What do you think of when you hear the word camping? The definition of camping is quite different from person to person and has changed dramatically over the years. Camping used to be a way to get away from it the daily grind, get in touch with nature and spend quality time with the family. While that still rings true today, it is not quite the definition that you will get from most.
Camping really became a favorite vacation outlet around the 1960s. People were pitching tents and dragging their trailers around to remote locations to get away from the hustle and bustle of their daily routine. Most campgrounds were quite primitive with some electric and water available. There wasn’t much in the way of amenities or activities, but you would certainly be greeted with friendly faces and evening campfires. You would find children riding bikes, collecting rocks or leaves or swimming in a lake or ponds. Dinners were cooked over the campfire and there was never a shortage of camper hospitality.
But as previously said, camping has changed dramatically over the years. People are now camping more in RVs rather than tents. Cabins have become a more commonly requested site type. With those basic changes alone, the way campgrounds do business have had to change as well. In addition to the upgraded site types, people also increasingly request more amenities and more resort like features than ever before. In addition, location plays a huge role in the cost of camping, very similar to the way hotels work. The closer to major tourist attractions and destinations, the higher the cost.
There is no longer a large demand for primitive camping or a vacation that allows for the escape from reality and technology or to enjoy the simplicity of nature, family and friends. Whether in an RV or a tent, people want the comforts of home and ask that it be provided at a reasonable cost.
Why then, is there such distain regarding the cost of camping? After all, it is camping right? Well yes and no. It’s no surprise that things increase in price over the years, but when the demands overtake the type of facilities available, campground have no choice but to raise the prices. There are still very economical and primitive ways to camp such as state and national parks, but even those prices have gone up over the years. Some private campgrounds have maintained a more campground rather than resort like feel and there are many that prefer that type of camping, however, with that said, there are many more campers who have grown with the industry and are demanding more amenities and nicer facilities that frankly cost money to not only upgrade but also to maintain.
The operating costs of a campground can be quite expensive depending on the type of campers that they have. Here are just some of the current demands that are raising the prices of camping: cable, WiFi, activities, pools, fitness centers, game rooms, food service, larger sites for larger RVs, fully furnished cabins, state of the art bathhouses, deluxe/premium site options, landscaping, satellite availability, longer store hours, concierge services and so on. All of these things take time and money which are translated to the cost of camping. One of the problems is that while some prefer basic camping options, others do not and campgrounds have had to adjust accordingly. Some will say the cost of camping is astronomical in some areas and that can be true, but there are always cheaper options available. Another aspect of the cost of camping that no one likes to talk about is the theory that living full-time in a camper or living out of a tent is cheaper than living in a house. While that can be true the reality is that campgrounds are vacation destinations and not somewhere to live. There are full time year long resorts that can accommodate that kind of lifestyle but campgrounds should not be that place. It is an unfortunate fact, that some folks that become homeless will find a way to buy a barely road legal camper or have their tent in their car and try to lay claim in a campground. The rates can be reflective of that as well. Whether we like to think about it or talk about it, it’s a fact.
With all of that said, it becomes quickly obvious why the cost of camping has increased so much over the years. It’s no longer just about camping and many campgrounds have had to spend money to upgrade it order to accommodate and met the demands of the industry. Once you start thinking about what is happening in and around the campground, you can begin to appreciate it a little more.
The question then becomes, is there anything that can be done to decrease the cost of camping? The industry will tell you probably not, however, I am willing to bet that if people were more considerate, less demanding and took responsibility for themselves while they are camping, the costs could be reduced or at least not increased for some time. The folks working in the campgrounds spend a great deal of time cleaning up after people. Despite spending money upgrading and providing all these great amenities, they have to be cleaned regularly and maintained. But, too often, bathhouses are left a mess due to laziness, pools are damaged or destroyed by unsupervised children and rowdy adults, fire pits are used as trashcans and cabins are left with the premise that the housekeeping crew will take care of it and with all of that being true, the campground has to pay those folks.
There are great campers and not so great camper but after working at campgrounds for the past 6 years, I have learned that people want someone else to take care of it. They want a resort environment where they are catered to but don’t want to pay the price for those types of amenities. A few disrespectful campers can and do ruin it for those who understand what camping is and should be all about.
Campground operating expenses include at a minimum, maintenance, upkeep and salaries and as long as guests continue to demand paved sites with grills and swings, fully furnished cabins, around the clock activities and super sonic WiFi access, the cost of camping will continue to rise.
The last point I will make is this; camping is about getting away from it all, disconnecting and enjoying time with our family and friends. Let’s keep it simple and do that!