Saturday, April 2, 2016

There Is More To Comparing Seasonal Campsites Than Rates!

There is more to comparing Seasonal Camping at campgrounds than just rates.  To decide where you want to camp Seasonally, you’ll want to compare the type of campground, location, camping rates, ratings, things to do in the surrounding area, events, activities, and amenities the campground provides, and more.  We’ll look at each of these items individually, highlight the differences, and look at why they’re important to consider when choosing the right campground for your family. 

What is Seasonal Camping?  Just about any RV can be used for seasonal camping.  RVs are any recreational vehicle used for camping recreation.  They can be a park model, motorhome, 5th wheel, travel trailer, camper van, truck camper, or ear drop, or tent trailer (popup).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 the RV, tow it to the campground, unhook and set up, camp, tear down, hook up, tow it home, and then unpack it. 

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 your work load and costs.  Basically, it provides you the equivalent of a summer get-away or 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.).  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 (retirement age) 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.  At KOA, they are branded as Holiday Parks. 
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 camping facility.  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.  And, of course, you can stop seasonal camping with the freedom to leave at the drop of a hat.   

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.  Some parks have very small sites, and campers are too close to have a relaxing stay without feeling intruded upon.  Some don’t provide utilities and conveniences you’d want – like TV or Wi-Fi.  Some have activities for children and adults, and some do not.  So while location and close is important, meeting all your camping needs is the primary requirement!    

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 like a better deal 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.  Some charge extra fees for activities, Wi-Fi, Cable TV, or onsite winter storage, and some (like us) include everything in the seasonal campsite.  In fact, we even mow your campsite for our Seasonal Campers at no additional fee.  To the best of our knowledge, we’re the only campground in Western PA who provides that premium service without a premium price tag.  You have to ask a lot of questions when pricing Seasonal Campsites, and not just how much the site is.  

Questions You May Want To Ask:  How many people are included in the seasonal camping fee? How much is it to add additional people?  What are the charges for those?  What are their visitor’s fees?  Do they offer 50 amp electrical service?  Are their sites spacious?  What recreation do they offer?  Is there a charge for the recreation?  What activities do they offer?  IS there are charge for those?  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!
Try camping at the campground of your choice before becoming a seasonal camper.  Camping at the facility, walking the grounds, and meeting the other seasonal campers will tell you the most about the facility.  Are the other campers friendly?  Is the campground neat and well maintained?  Are the other seasonal camper’s campsites clean and well maintained?  Are quiet hour policies really enforced?  Are people drinking and driving golf carts all over?  You may not think about some of the things you’ll learn both about the campground, and the campground owners.            

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 2016 at

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, CPO own and operate Meadville KOA Campground in Meadville, PA. Robyn can be reached at 814-789-3251.