Friday, June 2, 2023


Should campgrounds charge messy RVers a campsite cleaning fee?

Should campgrounds charge messy RVers an extra campsite cleaning fee? That was the topic of discussion around the campfire this week. See what folks said about this idea, and then add your own opinion in the comments below.

Tired of the mess

“We’re totally in favor of charging a cleaning fee,” Joe said. “The firepit in our last campground had cigarette butts, a dirty diaper, and three beer cans.” Ugh!

Mark replied, “Well, at least they put it in the fire pit and not on the ground.”

“Just how is that better?” Joe wanted to know. “Someone still has to clean out the pit before they can build a fire. Seems like people are becoming more and more neanderthal as time goes by. How could any reasonable person think leaving that trash is OK?”

Other RVers around the fire seemed to agree that at least some campers are sloppy about cleaning up after themselves. Together, we wondered what campgrounds can do about it.

Campsite cleaning fees

“How could a campsite cleaning fee work?” Holly wanted to know. “You won’t know that the RVer left behind a mess until after they’re long gone.”

“Charge the cleaning fee to their credit card,” Joe insisted.

“Nope,” Mark chimed in. “You’d have to charge them when they make the reservation. Otherwise, they could cancel the cleaning fee on their credit card, and the campground wouldn’t see any compensation money.”

Holly said, “Well, I don’t want to pay any additional fees! Costs are already up—way up. We keep our RV site clean. We always do a final ‘site check’ right before we leave, so we’re sure we haven’t forgotten anything. Our site is often cleaner when we leave than when we arrived.”

Others do it

“Many Airbnb places have charged a cleaning fee for a while now,” Mark spoke again. “It’s figured into the registration and rental agreement. I don’t know how it would work for campgrounds.”

How clean is clean?

Holly spoke again, “I can envision all kinds of problems with this. How clean is clean? I mean, isn’t that subjective? If a child leaves behind a gum wrapper, would that activate the extra cleaning fee? How would the campground know that the wind didn’t just blow the trash onto the campsite?”

“Right!” Sandra agreed. “What if the RVer disagrees with the campground over the campsite cleaning fee? Does the RVer have any recourse to fight the charge?”

Camper rating system

Joe spoke up again. “Maybe what campgrounds need is a way to rate people that camp with them. RVers rate campgrounds all the time, telling the world via Facebook the good and bad parts of staying in a specific campground. If the sloppy RVers were somehow rated, and their poor ratings were shared with other campgrounds, maybe the sloppy RVers would be refused a spot. They’d learn to be respectful of nature and other RVers, too.”

Thoughts about campsite cleaning fees interesting and creative

So, I wondered to myself. It seems as if I’ve heard these ideas before. Are they (cleaning fee and RVer rating) creative and interesting ideas? Are they even realistic and doable? Or is there a better way to make sure all campers keep their campsites clean?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Last week’s Around the Campfire:

Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


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28 days ago

I think the camper rating system is a fair suggestion.

Perhaps with a 10% extra fee attached for those who leave a serious mess behind. ( eg. dirty diapers ) With a warning system to kick out for bad behaviour like 3 strikes you’re charged extra or banned from parks.

Linda Gunn
29 days ago

I say red flag them in their computer system. Nowadays so many campgrounds/rv parks are corporate owned and that red flag would follow them in the other campgrounds owned by the corporation. As for national forest, state parks, I’m sure they could do the same thing, red flagging for future reservations. We’ve been lucky and not ever found our spaces to be in poor condition when arriving. We don’t do the national or state parks though.

Emery Richard
29 days ago

With the computer world, red flag the camper. The next time he returns hit him with the cleaning fee. If he doesn’t pay the additional cost, send him on his way.

1 month ago

I don’t know what can be done but something needs to be done.
At the Grand Canyon we had to stop at a campsite where three tents were set up to chase off deer, elk or ground squirrels because the campers would leave for the day with all their trash bags sitting in camp.
We reported this to the rangers at the kiosk on three separate occasions. Each time their reply was oh them again.
When we pulled out for good we observed about 9 elk cows and their young foraging through their trash.
Again we took pictures and reported it but this time we didn’t chase the animals off and clean their camp.
I am not sure what the NPS did to correct this behavior since it happened three mornings in a row. I doubt they left a clean site when they checked out.

1 month ago

i work for an office of ed and before the teachers can leave for the summer, all electronics and such must be checked in before they can start summer vacation. im guessing going to get the camp host to check you out of your site may be problematic but worth a try.

1 month ago

The townhouse we rented in Nashville rated us and sent us the rating. Our group got 5 stars. I just think if they can rate customers why can’t campgrounds. We do camp, I was just use this trip as an example.

1 month ago

No one should find any trash in their site when they pull in. If they do they should report it to the manager. They might need more campground hosts or to retrain the ones they have. We are hosts and take pride in our work when cleaning campsites and the campground as a whole.

Becky Lawrence
1 month ago

Perhaps the campgrounds could charge a clean-up fee upfront then reimburse that fee to those who leave the campsite clean.

1 month ago
Reply to  Becky Lawrence

Sorry, that would be a nightmare as someone would have to check the site while they wait for their refund. Us campground hosts normally have a couple of hours to check sites between checkout time and check in time and that is often not enough.

