Life is a journey. No one knows this more, perhaps, than motorhome travelers. They also know that, en route, they often need a place to stay. That's where motorhome campgrounds come into consideration.
Motorhome campgrounds can be privately owned or located on public lands in state parks, national parks or national forests. The U.S. government also oversees thousands of campsites at outdoor recreation sites.
Selecting an RV campground
When selecting an RV campground, it’s important to plan ahead. Otherwise, you could arrive at your destination, only to find no place to stay.
Purchase one or more RV campground guidebooks so you can locate facilities in the areas you plan to visit. Campground directories offer nationwide listings and comparative information about fees and facilities. They’re available at bookstores, libraries, RV supply stores, and from online booksellers.
It’s a good idea to cross-reference motorhome campground listings, because not all motorhome campgrounds are listed in all guidebooks, and campground information may vary by publication.Most advertised RV parks accept reservations by phone, and many have toll-free numbers. Make reservations as far in advance as possible. During peak travel season, it’s rare to drop in somewhere and find an unreserved spot.
Private campgrounds or public campgrounds
Private RV parks range from those with basic no-hookup sites to luxury RV resorts. They’re near major attractions, in cities and towns, along the interstate, and near national parks and forests.
RV campgrounds on public lands tend be simple and bucolic. But they’re often set amidst beautiful scenery and are convenient to many outdoor recreation activities.
Motorhome camping fees can run from $10 to $40 per night. Always ask if the campground offers discounts.
Contacting campgrounds and reserving campsites
Private RV campgrounds and FMCA Campground Connection
The FMCA Campground Connection program is a system of FMCA commercial member campgrounds that have agreed to offer FMCA families a discount of at least 10 percent off their campground fees. FMCA members can locate RV campgrounds via a searchable map at www.FMCA.com/campgrounds.
Campgrounds: Learn more and sign up for FMCA's Campground Connection program.
For information about commercial RV campgrounds in the United States, contact the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC).
USDA Forest Service campgrounds
For campground reservations, contact the National Recreation Reservation Service (877-444-6777) or visit www.ReserveUSA.com. This site offers information and reservation services for thousands of campsites operated by the USDA Forest Service.
Camping at U.S. National Parks
The U.S. National Park Service Web offers an online reservation service, www.recreation.gov, for many national parks. A list of the parks, their 800-number reservation phone numbers, and their reservation booking windows is posted.
Camping at state and local parks
To find out what state- and local-run campgrounds are in a particular area, contact the local travel and tourism bureau.
Bureau of Land Management — For campground info, write to:
Department of Interior-MIB
1849 C Street N.W., Room 5600
Washington, D.C. 20240
Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service is the central reservation system for campgrounds in Canadian national parks. Reserve online at www.pccamping.ca/parkscanada or by phone, (877) RESERVE (737-3783).
America the Beautiful recreation lands pass
In January 2007, the “America the Beautiful — National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass” replaced the Golden Eagle, Golden Age, and Golden Access passports as well as the National Parks Pass.
The pass covers recreation opportunities on public lands managed by four Department of the Interior agencies — the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation — and by the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service. While access to most public lands remains free, this pass applies to those locations that currently have entrance or standard amenity fees.
The America the Beautiful Pass is available at federal recreation sites that charge entrance and standard amenity fees; through government Internet sites; and through select third-party vendors.
Four different passes in the new interagency program are available. They include an annual interagency pass that costs $80 and offers unlimited coverage of entrance and standard amenity recreation fees for a specific period of time, typically a year, beginning from the date of first use; a $10 lifetime senior pass for U.S. citizens age 62 and up; a free lifetime access pass for citizens with permanent disabilities; and a free annual volunteer pass for volunteers acquiring 500 hours of service on a cumulative basis.
The America the Beautiful pass is good at vehicle-based entry sites for all occupants in a single, noncommercial vehicle. At walk-up sites, the pass is good for the pass holder and three adults (total of four adults). There is no charge for children under 16.
Note: Entrance fees are not the same as user fees, which are charges for facilities and services such as parking, camping and hiking, which the America the Beautiful pass may not cover. Contact specific sites to find out what is or is not covered.
For more information, visit http://store.usgs.gov/pass.
Motorhome Campground links
National Recreation Reservation Service
U.S. National Park Service
U.S. National Park Service Reservation Center
Bureau of Land Management
America's National Wildlife Refuge System
Guide to Federal Recreation Passes America the Beautiful recreation lands pass
Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service
Overnight parking: motorhome parking etiquette
Rest areas along interstate freeways generally prohibit overnight parking, but many malls, truck stops, fraternal lodges and shopping center parking lots allow it, if certain guidelines are met. Always check with local authorities to make sure you’re not breaking any local ordinances.
These notes from the RVers' Good Neighbor Policy: Overnight parking etiquette (PDF) pertain to overnight parking at establishments that permit dry camping on their lots.
- Obtain permission from a qualified individual.
- Park out of the way. Leave a buffer between your RV and perimeter residences.
- Avoid using slideouts if at all possible.
- Do not put out awnings.
- Do not use your leveling jacks on asphalt.
- Limit your stay — one night maximum! Do not abuse your host's generosity.
- Purchase fuel, food, or supplies as a form of thank-you when feasible.
- Always leave the area cleaner than you found it.
- Practice safety precautions.
- Avoid providing a theft potential. Make sure your RV and compartments are locked if you leave your RV.
- Do not place personal items, such as chairs, pets or barbecue grills, outside your RV.