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Chuck Woodbury: ‘The Way We RV is Changing’

RVtravel.com Editor Chuck Woodbury

Editor’s Note: The following article, authored by RVtravel.com Editor Chuck Woodbury, offers insight into a changing RVing environment as he relates his experiences encountered during a recently completed coast-to-coast RV trip.

RVtravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury recently returned from a two-month trek through 26 states. Along the way he visited the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) rally in Indianapolis and America’s Largest RV Show in Hershey, Pa.

“I had hoped that in attending the events and talking with RVers in campgrounds that I could gain some insights into the current state of RVing,” he said. “What I learned is that RVing is as popular as ever, but the way we do it is changing.”

He was hosted at Thousand Trails preserves and by some KOAs, but spent much of his time in independent parks. “Most KOAs and virtually all Thousand Trails are catering to RVers as a destination where they can spend days, even weeks at a time, with the park entertaining them,” he said. “It’s not just ‘come, stay and entertain yourself’ like the old days of public campgrounds, but ‘come, stay and we will entertain you.’ The list of facilities and social activities they offer is longer than ever — jumping pillows for the kids, hot tubs, evening movies, ice cream socials, more sophisticated playgrounds, free WiFi, fishing and paddleboat lakes, mini-golf, swimming pools, and special events for holidays keep their customers busy. KOA, in particular, seems to be beefing up its visitor offerings and is pushing its cabin rentals, where a customer does not even need an RV.

He added, “Independent parks, the mom and pop ones in particular, are all over the place in quality and need to get their act together. Some are very nice, but too many are unkempt or offer mediocre facilities. I drove a few miles off the highway to one park that looked attractive on its website. But at the entrance there were two junked cars, weeds a foot high, and a weathered mobile home for the office. I turned around. At another park, I paid $38 and was led to a site that was way off level. People don’t pay to sleep on a slope; they deserve better. In a park that I pulled into after dark, I nearly poked a hole in my thumb hooking up the water hose: a part of the round faucet handle was broken off leaving a sharp pointed edge. When I told the employee in the office, she didn’t express any concern or even note my campsite.”

Woodbury never stayed in a Wal-Mart parking lot, but came to appreciate why so many RVers do. “A typical one-night stay at a commercial park by the highway is $30 to $50,” he said. “I can understand why RVers, no matter how well-off, choose to stay free in a parking lot rather than spend that much money just for a place to sleep for a few hours.”

In tiny Wasta, South Dakota (pop. 72) along I-90, he found the small, no-frills 24 Express RV Park that charges $5 a night for a gravel pull-thru site with water and 30- and 50-amp electric hookups. “They make money off their automated gas station and a family-run military museum and they have no employees,” he explained. “The RV park is clean and popular with overnighters. There’s a demand for other low-cost parks like this and I think an opportunity for a visionary entrepreneur.”

RVtravel.com is in its 11th year of publishing a weekly online newsletter and next month will debut a daily edition, RV Daily Tips. More than 200,000 RVers a month read RVtravel.com and its network of about four dozen other websites and blogs.

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#1 Comment By William Atkinson On October 17, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

Folks who evaluate parkss should do a real fact check of parks, the whole industry has been changing mostly over last 15 years for the worst, costs have spiraled out of control, hugh numbers of parks are run down and some reaally dangerous for campers. We were in one park (TT) where in one week police were called twice and fire departments had to be called 3 times to rescue people. The industry in now in recovery mode, investors are scraming to move monies in the recreation business, and the horizon is growth only, so fact checkers need to put truth before business to show customers where good investments, memberships and participation will be worth the costs and stay away from bad investments. States are begining to see the whole industry as a new means of revenue and future taxes and regulations on diversified recreational system will be forthcoming driving already high costs higher.

#2 Comment By Chuck Elsesser On October 17, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

I agree with you about express in and out. Even at $ 10- $ 15 a night. a place to stay on the Hwy in route to your destination. A thought for flying J etc.

A lot of older parks were designed for small unites that were the norm 30 years ago.
They say big rigs but they really are not. Gravel ,dust and uneven is not the exception but the norm in older parks. KOA and some chains are no exception.

How parks are graded is a joke. Apparently some of these inspectors must travel in a covered wagon.
Independently owned is the way to go.

#3 Comment By David Gorin On October 18, 2012 @ 8:41 am

A couple of comments:

1. Chuck, I understand the critique of the campgrounds, but exactly how is the “way we RV is changing”?

2. Operating an 8 site campground at $5 a nite isn’t a business. At best its a hobby.

#4 Comment By Keith Sturtz On October 18, 2012 @ 10:12 am

Just throw away your site guides run by companies that rate sites on how much the campground pays them for advertising.Woodalls is a prime example. Go to http://rvparkreviews.com/ and get reliable feedback from others like you. If enough people use and feed this system it would put the poor quality parks out of business or force them to improve.

Happy Camping

#5 Comment By Chip Smith On October 19, 2012 @ 10:08 am


in part you are right about the rating system needing and update, however RV Parks Review needs an update as well. As this article touches on some guests are not ones we would want in our parks. After all you don’t need a background check to buy an RV, and when they get out of hand late at night and need to be removed they are the ones who go to these sites and flat out lie on review sites. When the owners try to tell the sites (when you can get ahold of someone) they simply say to bad. Most people who have an enjoyable time somewhere do not leave comments. Case in point there is a site called “YELP” for anywhere you may go when have you had a good experiance at any buisness and left positive feedback for them? I had one review that said I drove around the campground with a shotgun at my side. Really? who would come back I know i wouldn’t