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How To Set Up At An RV Park Or Campground For Dummies

Everything You Need To Know About RV Parks And Campgrounds

Driving into an RV park or campground for the first time can be nerve racking.

You don’t want to accidentally break any rules and you also want to get everything hooked up and plugged in as quickly as possible so you can get to the fun part of camping and RVing.

Related Product: See how level your RV is using an App on your phone with the LevelMatePro Wireless RV Leveling System (click to view on Amazon)

Because we mostly dry camp/boondock, our first RV park visit had its problems. We didn’t know that a lot of RV parks really squeeze the trailers in.

We were supposed to back in to a campsite that was right next to an RV with slide outs that stuck out into our RV spot. We didn’t realize this until it was time to open our slide out. Then we saw there wasn’t enough room, so we had to hook up, and move to make space.

There were lots of other things we wish we had known as well.

In this article, I’m going to take you through everything you should do when you get to an RV park or campground.

Hopefully, your first campground or RV park experience will be a good one and you will see how fun RV camping is.

See Also: 7 Important RV Park & Campground Tips For First Timers

There are also a few RV safety gadgets you should have and red flags you should look for when plugging your RV into any kind of outlet.

I’ll go through those red flags and products, as well as list some of the RV gear you must have to successfully set up your RV, travel trailer, truck camper, or 5th-wheel at an RV park or campground with full hookups.

How To Set Up Your RV At An RV Park Or Campground

Step 1 – Park Your RV Right

The first thing you are going to have to do after checking in and getting your site number is to figure out how to get to your site and whether it’s a back-in or a pull-through.

Pull-through campsites are the ones that you can drive through. They will either look like a round parking area or be a straight line like an RV parking spot in a parking lot.

When parking your RV in an RV park, make sure you are aware of all slide-outs and leave room for them.
Space for slide-outs is important!

Whether it’s a back-in or a pull-through, there are some things you need to think about before you get the RV into the spot.

Space is the first issue. Some RV park owners will sardine people in to get as many RVs in an area as possible. It’s just a part of RV park life and something you will have to get used to if you prefer to camp in RV parks.

The main issue is going to be slide outs. If your camper has some, it’s a good idea to measure how far each one sticks out so you know how wide your RV will be once it’s set up.

See Also: What Do I Need To Use Hookups At An RV Park Or Campground?

For instance, our travel trailer has one large slide that sticks out 2 feet on the driver’s side.

The first RV park we stayed at had a back-in site, and the RVs were so packed in that we actually had to use a tape measure to make sure we left enough space for our slide to come out.

Even after getting as far over to one side as possible, there were still only 6 inches between our slide and the RV next to us.

This was an extreme case in a tiny RV park in the center of a city, but it’s more common than you think and something you should look out for.

Locate all your hookups like electrical, sewer, and water before unhitching to make sure you can reach them.
Check the location of the 3 main RV hookups before getting into the site.

You also need to know where the sewer, electrical outlets, and water connections are.

Sometimes you have to park 10-15 feet from the sewer and will need to have the proper RV sewer hoses and supports to reach it.

Make sure your RV is in a place where everything is within the reach of your RV electrical cable, sewer hose, and freshwater hose.

See Also: Best RV Sewer Hose Kits Reviewed & Rated

Step 2 – Level & Chock Your RV

I know it seems like you shouldn’t have to level your RV in an RV park or campground you spent lots of money to stay in, but it’s rare to find an RV park with perfectly level sites. Especially ones that are on hills.

We stayed at a KOA one year that had a 4 inch difference from the passenger to the driver’s side of our trailer because the sites were on a hill.

Never assume your RV will be level, no matter how nice the RV park or campground is. Letting your trailer sit unlevel can damage your slide out and cause your RV refrigerator to clog and stop cooling.

Also, it’s just plain uncomfortable and annoying when your home away from home is slanted.

See Also: Best RV Wheel Chocks (Plastic, Rubber, Metal, X-Chock)

Even nice RV parks and campgrounds can have unlevel spots. Make sure you check before unhitching.

To make sure you are level, you can also use a good old fashioned bubble level (click to view on Amazon) or a fancy wireless RV leveling system like the LogicBlue LevelMatePro (click to view on Amazon).

The LogicBlue is super easy to install in your RV. It uses a smartphone app to tell you how to level your trailer is so you know how much and which side of your RV needs to be raised.

