How to Avoid Campgrounds That Price Gouge

Updated on November 13, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to enjoy their own vacations.

Many people who travel in recreational vehicles are unaware that some of the campgrounds they visit are overcharging for their sites.

Therefore it is up to them to learn the truth about this issue and find ways to protect their finances during RV vacations.

Never assume that you have to pay a small fortune to rent a campsite, because there are always great places to stay that charge reasonable prices.

How to identify and avoid campgrounds that overcharge for their sites and services.
How to identify and avoid campgrounds that overcharge for their sites and services. | Source

Why Some Charge More than Others

There is a wide range of prices when it comes to camping spots. They go anywhere from absolutely nothing all the way to several hundred dollars per night.

Reasons for the differences in these charges can include but are not limited to

  • location,
  • amenities,
  • local tax structures,
  • owner overhead or
  • pure greed.

High end privately run parks such as Disney’s Fort Wilderness deserve to charge more because they provide outstanding accommodations, are well located and have huge numbers of amenities.

Facilities that charge little or nothing are often poorly located, have few or no amenities and are generally subsidized by local businesses or government agencies.

Where problems arise are in parks that insist on huge fees but have very little to offer their visitors.

They may refer themselves to resorts, but they are not.

What Is the Difference Between RV Parks and RV Resorts? explains more about this issue and helps to clarify the problems with campgrounds that charge like resorts but offer only mediocre amenities or worse.

So, the trick for travelers is to distinguish between the two so that they can decide whether a given park is worth the amount of money they are trying to charge.

True resorts charge more because they provide more.
True resorts charge more because they provide more. | Source

How to Find Reasonably Priced Parks

Some people don’t care how much they spend to rent a space.

If you are not one of them, or if you’re a person who doesn’t like to be cheated, below you will find some practical advice that will allow you to save money on camping costs and still be able to stay at decent campgrounds.

Ask Questions

Hotels have a little trick they use to overcharge their overnight visitors..

What they do is advertise one amount, and then when it comes time for people to register, they add all sorts of fees and taxes to the price.

It reminds me of an ad that has been running on TV recently where a cute little girl is selling lemonade. Her sign says the price is $1.00, but by the time she finishes explaining all of the various add-on costs, the amount due is more than twice that price.

In recent years, some campground managers decided to increase their profits by doing the same. The problem is that they are not hotels and do not offer the same types of rentals.

  • With a hotel you get a brick and mortar room that comes with a bathroom, bedding, a TV set and other such items.
  • A campground basically only provides a place to park your coach and hook up to utilities.

Yet, some will try to make guests pay as if they were staying in a hotel!

These places advertise what appears to be a fair price, but charge extra for basics such as

  • hospitality taxes,
  • taxes on rental costs,
  • sewer,
  • electric,
  • cable,
  • 50 amp service,
  • prime sites,
  • pull through sites,
  • pets,
  • reservations,
  • cancelled reservations,
  • extra campers and
  • children!

Thus when RVers show up tired, hungry and ready for a rest without knowing that a park is going to price gouge, they end up paying for more than they had anticipated.

This upsets them, but the truth is that things like this happen because people don't take the time to ask financial questions ahead of time.

They assumed that when they asked “how much do you charge?” that the answer they got was honest. Oftentimes, it isn’t!


Refuse to Stay

Getting financial information before deciding where to stay, let's people know which parks to avoid.

There is no reason to pay $45 per night for a mediocre park when you can pay less than $15 for one that is clean and has good amenities!

Think this isn’t possible?

As I write this, my husband and I are staying at a clean, safe mom and pop park in a big tourist area. It has full hookups, 50 amp service, WIFI, cable TV and every morning and afternoon during the week the owner provides free coffee and snacks for campers. We’re paying $14.50 per night including tax!

We got this rate by agreeing to stay here for a month. Although it’s a bit of a ride to get to some of the main tourist attractions the savings make staying here worthwhile.

There are places like this one all over the country, but you have to seek them out.

This is a perfect example of how refusing to camp in parks that overcharge, can save RVers a fortune.

