Not many people would disagree that the United States is in an inflationary period. Prices are on the rise from the grocery store to the fuel pump and to campgrounds across the country. Are costs really rising or has “greedflation” taken over RV campgrounds?
No lack of customers
If you’ve experienced difficulties in making RV campsite reservations lately, you already know that campgrounds have no lack of customers. Since the COVID pandemic, hordes of folks have purchased RVs and are hitting the highways in record-breaking numbers. High demand drives higher prices.
In some areas of the country, the lack of affordable housing has also provided campgrounds and RV parks with an abundance of customers. Folks who cannot afford housing anywhere else see campgrounds as a viable option. Most RVs come with a price tag that costs less than purchasing a stix-n-brix home. People on limited income are taking advantage of this housing option.
Why more fees?
Besides the reality of supply and demand, I asked one campground owner, “Why are prices rising so fast in RV parks?”
Worker wages. He told me that, in his case, workers are demanding higher wages. “My wife and I aren’t getting any younger. We need outside help to keep everything going in the park. If we find and train a good, dependable worker, we have to pay them higher wages so that they won’t go looking for work someplace else.”
Other owners of small, privately owned campgrounds noted that prices for food, goods and services, fuel, and more, are hitting their private budgets just like everyone else. To make their own ends meet, they will charge more for stays in their campgrounds.
No end to fees
It may seem as if some RV park owners know no limits when it comes to inventing extra fees. Is this “greedflation” or simple economics? Here are a few of the extra campground charges I’ve seen recently:
- Reservation fees. Some campgrounds charge a fee for making a reservation, no matter how you reserve a space.
- Utility fees. Do not assume that your overnight charge includes basic amenities. Campgrounds may charge extra for utilities like electricity, water, and sewer hookups.
- Cancellation fee. Yes, some campgrounds get to your wallet both coming and going! Unless your plans are set in stone, check directly with the campground to get clarification on their cancellation fees. No one wants to pay for the night(s) they were unable to use due to weather conditions, vehicle breakdowns, illness, etc.
- Extra vehicle fees. Extra charges are sometimes imposed for any additional vehicles beyond the RV itself. Tow vehicles, motorcycles, or cars may be allowed only if you pay this extra fee.
- Extra person fees. Some campgrounds may charge extra fees for additional people beyond a certain number, such as guests or children. (I know it sounds bad, but park owners say they use the fee to help pay for liability insurance.)
- Pet fees. If you choose to bring your dog, cat, bird, ferret, or “other,” you may face an extra charge—even if you insist that your pet will remain inside your RV at all times. Campgrounds vary in how they assess this fee: Some parks will charge per pet, while others impose fees based on the length of your stay. Note: Paying the “pet fee” does not mean that the campground will pick up your pet’s poo. That’s still a job you must do yourself!
- Resort fees. It used to be that only high-end, resort-style campgrounds charged a resort fee. Not so anymore! Today, campgrounds that feature swimming pools, hot tubs, and recreational activities (e.g., sports courts, dog parks, fishing pond) may charge an additional fee for campers who want access to those amenities. (Related: RV parks changing their names to “RV resorts” so they can charge more, but no “resort” amenities to be found)
- Late check-in fees. If you arrive late or pull into the campground after-hours, you may see a late-check-in fee on your final bill.
- Special dates. If you reserve a campsite for a holiday weekend, don’t be surprised to see that the nightly rate is significantly higher than for other non-holiday weekends. Again, supply and demand push this extra fee.
- Resort tax. This fee is often added for RV park amenities like laundry rooms, Wi-Fi, gym equipment, and more. (It’s important to remember that some states require RV parks to charge this fee. It may be called a transient occupancy fee, hotel tax, or tourism tax.)
Check for yourself
To avoid any unwanted surprises, it’s important that you check each campground’s policies and fees before making a reservation. Ask questions and then ask follow-up questions to make sure you know exactly what your final stay will cost.
Have you ever been surprised by an additional campground fee? Tell us about it in the comments below, please.
Private campgrounds are private businesses. They have the rite to set their rates and fees as they see fit, and to cater to their customer base. The campground owner must know who their customers and competition are, and set their prices accordingly. Location, and amenities also play a big part in determining competitive rates.
