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Is a self-serve RV park coming alongside a highway near you?

Back in January 2020, just before COVID-19 turned RVing, and everything else, upside down, something new to the RV park world came along. Sleepy RVers traveling Missouri’s Interstate 44 outside of St. Louis could pull into a self-serve RV park. Roll in, park it, swipe your credit card, and hook up to water, electric and sewer. At the time it seemed like a unique concept, and we wondered just how well it would go. But then came COVID, and all bets were off.

COVID is “behind us,” say the pundits. With freeways loaded “wall to wall and ten feet tall,” the need for places to overnight have only increased. Enter two entrepreneurial spirits in the heart of RV manufacturing country. For weary travelers on I-65, making that run between Indianapolis and Louisville, what could be better than the Weary Traveler self-serve RV park? Evidently, the good politicians of Seymour, Indiana, agree, having just granted zoning approval for the new automated RV sleeping spot.

Weary travelers unite

Roger Stephens and Drent Sarault are the engines behind Weary Traveler. Both of the men have been avid RVers for ages. Drent told RVtravel.com that his RV trips typically put 30,000 miles a year on his odometer. He knows well just how hard it is to find a place to turn off the road at the end of the day.

seymourin.org

“How many RVers feel safe at Walmart or Cracker Barrel?” Sarault asked. And indeed, what Wally or Crackers can offer an RVer full hookups? Both the men are from Indiana, so they started looking around for a hot spot for tired travelers. Seymour, an hour from both Louisville and Indianapolis, seemed a likely spot. For you old rockers, John Mellencamp, of “I Was Born in a Small Town” fame, was born right there in Seymour.

Sure enough, Serault and Stephens bought a 7+ acre site on Seymour’s east side, and with the zoning approval, they plan on “moving dirt” by the end of summer.

Amenities—and prices

Weary Traveler proposed plot plan. Click to enlarge.

When the new park is complete, it’ll be ready with 30 full-hookup, pull-through sites, with WiFi access. The outfit will provide reservations through their website. RVers will pay in advance of arrival, and will get a gate code number to access the park. With check-in/check-out times set for 1:00 in the afternoon, those who want to get off the road before dark will be able to get in. Those who travel a little later in the day will still have a full night’s rest. If the Seymour park is successful, you may see more Weary Traveler RV parks popping up elsewhere.

And the cost? Drent Sarault tells us the final figure isn’t cast in stone. “We’ve been tossing around $50 to $60 a night.” Compare that with the reality of what the prices really did over in Missouri at that other automated park. In the end, the park set charges of $39 for 14 hours. Bumping to a full day costs $59. And heaven forbid if it starts getting full. The rates, like some hotels, increase with occupancy.

How about you? How much would you be willing to pay to do a simple “overnight” next to the freeway? Take our poll and see how others vote.


Related

First-of-its-kind self-service RV park. The wave of the future?

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Jake
11 days ago

Wow, this is NOT what I expected! I expected the concept to be essentially a rest area for RVs. Maybe a combination of dry camp (no hookups) area for a few dollars, electric only for a few more, and FHU for maybe $20-30 depending on region. I also expected it to be available as a last minute decision (“We’re getting tired, oh look, a nice safe place to pull over and sleep for the night with no idling semis!”) instead of reservation. Basically a safe and quiet overnight spot, not an expensive campground. And reservations? I don’t do that. I drive until I get tired (usually late at night) and then I find a spot. I have no problem using rest areas but I feel guilty taking a spot that a trucker might need. And if this self-serve RV park has an employee on site, then why pay for all the automated technology? The rare times that I stay in RV parks, they usually have a pool and a hot tub and endless showers for about half the price. That said, I’m happy to see more RV parks built.

JimD
23 days ago

I’ll stay at a full service campground first before I pay that much. I think Love’s has the right idea and a good price.

Susan
27 days ago

Love this idea, to be honest. I even sort of like the structure the Missouri park did with charging less if you are there for a minimum number of hours. If you just need a safe place to pull over for the night and sleep rather than pay for an entire 24 hour period, it’s nice to have the option to spend less.

David
29 days ago

If I’m only,parking for a night, full hook-up is not needed. Basically a truck stop or wayside rest with electric hook-up, shouldn’t be that much. If camping, walking the trails, swimming, playground, etc, more expensive would be expected.

Audrey Lacks
29 days ago

It is just personal preference what one is willing to pay. It sounds like a great idea for those who are full-time living in RV’S and between destinations

MevetS
29 days ago

Can’t think of a stretch of highway that can use the concept, more. It’s definitely devoid of many easily accessible stop over places. One of the times we stopped at Cracker Barrel was along this route.

John Koenig
29 days ago

I’m amazed that 30% ~ 39% would pay up to $39 (OK, maybe that would be acceptable in CA). I’d just as soon park & patronize a Walmart / Cracker Barrel etc and park overnight without any hook ups. Getting some sleep in a highway Rest Area would also be preferable to spending $39. In Ohio along I-80, there are several Rest Areas that have paid parking for RVs. An RV spot has ONLY electric but, there is a dump station and potable water available just outside of the RV spots. The last time I looked, it cost only $20 (it was several years ago).

Glo Sargent
29 days ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Before Covid?

Uncle Swags
28 days ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Still costs $20 and there are 4 of them along I80/Ohio Turnpike. They also have full rest area with gas and food and clean restrooms. And more police patrols than WalMart. And since Ohio is one day out for me it is the perfect first night/last night RV stop.