To level your trailer or RV, you can use RV leveling blocks, planks of wood, or easy to use rounded ones like ours. To see some of the best RV leveling gear check out this post here.

For our travel trailer, we use Andersen Camper Levelers (click to view on Amazon) which includes rounded leveling blocks. They are very easy to use and perfect if you need to level your trailer often.

We use them 90% of the time since level campsites on BLM land are hard to find. We also use them when dumping our travel trailer at RV dump stations.

If you make sure the side opposite to the sewer outlet is elevated, your RV holding tanks will drain much faster and better.

To stop our trailer from rolling away, we use 4 MaxxHaul Solid Rubber Heavy Duty Wheel Chocks (click to view on Amazon).

You want to make sure you put the chocks on your RV before unhitching it because it might roll backward when you lift it with the front tongue jack.

See Also: Best Electric Trailer Jacks Reviewed (Tongue & A-Frame)

Step 3 – Unhook Your Trailer

If you have a motorhome or camper van, this step doesn’t apply to you, but if you have a travel trailer or 5th-wheel now is a good time to unhook it.

Make sure you don’t forget to put your rubber chocks behind your wheels. It can damage your jacks if you have your trailer rolling away while lifting it off your tow vehicle.

After unhitching our travel trailer and leveling it from front to back, we use X-Chock Wheel Stabilizers (click to view on Amazon).

X-chocks add an extra level of stabilization to your RV or trailer and keep from bouncing front to back.

This will protect your trailer’s tongue jack and help your stabilizer jacks when you are walking around in the RV.

They are also really great at keeping your trailer from moving when the wind is hitting the front or back of your RV.

X-Chocks are also more secure if your travel trailer or 5th-wheel is up on leveling blocks.

When raised, it’s harder for regular chocks to do the job right. X-Chocks make it so you know your RV isn’t going anywhere.

Related: Best RV Stabilizers For RV, 5th-Wheel & Travel Trailer

Some people put their X-chocks on before lifting and unhitching their trailer, but we like to do it after. There’s less pressure on the tires and it just seems like the better way to go.

Step 4 – Hook Up Your RV’s Electrical

Plug in your RV or travel trailer before you’ve taken the slide-outs or put down the stabilizer jacks. Being hooked up to electrical will make things go much faster and you won’t put any unnecessary strain on the RV batteries.

You should always use a surge protector any time you plug into any power source.

Anytime you plug your RV into a power source, use a surge protector or even an RV autoformer (click to read more about RV autoformers here).

Power surges or unsafe electrical conditions are very common in any RV park, campground, or even your home.

Using a surge protector or RV autoformer with a built-in surge guard will protect the sensitive and expensive appliances in your RV.

There are many stories of people getting the wiring in their RV or trailer fried by faulty electrical hookups and power surges.

A surge protector will keep you and your RV safe and end up saving you money in the long run.

Related: Best RV Surge Protector & EMS For 30 Amp & 50 Amp

You also need to know what amperage your RV or travel trailer is. Normally large RVs and 5th-wheels use 50 amp power.

Travel trailers and small campers use 30 amp power, and small single axel trailers use 20 amp power.

Most of the time, if the RV park advertises that their sites have 50 amp hookups, they will also have 30 amp and 20 amp on the same power pedestal as well.

If the pedestal only has a 50 amp outlet (this is uncommon), you can use an adaptor to plug a 30 amp and even 20 amp trailer into the 50 amp outlet.

On that same note, if you have a 50 amp RV and you could only find a campsite with a 30 amp outlet (this can be a common occurrence) you can plug your 50 amp plug into a 30 amp outlet using an adaptor.

This will change how the electrical in your RV will work.

See Also: The Surprising Differences Between 30A & 50A RVs

For instance, you probably won’t be able to use your AC and your microwave at the same time and if you have two RV AC units, you cannot run them both at the same time.

You are getting less than half of the power you are used to, so make sure you don’t run too many appliances at the same time and flip the breaker.

Power pedestals are where the outlets for your RV will be located. There will always be breakers above the outlets. Make sure all the breakers are off before you plug in the surge guard or RV.

Once you’ve plugged everything in, you can flip on the breaker. It’s also recommended to turn off the breaker before unplugging your RV as well. This will protect you from any electrical shocks.

