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Top Tips for Late Arrival at Campgrounds

Published on September 22nd, 2022 by Lucinda Belden
This post was updated on January 12th, 2023

The best way to avoid late arrival at campgrounds and RV parks is to follow the 3-3-3 Rule. Don’t know what that rule is all about? Keep reading. You’ll learn how this guideline can help you avoid late night check-ins. We also share what to do if an after-hours RV park arrival is unavoidable.

How the 3-3-3 Rule Helps You Avoid Late Arrival at Campgrounds and RV Parks

Always try to do one of the ‘3’s’ in the rule. For example, drive no more than 300 miles, up to three hours and/or arrive by 3pm.

Why do RVers choose to arrive by 3pm?  If you have done any amount of travel in an RV, you will find it is a little more complicated driving a larger rig.

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You must choose your locations to pull over and refuel a little more carefully (especially if you drive a large rig and need diesel).

When you drive a larger vehicle and you are on the road long periods of time, there are more opportunities for something to go wrong. Choosing 3pm as an arrival time gives you a few more hours if you need to wait on assistance by the side of the road. This hopefully prevents you from sitting up camp in the dark.

We avidly follow the 300 miles and arrive by 3pm. That usually puts us departing our campground between 8 and 9 in the morning.

But even the best plans can be destroyed when you can’t get your slides in. Or roadside service can’t get to you for several hours. A multitude of other malfunctions can set you back too. So, what do you do when you know you’ll be one of those people with a late arrival at campgrounds or an RV park?  You do have choices.

Contact the Campground for Late Check-In

Park host sign
Check with the campground if you will be arriving late

Call the campground when you know how late you will be. You aren’t arriving until 3pm if you follow the 3-3-3- rule so there is no rush to call them right away. But do contact them before your intended arrival time if you know you’ll be late.

Some campgrounds are flexible and will let you do an after hours campground check-in. Other places only permit arrivals during a specific window. You need to confirm with them what is permissible or if they can make exceptions.

If a late arrival at campgrounds like theirs is not allowed, you are going to need to make other arrangements for the evening. So, if you can’t arrive at the campground late or believe you will be stuck with RV repairs on the road, you may need to make other overnight accommodations.

How to Plan a Late Arrival at a Campground

If you can arrive late, determine what the best option for parking will be. Some campgrounds will advise you to stay in the main parking lot overnight instead of going to your RV site. Others will want you in the site and not blocking entrances to the campgrounds. If it doesn’t matter to the RV park manager, you decide.

Here are some of the things that should influence your decision on parking late.

  • Have you done a Google Satellite view of the RV park?  The satellite view will let you see obstacles or issues with parking.
  • Are you familiar with this campground?  Maybe you have been here several times and feel comfortable with the grounds.
  • Another item you should consider is yourself. Do you feel confident in your RV parking and driving skills?  You may not want to attempt maneuvering into a spot in the dark. That’s OK.
  • Do you have the right equipment to park in your site?  Flashlights, walkie talkies, wide RV sites?
  • If you are not going to your site but will be hanging out in the parking lot until morning – do you have items to keep you warm or keep you cool overnight until you can get parked. Do you need to eat? 
  • If you are not setting up at your site in the dark, will you have access or passcodes to park amenities in case you need them?
  • Have you pulled up a map of the campground?  Download it to your phone in case you can’t access the Internet.
  • And does the campground have Wi-Fi?  Will you need access in case of emergencies?

How to Do Your RV Set Up in the Dark

RV camping at night
Do minimal set up when you park your RV at night

Are you an experienced RVer?  Some people have been RVing so long and are so familiar with their rig that they could do it blind-folded. This is great if you are setting up at night. But if you are arriving in a new-to-you RV and you require visual checks during set-up, you may not want to attempt a set up in the dark.

Also, you do not have to set up everything at night. Connect, un-connect, and slide out only what is necessary to go to sleep. All your other RV lifestyle needs can wait until you are out of quiet hours to finish.

Don’t Annoy Campground Neighbors

If everything is working out for you to go directly to your RV site and you feel confident to do so, do it quietly. No one should know you arrived late at night except when they wake up in the morning and see a new RV there. Remember some campgrounds have tent campers. They can hear your yelling as you get into your spot. Also, some campers are young ones that parents will not appreciate you waking.

In the end, no matter what your reason is for an after hours campground check-in, the RV park nor any of the campers are responsible for it. They should not suffer through your rough experiences too. Don’t annoy campground neighbors. Sometimes it is less stressful to find a Harvest Hosts to stay overnight. Or look for a free overnight camping spot if you can’t get to the campground in time.

Remember, you are on your way to relax and enjoy your RV getaway!

This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy here.

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