Are you planning out your next RV trip? Are you researching the RV lifestyle? Having an idea of what to expect to pay for a campsite is an important piece of the overall picture.
The answer to this question is similar to comparing prices to a roadside motel to a luxury resort in many ways. Those looking to set up their tent are going to have different needs than someone with a 40 foot Class A motorhome.
Our discussion will cover the many campsite options available. Before we get started, let’s cover some basic ideas first.
Hookups and Amenities
There are different types of campsites available. To keep everyone on the same page, we’ll go through some definitions first.
- Primitive site: Basic campsites that do not offer any utility services. These sites are ideal for tents
- Partial hookups: This type of site has water and electric utilities. These shore services allow RVs to connect so they don’t have to rely on their own internal supply.
- Full hookups: The utilities offered include water, electric, and sewer. Having the sewer connection at the campsite avoids having to go to a central dump station.
- Pull through sites: This site allows RVs to enter and exit without backup. The site also has full hookups. Many campgrounds charge extra for this convenience.
- Premium sites: This type of campsite has full hookups and a leveled concrete pad to park your coach on. It’s usually more expensive but makes it easier for the bigger RVs to keep their coach stable.
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The national average for a campsite across the United States in 2019 is about $50 a night. This price covers an RV with two adults. Hookups include water, electricity, and Wi-Fi where available. The campground may also offer free basic cable.
Use of the campground features would include anything that is not a premium amenity. Things like a playground and picnic table on the campsite. The campground may have a dog park, but you may have a pet fee with your reservation. If your campsite does not have a designated fire pit, the campground may have a campfire area you can use.
This national average leaves out a lot of details. Different campgrounds have different price structures. Be aware of added fees, price changes that happen during the year, and other factors that come into play.
Types of RV Parks
There are 130 National Parks across the United States. Each state has its own public park system as well. Compared to private campgrounds, these parks can be less expensive to stay at.
Before you set out to visit the U.S. National Parks, do your research first. 13 of the parks offer partial or full hookup amenities. If you are bringing your RV, you will have better luck calling ahead to make a reservation first. Using the Find a Campground webpage offered by the National Park Service is a great place to start.
State Parks offer more variety. Many of the states have poured money into their parks to increase their tourism revenues. You have a better chance to find partial and full hookups in these campsites. Some offer first-come-first-serve, while others require reservations. You can use a directory, or look up your state’s website to find the parks available.
Overall, if your destination is one of these parks, it is always good to research it and call ahead. This is especially true if you have a bigger coach. Many of these parks have not kept up with RV technology. They may have only a handful of spots available for 40 foot RVs.
If the national or state parks don’t have any availability, there are private campgrounds close by. During the busy season, many of the public parks fill up fast. Private parks may have an opening and the amenities that suit your needs.
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Private Owned RV Campgrounds
Private commercial campgrounds offer the most variety. As the RV lifestyle has expanded, so has the demand for campgrounds. Competition between these parks have also become high. Since 2014, you are one of 75 million households that enjoy the RV lifestyle. That means at some point you are going to visit some of these campgrounds.
Campers now have higher expectations from campgrounds than they did in previous years. They want relevant locations at affordable prices with a lot of features. Many want to make a whole vacation without leaving the property. Campgrounds now offer:
- Bigger playgrounds
- Dog parks
- Clean bathrooms
- Planned onsite activities
- Stores and restaurants
- Sports courts and fields
Private parks offer a variety of campsites. Their least expensive sites can be primitive sites. Their premium sites can be concrete pads with full hookups next to lakes. Many offer camping cabins or big safari tents that you can rent on site. For those that want the RV experience, but don’t own one, some have inventory RVs that are rentable.
Big Chain RV Parks
Big chain and theme park campgrounds are usually the most expensive parks to visit. There are many reasons for this. The standards and features they offer are some of the highest you will ever see.
