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If you’ve camped with any regularity, you understand one of the top costs of RVing, aside from fuel, are campsites. We notice prices have gone up on just about everything over the years. But RV parks are pricier and require lots of planning and reservations in advance to ensure you can actually camp when and where you want to. Those living life on the fly often find themselves out on their luck if they attempt to camp without a reservation.
So, why are RV Park Rates So High? It’s because of the number of RVers. More people than ever are purchasing RVs or renting them through companies like RVshare or Outdoorsy. The increase in the number of RVers has also increased campground costs such as employees, maintenance, security, water, sewer, electricity, and trash removal.
So read on to learn why RV Park rates are so high and what you can do to lower your cost of RV Campsites.
What is the Average RV Rate for Private Campgrounds?
Of course, average is a notable word whenever trying to budget or plan ahead. Prices, taxes, and amenities vary from state to state. Private campgrounds generally include full hookups (electric, water, and sewer). They will range between $30-$60 per night dependent upon location and amenities such as a pool, WiFi, cable, mini-golf or a water view. A luxury RV resort, such as Disney’s Ft. Wilderness will find you paying from $70-$100/night. Families traveling with children often look for amenities, including entertainment.
Wekiva Falls near Orlando, FL – $50-$60/night
Hadley’s Point Campground, Bar Harbor, ME – $46-$50/night
Giant Redwoods RV, Meyers Flat, CA – $45-$55/night
Loons Point RV, Cedarville, MI – $32-$41/night
Hillbilly Creekside Campground, Maggie Valley, NC – $30-$36/night
Sun Rocks RV Park, Prineville, OR – $28-$33/night
Usually renting by the week or month allows you a discounted rate. Taking everything into account, with the numerous private campgrounds throughout the United States, an average rate most likely is $35-$45/night, before taxes.
What is the Average RV Rate for Public Campgrounds?
Public campgrounds, as a rule, are traditionally less expensive than those privately owned. Naturally, a municipality running a campground must set aside funds to do so. Public campgrounds commonly offer more private, buffered sites, as well as, natural scenery to that area and the opportunity to view its natural wildlife inhabitants. However, public campgrounds usually have fewer amenities or none at all. Some public campgrounds offer full hookups, while others only have electric and water (with a dump station on site) or dry camping only.
Morefield Campground, Mesa Verde National Park, CO – $45/night (full hookups)
North Rim Grand Canyon National Park, AZ – $18/night (dry camping)
Nolin Lake State Park, Mammoth Cave, KY – $29/night (electric & water)
Tomoka State Park, Ormond Beach, FL – $28/night (electric & water)
California State Parks – $35/night / National Parks in California – $35/night (amenities vary)
Lake Park County Campground, Lewisville, TX – $17/night (electric & water)
Be it federal lands, national, state, or county parks, there are a multitude to choose from throughout the United States. Restrictions on when you are allowed to make a reservation will also apply. For instance, national parks and federal lands generally allow you to reserve 6 months in advance of your arrival date. State parks and county parks can range from one year to three months in advance simply depending on the policy of the particular municipality. When making reservations at public campgrounds, it’s best to plan ahead. Depending on location and time of year, they can book up quickly.
What Factors Determine RV Park Fees?
Popular areas of the country receive thousands of visitors per year. Park and campground financial needs grow by leaps and bounds due to increased costs of ongoing maintenance and or the occasional natural disaster. And all of this equates to money.
There are items that the average visitor may not take into account when they make an off-hand remark to a ranger asking why the park should charge an entry fee—after all, we pay taxes, right? For any park, be it a public municipality, federal or private, there is a mountain of items for which time and money must be allocated. Perhaps you are aware of what goes into keeping a park running safe and sound, but just in case, we’ve listed a few below.
