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.
Based on a survey of posted rates for the top ten most popular National Parks, Camping Rates can range from as high as $83 per night to as low as $10 per night
Great Smoky Mountains NP: High: $27 (and this does not include holidays) Off Season/off River sites $17.50 per night.
Golden Gate National Recreational Area: Tents only: $25.00 – $20.00 (Group Tent Site for 25 people $75.00)
Lake Meade NRA: $20 Individual campsites (No hookups) (There is also a $25.00 vehicle Entrance Fee (good for 7 days)
Gulf Islands NP Fort Pickens: $40 per night with electric, plus park entrance fee ($25 up to 7 days)
Zion NP: $30 per night with electric, $20 night tent (Park entrance $25 per Vehicle, $20. Pe person)
Yellowstone NP: $83 – $20 per night, of 12 campgrounds, only one has full hookups ($83 per night), other campsites range in price from $34 to $20 per night
Grand Canyon NP: There are several campgrounds directly associated with the Grand Canyon: Most have no hookups or other facilities and may be limited to tent camping. Rates are $10 to $15 per night. The Trailer Village on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon provides full hookups. Rates start at $52 per night.
Rocky Mountain National Park: – There a number of “standard” campgrounds suitable for campers, RVs, or tents. There are no hookups. The rate is $30 per night. There is a winter campground with sites for $20.00 per night.
Yosemite NP: This park has more than 600 sites in six locations. One is for tent campers only, the others will accommodate trailers up to 35 ft, some up to 40 ft. All RV sites are $36 per night, and tent sites are $10.00 per night.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore: There are four campgrounds, all of which have tent, trailer, and RV sites ($28 to $20), but only one site, Oregon Inlet has hookups for $35.00 per night.
Glacier National Park – Fees vary between $23 and $10 per night. Most sites are for tent camping. There are a limited number of trailer and RV sites, with no hookups.
RV National Average
While much attention is paid to high-end motor homes and larger fifth-wheel trailers, the most popular and numerous campers are travel trailers in the 20 to 32 feet length. They provide adequate space for a comfortable camping experience for a family of four, are much more affordable than larger fifth-wheel campers and motor homes.
Rates for camping in national parks runs from a high of $83 per night to as low as $10 per night. The overall average price per night for a campsite in a national park is $25 to $20 and include water and electricity.
Factors that affect the Costs of RV Campsites
There are many factors that affect the rate charged by campgrounds.
National Park or Private Campground: National parks are consistently less expensive than private campgrounds. National parks are supported by public funds. This accounts for the high demand and the fact that, especially during peak seasons, it can be difficult to find a spot in a National Park.
Private campgrounds are typically higher in cost per night, but moderately priced sites are available. Also, many private campgrounds offer more amenities to attract customers. Full hookups are more common, they often have playgrounds, pools, etc. Many private campgrounds feature specific activities such as fishing, boating, horseback riding, etc. Some private campgrounds are more like resorts, often catering to large trailers and motorhomes.
Location and amenities often determine the price range for a private campground. For example, Madeira Beach Campground, St. Petersburg, Florida, in season, may charge $110 or more per night. This is a full-service campground with full hookups for the largest campers and motorhomes, with amenities such as hot tubs and pools, showers and laundry, Wi-Fi, pet facilities, etc.
Still most private campgrounds nationwide are not nearly so expensive. KOA and Good Sam campgrounds range from $30 to $60 per night nationwide. The actual price will depend on the size of the camper, the time of the year, services needed, and added attractions the campground offers. Also, campgrounds associated with major events such as NASCAR races, rodeos, and popular annual festivals typically charge higher rates during events.
Duration of Stay: Campgrounds make money based on occupancy. Campers who stay for a week or more improve occupancy rates. Consequently, commercial campgrounds often have a discounted rates for longer stays—seven nights for the price of six (one night free), or “four seeks for the price of three.” Look for promotions and discounts.
Seasonal Rates: Most campgrounds have a “season” when they are most active. This is also when they charge their “standard” rates. During their “off season,” they may charge lower rates in an effort to improve their occupancy rates.
Size of RV: Larger campers and motor homes require larger spaces, and often require full hookups. These larger units will pay higher nightly rates.
