J. Dawg Journeys

How I Survive Living in an RV Park

For the past few years, I’ve been living in my RV for about 6 months each year.  Over half of that time is spent on the road exploring the country.  The remaining time is spent parked in an RV park in Florida during the winter months.  RV park living is a different type of RVing – not really camping, not traveling, and not for everyone.

RV parks are places where you tend to park side-be-side next to other RV’s.  These parks are more about the general location, amenities, and activities.  They are less about a natural surroundings, scenery, and solitude.  For those who prefer plenty of space or who tend to be socially introverted, staying put in a densely populated RV park can be a challenge.

San Carlos RV Park

I tend to be a bit of an introvert and it took me some time to adjust to RV park living.  But now I’ve done it for a few years and have come to enjoy this type of RVing.  So, in this post I’ll share some wisdom on how I survive living in an RV park.

Have an RV to Call Home

I’ve noticed that many snowbirds in RV parks tend to have big honkin RV’s – either large travel trailers, fifth wheels, or Class A motorhomes.  I see few Class C’s and a stay-put snowbird in a Class B is a rare sight.

For stay put RV living, I need a place I can be comfortable in.  First in that category is having a comfortable bed.  There’s no way I could sleep for months on a fold out sofa bed or climb up to an overhead bunk.  I also want a comfortable sitting space where I can spend time working or waiting out some rainy days.

Also, when I’m parked for 3-4 months, I need an RV that can support my normal lifestyle.  I don’t want to have to put it on hold.  I need space for my hobbies, adequate space to cook meals, and a place to work.  My 26 ft Winnebago is a great traveling RV, but it’s just barely adequate for stay put living.  The next RV I buy will probably be slightly larger to better support stay put RV living.

Winnebago View

The interior of my 26 Ft Winnebago View

Choose the Right Location

When you choose someplace to live, the adage – location, location, location is often used.  For this snowbird, the most important requirement is a warm climate. For me, that means summer like weather just about every day.  I want a place where I can spend most of my time outside versus spending time in the RV.  It’s the whole reason I head south for the winter.

Next to a warm climate, an RV park where I’m going to stay parked for months needs to have services and attractions nearby.   Things like food shopping, movies, restaurants, a beach, a lake, a nature preserve, bike paths, etc. I don’t want to have to get in the car and drive every time I want to do something.

Where we stay there’s a beach, restaurants, bars, shopping, banks, libraries, and parks all within 1-2 miles of the RV park.  I can bike, walk, or take a trolley to most of these places.

Fort Myers Beach

A popular beach just a mile away

Further inland, there are nicer (and less expensive) RV park’s with bigger sites and nicer facilities.  But these places are miles away from anything.  I could stay at these places, pay $600 / month, have a nice site, and be miserable.  I’d rather pay more and be happy.  For me, there’s got to be stuff to do that’s near where I’m staying.

Adjust My Space Expectations

Living in an RV park means being closer to people than I may be used to.  I’ve had to adjust my space expectations.  My neighbor’s rig is just 10 feet away.  And it’s going to be that way for a few months (not just a couple of nights as you pass through the area).  I may hear the neighbors TV or dog.  The neighbor’s AC unit may wake me up when it kicks on at night.  Ear plug are a solution that many use to block out night-time noises.

Living in a RV park is communal type living.  You share the space and the common areas.  It helps if you can embrace it versus trying to just tolerate it.

RV's Parked

Packed in Tight

I take a pretty laid back attitude when it comes to space.  My neighbors are all snowbirds parked next to me for months.  I know them well enough so that I can chat with them if something becomes a problem.  I don’t mind if they walk through my site on their way to the bathroom.  I welcome them stopping by to visit.  I’m retired and just don’t worry about the trivial stuff anymore.  I’m just glad to be parked in a warm place with some other good-natured folks for the winter.

Choose the Right RV Park

Second to location, the RV park needs to have good amenities and be well maintained.  Things like reliable power, clean and up to date bathrooms and laundry facilities, good TV reception, and available internet (either wi-fi or mobile internet from a cellular carrier).  RV park review web sites are good places to check these things out.

