With the explosive growth of RV travel comes the increase in RV travel scams, many of them borrowed from other travel industries such as hotels and cruising. Some are as old as the three-card monte player on the street, but many are so new to RV travel, and so high tech, they can be hard to recognize.
Here are some new RV scams to watch out for
I once met a couple who booked all their travels with a travel agent who showed her appreciation with a gift certificate or resort credit. Common in cruising and hotels, the gift may be flowers, a fruit basket, a spa treatment or a bottle of wine.
Fortunately, the couple were experts in wines. When the gift bottle of wine arrived with a flourish, the couple recognized it as a vintage far cheaper than the value of the certificate their travel agent provided. They sent it back and insisted on getting the full worth of what their travel agent paid for. If you have purchased or been given a bonus gift, insist on getting full retail value.
Caution: At expensive restaurants, the complimentary bottle of wine may not include a corkage fee. At resort spas, the complimentary spa treatment may not include a mandatory tip of 20 percent or more. Ski lift gift certificates may come with blackout times or days. Always take note.
You get an email or phone call indicating that you won a free trip. This is an oldie that usually means a few free nights if you sign on for a week or more, or free lodging when you buy the overpriced meal plan and theme park tickets. Free camping may require you to attend a high-pressure sales talk for a very costly lifetime membership.
Reward or loyalty programs
These can be a boon to RV travelers, especially RVers who book often with that brand. If it’s free, so much the better. If it costs anything at all, take a more careful look, it could be an RV scam. Is it a one-time fee or an annual one? Are points transferable if you don’t use them? Do points expire? Are rewards subject to black-out dates? If the campground changes brands, will the new franchise honor your points?
I was parked at a convenience store, about to dash in to grab a few things. I locked the cockpit doors as always. As I opened the RV entry door, three very cute little ragamuffins ran up from an old car at the far end of the parking lot. No adults were in sight as the children asked me for food.
Red flags fluttered all around. It was broad daylight but I was a woman alone in my Class C camper. My license plates showed I was from another state. I was obviously a soft target, yet who can refuse hungry children?
I told the kids to wait, locked the door behind me, retracted the entry steps, quickly bagged some granola bars for the kids and handed out the bag to the handiest child. Then I quickly locked the entry door and drove away. I find that more often now, in campgrounds as well as at large, children are being used to case out a situation, distract the unwary, sell a worthless souvenir, or otherwise take advantage of human kindness. What would you have done?
Reservation fees—a big RV scam!
As if it isn’t enough to pay a non-refundable fee now to reserve a campsite, some campgrounds now charge a “site lock” fee of $10 to as much as $35 to guarantee your choice of an exact RV campsite by number.
Also, beware of cancellation fees. You may have to cancel hours, days or even weeks ahead to not be charged for the stay. Extra charges may apply for early check-in or late checkout. At festivals that offer RV sites, you’ll need separate reservations for camping and for tickets, and one or both may be non-refundable.
This is a high-class term. It’s not a scam but simply good business to set prices according to supply and demand. Hotels found that they can increase profits by using sophisticated software to track bookings minute by minute, increasing fees along the way when the software shows a trend to higher demand. If you’re price-shopping campground rates now, you may find that the same RV site on the same day may cost more each time you check on it.
Have you experienced a scam related to RVing lately? Please share it with us in the comments below. You could save a fellow RVer from experiencing the same RV scam.