Building an RV park from scratch: We learned so much at the ARVC Conference!


By Machelle James
I have to confess, after my last article, we could not submit our plan to Planning and Zoning before we left town. We were missing very important gaps of technical information and we sent it back to our engineers to make it right. After this conference, though, we are making changes so it truly was a blessing in disguise! We are sending it back again for modifications!

After an amazing fun-filled week with our son, his wife and our granddaughter in Florida, we drove another 8 hours to Knoxville, TN. AJ and I were there for the ARVC (National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds) Conference to learn how to run our campground, learn from those whose are seasoned and to network with others in this unique industry. We were so excited to learn, AJ and I split up classes so we could take in as much as possible and bring the knowledge back to each other.

We have learned so much, I can’t possibly share it all. I’ll share some of my favorites that has my hair on fire!

We learned how to run a successful camp store – which includes knowing who your customers are: overnight campers, families or long-term guests. What will they want when they visit us as a memento, as well as what will they need while they are there. Coffee cups, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, firewood, ice, candy, ice cream, soda, tarps, hoses, fuses, phone chargers and the like.

We also learned what vendors to use and how to negotiate on getting products for free, as in if we use a Pepsi vendor, we can get a cooler for free if we sell Pepsi items. Same thing for chocolate (Hershey) ice cream and Reddy Ice. We learned to buy in bulk and to not put dates on our clothing items, as in 4th of July, 2019. If we leave off the year, we can sell any leftover clothing items the next year. And no last-minute ordering – have inventory ready a month in advance.

We also learned about disaster recovery, meaning anything from natural disasters, technological disasters and security-related disasters – as in an active shooter situation. Unfortunately, it’s something to be made aware of and how to deal with these types of situations, including how to plan for, practice and test for, and improve any potential disasters. I’m not going to dive into the plans that were suggested, but wow is that an eye-opener to be prepared for!

The sessions we took for Dog Parks and Dog Rules in general were extremely informative. Since we do not have dogs, yet we know our campers will have dogs and our special campers could have therapy dogs, we needed an education! From how to build a dog run with the right materials to the types of dogs that insurance companies frown upon. Also, having our guests sign a release form stating their dog has received all vaccinations and they have a liability policy to pay other parties if their dog attacks another dog or human. It is a sticky situation for all involved.

We had our presentation tonight with NewBook reservation system.  We met the CEO, from Australia, and they are breaking into the U.S. market this year. They were super high tech, being cloud-based, work with QuickBooks, a phone app, text message confirmations, multiple language options – and we would be able to integrate any credit card processing program into their system. We were able to compare their products to Campspot campground reservation system and we have a tough choice to make.

After hearing the future trends of camping, I am pretty sure a cabin or two will need to be added. Just small, simple cabins with a rustic feel, yet have everything you need to feel like you are camping. We also learned that Millennials with children are the fastest growing population of RV owners nowadays.

We learned that camping has grown overall into a billlion dollar business that has no signs of slowing down. As we all know, when you get back to nature, you relax more, you talk more, explore the outdoors, hike, fish, swim, boat, have campfires and make s’mores. It’s a prescription every doctor should hand out. (Go hiking in the forest and relax. It’s a mandatory prescription!)

Well, when the Expo floor opened, we were like kids in a candy store! Tiny cabins, covered wagons for sleeping in, tipis, camping products, reservation system demos, food, drinks, networking and so much more. It was fantastic!

We saw products like Gaga Ball Pits, and we found a commercial grade builder of them at the Expo. We also like the pedal bikes, as kids and adults can ride them. Something about being in nature, being able to have games and activities to play with. It brings out the kid in us all, I believe. It’s more like being free to be silly, to laugh and to bond with your loved ones again.

I for one cannot wait to spread this joy with our families. Making memories is really what it comes down to and we are honored to be a part of your family memories! Time to revamp the plan and let’s build this right from the get-go.

Thank you for following our journey and as always, see you in the trees. And please leave a comment!

Read previous articles here.

Machelle James and her husband, AJ, are building, from the ground up, a 15-acre RV park in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, in the beautiful White Mountains 140 miles from Phoenix. Follow them on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.


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As the DH and I prepare to retire fulltime to our motorhome, we will be looking for someplace in Arizona. When will your park be open? We’re several months yet.

Also, since families are the fastest-growing RV’ing population, those of us who worked “normal” jobs all our lives and are retiring to this lifestyle we’ve waited, sometimes decades, for … will you have separate areas for families, or age-restricted to 55+ areas? Not be anti-kid, but peace and quiet is really appealing to retirees after a lifetime of neighborhood noise.

Final question: Do you have a website yet? If not, when do you anticipate one?

Now, after all that … GOOD LUCK TO YOU!! Hopefully we’ll be seeing you someday!


I find it quite interesting to follow along with you and your husband on this journey. You only have one shot to get it right so you are smart to take your time and make revisions as you go. I wish you all the best and hope to one day to stay at your campground and thank you in person for carving out time from your busy schedule to post your blog.


Machelle and AJ: I can’t wait to come see your place! LMK when we can come visit, or possibly work-camp. We are not Facebook users, sorry!