When I’m selecting a place to stay put for a while, I use Google Maps to zoom onto an RV park to check out the surrounding area. I want to find out ahead of time if the park is next to a sewer treatment facility, auto recycling, or a cement plant.

San Carlos RV

I also believe it’s good that a RV park has a published set of rules and enforces their rules.  A few years ago, a visiting snowbird at our RV park was quietly asked to leave for late night partying and making a tad too much noise past the quiet time.  No warnings were given.  They were given a refund on the spot and asked to leave the next day.  Word spread quickly through the park and it was a good lesson for all.  The owners want to have a good place for the residents and will enforce the rules.

Also, I like a park where the owners cater to returning customers and don’t use their open spots for transient housing.  A good RV park, with good rules and amenities will help to establish a good base of returning customers.

Get Involved and Meet People

Location and amenities of the RV park are important, but so are the people who stay in the park.  One of the most rewarding aspects of RV park living is the people you meet.  I’m somewhat of an introvert, but I like meeting new people and getting to know who I’m living next to.

For me, meeting people is an opportunity not an encumbrance.   Everyone has a unique story.  They all have unique knowledge and they’re the ones who will help me out if need something.  If you get involved, walk around, and just stop by to chat, you can’t help but make new friends.

San Carlos Pig Roast

J. Dawg with friends at an RV park pig roast

I’ve found that most snowbirds are happy people.  They’re happy they made it to retirement.  They’re happy with their lifestyle.  And, they’re happy not to be back home sitting in a freezing tundra.

Get Outside and Find Things to Do

When the RV is parked, I’m not traveling and not seeing new scenic eye candy.  I’m also not at home with my family, friends, and routines.  I’m parked in a small space.  I’m the type who needs to keep busy doing things.  My hobbies are reading, writing, making video’s, photography, and bike riding. I enjoy doing these things when I’m traveling or parked for the winter.  Almost every day, I’m out on my bike going to an activity or searching out new things to photograph or to write about.

Many RV parks have weekly activities that are easy to sign up for.  Things like corn hole, pickle ball, yoga, or shuffle board are popular RV park activities.   If you don’t know the game or rules, just confess to being a newbie and ask someone to show you.  No matter what the sport or activity, everyone was a newbie at some point.

Weekly Corn Hole Tournament

Weekly Corn Hole Tournament

And that’s my list of how I survive living in a RV park living.  Living in an RV park isn’t about your site.  It’s about everything else.  All the things, people, and experiences that are around your site – in the RV park, nearby attractions, and in the general area.

I enjoy RV park living and the snowbird lifestyle.  I’ve made lots of new friends, learned new activities, and have experienced living in a different part of the country.

If you have other thoughts or questions, please share them in a comment.

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12 thoughts on “How I Survive Living in an RV Park

  1. Terri Reed

    The Florida and Texas Gulf Coast RV parks are unique because they draw a lot of retired Canadians and northerners into one happy communal tribal lifestyle usually for the entire winter. You won’t find this kind of RV park in other parts of the country. I spent 2 winters in an RV park on Sugar Loaf Key (26 miles from Key West) and it was wonderful!! Everyone is more or less on the same page in life. Enjoy and embrace the rarity!
    Terri Reed recently posted…Happy New Year from AustinMy Profile

  2. Roger Bohnke

    “I’d rather pay more and be happy.” That sums it up perfectly ! We worked hard to get to where we could enjoy retirement. You’ve got a lot of great ideas here JDawg. We’re heading to the Fort Myers area in a few days (Ortona and then to Midway) after the Tampa RV show. Might swing by there to check out that park and say Hi.

  3. Merikay

    All good observations. I never thought we would buy into having a permanent winter home
    base, but after several years of coming back to Southern California for the Holidays, medical appointments, and family time, we did just that. It also gives us a safe place to leave our rig if we wanted to take a vacation via plane, or a Cruise. (We haven’t yet, but we might some day. I am probably more content spending several months here than my husband. I get out more and have met many of the other people. He tends to stay at the coach and putter about. But that is how it would have been if we kept the house. Along with choosing a park for amenities, we found one that had a reasonable cost. Although we pay a maintenance fee year round, even if we aren’t here, it crosses over after three months compared to paying full daily cost at parks around the country.

