When I've told people about the contest, some people have responded with the question "What makes a good review?". In this post, I'd like to answer that question by discussing some things to consider when writing a review. You do not have to use all these things in your review, but hopefully this post will serve as inspiration if you don't know what to write.
1. Check out our tip sheet. We have a whole list of things to include in your review. This list, while not all-inclusive, is something that you can through as you write your reviews to make sure that you cover some of the most important details. The rest of this post will give examples of ways people have addressed components of the tip sheet or discuss things not included on the tip sheet.
2. Think about what you would have wanted to know about the park before you stayed there. Odds are, that's what other RVParking readers want to know too.
3. Length - The best RV Park reviews give fellow RVers a good idea of what it's like to stay at an RV park. This requires a lot of information, usually more than you can fit in a sentence or two, which is why I look for reviews that are at least a paragraph or more.
4. Support your opinion - It's great to know if an RV park is good or bad, but it's just as important (if not more important) to know why. The best reviews are really specific about why an RV park is being rated a certain way, like in the review of Craters of the Moon National Landmark Campground by joannb:
"The only reason this is a 4 star campground is that it doesn't have showers. It is a self-serve campground; you pick out a site then go back, fill out an envelope, put the top half into the board showing which campgrounds are taken and the other half with your money in a slot. Real simple. This otherworldly landscape may not be for everyone, but it fascinated us. Most sites are very ample, set among the lava with a black cinder base."
5. Noise Level - Is it a quiet park? Is there a lot of noise coming from a nearby interstate? From rowdy campers? Does the park have quiet hours? The review LiveWorkDream.com wrote about Lindenwood Park Campground does a great job of addressing freeway noise:
"Yes, there is freeway noise, but if you ask for the LOWER campground along the river, it's not so bad."
"The staff bent over backward to make our stay a great one. This started with a call to let me know that a spot had opened up and I could get in. We were traveling without reservations."
7. WiFi - One of the things RVParking.com readers care about the most is being able to connect with their loved ones and employers from the road. Just mentioning if the park has working WiFi on site or nearby is a big help for your fellow RVers, but the extra details in LiveWorkDream.com's review of Johnsons Corner Retreat make this one of the best Wifi/Internet assessments I've seen so far:
"Tree shade here WILL block your satellite connectivity. They did just hire a smart networking guy who installed a brand new Wi-Fi system which works GREAT. So skip the dish and go right for the Wi-Fi, which is free."
8. Are the sites level? Here is a good example from Wheeling It's review of South Sandusky Campground. Not only do they discuss the levelness of their site, but they also cover the levelness of every site at the campground:
"The one thing that got us were the sites. There were really so hit and miss in terms of how level they were. Our own site had a huge drop and we weren't able to level. Some had moderate drops whereas a selection were completely flat."
"Cell & Data Coverage:
AT&T – Weak, but usable.
Sprint - Very slow but still usable CDMA 1xRTT. (D: 115Kb/s, U: 56Kb/s, 669ms) (Sprint indicates roaming – probably on Verizon)"
10. Cable/TV - Does the park have cable? Is it free or do they charge? What channels do you get? Is it available in all parts of the RV park? Here's an example from RVingToadless' review of Garden of the Gods Campground:
"As for the cable, currently it is installed in rows B and C. The cable is limited, just some networks, Travel, CNN, Discovery, Weather, and some 'who cares' channels."
11. Activities - Are there any activities the park offers on a regular basis? Movie nights? Ice cream socials? Potlucks? Do they have any special holiday celebrations? For example pdronline says that Shabbona Lake State Park's Fourth of July fireworks celebration is a must-see:
"DON'T MISS: Each year on July 4th catch the fireworks display over the lake and in February go night fishing on the lake."
12. Amenties Not Covered on RVParking.com - RV Parks offer so different many amenties these days that it's hard to list them all. Does the park have an exercise room or amenities not seen at other RV Parks, such as a car wash or barbecue delivery? Don C.'s review of Junipers RV Resort does a good job of addressing the different amenities they have:
"We were met by a friendly camp host, assigned a spot and shown the Pavilion, barbeques, laundry facilities, bathrooms and showers. They even have a business center with fax machine."
