<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Characteristics of a Good RV Park
NOTE: While this is designated as an ARCHIVE FILE, it is retained despite the date of first publication because it offers information of continuing current interest and/or for its historical perspective. Please be guided accordingly.




Revised 10/2011

[Ed Note 10/2011: We initially published this in the late 1990s, and with minor revision is as valid today as it was lo those many years ago.]

RVers are a friendly sort of people. They enjoy making new friends, talking about their rigs, and inevitably sharing their opinions on the "best" RV parks they've visited. We've long wondered what the common characteristics of the "top" RV parks might be. And while we don't claim to have the perfect prescription, we believe there are certain qualities among RV parks which seem consistently to be on everyone's list of favorites. These are based both on our own observations, and on the many comments we've received from our RVers Online friends. We offer it as a a compendium of observations and suggestions which we hope will be of value to the growing number of RV park owners and managers whom we've been pleased to welcome as guests and participants at this site.

We think it's important to provide a bit of focus on the scope of what we're describing. We're purposely not attempting to include full time or extended stay RV destinations -- primarily the Snowbird parks across the southern tier of states. There the measure of attraction seems strongly tilted towards "planned activities", and the park's unique "social structure". We are likewise not focusing on RVers whose annual mileage is low, and whose average stay is measured in weeks or months. Instead, we mean to describe the preferences of RVers who enjoy traveling to many different regions, and who find themselves often staying at one RV park only one or a few days at a time.

Let's look at just what makes an RVer conclude that this is a park that surely deserves a return visit:

First Impressions: As the saying goes, there's no second chance to make a first impression. How true that is in the context of RV parks! What happens when you first walk into the office? You either have a feeling of being genuinely welcome; or you immediately have the sense of just being another statistic. Sure, there's a form to fill out. We understand that. But is the person behind the desk just asking rote questions and putting raw data into boxes? Or was there first a warm greeting, and during the course of the adminstrative formalaties perhaps some discussion about where you're from, and all the interesting things there are to do and see where you've just arrived?

This "first impression" thing simply cannot be overstated. Once you're all signed in, have your park map in hand, and headed to your site, an RVer begins "seeing" this new and unfamiliar park through either the lense of a "good" feeling, which tends to make everything look just a bit nicer; or through the more critical lense of a less-than-welcome feeling derived from the sign-in process. Whichever feeling the RVer has will cause him or her to see the park in either a more or less favorable light.

Site spacing: Do the sites offer a sufficient feeling of "space"? Is there ample room on either side of the RV for that pleasant feeling of "light and air"? Or do the sites look more suitable for RV storage...? We understand that RV park owners must make a tradeoff between site size and revenue when they design their parks. Obviously the larger the individual sites, the fewer revenue producing units there will be. Typically only public RV parks (national, state, or county) are not bound by such concerns, and are thus able in many cases to offer RV parks with enormous distances between sites. We understand that. But where the park design has resulted in sites which preclude any sense of privacy because of an unacceptable spacing, it's not one we're likely to see for more than one night. And surely not again on the return trip. With the increased size of RVs these days, a park which is not designed to accommodate at least some "big rigs", or units with sliders, is ensuring a diminishing clientele as time goes by.

Site landscaping: Is the site to which you've just been assigned aesthetically pleasing? Perhaps a tree, some shrubbery, or a neatly maintained plot of grass? Is the site reasonably level, so that there's no need to use an armful of blocks and chocks to ensure that when you look out of your window the world is right side up? Is the surface, whether gravel, concrete, blacktop or "other", something that will help avoid ruined inside carpeting in case it rains? Is the space for your slider thoughtfully planned? How often we've seen sites which, while otherwise well designed, has an unnecessarily tall utility post that is right smack in the way of where a slider needs the space -- resulting in having to park the RV practically in the street at one end or the other of the site. It's always nice to have a concrete slab by the door, a fire ring -- or perhaps barbeque, and a table. But we'd gladly concede any of these for a positive reading on most of the other items we've mentioned. Finally, individual site landscaping is really an element of overall park design. We find parks which show a bit of imagination in avoiding the "parking lot look" to be much more pleasant in overall appearance. The availability of spacious common areas such as a large grassy field, a woodsy space with trails, or a stretch of beach -- also contributes to a pleasant environment.

