RV Vacations For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
Okay, take a deep breath. Get ready to check into an RV campground and spend your first night on the road. If you’re worried about whether you can handle it, don’t fret.

How to choose a site

When I started RVing, I wanted only model sites, secluded from other campers, surrounded by shade trees, preferably at the end of a row facing a view. The site had to be level — you’d be surprised how few sites outside paved parking-lot campgrounds are really level — with a nice picnic table and fire pit or barbecue. These characteristics still are ideals to aspire to, but I had to get real. If mine was the last RV to pull into the only campground with a vacancy sign at Mount Rushmore National Memorial at twilight on Fourth of July weekend, I took what was left and appreciated the fact that I found a spot.

When site selection is abundant, I have a long list of preferences:

  • Large: The site must be big enough to park (and drive through or back in) my 36-foot motor home and still have space for slideouts (portions of the living and/or bedroom walls that open to expand the interior), chairs, table, and charcoal grill, as well as the 16 feet needed for my towed car.
  • Room: The width of a site becomes more important now that so many RVs of all types offer one or more slideouts. Some older campgrounds can’t handle slideouts and say so in their directory listings; others have room for slideouts but no leftover space for you to use as a recreational area.

Any campsite less than 15 feet wide limits comfortable use of the site for longer than overnight.

  • Length: The umbilical cords from the vehicle to the electric, water, and sewer connections must reach comfortably. Consider carrying extensions on board to alleviate this issue.
  • Level: Whenever you don’t have a big new RV with hydraulic/electric jacks that level automatically, you have to do plenty of running back and forth inside and outside the vehicle to check spirit levels (those little things with moving bubbles inside). Sometimes, you have to wedge wooden blocks under the tires until that pesky little bubble hits the center. Sometimes, close is close enough if you do not want to buy or use leveling jacks.
  • Location: I want to be away from the highway and campground entrance, and not too near the swimming pool, bathing facilities, office, laundry, dumpster, playground, or dog-walking area.
  • Lookout: Watch for potentially noisy neighbors, any low-hanging branches or wires that can damage roof air conditioners or TV antennas, and wet or marshy ground that can mire you down if it rains all night. In addition, always check the location of trees that can block opening slideouts or awnings, or interfere with reception if you have a satellite TV.
A campsite may or may not contain a picnic table, grill, or fire ring (a fire pit encircled by rocks) — critical amenities for tent campers but luxuries for RVers, who already have tables, chairs, and cooktops inside their vehicles.

If you’re going to stay in one campground for a while, look for an end site with hookups on the left side of the site so that your door, folding chairs, and picnic table can face open space and perhaps even a view rather than the RV next door and its hookups.

If you have no choice but to make your rig the filling in an RV sandwich, consider this: Unlike tent camping, in which campers spend all their waking hours outdoors, RVs (especially motor homes and trailers) enable you to go indoors for privacy. Even when you’re parked only a foot or two away from the neighboring RV, you can close your curtains, draw the shades around your windshield, and turn on some soft music, and you’re totally alone.

Park your rig

Choosing the spot to park your RV overnight requires looking for the most level area and lining up the hookups in your RV with the connections on the site. If you have a back-in site, ask your copilot (if you have one) to get out and help back you in. If you have a pull-through, pull into the center of the site. In either case, make sure to leave room for the opening of slideouts and awnings. Your exact position, however, depends on your hookups, which are accessible from the left rear of the RV. The electrical connection usually is a metal box mounted on a small post, with the water connection on the same post or nearby and the sewer connection somewhere in the general vicinity. You may have to get out of the vehicle to pinpoint the sewer connection, because it’s usually a small hole in the ground covered with a white plastic cap that may or may not have a cemented collar around it.

Occasionally, in older campgrounds, you may find side-by-side connections that allow two campsites to share basic connections, with two water faucets, two electrical connections, and two sewer holes in the same area. Because most RVs hook up from their left rear, you and the neighboring RV would park facing in opposite directions.

After you’re in the position you want, level the vehicle by using your built-in leveling system or drive up on blocks under the tires to achieve a level state. This practice is essential not only for your comfort and convenience, but also for the proper functioning of equipment such as the refrigerator.

Hook your RV camper up

First-time RVers and sometimes old hands may have some fears about the process of hooking up in a campground, but after a few times, you settle into a routine like this: Park and level your vehicle, and hook up.

an RV electrical hook-up ©Tony Skerl/Shutterstock.com

You want a pair of work gloves and, for the sewer connections, disposable gloves.

Here’s a blow-by-blow account of what to do:

1. With clean hands or sterile gloves, connect your RV’s water hose (which is connected to your water intake) to the campground faucet.

Using a water-pressure regulator attached to one end of the hose is wise, because many campgrounds have strong water pressure. I carry a small pair of channel lock pliers just large enough to tighten the hose connections, as well as a supply of hose gaskets, which collapse with use and can cause leaks at the faucet or the street connection on the RV.