2017 Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide (Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide: The Must-Have RV Travel)
2017 Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide (Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide: The Must-Have RV Travel)

A must have camping guide that is loaded with great helpful info for all who RV.


Do Your Homework

The best and easiest way to get the kind of information you need is to do what my husband and I have always done which is to use the Good Sam Club travel and savings guide. This book is loaded with great information, is inexpensive and will help you plan a trip that will help you to save money.

We find the parks we want to visit, call them, get the information we need and then decide which ones would be best to visit.

Another book we always use for trip planning is one written by Don Wright, Guide to Free and Low Cost Campgrounds, which lists campsites nationwide where you can stay for $12 per night or less. There are similar books out there, but this one is clearly the best because of the credible information it provides.

This one is a real gem which is surprising to people who have never seen it before because it lets them know just how little they may have to pay for campsites as they travel!

If you want even more information, you can go online and look at the prices and limitations of parks affiliated with the Passport America camping club. This is free to do and you can see before you join up what you’ll be paying for camping if you join.

Finally, you can take the time to visit the National Park Service website to learn about how much you will have to pay to stay at their facilities.

As you can see, there are many resources available to help you find reasonably priced parks that can protect you from the price gougers.

Don’t Let Gougers Rob You!

The smartest thing you can do to avoid the price gougers is to think about how much a particular camping spot is worth to you.

If you crave luxury, you most likely will pay plenty to have it, but if you are content to stay at parks that are clean, comfortable and slightly off the beaten path, you can save a bundle as long as you pay attention to what you're doing.

The biggest mistake price gougers make is that they forget you are mobile. In most cases it is easy for you to just drive away if they try to rob you.

If you’ve made an advanced reservation or arrive late, they know they’ve got you, but you can avoid being victimized by never reserving a spot and always making sure that you arrive early in the afternoon.

That way, you keep your options open.

Remember that you always have a choice, but you need to exercise it if you want to avoid paying more than what is fair for campsites.

Have you ever overpaid for a campsite?

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© 2017 Sondra Rochelle


Submit a Comment

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    Sondra Rochelle 5 months ago from USA

    JandaRaker: If it works for you, which it obviously does, I say "Bravo"! Traveling like this would never work for me, but I'm glad it works for you!

  • Janda Raker profile image

    Janda Raker 5 months ago from Amarillo, Texas

    I totally understand about the creature comforts. But I come from a background of tenting, backpacking, kayaking, etc., so it's easy to "make do." And we usually arrange our travel around the seasons. And with the money we've saved, we've been on trips to Australia, New Zealand (mostly tenting), 3 months in Europe (mostly in our tent), 6 countries in South America (mostly in hostels), etc., a recent tour of Costa Rica, etc. You are so right--we all have our preferences! I really enjoy your articles! Thanks!

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    Sondra Rochelle 5 months ago from USA

    JandaRaker: You're talking about dry camping, which while saving money, is not the most comfortable way for most people to camp. These days most people like their comforts. Personally, I wouldn't want to RV without air conditioning and I don't like having to worry constantly about using too much water or over filling my sewer tank. We all have our preferences, of course, but my point in this article is that there are many ways to have those luxuries without spending a fortune. Sometimes you can have even have them at no charge. So, given the choice, I'll take comfort any day...but that's just me!

  • Janda Raker profile image

    Janda Raker 5 months ago from Amarillo, Texas

    Good article, TimeTraveler2. Concise and to the point. However, we, like many other RVers, are spending less time in RV parks with full hookups. That saves a lot of money and also enables us to stay in quieter parks with more of nature available. We have solar panels for most of our electrical needs, and we just fill our frsh water tanks and dump our holding tank when necessary. Just another way to save.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    Sondra Rochelle 5 months ago from USA

    KarenHellier: Thanks. I think this trend to price gouge has increased significantly ever since more and more people have started RVing. No reason for it other than greed, but travelers can protect themselves by doing the things I mentioned in this article. Thanks for stopping by. Nice to see you again.

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 5 months ago from Georgia

    Great hub and full of great information for those of us planning ahead for a future of RV travel. And it's also great for current RVers who may have been getting price gouged. Thanks for the info.