Ever heard someone say “my idea of going camping is a weekend at the Waldorf Astoria”? There are many people that will feel that way and that is why the boom in recreation vehicle use exists today. No longer does the family load up the station wagon with a cooler, portable potty, camp stove, tent, sleeping bags, bug spray and matches for the family weekend. Today’s family uses their RV. But should you get an RV? Before you buy an RV for your family there are so things to think about. Here’s our rundown on RV camping versus tent camping. 

What is “Family Camping”

Family camping today can mean many different things.

It can mean traditional camping with a tent, mosquitoes, and freshly caught fish. It can mean “roughing it” under the stars with only your shotgun and sleeping bag to keep you company. For more advanced camping it can include a “pop-up” which is a type of camper built on a trailer providing all the amenities. Some of these even include air conditioning. It is amazing what you can put on a trailer bed.

Van life aka van campingCamping can also refer to a small van that has been outfitted with a microwave, refrigerator, shower, toilet, and bed or to a luxury land yacht that includes stairs to a bunk area for the kids, a master bedroom with a built-in bureau and flat-screen tv, a dining room, full kitchen, and family room. A family can spend upwards of 1/2 million dollars on a vehicle for family travel. There is nothing “camping” about that.

Today’s RV’s include something called “Toy Haulers” that include room to house a person’s four-wheelers or motorcycles and, once parked, open up to become a deck area for grilling and chilling out.

Campgrounds

You can hardly discuss the difference between RV camping and tent camping without discussing campgrounds. Prior to the early 1990s campgrounds were predominantly outfitted for tent camping or the use of rudimentary camping cabins that were provided by the campground. Many state parks only offer this type of camping. 

Verde Ranch in Arizona

Verde Ranch in Arizona

In the ’90s, more and more people rented or bought a family RV, and campgrounds were upgraded to include 220 hookups for big rings, wi-fi, plug-in telephones, cable television, arcades, pools, water parks, and much more. Gone are the little pieces of ground with gravel to hold the charcoal grill for hot dogs and hamburgers. Today’s campgrounds offer gas grills on site. Some campgrounds even offer hot tubs at each site.

Granted, I’ve never seen this in person but I know that Verde Ranch in Arizona is gorgeous and has lots of on-site amenities. Amenities include a pool, two Jacuzzis, pickleball courts, clubhouse, river recreation access, fitness center, pet parks, and other features designed to give our guests the royal treatment.” Harold added that firepits, walking trails, concierge kayak, and ATV rentals, and other services are all part of the Verde Ranch plan.

Price

Another difference between tent camping and RV camping is the price of a site. Tent camping often meant just finding a spot near the best fishing hole and making a place for your tent. When state parks began to offer camping areas, they provided bathhouses with showers and toilet areas for convenience as well as sanitation. Often there was no charge for a few nights but eventually, state parks charged a small fee that could be paid in advance yearly for those who made it a weekly or monthly trip.

Today’s RV campgrounds can cost as much as a luxury hotel room on the Vegas Strip. With all the extras offered by the campground (often including on-site restaurants or fast foods), it is not unusual to pay $40/night or more to park your 45′ land yacht in style. Of course, the area usually comes with paved roads, cement pads, landscaping, and all the extras to justify that charge.

Even the KOA’s are getting more upscale.

  • Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA Holiday is just one mile from Manresa State Beach. They offer Glamping Cabins and an outdoor activity park. We’re talking elegantly appointed interior design, French doors, and its own coffee bar in these Glamping Cabins. And for kids and families, there are new games like outdoor ping pong, Ladder ball, Bocce Ball, and Corn Hole, while the campground has a jumping pillow, relaxing pool, and even fun climbing statues that look like Palm Trees.

    Santa Cruz Monterey Bay KOA

    Santa Cruz Monterey Bay KOA

  • Cape May KOA Holiday – The perfect destination for dog owners, this campground features a luxurious dog park. Plus, plenty of human activities, including tennis, basketball, pickleball, horseshoes, and volleyball. Additionally, visitors can opt for an arts and crafts class or enjoy the local community, walking through the town’s promenade or strolling along the Wildwood Boardwalk.
  • Wilmington KOA Holiday – For pets that prefer the beachy lifestyle, this campground is located within miles of Freeman Park, one of the most popular dog beaches in North Carolina. Enjoy post-walk treats at Java Dog Coffee House afterward for a coffee.
  • Port Huron KOA Resort – Explore Kimball, Michigan with 70 fun-filled acres of RV campsites, camping cabins, cottages, and lodges. The on-site dog park gives your pet something to look forward to, while you can enjoy the Ice Cream Parlor and sports court.
  • Quechee / Pine Valley KOA Holiday – Nestled in the Upper Valley of Central Vermont, this campground offers a scenic New England escape for vacationers hoping to unwind and relax in the great outdoors. There are lots of hiking trails nearby, including the renowned Long Trail of Vermont, which is sure to keep the novice as well as the avid hiker busy.

Locations

It is easy to find a quality RV park near most tourist destinations. Most of these campgrounds offer great amenities as well as providing transportation to area sights. Although you don’t get room service or maid service, you have your own home right there with you. You don’t have to wonder if you forgot to pack the hairdryer or if you will like the soap in the bathroom. Your pets can travel right along with you. You can rise and sleep on your own schedule. No one will knock on the door at 9:00 A.M. and tell you they need to come in and get the room ready for the next occupant. There are no rocks under the sleeping bag to keep you awake. The only animal that will get into your food is your kiddo.

Overall RV camping can be better than staying at the Waldorf Astoria and it wins over tent camping 99-1. However, it is a big commitment to buy an RV and I highly recommend renting an RV before buying one to make sure you like it.