2. Plug your electrical shore cord into the campground outlet, which is in a metal box affixed to a post and usually located at the left rear of the site.

Your RV’s shore power cord is the external electrical cord that connects the vehicle to a campground electrical hookup. Inside the box, you may have several connector choices, which can be 20, 30, or 50 amps. Each amp rating has a unique connection.

Most outlets have an on/off switch or circuit breaker that you need to turn to the off position before plugging or unplugging your line. Turning the switch off prevents a surge that can knock out a circuit breaker in the vehicle.

If your shore power cord fits into one of the outlets, you won’t need to use an adapter. If the shore cord doesn’t fit, you need the proper adapter for your unit. You’ll soon learn to recognize the amperage of each rated outlet by sight.

3. After you’re plugged in properly, turn on the switch or circuit breaker on the pedestal that powers the campground’s outlet.

A good check of electrical service is the timer light on your microwave, which lights up and perhaps starts blinking if you have electricity.

4. If you have an automatic switchover from propane to electric on your refrigerator (as most RVs do), check the indicator lights on the refrigerator control panel to make sure that the refrigerator has set to AC electric.

Some models have a toggle button labeled Auto that handles this task for you when it’s switched on.

At this point, your electricity is connected and should be working properly. Next comes the part that most novice RVers dread, although it’s as simple as the other two connections.

5. Connect your sewer hose to your RV drain outlet and to the campground sewer pipe.

Connect the sewer hose to the drain first; then bring up to the RV. Many campgrounds have threaded connection for an elbow that’s part of your sewer-hose assembly. Insert the elbow and turn it into the drain at least one full turn. Check for a secure connection before hooking up to the RV. The hose connections to the RV and extension hoses are twist-lock connectors.

Drain any fluid stored in the tanks when you hook up, rather than the next morning, when you’re in a hurry to get rolling. (If you stay for several days, drain the sewer tank when you hook up and again when you unhook) Drain the black-water tank first, close that valve (it’s labeled), and then open the gray-water valve. This procedure helps you flush the hose while emptying the tank. You can leave the gray-water valve open while camping, but you shouldn’t leave the black-water valve open unless you’re on a level site and the RV is level, because solids that settle in the tank are hard to clean out.

You’re finished: Wash your hands, and relax with a cold drink.

Campground etiquette

In the RVing magazines, a proportion of the letters deal with other campers who failed to show proper etiquette in a campground. Inconsiderate behavior ranges from failing to clean up after your pet to running your generator after hours. To avoid becoming the subject of one of these letters, here are some good rules to follow:
  • Avoid claim-jumping. Anything that marks a campsite, from a jug of water on a table to a folding chair set out in the parking space, means that the site is occupied and that the campers are away in their car or RV. You may not set the marker aside and move into the site.
  • Mind your fellow campers’ personal space. Teach your kids never to take a shortcut across an occupied campsite; they should use the road or established pathways to get where they’re going. No one wants to watch a parade of kids and dogs troop through his or her site.
  • Keep your pets from roaming. Do not let your dog roam free in a campground. Pets should always be on a leash outside the RV and exercised in a designated pet area.
  • Avoid using your generator whenever possible, even within designated generator-use hours, to keep the noise and fumes from disturbing other campers. If using electrical appliances such as microwaves and TVs is that important, you should consider staying in a private campground with hookups, where you won’t need a generator.
  • Avoid loud, prolonged engine revving in the early morning and late evening. Fumes from your engine drift into the open windows of a nearby RV, and the noise can wake someone who wanted to sleep in.
  • Don’t play radios or TVs loudly at any time in a campground. Many of your fellow campers are there to enjoy the peace and quiet. Also,
  • Never, ever dump wastewater from holding tanks — even gray water— on the ground. Although some people claim that it’s good for the grass, wastewater may contain fecal matter from diapers or salmonella bacteria if raw meat has been rinsed in the sink. This material can be transferred to anyone who touches or steps on contaminated ground. Gray or black water belongs only in a dump station or sanitary-sewer system.
  • Don’t cut trees for firewood. Most campgrounds sell firewood at stands or the camp store. Even picking up or chopping deadwood is forbidden in many parks.
  • Watch what you throw in the fire. Never leave aluminum foil, aluminum cans, bottles, or filter-tipped cigarette butts in a campground fire ring or grill to make litter. Also, never crush out cigarettes on the ground without picking up the butts and putting them in the garbage.
  • Don’t leave porch or entry lights on all night in camp. The lights may shine in someone else’s bedroom window.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Dennis C. Brewer has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from Michigan Technological University and is the author of several books. As a self-described traveler and snowbird, Dennis is a lifelong camping and RV enthusiast. He and his wife, Penny, visited 43 states in their Fleetwood Class A Motorhome so far.

This article can be found in the category: