The Things That Determine What You Pay for a Campsite

Updated on June 5, 2019
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.

Several issues determine the amount of money people pay to rent campsites. They include:

  1. Who owns a facility and how much money he has invested in it.
  2. Whether travelers belong to discount camping clubs.
  3. When people go.
  4. Where they choose to travel.
  5. How many amenities a park has.
  6. Whether a facility is private or public.
  7. The traveler's willingness to pay!

Understanding these things helps travelers do a better job of trip planning.

Learn the reasons behind campsite costs so that you can make better travel choices.
Learn the reasons behind campsite costs so that you can make better travel choices. | Source

1. Owner Financials

The financial circumstances surrounding the ownership of a private camping facility play a huge role in the amount of money a park charges its visitors.

A campground that has been around for years and has had only had one owner is much more likely to charge less than one that has changed hands numerous times because it is likely that the sole owner of a facility owes little or nothing on it and can afford to charge less if he chooses to do so. This doesn't mean he will charge less, just that he has the financial ability to do so.

On the other hand, each time a park is sold, the price to the new owner increases. Thus, the most recent owner may have to charge more for his sites in order to pay for his debt as well as his overhead costs.

He will even owe more (and charge more) if he has spent money to make improvements on the property.

The same will be true if the new owner decides to create a park that meets specific needs such as a

  • family park,
  • nudist campground or
  • luxury camping facility.

An older park that I know of that upgraded from a simple mom and pop campground to being a high end luxury park raised its camping fees from $400 per month to $1200 per month.

They actually have a waiting list for year round sites because of the many amenities they added such as wide, concrete sites with cable, phone and WIFI hookups and other coveted items.

  • Many people want to have these amenities are willing to pay for them.
  • Those who want to save money are willing to do with less

Some campgrounds try to charge higher fees even though they have nothing special to offer. This is why travelers should always carefully research parks before reserving sites.

How much you pay for a campsite depends on many factors.
How much you pay for a campsite depends on many factors. | Source

2. Belonging to Discount Camping Clubs

Many RV parks are willing to accept less money to keep their sites occupied. The easiest way to do this is to become an affiliate park for a camping club.

They can put restrictions on when people can use their memberships, but may also reduce their rates by fifty percent.

This is why some people find themselves paying less than others to stay in the same place.

Many places make most of their income during the busy seasons, so they use this method to help them earn during the slow ones. It's a win for them as well as astute campers who join the right discount camping clubs.

3. Travel Scheduling

Another issue that affects the cost of campsites is timing.

People who don’t travel much or only do so in high season don’t realize that they may be paying twice as much than if they visited during the off season.

For example, park owners whose facilities are located in colder climates only have a limited amount of time to make money. They will always charge less before and after their main tourist season but will try to get whatever the market will bear otherwise.

If they are located in an area that has a special seasonal event, they may even triple their fees because they know that people who visit will be willing to pay it just so they can take part in the excitement.

So while some may see the higher costs as price gouging, others may realize that if they want to play they’re going to have to pay unless they want to miss the big events and just enjoy visiting the areas that have them.

4. Destinations

How much people pay to camp also depends on the location of a facility.

It is almost always going to cost more to camp near big cities or popular places because owners whose parks are located there must pay a good deal for land, taxes and utilities.

So, while a camper might pay $50 per night to camp near a big city, he could easily cut that cost in half by staying in a park 15 miles outside of town.

Also, it’s always going to cost more to camp in a privately owned park that is located in a place that has magnificent scenery, is on a golf course or is on water whereas people generally pay more reasonable amounts when staying at government-run facilities.

The only exceptions might be facilities that are owned by casinos because they can afford to offer nice amenities for minimal prices.

One year my husband and I visited a casino campground in central Louisiana. The sites were wide, flat, large and well-manicured and offered full hookups with up to 100 KW plus WIFI and cable TV.

The park offered free transportation to the casino, had a golf course, movie theater, several swimming pools and a gorgeous clubhouse.

Since we belonged to Passport America, we paid $11 per night!

Nice as it was, we never visited again because getting to this park meant driving over extremely rough roads. Also, there wasn’t much to do in the small town where the park was located.

These likely were the reasons for the reduced cost!

If you want to attend special events such as the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM, be prepared to pay more to camp.
If you want to attend special events such as the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM, be prepared to pay more to camp. | Source

5. Amenities

The more things a park has to offer, the more it costs to stay there. This is because it costs money to install and maintain things such as swimming pools, Jacuzzis, exercise equipment and things of similar ilk.

Parks that refer to themselves as resorts are indicating that they indeed do offer lots of goodies, but unfortunately many places use this term to attract people but do not provide the types of things they expect to have. However, because they call themselves resorts, they still overcharge visitors. What's the Difference Between RV Parks and RV Resorts? points out how they differ. After reading it, you’ll be able to tell whether the fees are fair or not.

At the very least, all amenities should be in good working condition. Otherwise you are paying for services you are not receiving.

Fort Wilderness Resort Amenities

6. Facility Type

Whether a park is privately owned or operated by a government entity can also make a difference in how much people pay. In some cases, fees are approximately the same, but in others they vary greatly.

You won't find any public park charging hundreds of dollars nightly, but you can easily pay this much in RV parks that are well-located and have tons of amenities.

There are privately-owned campgrounds and RV parks that are designed to meet every need. However, the greater your needs are, the more you will pay to meet them.

For example, it will cost much more to camp in a park designed for nudists than in one created for simple overnight visits.

In general, any facility with “resort” in its title is going to try to charge more money, so travelers should always be wary of this nomenclature.

The same is true of well-known names such as Disney, KOA and Jellystone. These places are geared towards families and offer many amenities such as Hay rides, horseback riding, campfire talks and live entertainment.

People pay more to visit them, but they also go knowing that they are getting a destination park that will keep their kids safe, occupied and happy.

There are many other types of parks that people can stay in that charge much less and offer different types of experiences. Fish camps, mom and pop parks, city parks and even state fairgrounds are good examples.

National Parks Still Have Reasonable Campsite Costs

7 Traveler Discretion

Many RVers think they have no choice when it comes to forking out money to pay for campsites, but this absolutely is not true.

People should remember that they are on wheels and are not tied to the situations they may face when RV camping.

Furthermore, the range of rates is phenomenal. You can pay nothing, or you can pay a small fortune. These are your choices. The way you make them is by doing some homework and purchasing guides such as the Guide to Free and Low Cost Campgrounds and The Good Sam Club Travel and Savings Guide.

My husband and I have used these two books for years. Doing so has saved us many hundreds of dollars and has provided us with beautiful, well-located parks that have greatly added to our travel pleasure.

A perfect example is Santa Fe City Park in Chanute, Kansas. We pay nothing to stay there for up to 48 hours, yet enjoy our choice of 30 sites that have 50 amp electric, water and a dump station. It house s a golf course, a beautiful lake and pleasant walking trails and is great stopping point when we travel from East to West across the U.S.

We have found many similar places in the two books mentioned above, and you can do the same.

The bottom line is we don't have to get stuck paying a lot of money because we know we have a choice.

The ability to choose has turned out to be the greatest determiner of how much we pay to camp!

RVers can enjoy all types of parks when traveling.
RVers can enjoy all types of parks when traveling. | Source

Do you think having an understanding about campground fees will help you to do a better job of travel planning?

See results

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


Submit a Comment
  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    9 months ago from USA

    Yes, it is. Knowing these types of details can save people a good deal of money.

  • Carol Morris profile image

    Carol Morris 

    9 months ago

    Great hub, it's important to know all of this in order to plan and prepare for travelling.


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