Dale Sain
1 month ago

Since we’re a self-contained Class A, all we’d do is grab electric for the night. If we have been pushing it, maybe spend two nights to take a “down day.”

Roy Davis
1 month ago

I will say that how much we’d pay is dependent upon several factors. The first is location. I would expect to pay more in California than Louisiana simply because they utilities cost are so much higher. I’d expect to pay more along I-75 or 95 in Florida during the winter because of supply and demand. The second condition we’d pay more for is the amenities, such as water, 50 Amp electric, and sewer along with long paved sites. The cost for us isn’t as big a factor as feeling safe and not having to unhook.

Candy
24 days ago
Reply to  Roy Davis

Yes we agree totally.

Mike D. J. "Speedy"
1 month ago

Everybody has their own opinion on where they want to make an overnight stop. There are safe places , quiet ,clean, full and partial hook-ups. I stopped at some nice places and payed for the night. Also quick stop at Interstate “Rest Areas” parking away from semi’s , easy off easy on & FREE. Walmart, Cracker Barrel, I shop and have a meal and never had a problem. I know not every RVer has a good story but I read so many stories that are good & aren’t good and not always at Walmart & Cracker Barrel. So some are traveling to have good memories, have fun etc. I hope I came across ok to everyone. Happy camping to all and be safe.

Diane Mc
1 month ago

They should have done half the sites with electric only. That would be us. When traveling from CA to FL or CA to IN every year, we only use electric except for one stop where we stay a day or 2 to take a real shower & take time off from driving. Also allows us to see a new place to see if we would want to spend more time. They could reduce the site cost. When we are in Texas going & coming we pay $36 to $40 at 3 different campgrounds. Full hook ups & one has a great little cafe on site. Also on the panhandle in Florida. Book online, pick a site, pay. When you get there, drive to your spot. No check-in. If more than one night, you can pay balance (they charge a deposit of one night) online. $40! $60ish….way too high. Only spent more than that in Daytona Beach, the Keys & a spot in AZ which was $67. Even 2 places in CA, one with a restaurant were $50 & $37.

Don
1 month ago

We stayed at “A Stones Throw” RV park just off I-10 just East of Tallahassee for a night. It is basically the same as above but not paved sites. $42 per night or less with Good Sam and other discounts. Worked well for us for overnight.

Left Coast Geek
1 month ago

On our road trip last month, I plotted a 3 night return trip, each night was spent in a spectacular scenic BLM location, completely free, and we stayed off the interstates for almost the entire trip, sticking with scenic back roads. Our trailer is setup for dry camping, we can go about a week before we need to dump and refill our water tank.

Bill
1 month ago

Ohio Turnpike has RV spots for $20 per night, self serve kiosk, electric only but a dump station and water available in season. Well worth that to save the time to not have to get off the highway and go looking for an RV park, or a Walmart, when travelling through with a schedule to keep. In 38 years of RVing, we have developed some knowledge of where good stops are, but that is always evolving. In addition to the time, having to travel 4 miles off the highway and back is a gallon of fuel cost. Definitely prefer to be close to the highway for a brief overnight stop, and willing to pay a modest premium for convenience.

Jim
1 month ago

The casino in Corning, California once had self checkin with credit card for $25 a night. Now they require office checkin for a lot more per night.

chris
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

Yes, I remember that from years ago. Very nice. Like all good things we lose, it must have been abused.

gkersten
1 month ago

Maybe it would discourage people from staying multiple nights if they charged a very low amount for 1 night, then charge more for for additional nights. Sure there is always a way to buck the system and move to another spot or use a different credit card, but that would get old over time, and I think it would be more the minority than the majority doing it.

Michel Sigouin
1 month ago

It’s too expensive for a glorified parking spot. I will skip.

Nigel
27 days ago
Reply to  Michel Sigouin

I agree!

pursuits
1 month ago

These conversations remind me of motor trips long ago with my mom and dad. Dad always liked to drive as long as he could. We would all be tired. I recall watching those blinking No Vacancy signs as we rolled down the highway. Luckily, cars then were large enough for kids to sleep in the back seat.

As an RVer, I am really glad for the internet, Walmarts and Cracker Barrels!

bwodom
1 month ago

Seems the original concept was to help those looking for a safe night’s sleep. For many of those folks, hookups are not needed.

My confusion lies in being able to see the difference in searching the internet for a “real” campground site vs. one of these sites. An open site is an open site…particularly at similar pricing.

If the concept is widespread enough to keep full-service campground sites open for multi-night stays (i.e. fewer one-nighters interrupting longer-term stays at destination parks), then I think there is a definite use…almost like the over-fill lot.

I assume the biggest advantage here is lower cost to build and maintain? But what prevents these “stop overs” from becoming just another campground for those sightseers who will spend their days outside of the campground and are not looking for pools, trails or even bathhouses?

And come to think of it, maybe that is okay. An open site still is an open site.

JD Texas
1 month ago

WAY to expensive for us full timers. We are self contained and stay in road side rest stops, city and county campgrounds. We typically pay $0 – 20/night. Once we get to our final destination we pay weekly/monthly rates. I’m sure less savvy campers will pay $50+/night, not us.

Diane Mc
1 month ago
Reply to  JD Texas

We aren’t less savvy. Just choose to not travel that way and blessed we can afford it. In our younger days, more adventurous & even though we could afford it, it was a badge of honor to camp for free. If we were in something smaller than 40 ft & towing might be more “adventurous”. We aren’t and this is our last motorhome (20 yrs old this past Feb). So will be paying but would appreciate overnight parks at a good rate.