"The park is well shaded by mature trees."
14. Size of sites - Do you have a lot of room or hardly any at all? From Technomadia's review of Pecan Grove RV Park, we learn that sometimes you have to trade space around your site for a hip, urban setting:
"Don't expect much in terms of space around you (unlike their monthly spots, which many feature nice yards) - you're here for the location and atmosphere!"
15. Stores - Everyone has to eat. Does the RV Park have a store where you can stock up on supplies? Are there any stores nearby? This example from CarHouse's review of Ocala Camp Resort kills two birds with one stone by discussing both the RV park store and a store in the area:
"All convenience store items have been removed due to the cheapness and proximity of a local grocery store."
"Although there are restroom facilities, they are in desperate need of remodel/update, so much so that you will want to be totally self-contained if you stay here. When the water table (dry spell with no rain) falls low, the water starts to look rusty/brown."
"The showers are private and very nice but cost some coins to operate. One would think at $45 a night they would include a shower ..."
18. Restaurants - Whether folks aren't big on cooking or just want to spend a night on the town, it's good to know what restaurants are at the park or in the area. For example, RVingToadless recommends the restaurant over at Ekstrom's Stage Station:
"I must recommend the adjoining restaurant. Excellent, world class food for a small restaurant. Dessert included in the meal price."
19. Pet Friendliness - Did the owners/staff treat your pets well? Were you charged extra for bringing pets? Did the campground have a pet park?
20. General feel of site - Is the site big or small? Well-kept or run-down? SilverSnail's review of Crown Point RV Park gives us a great overall sense of the park:
"Nicely situated on the Old Columbia River Highway, and tucked away from the roadside by large trees and a tall wooden fence, this small campground is a secret treasure. I had spent a day looking for campgrounds in the Portland area that were comfortable and affordable enough to stay for a month, and most of the places around Portland were unappealing - mostly commercial places catering to the big rigs with little nature or privacy. I almost passed this place up, thinking it was TOO rinky-dink, but it was cozy and rustic in the way that I like it, and convenient to the Columbia River Gorge and Portland."
21. Is the RV Park website accurate? Were some park features over-stated? Understated? Not mentioned at all? Please let us know.
I hope this list helps give you ideas about what to cover in your park review. For all you RVParking.com reviewers out there, what do you think makes a good review? What do you take into consideration when reviewing an RV Park? Did I leave anything out?
If you still need help with reviewing, please feel free to contact me. Happy reviewing!
Today's guest blog post comes from Betty Barnes, RV blogger and the author of great reviews here on RVParking.com:
I have been asked to share with you our experiences utilizing a satellite Internet system. Although we have been full-timers for a few months, I am pleased with our choice. Everyone's situation is different. This method of getting online may not be what you want or need as part of your technology on the road. For us, though, it seems to be just the ticket.
"Why?" you ask. Here's a scenario we have already encountered. Recently we spent two very enjoyable weeks nestled in a valley amidst the Smoky Mountains. It was a lovely park undergoing some renovations and upgrading, and WiFi service was not yet available. Our AT&T cell phones had no signal. Other campers who asked about our tripod setup had the phone service starting with a "V," barely enough of a signal to make/receive calls and no way/no how could they access the Internet. With our HughesNet dish on a tripod, we were up and surfin'!
Making the decision about how to access the Internet on the road was almost more difficult and taxing on the gray cells than the decision to go full-time. "Will it actually work?!?!" "Can I do it myself?" kept rattling around in my head like a song you hear on the radio on the way to work that just will not leave your memory all day. We've all been there, eh? Having a television service was less critical than that of reliable Internet and, in fact, the only television reception we get is via cable provided at RV parks or through our indoor antenna/rabbit ears. Being able to access the Internet, however, was a must-have.
