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Old 07-31-2020, 01:34 PM   #1
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Are certain "brand" campgrounds usually better than others?

We're new to RVing, and trying to learn. We bought our first RV in early March of this year, which was horrible timing as the virus hit a week later and we've been essentially parked since then due to work issues caused by the virus.



We have only taken the RV out twice, both times to a very nice KOA park close to home for a couple of nights away and to get to learn it and enjoy it. The KOA we stayed at (Lake Livingston - Onalaska, TX) seems like a very nice park to us, but then again we have little to compare it too.



My question is, while I realize nothing is absolute, are there some brands of campground (such as KOA or others) that are typically nicer than others? I'm asking in terms of not knowing where to go, and thinking, "well, lacking any better info, lets stay at (insert brand here, in this case lets say KOA) because they're usually nice." I'm thinking that there must be some sort of standards a campground must meet in order to obtain and keep a well known campground franchise name and affiliation?



I'm 100%+ certain that there are many, many independent campgrounds that are wonderful, and I hope to explore these as well. I'm just asking this as a way of having a fallback position when looking for a place that I have no knowledge about.



All that said are any brands or affiliations or whatever you want to call it usually good? Just as importantly are any particularly bad?



Thanks for any info you can send our way.
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Old 07-31-2020, 01:51 PM   #2
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We like to stay in Escapees RV parks when possible. Since we are Escapees members we can stay for about 1/2 the normal rate. We have never stayed in one that was not nice!
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Old 07-31-2020, 01:55 PM   #3
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KOA parks are typically either good or great.
The best source of information is this website,
The reviews are by people who have stayed there.
Over many years I have found the info invaluable.


https://www.campgroundreviews.com/
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Old 07-31-2020, 01:57 PM   #4
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Depends on what you want. KOA and most other private parks to me are parking lots good for an overnight. I much prefer the great outdoors, so state and NF campgrounds are much more to my liking.
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Old 07-31-2020, 02:15 PM   #5
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We like the escapees parks when available and state and Corp of Engineers. KOA is usually our last choice, as they tend to be expensive and the parks vary from nice to pretty ratty.

Passport America can have some value, but many of their parks are run down. They are also getting more restrictions and block out dates on the better parks.

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Old 07-31-2020, 02:21 PM   #6
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Three types of KOA

Notice the KOA camps complete brand name. Campground is either a "Journey" type, kinda basic roadside campground but meeting KOA standards.


Another is the "Holiday", a full service type with lots of amen nites.


The third is the "Resort" type. Most everything any RV camp could offer. Should be a luxury type campground.


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Old 07-31-2020, 02:24 PM   #7
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From my experience most KOAs are very nice, usually more expensive, but they seem to have standards that are required by corporate. I have been to (2) that were nothing to brag about, but when looking at others in the area they were worse. If you have time to research other campgrounds in the area you can, but there are still some that are not online friendly, which being able to look up availability and pricing at all hours of the day, which I prefer than trying to figure it out over the phone.

So for that reason I usually have KOA as my go to. Of Reserve America for forest service places.

If I go somewhere I will go back to, I check out others in the area while I am there so I know to look at them for the next trip. So far KOA usually wins in the areas I go.
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Old 07-31-2020, 02:28 PM   #8
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Most KOA's that we have stayed in have been good and maybe above average. However, we have stayed at a few that are riding on the KOA name, but are sub standard. I have found all of them to be higher priced too. I don't know that you can put any one brand or chain in the "Always Great" category. It all depends on the individual owners ability to keep it clean and up to date. Don't overlook some State Parks. Sand hollow in southern Utah ranks up with the best private parks. 100' paved sites with 50 amp, water and sewer for $40/ night. An equivalent private park will be double the cost.
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Old 07-31-2020, 02:46 PM   #9
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I've been full timing for 16 years now and tend to stay in the West but I've been all over the country and stayed at every type of 'branded' RV park there are and I have mostly been underwhelmed. KOA's over here in the west tend to be in rather poor condition, ratty pools, rusted swing sets, falling down fences. I have stayed at several over the years that were in below average condition so I'd never make a KOA my destination park for an area unless it was the only one there. Recently stayed at a few more from Colorado to Iowa and I'd say they are just like unbranded parks, some good, some bad. But certainly not good enough to command 25% more in fees. (That is unless you have a few young ones as many of the KOA's are geared to them with pools and swings - but read the reviews).

Thousand Trails are often much more expensive then their sites and services would suggest. I've stayed at TT parks where the only thing going for it was a nice bar and kitchen. Interior roads and sites were gravel and not flat, water was awful...so hard even the site faucets were crusted over, Wifi was worse than a joke. And yet they always ask premium prices as though they are *all that*. Same goes for the other chains. I should mention that many of these branded parks hand out several sheets of 'restrictions' that non-branded parks don't seem to need to do. Some of them feel more like a prison than RV park. The TT in Seaside Oregon is like that. Fenced all around with uniformed guards at a check in kiosk in a town with few crimes against RV'ers. I know, I've lived there for months at a time at a nearby but open park. They're far from the ocean beaches and RV'ers aren't trying to break into that park at all that I know of.

