As of this writing it’s been 93 days since Sash and I last spent an evening in an RV Park. As full time RVers, we’ve made a commitment to not stay in them, and instead stay for free on BLM lands, National Forest lands, or other free, public areas. That is, if we can help it.
The skyrocketing popularity of camping and RVing has of course led a booming business for RV Parks. But it has also changed the dynamics of RV Parks too…
RV Parks Are Now Catering to Wealthier Clientele
Whereas the common practice had been to offer deep discounts for people who stay month-to-month, RV parks are ditching monthly rates and limiting people to staying no more than three or four weeks.
There are now so many six-figure income earners buying RVs that they’re choosing to stay in high priced RV Parks for the luxury, conveniences, and quiet. Because there’s enough of them to go around, RV Parks feel they can afford to eliminate the monthly rate, limit guests to staying no more than a few weeks, and remodel their parks to make them appealing to big-budget vacationers.
Right now, there is a shortage of available RV parks due to sudden popularity of RVing and the fact that it takes years to get a new RV Park approved and built. Moreover, RV Park owners are not building new parks for low-income families. They’re building them for deep-pocket travelers willing to spend big bucks.
This makes it very difficult for RVers on smaller budgets to find a place to stay.
RV Parks Are Switching Over to Membership Programs
Membership parks like Thousand Trails, Outdoor World, Encore, and others, have long been around. But there are dozens more springing up and existing RV Parks are looking to join them. This is because RVers with disposable incomes are willing to pay for them. RV parks get paid even if you never stay in their park because the membership fees are distributed among them.
While membership parks still allow non-members to stay, the rates for non-members are much more expensive. Moreover, non-members who stay at these parks are often given high-pressure sales tactics to buy a membership.
Snow Bird RV Parks Are Taking Over
The thing with snow bird parks is that most are now requiring you to book for an entire season (October to April). If you want to instead stay for just a month, or just a couple of weeks, they’ll ask you to call back after the season has started because they want to keep their sites available for season-long guests.
Because Sash and I are full time RVers, we tend to stay in the snow bird areas of Arizona and Southern California during the colder months. It’s next to impossible to find RV Park sites there in that time, unless you book for an entire season and do so in advance.
Lower Priced RV Parks Are Becoming Difficult to Get Into
Lower and middle income RVers are left competing for ever shrinking supply of affordable RV park sites.
Sash and I always try to stay somewhere for a week to two weeks. This is because it would cost a lot of money to tow a 28 foot trailer with a 3/4 ton pickup truck every day, and because we don’t want to spend a month in one place (we prefer to keep moving and see America). Moreover, we still have day jobs. We work inside our RV doing website design and social media for other businesses. So, on days we’re towing our trailer, we don’t have time to work. Hence, we need to stay put somewhere long enough to catch up with assignments, but not too long that we’re missing out on work and travel.
That means it’s super-tough to find affordable RV park sites with availability for a week or two. Most parks get booked up months in advance, sometimes a full year depending on how popular the location is. We simply don’t want to plan our stays that long in advance. We’re full time RVers, not people who RV only once or twice a year. We need the ability to change our plans when a client has a job for us. We need spontaneity. That makes staying in RV Parks next to impossible.
Increased Demand Equates to Increased Prices
Sash and I have noticed price hikes just in the past 18 months that we’ve owned our trailer. Where prices used to run between $35.00 to $45.00 a night, they’re now charging $45.00 to $55.00 a night. And there are enough RVers willing to pay these prices.
RV Parks Implement Strict Rules to Filter Out Clientele
Just go to an RV Park located on an Indian Casino, and you’ll understand. Casino’s want to attract big spenders. And big spenders want classy amenities. It’s much more common to see RV Parks implement rules designed to filter out the riff-raff. Most of these parks are starting to limit RV types to late model Class A motorhomes less than 10 years old (think million dollar rigs). They restrict dogs to small breeds under 20 pounds. We’ve seen rules where you can’t put out patio furniture, you can’t wash your rig (you have to hire a detailer instead), you can’t do repairs, you can’t have a campfire, and you have to pay extra to invite family or friends over.
And this is not just Indian Casino RV Parks.
Most RV Parks everywhere are recognizing they no longer have to cater to low and middle income residents. There are now plenty of six-figure income earners willing to pay higher prices for snobby digs.
RV Park Sites Are Getting Crowded
Older RV Parks are tearing out green space, dog runs, playgrounds, and cramming in more sites. An RV Park that once had 60 sites, now has 75 sites without having to dig up their existing sewer and electrical. This translates into an RV park with more people and fewer amenities.
It also translates into having to wait longer to use the laundry machines, or not being able to sign on to the park Wi-Fi, or having to share the park’s Jacuzzi with more families.
RV Parks Have Lost the Campground Feel
Back in the 1950s and 60s, RV Parks used to locate themselves outside of city limits and operate as privately run campgrounds. They filled their park with trees, offered hiking trails, horseback riding, and even fishing ponds. But as suburbs continued to sprawl outward and surround these parks with schools and shopping centers, the sound of howling coyotes were replaced by freeway noise, and starry skies were washed out by city lights.
Today, RV Parks have ditched the campground concept and are either remodeling themselves for deep pocket travelers, or are removing amenities and cramming in more sites. They paved over dirt roads and gravel pads with asphalt and concrete. They’ve dug up some of the trees and hiking trails. It’s common to find RV Parks with their own bar and restaurant now. Many RV Parks no longer allow campfires.
Sash and I want to hear those coyotes howling at night. We want to stare up in the sky and find the Little Dipper. We want to burn wood and roast weenies. We want to take our dog hiking and photograph flowers or collect strange looking rocks.
RV Parks Offer Few Options on How to Position Your Rig
When we’re boondocking, I always park our trailer so that it’s awning is facing the sun. This way, the awning will cast a shade over the trailer and help keep it cool. You don’t get this option at an RV Park.
You can, however, book far in advance to get the ideal site with shade trees and an awesome view. But again, it doesn’t work for Sash and I to book months in advance because our plans are always changing. Moreover, we’ve discovered that the best sites in an RV Park are booked years in advance, simply because they are the best sites.
We’ve been to RV Parks where it’s very difficult to back in a trailer because of how tight the spaces and roadways are.