One of the cost factors you have to contend with while RVing is paying the fee for a campsite. This can be relatively inexpensive to very expensive. The least expensive I have ever paid for a decent campsite (with full hookups and 50-amp power) was $6.00 per night—that’s cheap! The highest price I have ever paid for a decent campsite (with full hookups and 50-amp power) was $95.00 per night—that’s expensive! I won’t go into why we paid that high or low but my point is there is a range of fees out there. You will have to pay something at least some of the time.
We fulltime and have done so for several years. During 2007, we paid for camping a total of 221 nights. That year included about two months of travel in southwestern Canada plus all over the USA with the exception of the southwest and New England. Our tracked costs indicated an average expense of very close to $25.00 per night for campground fees.
That nightly average cost increased in 2008 due, partially, to the economic recession starting and continuing through 2009. During 2009, we made our major trip up the East coast from North Carolina to the tip of Maine and then west to Chicago. Nightly campground fees were higher than our previous annual averages. I planned for an average nightly cost of $25.00–$30.00 out west and $35.00–$45.00/night in the east during 2010.
Selecting a Campground
When we are traveling, we usually select the campground based on its location relative to what we want to see/visit in that area. This can force the nightly cost up but also decreases the cost of car travel running around. A small factor but it has an effect on overall costs.
If we are traveling but not visiting in an area and need a campground, we will always select one based on a location nearest to our route. For example, if you find a campground that is seven miles from your route, and your big motorhome gets 7 mpg, then it will use two gallons of fuel to get from your route to the campground and back on route the next morning. Using a cost of $3.00 per gallon for fuel, your campground just cost you an extra $6.00 for the night.
We never select campgrounds based on amenities. We don’t use the pool, game room, fish in their pond, have no kids that need to play, no dogs to walk, and don’t need their showers. We will use their laundromat but only rarely and whether or not they have one is not a factor in our decision to stay there. We want clean, be able to drive through without brushing the side or top of the coach with limbs and leaves, the ability to park our car at the campsite, be a reasonable distance from our neighbor, want
ground water to run off in a rain, and prefer it be open to the southern sky (no trees blocking our satellite). We want good, non-fluctuating power.
Lowering Campground Costs
If we take an average nightly campground cost of $30.00, that calculates to $900.00/month for campsite rent if you stay 30 nights and pay the full nightly rate. However, most campgrounds will have a reduced rate for weekly, monthly, or longer stays. The exception to this is during peak season in some areas or specific holidays. There are typically various “deals” such as “Pay for 2 nights and stay 3,” or “Pay for 6 nights and stay 7.” I’ve even seen “Pay for three weeks and stay a month.” Regardless, the deals are available so be sure to ask.
It is not uncommon to find a monthly rate at 55–60% off the nightly rate— including all utilities. During February/March 2008, we stayed at a “normal” (no frills) campground for one month in Georgia. Our site had 50-amp, water, and sewer and cost a total of $310.00 for the month. That is inexpensive rent and utilities—an average of slightly more than $10.00 per night. It should be noted that we also stayed there a month early in 2010. Their monthly rate was $330.00—a minor increase after a tough couple of years. Even with the increase, rent and utilities averaged only $11.00 per night and that is still inexpensive. There were no amenities (pool, etc.) but that’s fine with us as we do not use them anyway.
Always check the price carefully since some parks have a reduced monthly rate but then you must pay additional for your electric. Your actual nightly cost could easily average higher than the quoted nightly camping fee when you add on your electric costs. Some parks will add a fixed daily fee for electric (I have paid $2.00 per day. I have seen $3.00 per day.). In addition to the rent, other parks will actually read the electric meter at the site monthly and bill you for the electricity used. Often, the electric is marked-up by the park.
Other mark-ups may apply and you may be charged for a variety of things. I have seen extra charges for washer/dryers, air conditioners, pets, children, more than 2 adults in the coach, cable TV, and wireless Internet. You must call and ask the questions. Think of it like a larger purchase—are you getting what you want for the price you want to pay? This is especially critical with snowbirds who may be staying 3–
4 months in one park. You need to know your costs up front if you want to budget accurately.
There are inexpensive-to-expensive campsites and because you have to stay somewhere every night, campground fees can become a significant budget factor. You may be able to negotiate better rates but not in peak season. Therefore, be ready to pay the price.