KOA: Where are the RVs?

    KOA: Where are the RVs?
    Photo from a recent KOA promotional email.

    By Chuck Woodbury
    I found the news segment below by a San Diego TV station interesting. In two minutes, it says something significant about how camping has changed, and how KOA is placing increased emphasis on serving campers without RVs. In this video, the owners of a Chula Vista KOA discuss their family-owned business and how it has changed through the years.

    Pay attention as the camera pans 360 degrees around the park as they talk. What’s missing? RVs! What you see are, first, is an “Eco-Tent” (to serve “Glampers”), then one cabin after another. It isn’t until the camera is almost finished panning that you see a few RVs in the distance.

    SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? To me, it’s that at a time when record numbers of RVs are being sold, and few new RV parks are being opened to serve them, that the largest chain of campgrounds (RV parks) is modifying its business model to serve customers without recreational vehicles rather than those with them. That means decreasing the number of RV sites in favor of permanent dwellings — cabins, Eco-Tents, lodges, yurts, teepees, even covered wagons and cabooses outfitted as overnight accommodations.

    Most KOAs are independently owned, often family businesses, and the owners have every right to conduct their businesses the way it maximizes their income. But for those of us who travel with RVs, how they are changing isn’t helping improve the shortage of camping spaces that many of us encounter more with each passing year.

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    jane shure

    Back in the 70’s KOA used to be a nice place to camp. The rates was reasonable and the camp ground was well maintained. I used to tent camp by motorcycle and car. Today I see the campgrounds has in some cases seen better days. I now have an RV. The spaces are jam pack tight and the rates are out of this world. For what some of them charge I might as well get a motel room. I once inquired at a KOA in Las Vegas about their rated ans was blown away by the cost. I told the… Read more »

    Joel and Betty

    Chula Vista RV, a large park right on the ocean is our favorite place although expensive. Filled up with snow birds in the winter. Always full and with reservations.
    So even successful, the Marina landlord has decided to build a hotel and shopping on the large property….hundreds of spaces gone.
    They are closing Feb 1, 2019. So with KOA full of cabins etc, we wont be going to Chula Vista anymore.
    They intend to build a new park somewhere inland in the near? future.
    Bad news in San Diego area of southern Calif.


    If you look closer at the picture, fully 1/3 of this KOA is RV storage folks! Those trailers are not camping there.

    Kevin Curtis

    While I agree that is more difficult to find RV spots these days, I prefer to retain proper perspective. I have no association with this park or KOA other than as an occasional customer. The video was recorded in a small section of the park that is a small percentage of the total capacity. There are many RV spots not captured on the video. Look at satellite view: https://www.google.com/maps/place/San+Diego+Metro+KOA/@32.6549874,-117.0806096,482m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m8!3m7!1s0x80d9520269e08549:0x14cda96a8cece7bd!5m2!1s2018-10-22!2i2!8m2!3d32.6566687!4d-117.0807169


    Thank you Kevin for beating me to this! I personally don’t see a problem with it. Why is it so wrong to have a mixed use campground? There have always been popular areas where campgrounds stay busy and getting spots is difficult. You used to be able to get a hotel without any problem also, or even a balcony cabin on a cruise ship. The travel industry as a whole is changing, not just camping.

    David Davis

    To all the “oldtimers” looking for reasonably priced RV spots. If you want to “Camp” get s tent or popup and go to a state park. If you want to own a RV, it’s easy to find a reasonably priced place to “park” your RV. I’m pushing 70, living on SS and my IRA. Fulltimng for 5 years. My “parking” averages 600 a month or less. This “shortage” of RV parks will run just like the golf courses in the 90s. Golf got so popular, courses were jamed, prices got higher, they built more courses, prices went up more. BAM!… Read more »

    Martin de Little

    We are English, and have just enjoyed 4x weeks (late September early October) in your splendid country pottering around California, Arizona and Utah in a Cruise America 25′. Now you guys will no doubt have views about Cruise America but for us it was brilliant. Brand new to RV ‘ing it did what it said on the box and that was all we needed. – a great experience. Observations as newbies include: KOA sites consistently give more bangs for your buck than other sites. Wi Fi in all sites everywhere was at best slow or useless. Folks were always warm… Read more »


    When we were visiting the national parks out west, we stayed at a KOA that sounded like the one headlined in this article. All we saw on the way in were cabins. Finally, after making over half the circle around the campground, we came upon the RVs. Out of curiosity, I counted the RV spaces vs. cabins. I cannot recall the exact number, but the cabins outweighed the RVs…and the RV spots were so close together, the owners had to guide you into the space! If you wanted to sit outside, you had your nose practically in your neighbor’s plumbing!… Read more »


    It’s called Quartzsite LTVA
    Walmart parking
    National forest disbursed camping


    Chuck, Search is your friend when doing research. Suggest you pull up the map of that campground. They did the interview in the corner of this huge campground where those cabins and tents are. Most of the campground is RV and tent sites.