Amenities: Many campgrounds offer little more than a place to park and hook up water and electricity. They cater to travelers and offer fewer amenities. Other campgrounds will have full hook-ups, television, a club house, nice bath houses, a well-equipped playground, large pool, picnic areas, laundry, a restaurant, giftshop, etc., that cater to campers who typically stay for a week or more.
State and Location: Obviously, campgrounds near attractions, major events, beaches, national attractions, will tend to cost more. Also, some states charge a sales tax on camping fees and the tax rates change from state to state.
National regions, especially coastal regions, the “sun belt,” and campgrounds near—or part of—major attractions typically charge higher prices than smaller, or more remote campgrounds, and campgrounds in the central, Midwest, and northern tier states. Any campground near a major attraction, or during a major event will command higher nightly fees.
Types of Campsites
In both national parks and private campgrounds, the type of site will directly affect the nightly rate. There are campgrounds, in both national and state parks that offer only “dry camping.” That is, all they offer is a space. You must provide your own water, light, and sanitary requirements. This is primitive camping, and such spaces cost the least—sometimes no more than $3 to $5.
Most campgrounds offer some level of services and picnic tables. Some may offer only electricity, but most offer at least water and electricity. Many of these will have paved camping sites. Most campgrounds provide toilets and bathhouses. Campers with toilets must use dump stations unless they have access to a sewer hookup. Some campgrounds offer cable television connection. Prices typically range from $25 to $50.
Finally, there are the “luxury campsites” that provide all of the above amenities, on nicely landscaped sites, paved parking areas, typically for larger campers and motorhomes. These can be priced from $50 to $100 or more, especially during special events.
Table of Fees
|Type of Camp Site (“In Season”)||Price Per Night – High||Price Per Night – Low|
|Tent Camping – No Facilities||$15.00||$5 or less|
|Camper – Water and Electricity||$35.00||$20.00|
|Larger Camper/Motor Home – Full Hook-ups||$75.00||$35.00|
|Luxury Motor Home or Peak Season||$100.00+||$50.00|
RV Camping Vs Tent Camping
Tent camping opens up many more camping opportunities, and at significantly lower costs—less expensive equipment, and significantly lower camp site rates—many at no cost. Therefore, tent camping is worth considering for many. First there are many National and State parks that only have facilities for tent camping. For example, much of camping in Glacier National Park and around the Grand Canyon is limited to tent camping. Most national and state parks permit tent camping and the cost per night is significantly less than in an RV of any size.
How to Save Money for Overnight Stays
Camping Club Memberships
I am often asked if camping memberships are worth the price. The answer is likely yes, if you camp more than a week per year at member campgrounds. For campgrounds such as KOA or Good Sam these saving can extend your camping opportunities. The only downside to memberships is that you may not experience some of the really unique non-affiliated campgrounds that are spread across the country.
As a member of the KOA Value Kard Rewards Program, campers receive 10% off each night you stay at any of 480 KOA campgrounds. In addition to the standard discount, you accumulate points for each night you stay. Once you have accumulated enough points, you can apply them as credit toward free nights of camping.
Your $30 annual member ship fee provides access to 10% discounts per night at more than 2,400 campgrounds. The card also provides a fuel discount at Pilot/Flying J stations. Finally, Good Sam is affiliated with Camping World, Gander Outdoors, and Overton’s that also offer 10% discount to Good Sam members.
Thousand Trails offers a slightly different approach. First, they have divided the nation into five regions-Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, Northwest, and Northeast. You pay $600 per year for one region. After that, there is no cost for any campground in that region. Additional regions can be added at a significant discount.
For those who enjoy year-round camping, many campgrounds offer off-peak season discounts to keep their campground in operation year-round. Some amenities, specifically pools, games, and other outdoor activities may not be available. On the other hand, if you have a comfortable warm camper, you are less likely to be disturbed by rowdy children, loud music, and crowds during off-peak seasons.
Early reservations may occasionally be rewarded with discounts, but the main reason for an early reservation is to ensure a spot at more popular parks.
Many campgrounds, including KOA offer discounts to seniors. Other campgrounds offer AARP discounts. The Golden Age Pass (formerly the Senior Pass) allows access to most Federal parks and national forests.
