Choosing a Great Site
In this article:
- Choosing a Great Site
- Fun Camping Games And Activities
- Best Camping Crafts
- Delicious Camping Recipes
- Camping Safety Guide
- Family Camping Stories We Love
- Shelter And Recreation Checklist
- Camping Food And Cooking Checklist
- Clothing And Camping Gear Checklist
- Camping Toiletries Checklist
- Setting Up Camp Checklist
- Back Country Camping Checklist
Choosing a Campground
Sure, the pictures on that campground website or brochure look amazing. Too bad they didn’t show the busy railroad tracks 50 feet away, or the “playground under construction” sign. We talked to the experts to find out the best tips on choosing a campground and campsite that your family will love.
“Word of mouth is best,” says Kristin Hostetter, co-author of The Tent and Car Camper’s Handbook: Advice for Families and First-Timers (Mountaineer Books). Check with friends who camp, or visit a camping store in the area to get staff members’ advice. “Don’t be shy, phone the ranger station at the campground and ask questions like, ‘Do you get a lot of families?’, ‘What family activities do you offer?’ and ‘What campsites do you recommend for families?’” she says. Online forums and reviews are a useful resource too. Try BackPacker.com, RV.net, or ReserveAmerica.com .
Check out books written by people who have been there, such as Frommer’s Family Vacations in the National Parks by Charles P. Wohlforth, or Camping with Kids: The Best Family Campgrounds in British Columbia and Alberta (Heritage House) by Jayne Seagrave. Go for a reasonably current edition—who needs a review from 1997? Many swear by Woodall’s annual campground directories, for both RVs and tent campers, too.
Consider Your Needs
Figure out what amenities your family simply has to have. “I guess we aren’t really into roughing it!” laughs Angie May of Metropolis, Ill., who goes RV-ing with her husband and two kids, ages 2 and 5. “I go online and look for information on electrical and water hookup, bathroom and shower facilities and what kind of activities are available, like nature trails and swimming. Some private campgrounds have cable and sewer hookups too, which are nice if you’re on a longer trip.” She finds that state campgrounds and private chains are a bit pricier but well worth it when it comes to consistent quality and cleanliness.
Choosing a Campsite
Time It Right
If you can, get to the campground just after check-out time to get your pick of sites. Or, if you’ve got an assigned site and don’t care for it, you have time to politely request a transfer.
Pick Your Spot
Many campgrounds allow you to reserve a specific campsite ahead of time, so check out online maps and get campsite numbers if you’re getting a recommendation from a friend or fellow forum-user. Obviously, you will want a level site that gets a good mixture of sun and shade, with some trees, bushes or large rocks for privacy if possible. Sites near the entrance of the park likely get the most traffic, while sites near the back often get the least. Keep an eye out for rowdy groups, noisy generators, and air conditioners (which may not be on during the day), and nearby busy roads and yes, that train track.
Customize Your Choice
Again, keep your family’s needs in mind. If you’re potty training, a site near the washrooms is ideal; if your kids are older, going further afield means you won’t be exposed to foot traffic, banging doors and, ah, odors. Toddlers in the family may mean that you opt for a site that’s not near the water, for safety’s sake. Do your kids adore the campsite playground? Pick a site close by. “If you’re tent camping and want some peace and quiet, try a ‘backcountry site,’ which is often only a half-mile walk in from the main site,” suggests Hostetter.
Trust Your Instincts
The pre-pick tour is a time-honored tradition. “You have to drive the loop around the campground to find the site that has just the right vibe!” notes Hostetter.