If you have a surge guard, it will normally take a few seconds before flipping on, so don’t worry if your RV doesn’t get power right away.

Step 5 – Stabilize

If you want to hook up the water and sewer before putting the stabilizers down and the slides out you can, but normally if you are camping with your family, you want to get the RV ready for them first.

We normally get the stabilizers down and the slides out as fast as possible so our pets don’t have to sit in the truck while we get everything set up.

See Also: The Secret To An Unshakable RV: Top RV Stabilizers Reviewed

Your trailer should be level because that’s one of the first things you do, and you hopefully have measured to make sure there will be room for your slide-outs. You can now put down your stabilizer jacks.

Note: never put out the slides before putting down your stabilizer jacks.

If you are camping on a paved campsite, make sure you use leveling blocks like these (click to view on Amazon) under the feet of your stabilizers.

Stabilizer feet can push into the asphalt and damage it, especially if it’s hot out.

Putting a block under them to protect the pavement is a courtesy and the polite thing to do. You should also do this if you are camping in a parking lot for the night.

Businesses might not be so friendly to campers if they are putting holes in their parking lots. You don’t want to ruin it for the next guy who comes along and wants to camp.

Step 6 – Bring Out The Slides

Now that your power is all hooked up, you can bring out the slides. I always hook up power before because it takes some of the stress off of the batteries and the slide pops out much faster when hooked up to power.

When bringing out the slides, always double-check if you are close to any obstacle, like a tree, a pole, or even another RV.

The last thing you want is to be crashing your slide into something and damaging it.

See Also: Best Portable Propane Tabletop Grills & BBQs For Camping

As a little RV tip, a good thing to do, especially if you have multiple slides, is to send them out halfway and then check the sides of each slide to make sure nothing has fallen in the way during your journey.

I’ve seen molding torn off because a cabinet door opened and got stuck between the slide and the wall. It also tore the cabinet door off and was a bad day for that RVer.

Step 7 – Hook Up Your City Water

Running water is one of my favorite things about staying in RV parks. I can finally take a shower for longer than 2 minutes and it makes doing the dishes much easier.

Much like your electrical, you need products to protect your RV plumbing from high water pressure that is very common in RV parks and campgrounds.

RV water pressure regulators are easy to find and you can get a simple regulator like the Camco Inline Water Pressure Regulator (click to view on Amazon) or an advanced Renator Water Pressure Regulator Valve with Pressure Gauge (click to view on Amazon).

See Also: What Should My RV Water Pressure Regulator Be Set At?

Inline RV water filters are highly recommened even when using water in RV parks.
RV water filters keep particles from clogging up the water pump.

No matter what kind of water regulator you get, you should always have one handy, just in case.

Also, make sure you attach the water regulator directly to the water source. It should be before the filter and water hose because it will take a lot of pressure off of those two things and make them last longer.

If the place you’re staying at already has low water pressure, you do not need to use a regulator.

We highly recommend water filters for RVs. They keep you healthy and protect the plumbing and water pump.

It’s especially important if you drink the water. Check out this post here to see the water filter we use as well as other great options for RVers.

The city water connection is where you connect water directly to your RV's plumbing system.
The city water connection and freshwater fill up are two very different things.

Hooking water up to an RV differs from filling a freshwater tank.

Every RV has two connection points. One where you fill the fresh water tank and one where you connect the hose directly into your RV plumbing system.

It’s normally labeled as “city water connection” and will have a screw-on connector for a hose and not an open hole like the freshwater tank fill up point.

On our travel trailer, the city water connection is on the back, but on other RVs, it could be anywhere. To find it quickly, look for the outdoor shower or the area where your black tank flush is.

Make sure you know where your RV city water connection is located so you know how long your freshwater hose needs to be to hook it up to water.

For freshwater hoses, I recommend having either two 25 foot ones or a long 50 foot one paired with a short 10 foot one. Never use your freshwater hoses for rinsing out the RV black tank.

See Also: Best RV Water Hose For Drinking Water

When connected to city water, you do not need to use the RV water pump. The pressure from the water source is enough to push water through all the pipes.

Step 8 – Hook Up Your Sewer

I recommend that every RVer have two 10 foot sewer hoses (click to go to review), sewer hose support (click to go to review), and a 4-in-1 RV sewer elbow (click to view on Amazon).