Valaura Quimby
1 month ago

Many years ago, we were seasonal campers at a beautiful campground in upstate NY. All the seasonal campers meticulously maintained their sites, but occasionally transient campers would leave a mess. The family that owned and managed the campground decided they’d had enough and put the garbage left on one site in particular into a box & MAILED it back to the campers!!

1 month ago

You know who was there. Take a photo of the mess left behind, send it to the email on file and inform them they are no longer welcome to camp there and mark that on their reservation profile.

Plenty of folks waiting for that site who are willing to keep it clean. We have been camp hosts and lately you need the full hazmat suit to clean some of those sites!

Ron & Pam Miller
1 month ago

We live just outside of a large state park in Colorado. Folks, you wouldn’t believe the mass of crap and garbage we have to pick up from April to October. We get no compensation for collecting others trash! Although I understand campground operators problem but why do I have to pay extra because of the other slobs? Is this not what the existing fees are for? It’s certainly not fair to the rest of us.

Jerry X Shea
1 month ago

We all know what kind of a people leave a site with beer bottles, paper plates and trash in the fire pit and trash bags NOT taken to the dumpster. But the ones that really show their “I don’t care” attitude, are the ones that really make a mess, especially with their “markings” and then just leave.

Stephanie Barnett
1 month ago

Yes, some do not have respect for the next. Pack in, pack out.

1 month ago

It’s simple. The campgrounds just need to set their camping fees to cover their costs. I have never had a camp owner or host present when I leave. They don’t have time to do that. Neither do motels. Everyone has to pay for the slobs whether we like it or not. In my stix n bricks my taxes somehow pay someone to pick up the trash along the roads, but I don’t trash the roadsides. There are a whole lot of things I pay for in my taxes that I never avail myself of. Same if I rent a house – my rent pays for the landlord’s taxes and associated costs with owning the property. If the landlord doesn’t take care of the property, I go to him to fix. If the fire pits are not clean, the site isn’t clean, the swimming pool isn’t clean, the roads aren’t maintained, it is the campgrounds problem. After all, it is every one of us and nature that degraded the roads or condition of the pool. Charging someone for leaving a messy campsite would require hiring a monitor and a lawyer.

Kristine Honer
1 month ago

I agree that it’s disgusting to leave those items in a fire pit!
However, doesn’t one pay in advance for a clean site? With the cost of camping, shouldn’t one expect to have a clean fire pit and the site picked up afterwards?
It’s assumed to reserve a clean site.

1 month ago
Reply to  Kristine Honer

Amen! Report it to the manager. Someone should have checked that site and cleaned it before you got there.

1 month ago
Reply to  Kristine Honer

No one should have to clean up a site aside from removing ashes from the fire pit after the camper has left. That’s the point of this article. Don’t be a pig!!! Remember the saying ” leave it better than you found it” or at least as you found it.

Calvin Wing
1 month ago

If someone trashes a hotel/motel room you can bet they will pay an exorbitant fee ($500) for cleaning, etc. The sign-in sheet has the necessary language already in place so when EVERYONE signs in they have already signed a contract eluding to the possibility of extra charges being assessed. With that contract already in place and clearly stated on the invoice they’re credit card company probably won’t be canceling the ($500) charges without proof that the campsite was left in the same condition as they found it.
Of course in today’s market $500 is more like $50 so maybe it needs to be a lot more?

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Make the fee a “deposit” against the possibility of unusual cleaning being necessary. If it isn’t necessary, then the campground credits their card. Create a camper review system. Campground and resort reviews can be attached to whatever source of discount the camper claims — Good Sam account number, FMCA number, whatever. Once the review system is in place, then the camper’s rating, average review, whatever is displayed when the discount is claimed. If the rating is at or above a certain level, then a “deposit” is not required. If below, then it is required up front, but refundable if the site is left clean. The highest and lowest ratings of a camper are excluded to prevent unusual outcomes harming ones rating — ill-wind moving neighbor’s trash to camper’s site, vindictive camp host giving undeserved good or bad rating.

David Devoucoux
1 month ago

Yes. Charge the fee up front.
And if someone leaves a mess, you have their credit card info and name, etc.. send them an email with pictures of the mess. Maybe even put that on your web site. Wall of Shame!
Spread the info around.

There has to be a way to stop this crap. Bad manners are not to be tolerated. It’s real simple, people… be a mature grownup!

Steve Murray
1 month ago

Campers should have to Read, Sign and Acknowledge the “Campground Rules and Repercussions” before they are permitted to Camp. And Post a Refundable Deposit for damage to the Campsite. Too many terrible irresponsible people ruining it for everybody.

1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Amen to that. Spending summers as workampers it’s unbelievable the stuff people leave behind.

J Cholleran
1 month ago

Charge the fee. On inspection, if ground is left clean (as the before picture, send the camper a coupon for a discount on the next rental. If the campground is part of a “collective” of campgrounds the coupon could be used within the collective. And the future campground could send a request for payment to the coupon grant campground. This could result in another problem, clearing house for the coupons.

On pictures, date and time stamp so camper can’t claim the picture was taken 2 years ago. Keep the before and after pictures for some period; cloud storage is cheap. Encourage the camper to take before and after photos. If his before picture agrees with yours and his after picture is within some degree (subjective, but using another’s example of a rented motel, some cleaning is an acceptable outcome).

They may not be aware and just plain stupid but if the learn to be clean, you win for future usage. But with two, ban them and recommend the collective ban them as well.

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