Boondocking is an effective strategy when traveling long distances, i.e., traveling several nights to get to a specific destination. This allows you to stop for the night without having to check into a campground. It is important to get permission at the location you want to stop. Not every truck stop can accommodate boondockers, and not every superstore parking lot permits overnight stops.
Other opportunities for boondocking include some national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands, some private farms and orchards, some shopping center parking lots, and some casino parking lots. The term “some” is important because overnight parking may not be permitted in all Walmart parking lots due to local city or town ordinances. Always check with the local business before stopping for the night.
There are good resources for boondockers including FreeCampgrounds.com and “Boondockers Welcome.” Boondockers Welcome boasts nearly 3000 places—from homes to farms where campers are welcome. They usually require an advance call to ensure there is space available. There may be a nominal fee—$3 to $5—for the cost of electricity and sewer access.
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management may allow “boondocking” for brief periods of time (longer on BLM lands). No services are provided.
There are many sate campgrounds where the prices average about $25.00 per night. Delaware has the highest average price for state park sites at about $40.00 per night, while Kansas and Illinois may be less than $20.00.
Of course, there are many privately owned and operated campgrounds, and the rates for these vary considerably. Finally, some towns and cities may offer camping in select city parks. Rates will vary based on availability of have full hookups.
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.
While traveling, it makes sense to select the campground with closest access to your route of travel. Going to a cheaper campground farther way may not save money when you consider time and fuel burned traveling between the highway and the campground.
When it comes to amenities, be realistic. We have never used a game room, rarely go in the campground pool, etc. Rarely do we even consider campground amenities. I want the best value for the damping site. Not everyone shares my minimalistic approach. We just suggest that you not be lured in by all the extras unless they are important to you. For the best value, look for campgrounds that provide what you need for your camping experience.
Lowering Campground Costs
Assume 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, 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 amounted to $10 a day.
What are the best Snowbird RV Parks in Arizona?
1. Desert’s Edge RV Park – Phoenix, Arizona
This family (all ages) campground continues to be highly rated. It has been described as having a “funky retro vibe” decorated in warm colors for a year-round feel of comfort. Amenities include a hot tub and heated pool for year-round enjoyment and a fitness center. They are also dog-friendly with two walking parks. They are located within 30 minutes of Phoenix. They encourage longer, monthly stays with discounts. A great escape for the winter months.
2. Leisure Valley RV Park – Casa Grande, Arizona
If golf is on your agenda, Leisure Valley is located within easy reach of six courses. If golf does not appeal to everyone in the family there are crafts, bingo, and an assortment of card games. Or just lounge in the heated spa. If American history is an interest, you may enjoy Hohokam Indian ruins or Picacho Peak Sate Park. This is a 55-and-over campground designed to allow you to escape to the serenity beautiful Casa Grande.
3. Tucson/Lazydays KOA Resort – Tucson, Arizona
Like other KOA resorts, this campground includes an assortment of on-site activities including swimming (in multiple pools), golf, and many opportunities to make new friends. This is a child and pet friendly park. It is an ideal winter escape, filled with on-site activities. On top of organized activities, golf, and multiple pools, there is also an onsite BBQ joint where people gather for dinner and drinks in the evening. This is also a great location for anyone interested in Aviation – The Pima Air Museum and an aircraft “bone yard” are nearby.
4. Butterfield RV Resort & Observatory – Benson, Arizona
For an active getaway, Butterfield offers access to skiing at Mount Lemmon. At 3600 feet, Benson’s daytime temperatures average around 76 degrees under clear skies. This is the only RV park in Arizona (or most anywhere else, for that matter) that has it own, free, onsite observatory. The clear Arizona skies make for excellent stargazing.
5. Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort – Casa Grande, Arizona
If golf is high on your list of activities, golf is the priority at Palm Creek with their own 18-hole course. If golf is not your sport, then there is swimming—three pools—plus pickleball, softball, and tennis. This campground is for adults aged 55 and up. Snowbirds may find specials on their website, Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort.
Five great RV Parks in Florida
Picking five best RV parks in Florida is nearly impossible, there are so many. Here are five we really like.