These products are all things you will need to connect your RV black and grey holding tanks to the sewer and also comply with RV park and most campground rules.

In many RV parks and campgrounds RV sewer hoses are required to be off the ground.
Many RV parks require campers to use RV sewer hose supports.

The sewer hose support may seem unnecessary, but many places have the sewer hole raised on a cement block. You’ll need the support to keep your sewer hose above the hole so it will drain right.

Many parks require all sewer hoses to be off the ground. It’s a good idea to have an RV sewer hose support just in case.

4-in-1 elbows srew into RV park and camground sewers for secure and odorless connections.
Sealed sewer hose connections are how RV parks and campgrounds stay odor free.

Unlike RV dumps, sewer connections in RV parks and campgrounds aren’t just large holes in the ground.

Most of the time, you need a 4-in-1 elbow because an open RV sewer hose won’t fit.

The elbow can screw onto different sizes of sewer openings for an air tight fit that will stop odors. It allows you to leave your sewer hose out and hooked up without stinking up the place.

Hooking up the sewer is one of the last things you should do because it’s a messy process. You don’t want to be handling your freshwater hoses and filters with hands that were just touching sewer stuff.

Related: What To Do When An RV Waste Tank (Black/Grey) Won’t Drain

As a little RV tip: When you dump your RV holding tanks, always dump the black tank first and then the grey tank.

The cleaner grey water will rinse the black waste water out of the sewer hose and make things a little cleaner and help keep your sewer hose from smelling.

Related: How To Maintain RV Holding Tanks To Prevent Clogs & Odors

Step 9 – Lock It Up

While RV and camping folks are generally friendly people, it’s still common for things to go missing in RV parks, campgrounds, and even secluded BLM sites.

RV gear like surge protectors are spendy products. It’s recommended to always keep them locked up no matter where you are staying.

Normally we lock our surge guard to either the pedestal or the RV, just in case.

We also keep our bikes locked.

It's common for expensive things to go missing even in RV parks. Make sure you lock things up properly.

The spots in RV parks that are designated for people who are only staying for a few nights are usually near the entrance and main roads, and you never know who is coming and going.

It may seem like overkill, and locking your valuables is totally your decision, but most RVers recommended it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Setting Up RVs & Hookups

How long does it take to set up an RV?

It really depends on your experience with setting up an RV and the number of people helping who know what they are doing.

My husband and I can set up at an RV park with full hookups and a pull-through site in 20 minutes, and that includes leveling.

If it’s a campsite that requires backing into a tight spot, it may take a little longer.

Related: 7 Important RV Park & Campground Tips For First Timers

For your first time setting up at an RV park, expect things to take much longer than you think.

Give yourself at least an hour so you don’t feel you are running against a clock. Being calm is key to not making any mistakes and causing damage to your RV.

Do RV parks allow older RVs?

It 100% depends on the RV park, but normally a fancy RV park will have a rule that says no RVs or trailers that are older than 10 years allowed.

If your trailer looks like it’s in good shape and isn’t the “eyesore” or safety hazard these campgrounds and RV parks are trying to avoid, then I doubt they will give you any trouble.

Most RV parks don’t have the 10 year rule and it’s normally just the high-end RV resorts that have those restrictions.

The main problem people have with getting into RV parks is the 55+ ones.

There are more out there than you think and we’ve been surprised to find certain RV parks we had planned to stay at were actually 55+.

These RV parks have very strict rules and probably won’t let you stay even for a night if at least one of you isn’t at least 55 years old.

How do I hook up water to my RV?

The city water hookup isn’t in the same place as the freshwater fill up.

It has a connection that will twist onto the end of a hose so it fits securely.

To read more about how to connect your RV to freshwater, scroll up and read Step 7 of this article.

How long does it take to fill up an RV fresh water tank?

RV fresh water tanks can range anywhere from 25 gallons to 100 gallons depending on the size of RV, trailer, or truck camper.

The standard size is normally around 35-45 gallons.

Our travel trailer has a 45 gallon fresh water tank. It takes around 15 minutes with the water turned at a steady stream.

You don’t want to fill up your RV fresh water tank with high pressured water because it fills the tank up with air faster than the vents have time to work.

When this happens, the tank will spit out water and it may look like it’s full when it’s not.

Why does my RV have low water pressure?

