There is more to comparing Seasonal Camping at campgrounds than just rates.
What is Seasonal Camping? Seasonal camping is best described as parking your RV at one campground for the entire summer (or year), versus traveling. Why would people want to do that? Travelling, while fun, is a lot of work. You have to pack and unpack, set-up, tear down, etc. Parking your RV for the summer provides you almost a vacation home-like get away! You set it up in a park, and then go to camp when your schedules permit. It saves a lot of time, work, and wear and tear on you the camper, and on your tow vehicle. You can also drive a more economical fuel vehicle back and forth to camp, thus saving money on fuel. And of course, Seasonal Campers pay a flat fee for the whole summer. They get a greatly discounted rate over the weekend rate. In other words, it allows you to maximize the use of your RV, while minimizing the costs. Basically, it provides you the equivalent of a summer vacation home.
Campgrounds differ greatly in the kinds of campers they serve. Campgrounds can be primarily travel parks where travelers stop in, stay a day or two, and then continue their travels towards their destination. They are usually located near a major highway (or intersecting highways). There are also tourism/recreation destination parks that cater to people in the area for another reason, usually for a large amusement park, or a high tourism or recreation area (near a beach, lake, state or national park, etc.). And then there are destination campgrounds, where people camp to attend the events, activities, and utilize the amenities that are specific to that particular campground. Because campgrounds serve different types of campers, as you might expect, they also vary in what they have to offer in the areas of facilities, activities, events, and amenities. Some are family campgrounds, some cater more to partying, and some are adult only parks. These are not hard and fast rules, either, of course. Our KOA is primarily a destination family campground, but we receive travelers too, and we have lots of couples without children who camp with us. And many times, our campers attend local fairs, concerts, amusement parks, and more. So while a campground may consider themselves primarily in one of these categories, they certainly can fall into all of these categories.
Seasonal Camping Programs Vary. Some campgrounds sell the site, and campers become part owners in the park and then they pay a maintenance fee (much like a HOV fee), for their seasonal services. There are good points and bad points to owning a campsite. Many times, it is very involved, and when you are ready to leave, you then have to sell your lot and RV which can take a lot of time. Often they are run by an owners association, which may or may not have people on the board who know anything about running a campground. And, by the time you purchase, pay for insurances and yearly fees, you could have camped seasonally for many years without all the additional liability, costs, and other issues.
Location, Location, Location! When choosing a campground for Seasonal Camping, you want one with a close enough commute that you can maximize the use of your RV, but minimize your travel and time commitment. That said, it is well worth your money and time to travel a little further to get you to that higher rated campground, that serves your camping needs better than to camp at a not as nice park, that your kids are bored at. The difference between those two are as different as day and night, and may make all the difference between a happy family and a very unhappy family.
Are There Additional Charges for Facilities, Amenities, Activities, and Events. Many campgrounds offer children’s crafts, events, activities, or rental amenities. These items often have additional costs associated with them. So the campground that charges less per season for the campsite, may sound more economical than a campground charging more for the campsite, until you look at all of the ancillary charges. Some campgrounds charge for 2 adults and extra for each child, some (like us) it’s a family of 4, some limit your camping to just weekends, and some (like us) have unlimited camping. You have to ask a lot of questions when pricing for a Seasonal Campsite, and not just how much the site is.
Questions You May Want To Ask: Who does the mowing? What does it cost to have the campground mow it? If they don’t, when can you mow? Do you need a shed to store the mower in or are you going to haul your mower back and forth? What are their visitor’s fees? Do they allow other people on your camping agreement? What are the charges for those? Do they offer 50 amp electrical service? Are their sites spacious? What recreation do they offer? Is there a charge for the recreation? What rental amenities do they have to keep the kids busy? Is there a charge for those? Do they offer Wi-Fi? Is there a fee for it? Do they offer cable TV? Is there a fee for it? Do they offer meals? What do they cost? Do they allow golf carts? What are the rules? When is quiet hours? Are they enforced? Do they offer onsite winter storage? What’s the charge for that? How does their payment plan work? Do they charge interest?
So make sure you add all of those individual charges that aren’t included, to look at them versus a campground where they are included, to see which one is really the most affordable. You need to know the real bottom line total before signing on the dotted line!
Check campground ratings before you become a Seasonal Camper. If they aren’t rated well by their overnight guests and campground directories, chances are, you aren’t going to have the family experience you seek. Make sure that the place you choose to spend your summer serves their campers well. When you look at campground ratings, you’ll know where you’ll want to be, and where you won’t want to be. Just don’t underestimate their importance!
As you can see, there are probably more variables involved than you originally thought. Choosing the right campground to camp for the season is important. Don’t short change your seasonal camping experience by picking a campground without fully investigating what it has to offer and what it’s really going to cost you to camp there. The old saying of “the devil is in the details,” says it all. So make sure you ask the right questions and know exactly what your camping will really cost you, before you sign a seasonal camping agreement!
You can check out our Seasonal Camping Sites that are available for 2014 at http://www.meadvillekoa.com/seasonal-camping/. As always, we hope that you come see us at Meadville KOA Campground and allow us to show you what we can provide your family!
By Robyn Chilson
Tim & Robyn Chilson are Certified Park Operators who own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA. Robyn can be reached at 814-789-3251.