    Cliff Perrin

    We stayed at the Chula Vista KOA the first week of September 2018, at the West Coast end of a cross country trip. The KOA was packed with RVs and people in cabins over the long weekend and then thinned out during the week. Exceptionally clean and well landscaped. Your camera crew must have been there midweek, to not have seen the MANY RVs there. Some of our RV neighbors lived locally and said they would go there just because of all the activities provided for their kids.


    Building new campgrounds is a daunting interest. Think about it. You have to put in all the infrastructure of a small community (Electricity, water, sewer, cable tv, internet wifi, swimming pool, hot tub, concrete pad that supports 50K lbs. etc etc) and THEN you have to rent it for $$$$ in order to break even. And most people don’t want to pay $$$$ to rent a campground space. Their CAMPING for crying out loud, how expensive can it be? They think:”I can rent a nice hotel room for this cost or less.” And then you have to deal with repairing… Read more »

    David Davis

    Exactly! Well said!

    David Davis

    Exactly! Well said!

    Janice Kibbe

    My husband and I stayed at the Chula Vista KOA for a couple of days in January 2018 before heading down the Baja. The video shows the cabin and eco-tent area NOT the camper/RV area. This KOA was meticulously clean, beautifully landscaped, very friendly staff, and larger than most sites. Your story on this KOA is misleading because the tent/camper/RV areas are plenty.


    Change – it’s always happening! Think about cars, today Millennials don’t want to bother with a car, or even a license for that matter. They would prefer to participate in a car sharing approach (think Uber). The passion we once had for tinkering in the garage on your favorite auto is long gone. Now cars are simply appliances like the Keurig in their kitchen! Why should we be surprised if rather than the “headache” of owning an RV, learning to drive one, fix one, or for that matter, even getting a license, has moved on to “camp sharing”. Why buy… Read more »

    Ivor Cohen

    Dave, This was an excellent response, I like your thinking, (although not the point about us geezers dying off), at 70+ we’re not ready yet. We have only been fulltime for a year now and have learned an enormous amount (still tons more to learn). However, one thing we have noticed is the scarcity of “reasonably” priced RV parks. And well run parks in good condition are also getting hard to find – there is a class of RVer, (like us boomers) who do not have children and thus have no need for “amusement” type parks with all the children… Read more »

    David Davis

    Live and RV within your means.

    Grandma Peeper

    I suggest state parks for a camping environment without the jumping pillows, arcade games, Friday night cocktails, Saturday night campground-wide wienie roast, live band, etc. All those amenities drive up the cost of your camping trip and don’t really add to your enjoyment of wildlife, fishing, boating, hiking, nature programs, scenic vistas, and peace!

    Mark Maliwauki

    The reality is that millennials and boomers alike don’t necessarily have the funds to put out for a big RV so they focus on the small teardrops or popups. The bigger issue is connectivity. This a requirement not an option. So this is where all campgrounds need a focus and a strategy to ensure what they offer is not just passable.

    Dry Creek

    “The bigger issue is connectivity. This a requirement not an option.”

    Right. Because without a solid five bars my refrigerator sputters and the beer gets warm. My toilet won’t flush and the radio has only static. Even the LED bulbs grow dim and I’m left only with a match rapidly burning to my fingers. Heck, even the propane refuses to leave the tank and cook my food without 5MB down. I don’t know if my slides would deploy or the levelers work without 4G and a clear view of a sky filled with satellites.

    Scott Ellis

    True for you, Dry, but for many people these days, Mark is right. We go where we want (almost exclusively boondocking), and if there’s no service there’s no service. But many “kids” these days do not feel that way.

    David Davis

    Connectivity? Really? It costs tens of thousands of dollars to provide the kind of Connectivity they want, and no camper would be willing to pay the freight.
    Be responsible for your own Connectivity, mobile hotspot anyone?
    For those wanting a campground with true back to nature locations, there will be no Connectivity.