Updated on September 11, 1999
When you are traveling down the road, one of the criteria for choosing your next campground might be just how friendly the place will be with respect to modems. There are several questions you might ask them if you had the chance.
Do they have phone hookups at your parking site?
Do they have a phone connection at the office or in some other common area?
Do they limit your time?
Do they want money for the use of their phone?
Do they even know what a modem is?
The good news is that more and more campgrounds are becoming modem-aware and know they need to provide some form of modem connection to get new business. Some places are outstanding, others leave a bad taste in your mouth.
The purpose of this report is to give you some ideas on what to expect and how to handle most situations.
RVers generally have one of two kinds of computers in their rig: a desktop PC or a laptop.
If you have a desktop computer, I assume you don't want to carry the PC and its monitor to a phone in the office. In that case you need a phone hookup at your camping site unless you are using your cellphone for Internet access. Some campgrounds offer this service, though there is usually a one or two dollar per night fee for its use.
Beware of the park where you have to deal with the phone company yourself unless you are staying a month or more. The setup fees can be quite high and the wait for installation can be long.
If you have a laptop computer, you can use a phone hookup at your camping site or you can carry your laptop to the office or other common area to do your hookup. Some campgrounds give you a small corner of their counter space, others provide a more private table where you can place your laptop. You may need to have an AC power connection if your computer is getting tired or you will be online for any length of time. And always carry your own telephone connection cord.
A phone connection provided by the campground is not a God-given right. It is a service provided by a business. Sometimes the phone line is a shared resource; the campground may use it for credit card calls or a fax line or for Internet access from their back office. It does cost them money to provide this service; more in some places than others. Here are the rules I follow.
Rule 0a: always ask when you sign in if the campground has a phone line for modem access, whether you intend to use it or not. If they say they do, then tell them that is great. If they say no, then tell them you are sad, that they are falling behind the times, and you'll have to let your friends know of the situation.
Rule 0b: if they have a phone line but charge for its use, you might want to express displeasure and tell them you will let your friends know of their policy, including getting them posted on the Internet.
Exception: many campgrounds allow you to make 800-number or local calls without charge, but do charge you for long-distance calls. This is legitimate; pay up if they get billed.
Rule 1: always ask permission to use the phone line. It may be busy.
Rule 2: always stay out of the way of their doing business. There are other customers they must serve, and taking up a majority of their counter space does not help them.
Rule 3: if it is a shared line you will be using consider your call to be second priority and be prepared to get off the line whenever they may need it. In most cases, if you simply remove the phone cord from your computer, the computer sees the connection had been broken externally and goes to a mode allowing you to do a quick reconnect as soon as the line is again available. As soon as the connection is established, the computer resumes what it was doing.
Rule 4: limit your time to what the campground allows unless they give you special permission to stay on-line. If they say 10 minutes, then get off at the end of 10 minutes or ask if you can stay longer.
Rule 5: if tsomeone else is waiting to use the phone line for modem access, finish your on-line work and get off to make the line available to them. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, else someday they will do it back at you in spades.
Rule 6: always say Thank You when you have finished. Tell the campground staff they have been a great help and that you will tell your friends that this campground has good Internet access. Really lay it on. We want to convince all campgrounds this is a good and necessary service to provide, and positive feedback is the best way to achieve that.
The good news is that more and more of the private campgrounds you visit offer common area modem access, though the ones with phone connections at your parking site are still rare. In the past year we have been to only three that refused us phone service.
In general, public campgrounds, like national forest campgrounds and state and county parks, do not have modem access.
I maintain the follow lists
Parks identified as offering modem access
Parks that refuse modem access
Parks that require payment for modem access
Parks that offer special services or on-site phone lines
In addition, take a look at the RV Travels Netlinks to Modem Friendly Campground Lists for other spots on the Internet where you can find list of modem friendly parks.