The place you choose to go camping will often have a big impact your level of enjoyment. Choosing a poor campground that is not maintained well and has little to offer your children may cause you to lose interest in camping before you really even get started.
On the other side, choosing a great campground that is well maintained and has what you are looking for can greatly enhance your trip.
Some families want a campground that is secluded and full of nature while others would love a campground with a swimming pool, mini golf and more. Both exist, just figure out what is best for your family.
In most states you are going to have to choose between camping at a state park or a private campground. While most state parks have a standard for their campsites, bathroom and parks, there is no standard for private campgrounds. For new campers it is usually a good idea to start by camping at a state park. It will give you a great feel for camping and usually be located in a beautiful natural environment.
It is also a good idea if you are new to camping to stay relatively close to home. Odds are you will find that you may have forgotten a thing or two that would have been quite handy and you may need to run home quick. We have actually done this many times when we camped at campgrounds within an hour of our home. We have even ordered pizza while camping.
State & National Parks
State & National parks tend to be the best option for new campers as they usually provide clean campsites, nice bathrooms as well as activities and events for the entire family. Many of these campgrounds also have a park ranger on site that is available in case of any emergencies and to answer any questions you may have.
Many state and national parks offer different activities and events throughout the weekends (and often times the weekdays) for their campers. Sometimes these are simple nature classes where you can learn about the environment you are camping in while other times they might be games and activities for small children.
These parks will vary wildly in their landscape though. Some may be full of prairie grass while others are in the middle of thick wooded areas and still others may be located around rock formations, caves, waterfalls, rivers, lakes or canyons. These campgrounds typically charge between $15-$25 per night and have a small additional fee if you choose a campsite with electricity or other amenities.
Some of the most beautiful places we have seen, we have experienced while camping at different state and national park campgrounds. Since these places are protected and maintained by the state you can be sure they will always be in top condition.
Unlike state campgrounds, private campgrounds do not have set standards or budgets to run their campgrounds. Private campgrounds are private businesses and just like any private business, some are amazing while others may be duds. You will need to do a bit more research to make sure that you will enjoy where you are going to stay when booking a private campground. Many private campgrounds are maintained beautifully and some even offer fun activities that state parks do not offer such as pools, mini golf and more.
We have planned many camping trips at private campgrounds that are almost more like resorts than campgrounds. These can be the perfect break from the wooded settings of state parks. We have experienced private campgrounds with carnivals for kids, amazing mini golf, clean swimming pools, arcades and more. While I wouldn’t want these for every trip, they can be a fun change of pace.
Sadly though, if you frequent private campgrounds often, chances are you will run into a campground that you can’t leave fast enough! When you do find one of these, don’t be shy about leaving. We have literally left a campground within two hours of arrival, driven to the nearest state park and landed a non-reservable campsite to salvage a wonderful weekend.
Tips for Researching Your Campground Before Booking
- Google It
- Check out what others have to say. Read the reviews and even do an image search. You will often find that if the campground truly is amazing, you will see many great photos and reviews saying just that.
- Call Ahead
- Go ahead and call the campground and ask some questions. What type of landscape is available to camp on, hike on, play in and so on. Also make sure to ask if they have any sponsored activities planned while you are staying there.
- Ask Others
- Drop us a message on our Facebook page and you will quickly find that people love to tell others about good or bad experiences they have had while staying at different campgrounds.
Want more? You can download a free copy of our e-book “Beyond The Tent’s Family Camping Guide” for FREE!