Friday, July 26, 2013

Camping Courtesy and Etiquette – Some things you should know before you camp!

Whenever camping, it’s important to remember that all campers want their own camping space to be “theirs” for whatever period of time they are occupying it.  So there are some common courtesies that we should all follow to make everyone’s camping experience the very best it can be!  Here are a few examples to consider:

Follow the pet policies.  Whatever the campground’s pet policy is, make sure you know it and follow it (and state apply, too!) if you’re taking your pet camping.  If you’re a pet owner, this is important because you want your favorite campground to remain pet-friendly.  No one wants to be next to a dog that barks continuously.  So, make sure your family’s 4-legged member doesn’t become “that dog” and minimize their barking.  Never tether your pet to trees, picnic tables, fences, or campground buildings.  Always (even in dog walk areas) clean up after your pet 100% of the time, pets should always be leashed (unless in a doggie park area).  If the campground has a doggie park, follow the posted rules. And last, but certainly not least, if your pet is not well socialized either with people or other animals, leave them at home.  Take them to a kennel or hire a dog sitter.  A campground is no place for an aggressive pet, period.  Always carry a copy of the dog’s shot records with you so that if there ever is an incident, you’ll have them.  

Don’t encroach on other people’s campsites.  Typically, an RV or electric and water tenting site, are from electric box to electric box.  But if you’re not sure of your “boundaries” ask.  And teach your kids that these invisible boundaries should be respected.  Make sure the children don’t “cut through” someone else’s campsite on the way to the rest rooms and shower house.  Make sure your dog isn’t tethered where it’s on someone else’s campsite, and/or worse yet, doing its’ business there.  And remember, if you’re in close proximity to others, loud music is also an encroachment.  You may not have the same taste in music as your neighbor.  So if they are country music lovers, and you’re a heavy metal fan, and you’re both playing music, no one is going to have a good camping experience.  The best policy is that if you can hear it at your neighbor’s campsite, it’s too loud. 

Follow the campground’s visitor, guests, vehicle registration and parking policies.  Many people don’t understand why campgrounds limit the number of visitors or people per campsite, nor the number of vehicles per campsite.  Too many vehicles per campsite create a safety hazard for the wagon ride, kids on bicycles, kid’s running into the campground street from between cars, etc.  In addition, they make getting emergency vehicles through the campground to a campsite where its’ needed, impossible.  And third, too many visitors or too many vehicles encroach on your camping neighbor’s access to his or her site and create a noise encroachment. 

Remember, 12 people on a campsite, by default, are going to be noisier than 4.  Your neighbor may have come to this campground to get away from his neighbor at home who is constantly throwing pool parties.  And put yourself in his shoes for minute, because if the roles were reversed, you’d most likely be an unhappy camper too.  If you’re expecting a lot of guests, make arrangements for that in advance with the campground.  Most will work with you to create a great party for your family at a pavilion or other community area which will keep your group from bothering the neighbors.  This provides a great camping experience for your party and your camping neighbors too, so everyone wins.    

Follow the Policies that are there for your safety!  Believe it or not, thousands of children are injured each year in accidents.  That is why most campgrounds have policies about playgrounds closing at dusk, bicycle riding ending at dusk, bicycle riders being required to wear helmets, speed limits, no jumping or diving in the swimming pool, no fireworks, no leaving campfires unattended, life jackets being required to paddle boat, and more.  Many are dictated by state or local laws, and some are dictated by our liability insurance companies because they are statistically a higher risk activity, and are for your protection.  While campground owners are in the business of providing fun recreation, they have to do so in a way that keeps their campers safe.  So help them out by being a shining example.  Follow the posted rules, and be the kind of camper who enforces those rules with your children, too.  Don’t make the campground owner the bad guy for enforcing the rules.  He or his employees are just trying to keep the kids safe and run a fun and clean campground for your family to enjoy.  Campgrounds are never trying to discourage fun, but there is nothing wrong with kids learning to have fun responsibly!  It’s a great life lesson they will carry with them for years to come.    

Leave the campsite and the animals the way you found them, or better.  You should never leave garbage behind at your campsite, or place non-burnable items in the fire ring.  Teach your kids not to litter and that leaving litter behind endangers the animals.  Speaking of animals, no matter where you camp, you should never mess with wild animals.  The mother’s will sometimes abandon their babies if you’ve touched them, and they carry your scent.  And, you’ll create a problem if you think it’s cute to start feeding them, or dumping bacon grease in nearby wood lots versus properly disposing of it in a sealed bottle or can and the placing it in the dumpster or garbage cans.  Teach your children to never take food into a tent with them, or leave it sitting out in the campsite over night.  You’re just asking for furry visitors who will endanger your family. Raccoons, skunks, opossums, and such can carry rabies and other diseases that require painful treatment.  Bears who learn that they can score an easy meal at a campsite will return and become ever more brazen until they become a danger to campers.  When animals become a nuisance, they are often disposed of or trapped and relocated by the game commission, which isn’t fair to that animal.  Please remember, it us who is encroaching on their territory.  We should do so respectfully – by leaving our campsites as clean or cleaner than the way we found it, and by not enticing the animals with food.       

