Selecting a safe and comfortable campground is essential
for planning an enjoyable tent camping trip.
To assure an enjoyable tent camping experience, you must learn how to use the internet to identify safe, family-friendly campgrounds. First, look at the total number of campsites and their cost. Avoid small, cheap, remote, unsupervised campgrounds that frequently attract criminals, obnoxious people, and vulgar drinking parties. Instead, select large popular campgrounds that accept reservations and charge a modest fee. Then, ignore amenities that are offered for RV owners (such as 50-Amp electrical hookups and dump stations) - and look for specific amenities that will help to make your tent camping experience more enjoyable. In particular, look for campgrounds that offer good security, good maintenance, large, level, shady, dispersed, dirt or gravel pads, clean, spacious bathrooms, and lots of fun things to do. To help you identify the best campgrounds, consider the following factors.
Features of Good Tent Camping Destinations
1. Safety: To assess safety, select large (more than 40 campsites) and popular state and federal campgrounds. To assess popularity, visit the park's reservation page and determine the number of campsites that have been reserved for an upcomming summer weekend - and also for an upcomming holiday weekend. Read reviews and view photos posted on the web. Look for entrance control station; locked gate at night; frequent security patrols; enforced rules prohibiting unleashed dogs, speeding, noise & disorderly behavior; at least one host or resident manager for every 50 campsites; at least 20 other families in the campground; posted after hours emergency phone numbers; and strong cell phone signal strength or a pay phone in the campground. Although a few county, municipal, and private campgrounds are safe, investigate carefully before spending the night in them. Avoid small and remote campgrounds that do not accept reservations and campgrounds that have few reserved campsites.
2. Location: Campgrounds located near popular vacation/tourist attractions make great base camp destinations - but these campgrounds fill quickly. Reserve these sites several months ahead. Campgrounds located near major highway routes offer economical places to spend the night enroute to your final destination. If you travel on weekdays, you can usually find available campsites sites for one night - even in the most popular campgrounds. If your final destination is more than 400 miles from your home, use maps and internet sites to find large popular campgrounds located 300 to 400 miles along your travel route. Just set up the few essentials needed for a comfortable night's sleep so you can pack quickly the next morning and get an early start.
3. Campground Amenities: Paved roads and parking pads near each campsite, clean and spacious bathrooms with hot water, sinks with adjacent countertops, flush toilets, & showers; potable water spigots located near each campsite; electrical outlets for recharging electrical devises; grey water disposal stations, clean garbage disposal/ recycle area; Laundromat, WiFi reception area, TV viewing room.
4. Maintenance: Bathrooms and other buildings are painted, in good repair & cleaned frequently; grass is cut every week; understory buffer vegetation is trimmed at least 3 feet back from campsites, roads & trails to reduce habitat for rodents, animal scavengers & snakes; leaves and other debris are raked or blown away from campsites, trails & public use areas; procedures are used to control mosquitoes, ticks, spiders, wasps & other insects; garbage is picked up every week and disposal areas are clean; procedures are used to reduce problems caused by potentially destructive or dangerous animal scavengers (squirrels, raccoons, coyotes, bears).
5. Campsite Features: Large, level, dispersed, shady sites with at least 800 square feet of usable grass, dirt, or crushed stone surface. Ideally, each campsite should have an elevated crushed-stone tent pad to avoid flooding in rainy weather. Campsites should also have at least 20-foot vegetated buffer zones between adjacent campsites and several trees for providing afternoon shade and hanging hammocks, tarps, and clotheslines. In addition, a good campsite should have a sturdy picnic table that could be moved, a pedestal grill for cooking, and a fire ring. If there is no pedestal grill, the fire ring should have an adjustable height cooking grate. The site should have potable water nearby. Electrical outlets and Wi-Fi would be extra nice to have.
6. Friendly Atmosphere: Campground employees should greet you when you enter the contact area, efficiently work to help you, and call you by name; hosts and park employees should be visible in the campground, speak to you often, and offer to assist you as needed; social events such as morning coffee, book exchanges, board games, and evening marshmallow roasts should be offered; programs for children should be offered frequently; other campers frequently stroll around the campground and are friendly and helpful.
7. Recreational Opportunities: Consider opportunities inside and just outside the park. A swimming area (pool or beach) is important in the hot summer months. Other desirable recreational opportunities include boat/canoe rentals, dirt or gravel trails for hiking and mountain biking, smooth surface trails for biking, large recreation fields, volleyball courts, horse shoe pits, playgrounds for children, nature centers, interpretative programs, children's activities, fishing piers, disc golf courses, zip lines, amusement parks, museums, concerts, festivals, sporting venues, charter fishing guides, golf courses, live theater, antique stores, shopping areas, and restaurants.
8. Supplies: The final feature to consider is the availability of gasoline (for vehicles), ice, good firewood, groceries, propane, charcoal, and other camp supplies. This feature is more important for multi-day base camps than for overnight camps. A few large campgrounds have good camp stores that sell all of these these items, but many campgrounds do not. So when planning a trip, investigate the availability of supplies. If the campground web site mentions a camp store, call and ask what supplies are available there. If few supplies are available ask about local Dollar General, Walmart, grocery, and convenient stores. Also search the internet for nearby stores. Good firewood may be especially difficult to find. so if you want to have a campfire, look for local firewood vendors. Some grocery, convenience and home improvement stores have very good firewood.
Some of the best family-centered tent camping destinations in the eastern United States with links to their web pages are listed in the links below. These destinations are safe and secure campgrounds that offer lots of comfortable amenities and recreational opportunities. They are also some of the most popular camping destinations in the eastern states and so advance reservations are strongly recommended for summer weekends. I have personally visited most of these campgrounds but the few that I have not visited are very popular, highly praised by other family campers, and high on my list of campgrounds to visit in the future.
To learn more about great camping destinations in the eastern United States, click on the links below.