Jason travels the country full-time with his wife Abigail, and three children.
RV travel is booming, obviously. If you haven’t heard the news, you’ve seen it at campgrounds. We’ve had little issue booking in areas we like to visit these past months, but as full-timers we can be flexible. Most don’t have that luxury, and are looking to go where they want to go when they want to go there.
Many experts believe that road-trip travel will still be the preferred norm for at least the next year, which is fantastic for the RV Industry. The issue is that campground development is far behind the explosion in RV sales.
There is a lot of investment money going into parks right now, but much of it is being put into buying up run-down facilities and refurbishing them into plush resorts. And many of the new parks that have been announced are a few years off.
The story is the same for many federal and state campgrounds, which may be getting an influx of cash from a recent focus on outdoor recreation, but they’re using it to repair and upgrade aging facilities instead of building new ones.
I’m getting concerned. I’m wondering if RVers are going to be facing increased camping costs next year, particularly those full-timers who enjoy the affordable rates offered for booking monthly stays.
Many private campgrounds offer monthly pricing at a substantial discount, because it encourages year-round renters who will be there even in the off-season, or the sometimes slower weekdays. But those rates are dependent on availability, and campground owners make way more money from nightly renters.
A Jellystone RV Park in Lodi, California recently sent its tenants a letter increasing the current $1200 (plus electricity) montlhy rate a modest $100 in the off-season, but it’s going to jump to a whopping $3250 in the summer months. Obviously, the campground is expecting to be very busy from June to August, and is hoping their monthly tenants will pay the increase or leave, in order to make their sites available for nightly rentals.
But will they come back in the fall? That’s a gamble this park is willing to take. And I don’t blame them for maximizing their business model. But will we see a similar story in parks across the nation? Only time will tell.
We’ve been reporting for weeks now about concerns popular winter parks have over snowbird-season. Every winter, hundreds of thousands of RVers make the migration to Southern Arizona, California, Texas, and Florida for to beat the cold, but parks had been reporting that monthly reservations are very low, as uncertainty over changes in pandemic restrictions lingers. 10% of those folks are Canadian, and the border is unlikely to re-open anytime soon.
At the same time, these campgrounds are beginning to host an incredible number of nightly campers right now, as they begin to cool off for the fall. They’re now experiencing what facilities further north have been seeing for weeks. The Texas Association of Campground Owners (yes, they go by the acronym TACO), sent out a press release the other day urging campers to make their reservations if they plan to come south.
“Campgrounds and RV resorts are seeing more first-time RVers this year because of the pandemic, and many of these folks are planning to continue their travels well into fall and winter because they have realized how easy it is to work remotely from their RV. This is creating more demand for RV sites than we typically see at this time of year. So, it behooves RVers to make their reservations now for their fall and winter campsites,” said Brian Schaeffer, executive director and CEO of TACO.
Many of these campgrounds may begin to find it more lucrative to stop holding sites open for those monthly renters who have yet to pull the trigger on heading south. Scarcity breads price increases, and I think we’re going to see some expensive monthly rates in the short term, and it more popular places.
I did try to contact several parks to get their take on price increases, but most were reluctant to comment, and many have not decided on 2021 pricing yet, citing the same uncertainty that RVers are feeling. Many say they plan to keep their pricing reasonable, but won’t rule out increases.
Have you seen price increases at campgrounds due to the recent RV boom? Let me know in the comments.