Choosing an RV Park doesn’t happen at random. I don’t just rumble into whatever park happens to be there at the end of the road, nor do I pull numbers from a hat to determine where my husband Spanky and I will stay next.
When you’re looking for the RV Park that best suits you, you must start with your needs. Are you a working, full-time RVer? Are you a retired full-time RVer? Are you looking for the perfect place to post up for the weekend? Answering these questions will point you in the right direction.
Because Spanky and I are working RVers, we go where the work takes us. For us, we must first find out where the next job will be, and then the park hunt can commence.
It usually begins by searching Google Maps. After figuring out the new job locale, we search for RV parks and see what pops up on the map, and then I usually check out rvparkreviews.com to see what other patrons had to say about the various parks.
Aside from reading reviews, there are a few other key qualities I look for when trying to choose the perfect park:
Amenities: Laundry and Wifi and Sewer, Oh My!
I thought my laundromat days would be over after I graduated from college. Ha, think again. Let the quarter collecting continue. Having a laundry facility on-site is a biggie for me, as we only have one vehicle, which Spanky uses to commute.
To this day, one of my favorite RV parks (Sparks Marina RV Park, Sparks, Nevada) remains high on my list because of its spotless laundry room. I mean, seriously, how are laundromats always so filthy? Just the other day, I pulled my laundry out of the wash only to discover it was covered in someone else’s cat’s hair. There’s nothing worse. A clean laundry room is awesome; one with more than three machines is even better.
Whenever someone finds out that I roam around in a RV, the first questions is: Do you have a TV? Yes, in fact, I have two. However, I do not have a satellite dish so I rely on the park to provide a cable hookup—many of them do—or I have to stand on one foot, wearing a tin foil cap as I shift our antenna to and fro. We can usually pick up a couple of channels, and that’s good enough for me. Our current park is fairly primitive, so on a good day, we get three major network channels. As for Wifi, there is one network that all but a few patrons are trying to connect to, making the connection as slow as dial-up at times. Remember those frustrating days? Yeah, I’m still living in them. Having cell service and the ability to use your own personal hotspot is a major bonus.
In addition to cable and inconsistent Wifi, our current park does not have laundry or a sewer hook-up, so I have to use the hairball-filled laundromat, which is 20 minutes away, and we have to have the RV pump to drain the black and gray tanks once a week (and pray that we don’t use too much water washing dishes or bathing!) On the up side, I’m doing my part to help alleviate the California drought, whether I like it or not. While all parks have their ups and downs, the highlight in California is that most of the parks we’ve stayed in have had swimming pools. Some parks have even had “gyms.” OK, it was more like a treadmill and some weights, but hey, beats a bag of beans (though if you’re a Crossfit aficionado, I’m sure you could figure out some way to torture yourself with a bag of beans, too).
Proximity: In Town vs. Rural RV Parks
Our current parking spot along the American River is relaxing and peaceful, but the downside is that it’s far from modern-day necessities like groceries and cell service. The closest grocery store is a 15-minute drive, and as I mentioned earlier, we only have one vehicle. I’m just as shocked as you are that there are still places in California where you do not get cellphone service. Curse you, AT&T.
If you are a working nomad, proximity to your work will also be a determining factor. For the time being, Spanky and I have chosen a location that is close enough to his show-up (a 30-minute drive), but still far enough out of town to where we don’t feel suffocated. Sadly, that’s not always an option. While working in the Bay Area, we stayed at a park in Corte Madera that was right in the thick of rush-hour traffic. After 3 p.m. there was no coming or going by car. Thankfully, we had a brewery and Trader Joes within walking distance, so staying right in town does have its perks; not to mention, the park was the lesser of two evils (the other choice was in the heart of downtown San Francisco, surrounded by a nine-foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire).
Check for special discounts. Some parks will offer discounts to specific trades, as many tradesmen and women utilize those parks. Also look for “Stay two nights, get one free” type deals. Though the KOA doesn’t advertise them well, you can sometimes find them on their website.
If you are free from the constraints of work on the road, remember that park prices reflect the cost of living, so obviously, it will be cheaper to stay out in the boonies, as opposed to smack-dab in the city. When we stayed in South Dakota for three months we paid $300 a month for our parking spot; on the other hand, our monthly bill in the Bay Area rang up to the tune of $1,000 a month. Do your homework by scouring the map and prices of multiple parks and areas to get the best bargain.
What’s most important is finding a park that fits your needs and personality; after all, it will be home for the foreseeable future. OK, the foreseeable future is only three months, but I want to make the most of each and every day — that’s why I hit the road in the first place.
Keep up with Sarah Reijonen’s nomadic lifestyle in her bi-weekly column called “Home on the Road.” If there’s a topic you’d like her to cover, please comment below or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @spankyandsarah. Instagram: @countrygrlswrld. Happy Trails!