Utilities: These are nice conveniences, and almost "expected" where the daily tariff tends toward the higher end. Yet we're aware of some parks, primarily state or U.S. parks, where there are no utilities save perhaps for a common water and sewer site. One of our top choices, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument comes to mind. But privately owned parks are ordinarily expected to have at least the "basics" -- water, power (usually 50 amps), and sewer. To us the sewer connection is the least important, as for a stay of one or two days, it's almost a waste of time to set up and take down all the gear. All too many parks have an amazing propensity to do something inconvenient in designing the utility connections. In some cases they are so far removed from the site that a normal 25' hose or electric connection won't quite reach it. Or worse, they are for reasons which defy all logic, on the wrong side, requiring stringing wires and hoses right through what should be the outdoor "patio" area.

Still other parks insist on placing the utilities on such high pedestals that they interfere with the increasing number of slide-out units that are coming into the parks. We don't consider cable TV to be essential, but for many it is a nice convenience. What RVers find annoying, however, is where they go to the trouble of hooking into the TV outlet only to find that either (i) the signal is so weak that it's amost impossible to see; or (ii) the park has included such a budget package of available channels as to make the offering virtually useless. The teaching point seems to be: If you're going to offer cable, make certain the signal is properly boosted and distributed; and for heaven's sake offer at least a reasonable selection of channels.

Park Location: Just as an RVers opinion of his or her individual site is influenced in part by the total environment of the park, the opinion of the entire park will be influenced by where it is in relation to the outside environment. How many times has an otherwise "perfect" setting become otherwise when the first freight train seemed to roar right through the center of the park? A similar distraction can be caused by parks which are located too close to major streets or highways -- especially when little or no attention has been made to block the visual and audio effects of such busy thoroughfares. We recognize that RV park owners can't change the physical location of their parks, which of course makes that initial decision to acquire it crucial. However we've seen lots of parks which have succeeded in minimizing the awareness of nearby distractions of various types.

Restrooms: Though most RVs are reasonably self contained, the typical RV shower still seems more suited to sardines than people. And the bathroom facilities are often cramped as well. This puts a premium on pleasant and clean park facilities which are both easily accessible (i.e., reasonably close), and of sufficient size to accommodate a full park without appearing to turn the washrooms into those typical of a crowded football stadium at halftime. It's always wonderful to find a facility which is complete with colors, tile, individual private shower/dressing room combinations, and the like. But realistically, the most crucial element is cleanliness. Not "sort of" clean -- but unquestionably clean and fresh. "Modern" is of course nice. But we've seen less-than-new facilities which had fresh paint, colorful window treatments, and other tasteful trimmings which made it a superb facility. It's hard to imagine a more significant "negative" about an RV park than sub-standard maintenance of the washrooms. We're always pleased to find that the facility includes soap dispensers and paper towels, making it unnecessary for us to drag towels and soap back and forth every time we use the washroom.

Internet Friendly: Anyone who has visited this site before knows what we think about this one. We think all RV parks need to offer a quality WiFi signal, and we believe it should be part of the daily rate. WiFi signals that only "sort of" reach most of the park are inadequate; and download speeds that are less than 500 Kb are also inadequate. Reliability is crucial, and the park needs to know how to make a quick fix if the signal for some reason goes down. Parks that opt for a fee based system should provide some reasonable provision for the overnight guest, such as the first hour free. Outside vendors to RV park will offer a rate of $30 per month, but may charge $12 for just one overnight visit. That's entirely unacceptable, and will drive traffic elsewhere.