1. Little Talbot State Park (Jacksonville, Florida)
Little Talbot is located between Myrtle Creek and the Atlantic Ocean. Of the five parks listed here, it has the best selection of flora and fauna. This is a public park, regarded by some as the most attractive RV campground in the South, especially if you like a natural setting. There are beach-side pavilions that can be rented for picnics. Hiking trails offer the opportunity to see many colorful birds, river otters and other wildlife in the park. And, of course, there is ocean swimming.
2. Camp Gulf (Destin, Florida)
Some say the beaches at Destin are the best in Florida, and Camp Gulf has one of the largest beachfront RV campgrounds in the state. There are two hundred parking sites aligned along Destin Beach, a large beach house, luxury cabins, and even shaded camping sites. This is a private campground—it is not cheap, but campers consistently agree it is worth it. There are some choices to be made. Not all sites are “beach front,” but beach front sites have only water and electricity, while non-beachfront sites have full hookups and picnic tables. There is a heated pool, a spa, and laundry rooms.
3. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park (St. Joseph’s Bay, Florida)
This is a state-owned park, making it cheaper than commercial campgrounds. One of the best things about St Joseph are both the sunrises and sunsets across the Gulf. This means it is cheaper to use compared to the other RV parks across Florida. There are great beaches and some of the best hiking in Florida, as well as inlets for launching kayaks. With a little luck, you can catch a fresh fist or two for dinner. Sites are provided with electricity and fresh water. Dump stations are located conveniently nearby.
This is a state-owned park, making it cheaper than commercial campgrounds. One of the best things about St. Joseph are both sun rises and sunsets across the Gulf, especially in the summer. There are great beaches and some of the best coastal hiking in Florida, as well as launching for kayaks. With a little luck, you can catch a fresh fish or two for dinner. Sites have electricity and fresh water. Dump stations are located conveniently nearby.
4. St. George Island State Park (St. George Island, Florida)
If getting “away from it all” is important, this is the most secluded RV Park on this list. It is far away from the hassle and bustle of central Florida and has great amenities. Each site has water and electricity, and there are dump stations conveniently located nearby. Not only does it have great hiking trails, but it is also cheap. It is unique among Florida campgrounds.
5. Camp Margaritaville RV Resort and Cabana Cabins
Okay, so you want to camp and still have easy access to central Florida attractions—Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios, etc. Check out Camp Margaritaville RV Resort in Auburndale. This has all the amenities that the other parks mentioned here do not have, including an entertainment stage, putting golf course, playground, dog parks, and an arcade. This is also an ideal base camp for visiting all the Orlando attractions.
Is the Cost of RV Camping Worth it?
The value of any event is determined by the value of the experience to the individual or family. RV camping offers experiences and memories that cannot be achieved through any other means of travel. Every trip is a personal experience. Unless your idea of travel is to be in the center of a major metropolitan area, RV camping is best way to get nearest the place you want to be. It also lets you travel in the comfort of familiar surroundings, meaning no matter where you wake up, you are in your home. Finally, there is the element of control. Other than concerns for weather and traffic, you are not restricted by airline schedules and destinations, toting luggage, etc. You do have to enjoy, or at least accept, the open road as your path to adventure. But no other form of travel gives you quite as much control from day-to-day as RV travel. You control your schedule, eat out or eat “at home” in the RV, dress as comfortably as you want, and do nothing—anywhere you go! And it will likely cost less.
Where are campgrounds with full hookups near you?
Assuming you have some computer abilities, use the Google search engine for Google Maps. In Google maps, enter a city or the route you plan to travel. A panel of information on the left of the Google screen will open. The top line of choices reads:
- Below “Accommodations, Click on “Campgrounds.”
- A number of red camp icons (with a tent in the icon) will appear.
- Select the icon nearest where you want to stay and click on that icon.
- A link to the website for that campground will appear at the bottom of the page.
- Click on the “Website” button to find out about that campground.
What are the costs associated with a Camping Trip?
- Fuel Costs to travel to, from, and around the areas where you are camping
- Campground site fees
- Food, Snacks, and Drinks (either taken with you or meals to be purchased)
- Firewood/charcoal/lighter fluid
- Whatever entertainment events and admissions you have planned
- Extra for things that were forgotten!
A basic camping trip to a nice campground with most of your favorite facilities including a playground, pool, hiking trails, and a camp store can be a complete vacation for a family of four on a budget.