The hours I spent online researching air cards, satellite, different cell phone carriers, coverage areas, routers, amplifiers . . . well, I am glad I did not keep track of those hours! Satellite Internet of the type that uses a rooftop- mounted dish was simply too expensive for us. Thanks to a veteran full-timer of 25+ years and a member of a full-timing forum I frequent, I learned of the mobile tripod-mounted system you see above. We also got an external cable outlet which is mounted on the exterior of one of our slides.
What you see above are the external cables that run back to the tripod. No way was I going to "just leave a
window open" with cables running through it! Do you know how big mosquitoes can grow??
The entire system turned out to be significantly less cost up front than the rooftop system. What about the
monthly cost? We opted for the HughesNet ProPlus plan, which gives us what we believe should be an adequate daily download allowance for the two of us. (We each have a laptop.) Many folks pay monthly subscriptions for both Internet via air cards and a television service, so we may not be far off that.
We already had a wireless router purchased quite a while back, still brand new and in the box, so we have our own wireless network here in our RV. Again, this is a simple process. Once the satellite signal is acquired and my laptop (the host) is successfully on the Internet, I shut everything down, hook up the router, turn everything back on and there we are! Our personal wireless network! Feel free to surf inside the RV or even outside if it's a nice day.
Now, I know what you are thinking. "Gee, that just looks like too much work and hassle, setting up that contraption and breaking it down." You know what? It really isn't bad at all. The pointing hardware and software provided with our system makes finding the satellite a breeze. Although quite stable and sturdy, the entire tripod when completely assembled is not extremely heavy, for those of you concerned about cargo weight or awkwardness of handling the tripod and its components.
All that being said, do I set it up if we are stopped for a night or two? No. If we are in a park that provides free WiFi, we will use that. If we are not, well, we just do without. It is sort of nice to "drop off the grid" for a brief spell now and then.
Some points, and this is just a starting point, you might want to consider when thinking about what will work for you. Again, this is based on our personal preferences and experiences.
• What is your primary use of the Internet? Personal or business? Combination of both? We are both online off and on throughout the day and night. I do some work online, so a consistently reliable connection is vital. I simply did not want us to be reliant on cell phone coverage, or lack thereof.
• Tripod versus rooftop mounted system? With a tripod you can park under trees and put the tripod in a clear area. With a rooftop system there is less setup.
• Upload/download speed: Having had no choice in our ISP prior to full-timing and it being the worst I have ever experienced regarding speed and reliability, our system is more than satisfactory.
• VoIP services such as Skype (which we use to call family in Scotland) do not work very well with satellite, although it can be done. Latency is a problem. Think of an Earth-to-space conversation.
• Online games and downloading large files, videos and the like really are problematic. You may find you are swiftly eating up your download allowance. OUCH! We have a "free zone" during the wee hours of the morning when downloads are not counted against your allowance. This works out great for us, as we are currently working night shift. HughesNet provides a free Download Manager program with which you can schedule and manage "free zone" downloads in case you aren't a night owl. Another handy free download from the HughesNet site is a status meter. I have one on each of our laptops as a Taskbar icon so we can check our allowance status with a quick click of the mouse.
I hope my contribution here has given some insight of what life is like with a satellite Internet system if you are contemplating this method versus an air card for accessing cyberspace. Again, these are simply our experiences and viewpoints on what works for us. Everyone has to make a decision based on their wants and needs and what they feel is the most "comfortable" option for them. Whatever you decide, I hope it works well for you and that you enjoy your time in cyberspace. Thank you for reading, and safe travels to you all!
Betty Barnes is a nine-year cancer survivor, Reiki Master/Teacher, cyclist and drum circle facilitator. She and her husband Dave, originally from Scotland, began full-timing in their fifth wheel in June 2010, workamping as they travel the Lower 48. Betty's first RV experience was literally as a babe in arms over 50 years ago. She has camped under canvas, in a pop-up and travel trailers now a fifth wheel. Betty has seen much of Scotland, so now she and Dave are taking the opportunity to experience together the wonder and beauty of her native country. Betty maintains an active blog describing their adventures on the road at Phoenix Once Again. You are also invited to visit her Reiki Web presence here.