In the end, the very best policy to follow is the old adage to “do unto others as you’d have done to you”.  Place yourself in your neighbor’s shoes, and ask yourself, “would this bother me?” You may find that you’re encroaching or ignoring important safety or courtesy policies that you shouldn’t be.  If everyone would make that extra little effort, then everyone would have a much better camping experience!             

By Robyn Chilson
Tim & Robyn Chilson, own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA.  You can contact Robyn at


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why Are Visitor Fees Charged At Private Campgrounds & RV Parks?

No matter which campground that campers choose to stay at, chances are they will have friends or family living in the area who wish to visit them.  When guests arrive at the campground, they are often charged a visitation fee.

The campground’s facilities can only handle so many people at a time.  It isn’t that campground owners don’t want visitors.  On the contrary, we love you to invite people to come visit.  We love to have people see our parks.  We take great pride in them.  However, additional people place an extra burden on the facilities.  There are the obvious additional expenses of toilet tissue, paper towels, cleaning supplies, attendant’s labor, garbage bags, and more.  The prices of these supplies have sky rocketed with increased petroleum prices. 

Popular, private campgrounds receive hundreds of visitors a month, which can translate into thousands of visitors a season, which translates into huge extra expenses for the campground.  The less obvious long-term expense is that expanding facilities is a huge investment these days and in order to maintain the facilities a campground has, they have to stay within the capacity boundaries for which their water and sewage systems were designed.  Water system quality, pool samples, and sewage testing are required by the state to the tune of thousands of dollars a season.  All for good reason, as they are designed to keep the public’s drinking water, swimming facilities, and ground water safe.  However, when extra burdens are cast upon those facilities, the costs to maintain and operate them increase as well.  If the testing of those systems is that expensive, imagine the increased operating expenses for them as well. 
In addition, the visitor rates aren’t normally set on the person who uses the facilities the least, but on the average cost of the visitors to the campground or RV park.  The campground owner assumes that your family will participate in activities and events, enjoy the entertainment provided, and or utilize the swimming pool, and other facilities and amenities.  These business owners know that their visitor rates go up dramatically on holiday and special event weekends.  The numbers of visitors increase because we have special activities and events; have better entertainers or entertainment and more things to do. 
Parking extra vehicles is another issue.  In most campgrounds, real estate is a premium.  So, too many cars per campsite quickly become a congestion and safety issue.  Most campgrounds limit the number of vehicles per campsite to one or two for safety reasons and rescue vehicle access.  Therefore, the campground needs to provide extra visitor parking areas to relieve that congestion and ensure access for emergency vehicles.  That means that there is a clerk that has to assign the visitors tags, provide access to the park, a campsite map to help the visitor to find the folks they desire to visit, and finally directions on where they are to park.  All of these materials and the employee’s time is an additional increase to the cost of operations to the business.  
Increased visitors increase a campground’s liability insurance costs.  The rates for a campground’s liability insurance are based on the risk assessment and the number of people who occupy a campground during a season.  The higher the number of occupants in the RV Park or campground, the risk increases accordingly.  In addition, some insurance carriers argue that visitors are more likely to be injured because they are unfamiliar with their surroundings, may not be aware of all the rules or safety policies at campgrounds, and are less likely to be dressed appropriately for the camping or outdoor experience.  All of these things place the visitor at an increased risk for an injury. 
Remember that privately owned and operated campgrounds aren’t subsidized by tax dollars like federal, state, and county parks.  Even at most of those campgrounds, there is an entrance fee, and then camping fees on top of it.  
Read the back of your visitor's tag!  Many campgrounds, Including Meadville KOA, offer a full refund if you're only there a short time (less than an hour).  You jut take the time-stamped tag back to the office and they'll refund your visitation fee if you were there in less than that amount of time.
Visitor’s fees, as you can see, are necessary.  There are additional costs associated with visitors.  It isn’t fair to pass those costs on to all the campers.  That is why most campground owners believe that the people receiving those services (i.e. the visitor) should pay for the services rendered. 
So the next time you hear someone complaining about a visitor’s fee, or worse yet encouraging another person to cheat or to avoid paying a visitors fee, remember that it is you, the RVer or camper, who will ultimately pay for that visit.  At the end of the business year, when the numbers come in, and that owner looks at the bottom line from that camping season, the campground owner will have to set their rates for the next season to offset their losses.  In other words, they’ll have to raise the campsite prices accordingly to pay for those extra supplies, extra tests, extra labor and extra maintenance.  So when visitors cheat, they aren’t cheating just the campground owner.  In the end, they are cheating the American consumer, and in this case, that is you, the camper. 

By Robyn Chilson

Tim & Robyn Chilson, own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA.  You can contact Robyn at