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Choosing a Campground – What’s the Difference Between Public and Private Campgrounds?

When you decide to go out camping in your RV, you will find out that there are many, many places to camp. How do you decide on the best camping spot for your family? What is the difference between public and private campgrounds? Which ones are right for you?

With the right attitude and RV, you can make memories regardless of the campground you choose.  Most RV’ers just love being out there, on the road, and taking in a wide range of experiences.


Here we outline the different types of campgrounds you can choose. You will probably gravitate toward one type or another, or you may want to try staying in each type for a while and see which suits you and your family the best.



What are Public Campgrounds?


You’re probably familiar with national and state parks. Both are public parks. National parks are operated by the National Park Service and state parks are ran by your state’s department of parks and recreation. If you are into the traditional RV fare like campfires, hiking, and biking, and getting off the pavement for a while, then you are probably drawn more to state and national parks. There are some trade-offs for all that awesomeness, though. Here are some of the pros and cons.


Pros of Public Campgrounds:


Since most publicly owned parks and campgrounds are interested in preserving natural resources for future generations, they have invested in paths, boardwalks, boat launches and fishing piers. These allow campers to get as close to nature as possible without disturbing wetlands, sensitive plants and animal habitats.

Because they are funded with tax dollars, public campgrounds also focus on making camping an accessible activity for all. Public campgrounds feature paved paths, ramps, and more so people who use wheelchairs or require other accommodations can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, too.

Public campgrounds are also likely to have a swimming area or beach for campers as well as organized recreation activities and events. This is great for families looking for a more traditional camping experience filled with hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking and chatting around the campfire.

You’ll be in the center of all the action when you stay at a state of national park. Likely, you’ll find an abundance of trails and other fun things close to your RV, meaning you never have to get in your car to go anywhere. Prices are also usually minimal, making this an affordable way to camp.


Cons of Public Campgrounds:


Prices being lower typically at public campgrounds can have a downside too, however. That might attract younger crowds who sometimes can be noisy or have parties at their campsites. Typically, public parks do have a quiet time, usually from about 10 pm on, but with younger folks, it can be noisy.

There are far fewer amenities at public parks. Not all sites will have full-hookups, if they have hookups at all. Some facilities like restrooms and showers may also be run down and not as frequently maintained as some campers would prefer. However, there are plenty of public campgrounds that set an excellent standard for cleanliness and have plenty of hot water and even coin laundry facilities in the parks.


Here’s an example. In Acadia National Park, there are bathrooms, but no showers. There is a dump station, but campsites don’t have electric or sewer hookups. This is the case in a lot of state and national parks. Unless you are content with just kicking back and relaxing at the park, you’ll probably want to go out and do some activities. If you aren’t towing a trailer that you can simply unhitch, towing your car behind your motorhome is recommended. This will make leaving the park to explore nearby attractions everyday easier.


Private RV Parks


Private parks are those that don’t exist on public lands. They may be individually owned or part of a larger campground network, such as the Kampgrounds of America (KOA). Because of this, private campground experiences can vary greatly from location to location. You’ll come across simple sites with just the necessities, but you’ll also find luxurious RV resorts. 

Pros of Private RV Parks

Generally speaking, private parks have better amenities in the way of full-facility RV camping. It isn’t uncommon to find things such as:

  • Wi-Fi

  • Golf courses or mini-golf or putting greens

  • Cable hook-ups

  • Laundry facilities

  • Recreation rooms

  • Dog parks

  • Swimming pools and spas

You’ll even come across some parks that have lazy rivers! Because of the number of amenities, private campgrounds are often where full-timers choose to set up camp. And unlike national and state parks, which typically exist away from civilization, you’ll find private RV parks near and even in larger cities. The other plus of a private RV park is that a community often forms around these parks. Whether they are made up of snowbirds who flock to Florida each winter, or those who choose to stay more or less year-round, there is an amicable sense of community in many private RV parks.


Cons of Private RV Parks


Many people camp to enjoy the great outdoors. If you love hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, and more, a private park may not be your best option. While there certainly are private campgrounds out there that offer these, it isn’t a guarantee like it is in most state and national parks. You’ll likely have to travel a bit to get to the good stuff.

Having your own vehicle to drive around is usually a must when staying at a private RV park. Another common disadvantage to private parks is the price. Especially if you’re staying at an upscale location, prepare to pay hotel prices for your little piece of land. While you can certainly find affordable private grounds, they are typically more expensive than comparable national or state parks.


How to Book Your RV Campground Reservation:


Whether you have decided to stay in a public or private campground, booking your reservation in advance is advisable and as early as possible. For some public campgrounds, certain spaces will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis, while other spots are available to reserve as much as a year in advance. If you are looking for special accommodations in a National Park, for example, do try to book it a year in advance. Private campgrounds may have more flexibility and offer longer stays. You can also call the private campground directly and get any questions answered. Here are a few booking tips:

  1. Start your search as soon as possible. This is especially important if you are traveling during a holiday like the Fourth of July. Popular campgrounds will fill up several months in advance on summer weekends, so as soon as you know your travel dates, make reservations. It also helps to have some flexibility with your travel dates.

  2. Read reviews. These can offer valuable insight into other people’s experiences at the private or public campground you are considering.

  3. Check out the campground’s website. Many post photos so you can get a good idea of what to expect when it comes to sites and the surrounding area. Websites are also ideal places to find out basic information such as pricing, rules for camping with pets, and cancellation policies.

  4. Have a backup plan. Despite your best efforts, things happen. If the campground loses your reservation, you end up arriving late or your sunny weekend turns into three rainy days, plan for a couple of alternatives.

When you are getting ready to hit the road to enjoy the RV life at any campground you choose, please check with your nearest El Monte RV Rental dealer, who can help you with any questions you may have. Please also check out our specials on RV rentals at El Monte RV Rentals.

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«February 2024»


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