Public vs Private Campgrounds: Pros and Cons

Last updated on April 3rd, 2019 at 11:00 am. Originally published on September 20th, 2017

When you’re getting ready to set out on the camping trip of a lifetime, there’s a lot to think about and plan out.

First, you have to figure out where you’re going to go in the first place — and here in the beautiful U.S.A., there are so many stunning destinations to choose from. Will you spend the weekend relaxing on the coast, digging your toes into a delicious, sandy beach? Or will you spend a few days hiking in the mountains, putting all of your problems into perspective and feeling small in the very best way?

Once you figure that out, you’ve got to figure out which route you’ll take to get there, including any shorter stops you might want to make along the way. You’ve got to budget for gas and food, figure out which activities you’ll enjoy once you arrive.

It might sound like a lot, but there is good news. No matter what destination you choose, you’re in luck: RV camping is all about relaxing and getting closer to nature. It’s gonna be a great time no matter how you slice it.

But you do have one more thing to figure out before you take off. Where are you gonna park the darn thing?

Difference Between Public and Private Campgrounds

When it comes to finding campground accommodations, there’s one main difference between your vast array of options. Some of the campgrounds are private, and others are public.

But what does that mean? What are private campgrounds, anyway… do they require some sort of club membership to get in? What does it mean to call a campground “public”? Does that mean it’s free to stay in?

Well, it’s not quite that cut and dried. Some public campgrounds are free to camp on, but others require a campground fee — although it’s generally smaller than the one you’d find at a private site. On the other hand, private campgrounds don’t generally require some sort of exclusive membership… but in some cases, their per-night prices might make you feel like they do. But you know the old saying, “You get what you pay for,” right? Private campgrounds often include a vast array of amenities and fun things to do that’ll keep everyone in the family smiling the whole trip through.

Private vs Public Campgrounds

In short, private campgrounds are just that: privately owned, by individuals who opened them for the purpose of turning a profit. Since campground owners know you have lots of different options, these camping locations are usually well-maintained, filled with amenities, and backed up by great customer service. After all, they want to keep your business!

Here at RVshare, one of our favorite family of private campgrounds is the Jellystone Parks group, which has dozens of family-run, fun-filled locations all across America. Jellystone Parks keep the kids entertained with swimming pools, water slides, jumping pillows, organized events, and more. And meanwhile, mom and dad will enjoy the stress-free experience of camping in some of the hottest destination locations in the country, all with roomy, well-paved pull-thru sites and designated areas for campfires. No matter where you’re headed, there’s likely a Jellystone near your destination, ready and waiting to make sure your rig is full of happy campers!

Public RV Campgrounds

Public RV campgrounds, on the other hand, are more affordable, but may not offer the same level of comfort and convenience. In many cases, for instance, you may have to forego electricity, sewer, and water hookups, not to mention extras like a swimming pool or free WiFi.

But if you’re looking to get closer with nature and spend the majority of your trip outdoors anyway, a public campground can be a great way to go. In many cases, you might have to pay as little as $25 to spend as long as two weeks in your campsite… which is much cheaper than even one night at a public campground!

You may be wondering, “Well… where can I go camping?” Some of the best free and affordable public campgrounds include state parks and unowned camping land, which you can discover on the BLM website. You can run a Google search for “state park camping near me” or “public camping sites,” as well as checking out camping community forums about boondocking or dispersed camping. Public campgrounds are some of the most visually stunning in the country, including untouched beaches, peaceful mountains trails, and valleys.

Find Private Campgrounds

No matter which kind of campground you’re looking for, you’ll find a whole heap of options if you just do a little bit of research. Some of the best private RV campgrounds can be found through user review websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, and you can always run a Google search for “RV campground near me.”

If you want to give the Jellystone Parks group a try — and we think you should! — check out their nifty campground finder. It’ll show you campgrounds in the area you’re traveling to, and link to their individual websites so you can see exactly what amenities each park offers. Each location is privately owned and run by families like yours, so you can always count on Jellystone for wholesome and fun activities designed for campers of all ages.

Whether private or public, don’t forget: The campground experience is only one, small part of RV camping. The whole point is to get outside and spend time with the people you love most, whether that means taking an hours-long hike or just relaxing by the fireside. If you’re at a private campground, you might while away an afternoon in the pool or watch the kids tucker themselves out playing in the playground; if you’re at a public campground, maybe you spend a day pointing out all the wildlife you never expected to see so close to home and then finish the day with an old-fashioned grill session.

No matter what, you’re bound to have an amazing time. After all, you’re RV camping — and nothing beats that, no matter where the rig is parked!

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