As an OLD Boy Scout, and rural homeowner, my idea of camping isn’t a high density campground, with a waterpark, mini golf, etc… So I don’t go to them. If that’s your
thing; Great! but expect to pay the price. I personally prefer wild camping
(boondocking), or no-frills public campgrounds (city, county, state, national).
Yes; their rates are increasing too, but that’s life.
The majority of us on this site are senior, long time campers, who because we remember the $10 a night rate good o’l days, are more sensitive to current rates, and fees. For the new comers, the current rates will be their benchmark.
Get off the beaten path, and find your people.
Thank you, Gail! No, never have seen an unexpected fee on the bill. Have been surprised at check-in by one or two, but never later in the process.
I own my own property in forest county wisconsin. I am an avid rv enthusiast so imagine my surprise when forest county just put an ordinance in place that requires me to purchase a rv permit, to park an rv on my property for 500.00 per year, 250.00 If I take the memorial day labor day option. This is in addition to a sanitary permit that is also required. Another 150.00. If you have no installer holding tank, you have to purchase your own above ground holding tank at a cost of about 1000.00 including shipping. Then you have to secure a contract with a pump out service to pump out your holding tank. This by the way is on my own property which I already pay property taxes on. Must not be enough revenue so go screw the campers…
Laws, and ordinances must be enforced equitably. This ordinance would have to apply to ALL residents of your county that own an RV. If not, you have grounds for a law suit, or a strong defense should you be prosecuted for failure to apply for the permits. I would recommend you request a copy of the ordinance, and have it reviewed by an attorney.
Also; maintaining current license, registration, and insurance on your RV maybe a legal loophole, to skirt the permit requirements. If all else fails, raise a “stink” in the court of public opinion, with a Letter to Editor of your local papers, and vote those responsible out of office.
I have started seeing an extra fee to reserve a specific site. Otherwise, they can put you anywhere.😠
If u are worried about the rising campground prices and Resort prices going up year after year then join a coast to coast membership pay for your membership one time park for free with full amenities for the rest of your life it’s the only way to go and the best thing for the camper who doesn’t want to have to worry about all the add-ons and rising fees every year they go out and camp Plus availability is almost never a problem join a coast to coast affiliated Resort one time and be able to camp at all the resorts across the United States for free for the rest of your life it’s the only way todo an RV lifestyle because it’s next to nothing if you travel 20 days a year if you travel more than that it’s a no-brainer and there is no way you would ever lose because what it does is opens up the possibilities to places you never thought reachable before because once you pay the membership u never have to worry about what’s going to cost to stay somewhere just the cost of getting there
Last winter we stayed a month at a place in Winterhaven, CA.
I expected to put a $100. deposit for Electric. When we checked out we were charged for Electric, (ok) then at least 3 other fees related to Electric Which is not told to you Nor was it in their 7 pgs of rules.
My $100 was shot real quick.
We booked online at a Michigan State Park, 2 nights beginning May 2. On arrival we saw a sign indicating we needed to purchase a State Recreation Pass in addition to our overnight fee. Driving an A Class, towing a car was considered 2 vehicles so the cost of the pass for 2 nights was $44. An annual pass for the 2 vehicles would have been $47. We were not aware we needed this pass and shocked that the motorhome was also considered a vehicle because it has an engine. Additionally, there was no discount on the overnight fees to take into consideration that no running water was available yet and the dump station was locked. The park has opened that week and it was still too cold.
That’s pretty standard for state parks. I would expect to stay at one without needing a sticker/pass.
I stayed in an rv resort last year. It was $500 per month plus electric. It is now $650 per month plus electric. Nothing is any different. In fact maintenance is worse. There are no amenities other than laundry. 2$ to wash, 2$ to dry. Tiny pet lawn on steep slope. In Oregon btw.
Not true. A company bought out a lot of KOA and other campgrounds up and down the East coast Our local KOA now rents a fire ring /picnic table tent space $82. per night. With no improvements or changes in staff
Last year same spot $26 Also bought Frontier Town OC Whaley OC. Camping site at Chincoteague. State camping is still 10. to 20 dollars per day. I will also camp in PA they haven’t sold out yet
You recently had a post about a park charging a $20 per pet fee per day (I believe that was the rate). If you charge me that you are picking up after them since you aren’t walking my dog or giving me anything else for that money.
