Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Like everything else, campground rates going up in 2022

If you’ve already started making your 2022 summer camping plans, this isn’t going to come as a surprise. The rates you’ll pay at many private campgrounds are going up.

While our current cycle of inflation holds much of the blame for higher campground pricing, it isn’t the whole story. Sure, the costs to campground owners for everything from electricity to garbage disposal to lumber are all up substantially. Campgrounds are just like the rest of the nation when it comes to the inflationary abyss.

But another overriding factor is that bedrock of the capitalist system … supply and demand.

Prior to the pandemic, many private campgrounds didn’t expect much action midweek in the summer, and “shoulder seasons” were the great frontier that few seemed able to crack. Owners were able to staff down on Monday through Thursday, finding time to cut the grass and get ready for the next weekend horde.

That changed in the second half of 2020 when pandemic restrictions eased, and a flood of old and new outdoor enthusiasts crowded the campgrounds. All of a sudden, there were no more days off for park owners or their staff. Demand for the limited number of campsites became insane. The money rolled in, but so did the headaches.

Managing demand through increased campground rates

The only way to manage a limited inventory of anything during periods of extremely high demand is through pricing. When demand goes up, pricing follows. When campgrounds find their price “ceilings” and demand begins to equalize, smart owners adjust again, always looking for the “sweet spot” in rates.

Does this mean private campground owners are price-gouging RVers? Probably not. Private campgrounds are in business to make a fair profit. As stated above, campground owners are currently facing price pressures of their own for nearly everything they purchase to run their parks, including staffing costs.

When campgrounds are operating at or near capacity seven days a week, it’s just good business to maximize potential rates. It’s much more expensive to operate a full campground than an empty one with increased waste disposal, more labor for cleaning, increased power use, as well as wear and tear.

I recently talked with a leading campground insurance broker who said campground insurance rates are increasing substantially (up to 70 percent) due to claims caused by Western fires, floods, and other calamities. He said he is encouraging owners to raise their rates whenever possible.

The breaking point

Longtime RVers often lament the loss of freedom brought on by the need for advanced reservations and increased rates. No doubt, many have either regretfully given up the lifestyle or are changing their habits to accommodate the new normal.

There are still millions of new RVers flooding the available campground market. For every longtime camper either giving up RVing or unwilling to tolerate increased rates, there are likely 10 RVers more than willing to pay what it takes for a night of camping.

Waiting it out

At RVTravel.com, we hear from experienced RVers who are willing to wait out the newbies. The belief is that, sooner or later, the new RVer will awaken to the realization that RVing today isn’t what they thought it would be.

While waiting for newbies to abandon the lifestyle is certainly a strategy, it’s one that will take a while to play out—if it ever does. In the meantime, RV manufacturers continue to crank out more than 600,000 rigs a year. It takes a lot longer to build a new campsite than it takes to build a new RV. While many park owners are scrambling to add as many sites as they can and new investors have dozens of new parks in some stage of construction, it isn’t likely that their efforts will have any meaningful impact for quite a while.

Are increased campground rates worth the cost?

Just like supply and demand, the value proposition is also a central feature of capitalism. What isn’t worth the increased rates for one RVer may well be a bargain for the next in line. It comes down to personal choice and making smart buying decisions.

For most, RVing is still a luxury activity that has to be weighed against the lifestyle’s negatives as you go along. If your style of RVing is what the private parks offer, then you pay their rates. If you are willing to flex a bit to find other, less-expensive options, you might be able to better control your costs.

So, what can you do?

Unfortunately, the days of pulling into a park at 4 p.m. and “seeing what they have available” are likely gone forever. RVers now must be master planners, and that includes knowing exactly where and when you want to go, as well as what amenities you can’t live without. The “resort” tag usually (but not always) means more amenities and a higher fee. If that’s not what you’re looking for at a particular stop, keep looking.

Cheaper state park campgrounds might be an option. But again, the crowd of new campers love state parks, too, so the need for advanced planning for state park camping won’t diminish.

Boondocking is another option for those not willing to pay the going rates at private parks. But it’s likely that the face of boondocking is changing too. The “rolling homeless” in many locales have discovered boondocking havens like Walmart, causing many stores and restaurants to rethink their overnight parking policies. Boondocking on public lands will also begin looking different as the crush of new RV owners discover they, too, have what it takes to camp off-grid.

RVers who do their homework, especially in competitive campground markets, may be able to find some rate differential. Even a $5 savings in a daily rate can add up over the course of a few weeks.

The key to successful RVing in the coming months will be to stay informed. While there likely won’t be many “deals” when it comes to rates this summer, smart RVers can still maximize their dollars as they travel and get the most out of one of America’s last best outdoor lifestyles.


Mike Gast
Mike Gast
Mike Gast was the vice president of Communications for Kampgrounds of America Inc. for 20 years before retiring in 2021. He also enjoyed a long newspaper career, working as a writer and editor at newspapers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Oregon, and Montana. He and his wife, Lori Lyon, now own and operate the Imi Ola Group marketing company, focusing on the outdoor industry.



