The Business of Work Camping: Do as the owner does

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By Sam Suva

When a campground gets an application to work, it carefully reviews the information, consults with managers and staff, then scrutinizes the references. Umm, no. Chances are when the call comes in to a campground, especially during early spring, the campground is coming in season and it is looking to staff work campers.


That’s a good thing, right? Sure it is, but does a work camper know what the owner wants?

Campgrounds are owned by Mom and Pop, corporations or sole proprietors that either love the industry or simply find it a good investment. Their interests vary but generally speaking, they want a profitable campground with little interaction on their part, save for the really great owners that actually mingle with the campers. Invested owners that enjoy associating with the campers and staff are by far the BEST owners we have worked for in our tenure.

When an owner hires a work camper, they expect them to think and act like the owner. If it is in the office, collect like an owner. If it is in groundskeeping, work like an owner. If it is in activities, play like an owner. Basically, be an owner, without ever having been one.

Office. Get the reservation, make the camper’s stay comfortable, check them out and repeat. The work camper is the face of the campground, someone who loves the RV life and who has been working to get this campground ready for customers! We put on our very best face and welcome newcomers and seasonal campers. Work campers may not be money driven, so there will be a difference in the way an owner treats a customer and the way a work camper treats them. It is important here for the owner to set clear boundaries on what the work camper can do and when it is above their pay grade and it needs to be handled by the owner.

Groundskeeping. Do the flowers get swapped out when the seasons change? The roses get cut back? Does the lawnmower need drive lever shocks? (Yep, that really was a problem once, more on that later.) Weed trimming or weed killing? The owner does well to go over the expectations of the ground crew. If the owner has a schedule for when the grounds need caring for and the equipment needs maintaining, all the better. The more information given, the better the chance that what the owner WANTS to get done WILL be done.

Activities. We have been on all sides of activities. High-dollar affairs to sparklers and brown paper bags. Does the owner have a budget for holidays and special events? Is it several hundred dollars’ worth of fireworks or is there enough in the budget for the Memorial Day pulled pork and baked beans? The owner again can define these wishes and then turn the work camper loose to see the creative ways they can fulfill what the campers come to expect year after year.

The takeaway here is that most owners don’t really want to deal with their investments on a daily basis. They want the campground to be profitable, run smooth and have a great reputation. The work camper wants the work in exchange for site and a salary to continue to enjoy the RV full-time lifestyle. Somehow they must meet in the middle to make this all happen.

See you down the road,

Sam

Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.

Read more articles about Work Camping.

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Ronda Sammons

As a campground owner looking to slow down and find more help what can I expect a work camper to average for pay plus free camping and utilities?

Mike Sherman

I agree with you Sam, active owners are the best to work for. It allows the host to learn the boundaries which make for a smooth operation and keeps miscommunication to a minimum. Job satisfaction soars, regardless if one is being paid or not. On the opposite side, having a boss who is way out of touch with reality can make your life a living hell. We’ve experienced both. Never a dull moment RVing full time.