If a park is going to have these extra fees they need to spelled out in bold print when you are booking your site and on all of their sites and listings. People need to start highlighting these in the reviews they post to inform/warn others.
How about the “lock” fee?! Hubby & I were surprised last year when we got to the campground & the site we had paid for in full & 2 months prior, had been changed to another. We didn’t pay the lock fee upon reservation ($25). Campground moved us to what they said was a comparable site. This gives the campground the ability to have wiggle room for reservations & site sizes (what I’m assuming, not what they told me).). If we’d wanted THAT site, we would’ve chosen that one. Their explanation was that if we were booking a hotel room, we wouldn’t be promised a particular room. Excuse me, but when did camping compare to hotel rooms? I understand the need for rules & some fees, but this is ridiculous.
I think it’s less of a greed problem and more of an entitlement problem. Campground spaces are limited in many areas, and the US and world population are growing. Yet, myself and many other people feel entitled to use campgrounds to travel months per year or full time taking opportunities from people who travel a few weeks at most. I don’t feel like I should “get to” complain because prices on everything we have done from groceries, to gas, to museums to zoos and increased. One RV park told us they had to raise fees because so many full time RV’s were attempting to book their sites for the full peak tourist season for discounted rates that at one point they had 60% of reservations held by people who were there two or more months. They started limiting the amount of long term reservations because it wasn’t fair to casual tourists that full time travelers swoop in and take the reservations they need. There were not a ton of RV parks near that national park.
I was charged a $5.00 dump fee over and above the normal daily rate at a K.O.A.
Haven’t stayed at a K.O.A. since, and will never stay at one again,
Heard that KOA means “Keep On Adding”. Also KOA means Kiss Our A$$” if you don’t like our rates.
Hey! I have an idea! If you don’t like the prices of camping, buy a campground and operate it at what you think are fair prices. Undercut your competitors. That’s how capitalism works.
Plan and camp accordingly and you will find that there are more than enough places to camp that are more than reasonable, yea, even a bargain. How do I know? I live full time in my rig.
As an RV Park “Mom and Pop” owner, I can tell you that most RVers have no idea what it takes to provide the array of services in demand. In the past two days alone, my husband and I worked 40 hours and did not get breakfast until 5pm on one of those days. We are grateful for many wonderful RVers who appreciate what we do. But sadly, serving the public has become more and more troublesome, which is why you will see less and less of small parks like ours, and more and more corporations taking our place at greater cost to RVers. I wish it wasn’t the case, but honestly, the human race is it’s own worst enemy.
No more truthful words have been written.
Outstanding Post, Sonya!
Wish more people would listen to you! Who sang that song…”paved paradise, put up a parking lot”
I think all RVers should have a new rule. *Always* compare Air BnB and hotels to RV parks. We’ve had a lot of luck finding nice affordable air bnbs where we could easily park our RV.
Remember, “greed is good!”
Martin Sheen- Wall Street.
More like Michael Douglas. Wall Street!
City and County parks are upping the ante too, but Michigan and Minnesota are the worst after California for raising prices for State Parks. There is coming a day when government mandates for electric vehicles, will reduce the demand of campers and RV’ers, we just have to wait and see.
The cost of everything for everyone has gone up, traveling or not. Costs must be cut, or income increased. Park providers are in the same situation as all of us. Adding fees may be the way to go rather than raising the price. Does no one remember the 1970s gas shortages and price increases? When that hit, tradesmen coming to your home would add a “transportation fee” to the bottom of your itemized bill to cover the fuel costs. Once things settled down again that fee was dropped. They did not have to change their pricing and bookkeeping methods. When things again normalize you will probably see some of the campground fees being dropped in order to keep in the competition. Staying alive can be a challenge, but is not necessarily greed. Gas stations, and others, may raise their prices in advance some times in anticipation of costs going up in order to have enough cash to pay for the upcoming up-priced delivery. And, greed can be on both sides – Seller and Buyer.