I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
As the prices for campsites in the U.S. continue to rise, RV travelers struggle to find ways to reduce the amount they must pay for them.
Park owners have become increasingly aggressive with pricing, so this issue has become very important, especially for those who take extended RV vacations.
One of the best ways to mitigate these costs is to take the time to compare prices. This will save RVers more money than they may think.
Campground Costs Overview
For example, in many places, what used to cost $15 or $20 per night now costs $30 to $40! What is upsetting is that many of these RV parks used to cost $10 to $12 per night.
On a 30 day trip at $20 a night, a site will cost $600, but at $40 it will cost $1200. Compared to the cost of a hotel room, this seems cheap to most people, but we should all remember that what we pay for mostly at a campground is nothing more than a slab of concrete, some basic utilities and a few amenities we may or may not use, especially if we are between destinations.
In addition to this we have or are paying for our travel unit, maintenance costs, storage fees, insurance, gas or diesel fuel and repairs. These all are expensive items that we tend not to factor in when thinking about camping cost, but they add a great deal to our overall costs.
The prices I mentioned above are averages, but anybody who has been RVing for awhile knows that those RV park fees can be considerably higher. Some go over $300 per night, which is more than a nice hotel room costs!
RV Popularity Has Brought Problems
To add to the pricing mess is the fact that park owners can now be picky due to the increasing popularity of RV living and travel.
Some are now turning away people with coaches that are more than ten years old or are not in prime condition. More are requiring reservations and adding extra fees for making them. Many are nickel and diming travelers for things such as using showers, having cable TV and participating in various activities.
These things may not seem like much to people who are vacationing, but an extra five dollars per day on a 30 day RV trip adds up to a whopping $150!
Mitigating Camping Fees
What makes things worse is that many travelers, especially those who are new to RVing, simply accept such expenses as being the norm. Unfortunately, this is the very thing that has enabled park owners to take financial advantage of them.
The good news is that you do not have to tolerate it if you learn how to comparison shop ahead of time.
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There is nothing like good old competition to get a facility owner to offer you a deal!
This is where comparison shopping comes in, and I’m going to teach you how to do it!
Use Campground Guides to Gain an Advantage
There are two travel guides that we always use when planning our RV vacations: The Good Sam Travel Guide and the Passport America Camping Club Guide.
Both of the organizations that produce these guides offer free trip routing based on the locations of their affiliate parks.
This is very helpful because it allows a person to visualize locations and see how many parks are in the general area. These books also provide contact information, which allows travelers to call ahead and ask questions such as:
- How much do you charge for a full hookup site right now, and how much will you be charging when I travel to your location?
- Do you charge additional fees for items such as gate keys, swimming pool use, WIFI or other similar amenities?
- Is there a cancellation fee if I am unable to come to your park? How much is it?
- Is there a reservation fee?
- If I reserve ahead or for a longer period of time, will you reduce your price? (Many parks will only charge you for six days if you stay for seven or will charge less for longer stays.)
You can also ask questions such as where the local police, fire and medical facilities are, which grocery stores are close by and which pharmacies are located in the general area.
These last questions may not be directly related to camping fees, but they are issues that can affect you financially in certain circumstances.
For example, if the only grocery store is ten miles from the park and is only a local one, it’s prices will be higher or if the local pharmacy is not a partner with your insurance company and you need medication, it’s going to cost you much more to buy prescription drugs.
These are things that most RV travelers don’t think about, but all of them have the potential of increasing your campground visit costs.
How to Use the Info You Gather to Save Money
Once you have gathered enough information, you’ll be able to see which parks will cost you the least.
For example, most Passport Parks will only charge you 50% of their normal campsite costs, if you make it a point to stay in them on days when the deals are active. Many Passport America parks only offer the deals during the week or on certain days. Others offer them seven days a week.
Even then, if you stay longer, some of these parks will give you a good deal.
One that we visit started out at $40 per night, but reduced the fee to $23 per night with the club discount. Then he told us that if we stayed a month, we could have a full hookup site, 50 amp electric, water, sewer and WIFI for $450 per month including tax, and the deal included a morning and late afternoon snack time for free during the week! That comes to $15 per night or a savings of $750 per month!
This park, by the way, is located right in the middle of a major tourist area, is close to two hospitals and is not very far from some beautiful beaches! Had it not been for Passport America, we never would have found it!
Saving Takes Time and Planning
People have two choices when it comes to paying for campsites: they can either take the easy route and just pay, or they can take the time to comparison shop and check local areas so that they can pay less!
As you have seen from the example I just provided, the cost differential can be significant, especially if you have enough time to stay for longer periods of time.
Are all parks equally generous with their costs? No, they are not. This is why you need to comparison shop while you’re still at home so they cannot trap you financially.
The effort will be well worth your time and will leave you with enough money to be able to enjoy the wonderful places you visit.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Sondra Rochelle