If you are having trouble with low water pressure in your RV when connected to city water at a campground or RV park, the first thing you should check is the water pressure coming out at the tap or your water pressure regulator.

Some RV parks already have fairly low water pressure and if you are using a water regulator on low-pressure water, it might make the water pressure too low to move through your RV correctly.

Another culprit could be your water filter. Over time, they get clogged and need to be changed.

Make sure you read your filter instructions for average filter life and how often it should be changed.

It could also mean that you have a leak somewhere. If your RV or trailer allows, check the plumbing inside, starting with where the city water connection is.

Follow it as much as you can, check for any water dripping or spraying.

Also, when you are connected to city water, you don’t need to have your RV water pump on. This could be the reason for lower than normal water pressure.

If the water pressure in an RV park is too low for whatever reason, you can always fill up your RV fresh water tank and just use that.

How much does it cost to stay in an RV park?

RV park prices can range anywhere from $15 a night to $100 a night or even more depending on the amenities, location, and demand.

We normally stay in more moderate RV parks that never cost more than $25-$50 a night.

We also use our Passport America Membership, which gives us up to 50% off in participating RV parks.

Click here to read more about Passport America and how to become a member.

If you are planning on staying for a week or a month, you can normally get a better price the longer you stay.

Can I leave my grey or black tank open when staying at an RV park?

You should never leave your black tank open, even when hooked up to a sewer.

The reason for this is the airflow could cause the organic waste in your black tank to dry and harden, which will inevitably cause nasty clogs.

Also, RV black tanks are not made to be used that way.

They need to have lots of water in them to break down the toilet paper and solid waste before being dumped into a sewer.

For more information on black tank clogs, how to prevent them, and what to do if you get one click here.

As for the grey tank, it’s not as important to keep that one closed when hooked up to a sewer at an RV park or campground.

The main reason everyone will keep the grey tank closed when hooked up is to stop smells from the sewer from drifting through the open grey tank and into the RV through the drains.

We made this mistake on our first RV Park visit and it’s not one we will make again. Coming back to the entire RV Parks sewer smells in your RV is not a great experience.

If you are experiencing problems with a smelly black or grey tank, check out this article here for information on how to prevent RV holding tank odor.

Why are RV parks so expensive?

Some RV parks and resorts are very expensive and it all has to do with things like location, demand, and what kinds of amenities the park or resort is offering.

Some RV resorts will have swimming pools, restaurants, showers, game rooms, laundry, Wi-Fi, and much more.

The cheapest RV parks will only have the basic hookups and you may not get your own sewer connection, which means you will have to dump your trailer at the dump station on your way out.

You can also stay for fairly cheap in campsites that offer no hookups and are basically just dry camping in an RV park.

What do full hookups mean at an RV park or campground?

If you’ve been looking up campgrounds or RV parks, you’ve probably seen the term “full hookups” a few times.

Full hookups mean you will have electricity, a sewer hookup, water, and a lot of times cable tv.

What do partial hookups mean at an RV park or campground?

Many campgrounds and some RV parks will also have what’s called “partial hookups.” This means you will have electricity and water but no sewer.

Usually, there will be an RV dump station you can use on your way out after your stay.

When staying in a campground with partial hookups for a long time, it’s a good idea to get a portable black/grey tank (click to see best options) so you don’t have to move your RV or trailer to dump it.

What do I need to connect my RV to cable TV at an RV park?

Many RV and travel trailers come pre-wired for a cable TV connection.

Lots of RV parks will have cable tv available. All you need is the correct coaxial cable (click to view on Amazon) to connect it to your trailer.

Have any more questions about setting up and hooking up an RV at an RV Park or campground? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

3 thoughts on “How To Set Up At An RV Park Or Campground For Dummies”

  1. I loved that you said that there are RV resorts that have restaurants, showers wifi, and swimming pools. This is a good tip for my brother who is planning an RV trip with his kids. He said that he does not want them to get bored while on a trip, o so he wants wifi connection to be available in an RV park.

    • Thanks! Tell your brother KOA campgrounds/RV parks are great for kids as well since they often have game rooms and things for kids to do.

  2. What caught my attention is when you said that you can find campsites that offer no hookups, and they are fairly cheap. This must be shared with my brother who is planning to go on an RV trip with his wife and 5-year-old son next week. He wanted to find a campground that can offer him the best possible deal, so I will share your tips with him.


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