KOA helps its franchisers design their campgrounds to be the best campgrounds. No matter the location, KOA wants their visitors to have the same quality experience. They offer every style of campsite. Rentable cabins and tents for those that want to try the camping experience. Their staff lead onsite activities too.
Fort Wilderness at Disney World has resort-style features and amenities. Bathroom facilities look very much like a hotel restroom. They offer pony rides, many playgrounds, and golf cart rental to get around the park. The campground itself has a feeling of an outdoor hotel more than a campground.
Many of these big campgrounds are resorts unto themselves. You can plan a whole vacation inside their property based on what they offer. They will offer every variety of campsite.
When you are looking up prices per night/week, make sure you dig a little deeper. Campgrounds usually have a price schedule that follows a seasonal cycle. They have a peak season and off-peak season. Peak season usually runs during the summer months and is higher priced. These prices also assume two adult campers only. Here are some fees to look for:
- Pet fees (also make sure your dog does not fall under their breed restrictions)
- Additional campers (children and adults)
- Extra vehicles (tow vehicles, toad cars, dollies, etc)
- Secondary units on the site (screened-in rooms, tents, other RVs)
- Visitor passes
- Wi-Fi, Cable, or other campground premium services
- Services fees and Taxes
- Use of the premium facility features
- Non-refundable deposits
To prepare for these, when you make your reservations, it’s a good idea to read through the website. Especially their cancellation policy in case you have to change your plans. If you speak with someone, ask them about the additional fees that may come up. Tell them about your situation. The last thing you want are any surprises.
Discount clubs for RVs are becoming very popular. The advantages can outweigh the costs. Not all clubs are best for everyone. Before you sign up, make sure you read through their material. You may want to read some reviews to make sure a particular club fits your style of camping.
- Escapees RV Club– Discounts on over 800+ parks, access to their co-op parks, and use of their members-only rainbow parks
- Harvest Host– Stay at wineries, farms, and other places and buy local goods
- Thousand Trails– Stay at an in-network campground for little or no cost
- Passport America– Get up to 50% discounts at participating campgrounds
- America the Beautiful– A discount Pass for all National Parks in the United States. It also offers discounts on their campgrounds.
- Happy Camper– Get huge discounts at their participating campgrounds
- Good Sam’s Club– Get 10% off campgrounds, fuel, and Camping World
- Family Motor Coach Association– Open to drivables and not towables. Discounts on camping, has insurance, roadside assistance, and other valuable features
- Boondockers Welcome– Stay at participating residences for a night for free
- Hipcamp– Like Airbnb, but for RVs. Book non-campground places to set up your RV
Is Walmart Phasing Out Boondocking?
For decades, all experienced RVers have known you can boondock for one night in a Walmart parking lot. Recently, there has been some controversial discussion about Walmart phasing this out.
The truth of the matter is that it boils down to the individual store manager. Don’t grab your pitchfork to go after on a Frankenstein’s Monster hunt yet. Much of the time it is not within their control. There are external factors that they have to abide by.
Of the over 6,000 stores, over 1,000 don’t exist in their own building. These stores are apart of a strip mall or other structures that have third party owners. The store manager must also obey civic laws and regulations regarding parking lots.
Of course, then there are the rotten apples that “ruin it for the bunch” issue. If there has been an issue that created bad press for the store, the store manager has to act accordingly.
Publico Perpetuo (thus always publicity).
As you are planning your route, you can use Walmart Locator or Allstays to find those Walmarts that allow boondocking. If you do pull into one, look for signs on the light posts that notify against it. You can also go inside and ask.
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If you do pull in, courtesy always says that you go in and make a purchase. Be respectful to the store, your fellow boondockers, and the customers. Keep your area clean and quiet. Don’t stay any longer than you have too. Remember, your actions dictate how the store will treat the RVers tomorrow night.
Product data was last updated on 2020-01-28 at 19:16.
- National Averages: Depositphotos