads, laundry facilities, basketball and tennis courts. There are simple and beautiful campgrounds that offer a nice campsite and not much else, and then there are resort campgrounds that offer every imaginable luxury including personal massage. Only you can decide which type of campground will suit you best.
4. Am I looking for organized or self-guided recreation and activities?
Organized and self-guided recreation and activities are a very popular trend in the campground industry right now. In the past, activities were mostly centered on younger children but now you will find offerings for all ages including fitness classes, pottery painting, zip lining, and boat rentals. For some RVers, these types of activities make for an amazing campground experience, but other travelers would prefer a peaceful, quiet basecamp where they can relax at the end of the day.
5. How far away is this campground from regional attractions?
Some campgrounds advertise themselves as being a great basecamp for exploring a region, when they are actually quite a distance from major area attractions. Get out the map, or use an online resource to make sure that you will not spend a good part of every day in the car getting from point A to point B. On the flipside, some RVers prefer to stay a bit outside of a heavily touristed region, and just venture in for a few choice activities. Whatever your preference may be, make sure to carefully check the location of the campground before booking a site.
Amazing RV vacations begin with choosing epic destinations and booking fabulous campgrounds. Ask the right questions and you will find the perfect fit and remain a happy camper!