• Campground stores
• Emergency preparedness
• General maintenance to campsites and buildings in the park
• Hiking trails, bike paths, canoe rentals, and related maintenance
• Landscaping, downed trees, prescribed burns
• Liability insurance
• Motor vehicles and other equipment used by park employees
• Park roads and campground improvements
• Parking lots
• Picnic areas
• Repair and maintenance of historical buildings or monuments
• Restrooms and bathhouses
• Sewage and water treatment facilities
• Special programs provided throughout the year
• Swimming pools
• Trash and recycle collection
• Water and electric within the park or possibly solar panels
• And most important, paid employees and rangers
Public campgrounds must have an annual budget and the funds to maintain their campgrounds and parks safely and securely for all visitors. Private campgrounds also adhere to many of the same regulations as public campgrounds, while ensuring they make a profit to possibly also pay a mortgage they hold on their land or equipment. Of course, private campgrounds are not subsidized with federal, state or county dollars.
Visitor rates are not merely an average of those that visit a park occasionally but those that use the campground, amenities of the park, rent a kayak or visit for special events. Dependent upon a park’s location, it must budget and plan knowing when it will be at full capacity during the year.
Are Discounts Available at RV Campgrounds?
Yes! If there’s an upside to campsite prices, it’s the numerous clubs, volunteer opportunities, military or senior discounts that abound.
It’s simple to check with state parks by phone or stopping in along your route. Some parks only provide a discount if seniors reside in the state, while others allow all seniors a discount or a chance to purchase a pass which allows a discount for a year. Your age will vary from state to state as to what is considered a “senior.” If your plans are to stay within a state for any length of time or travel there often, it could be worth your while to purchase the pass.
Active military and veterans’ discounts differ from state to state. The majority of state parks offer anywhere from 10% to 25% off campsites. Several states waive the day use fee.
When it comes to national parks, BLM lands and national forests, seniors and active military are nicely rewarded with discounted camping and entrance fees. At age 62, the Lifetime Senior Access Pass can be purchased for $80. This pass gives you free entrance to the national parks and half-priced campsite fees.
Please note, you may still be charged an extra fee for the use of electricity and water or a registration fee. However, the price of the actual campsite is shown at half-price. This campsite pricing varies depending on location, type of federal land and amenities offered. Federal sites may only offer dry camping; others will offer electric/water and some even full hookups. Go to www.recreation.gov for a list of lands.
Active military may obtain an America The Beautiful Pass absolutely free! This pass is not available to military veterans. However, veterans may qualify for the Senior Access Pass at age 62. Disabled veterans qualify for a free Access Pass. For more information go to https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm
Becoming a camp host can provide you a free campsite. Jobs vary from place to place as well as your time at a particular location. Check out: http://www.camphost.org/ for more information.
There is a host of RV clubs available to take the bite out of your nightly rate while staying at private campgrounds. These are renewed annually, giving you the opportunity to discover which ones work best for you. In addition to the discounts listed below check out our article called The 5 Best RV Campground Memberships where we discuss the 5 Best memberships, and a couple of runners up, in great detail.
5 Great RV Memberships for Discount or Free Camping
Good Sam RV Club offers a 10% discount at over 2,400 campgrounds throughout the U.S. Membership costs is $27/year. Good Sam also provides a 5 cents/gallon on gasoline and 8 cents/gallon on diesel discount when gassing up at any Pilot Flying J location. Pilot Flying J also will refill your propane tank at a 5 cents/gallon discount.
As a club member, enjoy a 10% discount on purchases at any Camping World and several outdoor retailers. Other discounts apply on dining, travel, and shopping.
Passport America at $44/year is a wise decision for those who want good use of campground discounts. Their directory includes approximately 1800 campgrounds across the U.S. and Canada and offers 50% off campsites. Before joining, you can download the directory which outlines policies, such as the number of nights the discount is applicable.
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV club. It’s a network of wineries, breweries, and farms that invite RVers to stay one night free per visit at over 700 locations. At $79/year, the membership pays for itself after a couple of nights. The site, however, does not allow access to its locations before signing up.
