Choosing a Campground by John Dee
When choosing a camping site don't go by the pictures or information on their brochure. They have a tendency to leave important stuff out like poorly maintained pools and washrooms as well as the busy, noisy highway 50 yards away. We talk to some of the experts to uncover some of the best ways to choose a camping site that your family will love and enjoy.
Kristin Hostetter is the co-author of "The Tent and Car Camper's Handbook: Advice for Families and First-Timers". She explains that word of mouth is the best and most unbiased source. Checking with friends or family that camp often is a sure way to get honest reviews of a camping site. Getting advice from the campsite staff members, "Don't be shy; phone the ranger station at the campground and ask questions like, 'do you get alot of families?', 'what family activities do you offer?' and 'what campsites do you recommend for families?" Online camping forums and review sites are a very useful resource as well. www.backpacker.com, www.rv.net, www.reserveamerica.com and www.campsource.ca are great places to start. "Seeing fellow campers' trip reports is a great way to get on the ground feedback."
Reading some books written by those who have been there would help your cause in finding the perfect camping site. "Family Vacations in the National Parks" by Charles P. Wohlforth or "Camping with Kids: The Best Family Campgrounds in British Columbia and Alberta" by Jayne Seagrave are great reads as well as useful resources. Woodall's annual campground directories have been a trusted source for many avid campers.
Before you go searching for your camping site, make a mental note of your family needs. "I guess we aren't really into roughing it!" laughs Angie May who often goes camping and RVing with her family. "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 suggests looking at state camping sites and private chains. These tend to be a bit more expensive but well worth it to recieve the consistent quality and cleanliness these camping sites tend to offer.
To get your pick of the available spots, get to the campground just after the checkout time. Even if you've already got an assigned spot, you can request a transfer if you find one better.
If you decide to take up a recommendation from a friend or forum member try and get the spot number that they stayed at as well. Many of today's campgrounds will allow you to reserve a specific camping spot ahead of time and a positively reviewed spot is sure to be a good one. What you would generally be looking for in a premium camping spot is one that is fairly leveled throughout and recieves a good balance of sun and shade. The further from the entrance is usually best as you will be away from the heavy traffic. Watch out for other roads that may surround the campground as well as they can add to the noises.
Just remember to keep your family's needs in mind when choosing a camping site. Are the washrooms a high priority? Do you have any toddlers that may be at risk if near a river or water? Do you have children that would want to be near the campground playground?
Kristin Hostetter recommends taking a full tour around the campground before picking your spot. "You have to drive the loop around the campground to find the site that has just the right vibe!"
About the Author
John Dee also writes articles in other subjects such as Hunting, Nutrition and Web Development