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mike henrich (@guest_164208)
1 year ago

The article touched on something that I think is very important. It mentions that “privately owned campgrounds are probably not price gouging.” Unfortunately, a lot of these privately owned ones are getting bought by the price gouging corporations. They will continue to charge outrageous rates and continued to be sold out simply because there aren’t enough campgrounds around. The overcrowding and price gouging may lead to a lot more used RVs on the market, from seasoned RVers and just newbies.

Spike (@guest_164019)
1 year ago

If I recall correctly, RVTravel reported, not too long ago, that a survey of 2021 campers showed that 70% were planning to continue to camp in 2022. While that article writer saw this as a prelude to more crowded campgrounds, my initial impression was “Holy Cow! Is that all!”

Now, polls are polls and about as accurate as The Farmers Almanac, so who knows what the real situation will be.

Those of us who have been around for more than a few decades know that most all things are cyclical. Someday, perhaps in the not too distant future, Elkhart will once again have huge double digit unemployment and many people in the country will no longer have the financial means to “blow” $50 to $100 a night to “camp.”

Matt Colie (@guest_163967)
1 year ago

I look for this all to crash in about two years. Many that bought into RVing for a “safer” vacation have already had their bubble burst. Based on what I have seen: Many bought units that they did not understand so cost of ownership is killing them. Many bought units that cannot be used as they had hoped. Many bought units with no understanding of the requirements of use – like a lack of FHU campgrounds available.
Now that the crisis is past, some will hold on and many will not. This will show up in the used market and a drop in new unit sales.
In the mean time, this is setting the rest of us up with more restrictions and higher costs that probably won’t come down unit the market forces this.
As travelers, we do not count on campgrounds for much, I am sure this is how we will continue.

mike henrich (@guest_164210)
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Colie

Directly related to the “requirements of use” is a post in a FB group that I’m an admin for. 1 of our users posted that they have a brand new travel trailer and their TVs wouldn’t turn on. I had to ask the obvious. Sure enough, they had no idea they had to plug the RV in, and their unit did not come with a power cord. That led me to post a poll for all the new buyers asking if their dealers had a thorough PDI. those results were disturbing, 5-10 minutes was the most common answer, and hardly any received and type of description on how to hook up the unit at all.

Randy Cone (@guest_163925)
1 year ago

Another big reason that prices are up, but isn’t much talked about is so many businesses raised prices simply because they could. Too many blame covid, supply issues, government polices or what have you. In reality a lot of it is because many companies saw an opportunity to increase profits by raising prices. TRADER TALK
Profits for S&P 500 companies rose 22% in the fourth quarter and nearly 50% in 2021, estimates showPUBLISHED THU, JAN 13 20227:05 AM ESTUPDATED THU, JAN 13 20227:35 AM EST
Bob Pisani

Tom B (@guest_163906)
1 year ago

Campgrounds seem to be especially full on weekends. This makes it impossible to stay for a week or two and pay a discounted weekly rate. That leaves a Sunday-Thursday stay at the daily rate as an option, which can be expensive. Private campgrounds should come up with a 5-day Sun-Thurs weekday rate. Otherwise, I see a lot of people who are willing to stay longer, instead staying one night to dump and fill tanks, then moving on.

bwodom (@guest_164006)
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom B

Having tried to find reservations for our small group of mostly-retired friends, we always look for the Sun-Thurs dates. We usually stay at state parks because we like that environment.

Whether fueled by Covid-impacted work-at-home opps or reduced schedules, many campers now seem to like extended weekends, so coming in on Sunday and leaving on Thursday has become susceptible to weekend “creep.” The majority of dates we found open were Tue-Wed (and less often Thurs). Sadly, it is no longer worth the trouble for us to go camping for one or two nights…something we were forced to do when working fulltime; that may also be another reason for the weekend creep. Our 30-something son never uses the camper because of the weekend time squeeze.

I would love to see a reduced fee for midweek, but that will come when campgrounds aren’t compensated by full-house weekends and raised fees. If I can make in one weekend what I used to make all week, why would I need to work during the week?

Susan32 Banks (@guest_163800)
1 year ago

I have seen a huge amt of 2020 -2022 RV for sale in the brand I own. Seems like 10 or more a week and this is just What I see. Many realize there was a certain amt of upkeep, the bloom wore off and it was not as easy as thought, I think things will settle down.

Last edited 1 year ago by RV Staff
Don (@guest_163791)
1 year ago

There’s little doubt in my mind that the current RV’ing “craze” is going to pass as newbies discover that it just ain’t what they thought it was, and as the pandemic tapers off and folks go back to their previously favored means of travel and recreation. When it does I hope the industry is responsive enough to scale back production quickly, or we’re going to have another catastrophe with both new and used prices tanking and manufacturers and dealers going out of business in droves. The upshot for those of us who remain in the game is that we’ll be able to find sites again…

Sinan (@guest_163774)
1 year ago

One way is to be willing to camp outside of peak periods. For example, there are plenty of availabilities around Santa Fe, NM currently.

bwodom (@guest_164007)
1 year ago
Reply to  Sinan

We loved it out west! Alas we are limited to “closer to home” now and the Southeast camping scene is way overcrowded. Enjoy your beauty and solitude. Wish we were there.

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