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Participating locales provide no RV hookups or services such as showers and bathrooms. You must call ahead to reserve. For those who don’t mind boondocking for an evening, this sounds like a fun, adventurous way to throw in a night or two off the beaten track as you travel to a new destination.
Escapees RV Club has various discounts that apply to their network of campgrounds. Some may be 50% off while others will give a 15% discount. Restrictions may apply as to how many nights you will receive the discount. Their website is extensive and has a lot to offer at $39.95/year.
KOA Value Kard Rewards is specific to KOA campgrounds throughout North America. For a $30/year membership, you’ll receive 10% off daily rates year-round at 500 KOA campgrounds. KOA also provides a phone app making it easy for online reservations. Reward points are accumulated with each booking to be used for cash off on future KOA stays.
Is There A Shortage of RV Campgrounds?
What kind of crazy question is this, you ask? I somehow got hooked in with 3 different camping groups on Facebook and getting reservations seems to be a complaint voiced by many.
With that said, there are over 15,000 campgrounds throughout the United States: https://www.campgroundviews.com/map-based-search/. But, why do we hear that RVers are unable to get reservations? Naturally, some folks have the planning gene, while others, not so much. The idea of taking off for the wild blue yonder definitely has its appeal, however, in the real world, some sort of plan generally has to come into play.
Perhaps friends were unable to camp at the Grand Canyon National Park Campground, had to find another campground an hour or so away, which then turned the normally happy campers into unhappy campers. When you are dead set on camping on any public lands, planning ahead for your date of arrival and departure is usually the best option. Check ahead to inquire how far out you can book a reservation, and be prepared the day of to do so. Private campgrounds, such as KOAs, are generally able to accommodate RVers.
I agree though, when you have your heart set on a particular campground, it can feel like the shortage is real. You know the saying, “location, location, location.” To help keep you in the green with a campsite, be sure to check ahead for your next stopping point then google campgrounds in that area. If you need to make a reservation last minute, call ahead to ask about accommodations. If you must call two or three campgrounds, so be it. Most RVers I know have always located a site, whether it be their second or third choice.
RVing provides newfound freedom and escape from the everyday stresses of life. More people than ever have learned that RVing really can be an economical form of travel and one that keeps the family staying together and playing together. Whether you enjoy primitive camping or need the amenities provided by an RV resort, you’ll find your way in searching for the campsites that best fit your needs and those of your family. Keep livin’ the dream.
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6 thoughts on “Why Are RV Park Rates So High?”
Do you know if any of the above discounts are only for American citizens, or is open to the Canadian’s camping in the US as well?
Do you know of any good sites for Canadian’s camping in the US?
Thanks for the article. I am in Canada and would like to know if Canadians can get discounts in the US if they are seniors. Thanks.
In State Parks or US National Parks, you will need to be a US Citizen to receive the senior discounts. Private RV Campgrounds make their own rules so just ask and I bet you get the discount more often than not.
Thanks for reading the article!
My wife and I are fairly new to RVing, we have stayed at both State Parks and private parks. We’ve noticed State Parks are cleaner and less expensive price wise. Availability at State Parks are greater than Private Parks.
2020 – will be our first time we are going traveling longer distances, viewing many historical site’s.
Plan on doing a Light ? tour.
State Parks are clean and less expensive but they sometimes don’t have any hookups. However, they usually have a dump station and fresh water and that works for us.
We stay in State Parks quite a bit too. I love the idea of taking a Lighthouse Tour! Please keep us posted and email us and send pics. You can use our contact page and it goes right to our email.
Mike and Susan
I think you’re a bit off on average prices since the Pandemic set in, at least on CA coast.
Example, Mission Bay Park in San Diego, not upscale at all, $105.00 standard spot, and that’s if you can find an open spot for more than 1 day at any coastal parks private or state.
Mid state is the same Morro Bay, Pismo all booked out till Fall.