    We liked Florida, and were glad we spent one winter there, but it is too far from family for the Holidays. Same with south Texas. But one of these winters we might go down to Mexico for a month or so.

  4. LLOYD MILLER

    Enjoyed your education about RV Parks. Sorry for changing the subject but soon my wife and I will be full time in a Class B. Do you have any information about how to go about contacting the BLM to learn about various Boondockingsites?
    Thanks.

    1. J. Dawg Post author

      Lloyd,
      I have no info on contacting the BLM. Suggest that you Google them. Also, I have some links to websites that will show BLM and USFS campsites. Here’s the link to my camping resource page. http://jdawgjourneys.com/camping-links/ Items 5-7 in the list will show include BLM and USFS campsites. Hope this helps.
      J. Dawg

  5. Glee

    I apologize if you have addressed this question in other blog entries but can you speak to any mosquito issues at the Florida RV parks you have visited/reviewed? Thanks!

    1. J. Dawg Post author

      Glee;
      Yes, I can speak to the issue of bugs. Many places in FL (towns and cities) have mosquito control efforts. These are large efforts to control mosquito breeding across a wide area. I’m guessing that they’re pretty successful because, in the places I’ve stayed (Ft Myers, St. Augustine, panhandle), I haven’t seen too many mosquitos during the day. You will find them out at dusk and in the evening. Places like Everglades NP don’t do mosquito control and I’ve heard that the bugs are ferocious down there. Some RV parks also place bug deterrent units in their parks but I can’t speak to how these thing work. But there’s another bug that affects me worse than the mosquito. It’s the noseeum, also called midges. They are a member of the sand flea family and live in the same areas as mosquitos. These blood suckers bite like a mosquito, but you can’t see them and they go right through screens. They affect me quite a bit but others seem to tolerate the bite. It’s the saliva they leave behind in the bite that causes the itching and swelling. It takes a while (3-4 weeks) but people can build up an immunity to the saliva so after a while the bites won’t leave a mark or itch. DEET based mosquito repellent seems to work for some. I tend to get bit up quite a bit during the first month of my FL visit, but after that I tend not to notice them. Here’s I blog post I wrote last year that included some commentary on getting bit up by noseeums. http://jdawgjourneys.com/2017/01/the-winter-of-my-discontent/
      J. Dawg

      1. Glee

        Thanks, J. Dawg! Sorry I hadn’t already read your previous blog post, but I’m actually kind of glad I hadn’t until now. It’s the reading material that gives one nightmares. 🙂

        I am aware of the common “netting” (re-screening) approach for RV owners who venture into areas rife with no-see-ums/sand flies/biting midges.
        http://www.seattlefabrics.com/54-No-See-Um-Mosquito-Netting-299-linear-yard_p_92.html
        I am glad I didn’t experience them when I drove my Tiger RV across the country in September of 2016 to housesit in St. Pete Beach for the month of October. The weather in Florida at that time was bad enough — dealing with sandflies would have compounded the misery. On a visit to Cuba was the last time I experienced sandflies — certainly prompts one to dislike the beach! But an experience at the campground at Lees Ferry in Arizona when (literally) millions of gnats had invaded the restrooms and, yes, my RV (because they had come right through the screens on the screen door and windows) gave me a glimpse of precisely why I would want to go to all the trouble to re-screen my RV with much, much smaller weave screen material such as that in the link I have included in this reply. I well realize that rescreening will not protect me from sandfly exposure outside of my RV but with each story I hear from others affected by them, I am reminded to address that task — sooner than later. I am relieved to hear that one usually builds up an immunity to them. I wish the same were true of mosquito bites! Thanks, again!

  6. Matt

    Great tips, using google maps is a good idea. I use it all the time as gps to find destination and help with route but forget to look at the satellite image to see what’s in the surrounding area. I’m generally kind of an introvert but I am addicted to pickleball…and love corn hole. Great way to meet new people- playing a game instead of just sitting around trying to come up with stuff to talk about….