But that's not to say every unbranded park is great, they're not, but on average they have the same or better facilities then the branded parks, and certainly seem a better value and much more relaxed and comfortable attitude with people enjoying each others company and being helpful. Unbranded parks also tend to have Wifi that is often very much better, and faster, than branded parks.

What I'd suggest is to buy into Passport America and avail yourself of the 50% discount that many branded and unbranded parks offer to PPA card holders. That way you can economically find out what works best for you.
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Old 07-31-2020, 02:48 PM   #10
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County parks and Corps of Engineers are usually pretty good. Only stayed at one KOA. No paved roads, the whole place was dirt. We don't bother with KOA due to they are almost always the most expensive parks around. And you can never base anything on pictures of the place. RVParky is a good place for reviews.

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Old 07-31-2020, 02:55 PM   #11
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County parks and Corps of Engineers are usually pretty good.
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We're a 43' tag axle Class A, I thought County and COE parks would be a challenge for a rig our size.



Also, I realize this is blasphemy for some but the wife isn't into roughing it or boondocking. If it doesn't have 50A, sewer and water, mama isn't interested in going.
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Old 07-31-2020, 02:58 PM   #12
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You mentioned staying at the KOA in Livingston, TX. Why don't you check out the Lake Livingston State Park? We found it to be very nice and every Texas state park to be well run and a good value. We also stayed at the Escapee's Rainbow's End park in Livingston and liked the state park much better. It suited our style of RVing as it was more spacious with trees and lake access and less like being packed side-by-side like sardines with the neighbor's sewer connection near our picnic table and their cigarette smoke drifting through our dining room window.
It would help us help you to know more about your anticipated style of camping so we know better what your needs might be like full hook ups(FHUs,) playgrounds, dog parks, shower facilities, campfire rings, dark skies for star watching, etc.
There's just the two of us. We like space, trees, wildlife, lakes, rivers, creeks, cool weather, mountains and dark skies. Our basic rule- of-thumb is to avoid any place that has Resort in the name or spells Campground with a K.
YMMV.
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Old 07-31-2020, 03:08 PM   #13
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[QUOTE=Doug427;5375025]We're a 43' tag axle Class A, I thought County and COE parks would be a challenge for a rig our size.

Get a copy of the book "Camping with the Corps of Engineers" It lists every COE campground by state and location and gives a good description of the facilities as well as how large an RV it can handle. Many of the COE campgrounds can handle up to 65'
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Old 07-31-2020, 03:21 PM   #14
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You mentioned staying at the KOA in Livingston, TX. Why don't you check out the Lake Livingston State Park? We found it to be very nice and every Texas state park to be well run and a good value. We also stayed at the Escapee's Rainbow's End park in Livingston and liked the state park much better. It suited our style of RVing as it was more spacious with trees and lake access and less like being packed side-by-side like sardines with the neighbor's sewer connection near our picnic table and their cigarette smoke drifting through our dining room window.
It would help us help you to know more about your anticipated style of camping so we know better what your needs might be like full hook ups(FHUs,) playgrounds, dog parks, shower facilities, campfire rings, dark skies for star watching, etc.
There's just the two of us. We like space, trees, wildlife, lakes, rivers, creeks, cool weather, mountains and dark skies. Our basic rule- of-thumb is to avoid any place that has Resort in the name or spells Campground with a K.
YMMV.
Thanks, FL420. My work ride only goes to FL410 so I'm envious.
Honestly, we have so little experience we're not even sure what we like. It's probably easier at this point to say what we won't like.



We don't want a run down place full of dirty RV's that haven't moved a foot in 5 years, with lots of "stuff" scattered about them. We don't want a place packed to the gills with not a foot to move.



We don't want a place that is difficult to get our rig in and out of. Honestly I'm still not terribly good at backing this thing up yet.


We don't want a place full of screaming kids and barking dogs. A little of each is fine as it gives the place some life, but not overrun with either.



We'd like a place that's neither a hoity-toity high end "resort" for the very rich with super expensive rigs only, where they would look down upon us with our very beautiful but older 2005 rig, nor a place that's a run down mess.


We like to go for walks before turning in, so someplace good for that. Of course, also places to see locally, which is the reason we bought it in the first place.



Full hookups are a must at this point, although I personally would like to try parking in the middle of nowhere at times to enjoy a secluded mountain lake or something similar with no one else around us. I think our rig is fairly well set up for that with 4 6v batteries, a residential fridge, large fuel, fresh water, grey and black tanks, and a perfectly running 7500w gen. I'd have to get wife buy in on that at some point. We're not there yet.



That's a start, I'll have to check in on the two websites referenced above to learn more about picking parks, but everyone's input here is super helpful.
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