Skip to Main Content

What Are Some Hidden Costs of Owning A Campground?

The idea of owning a campground is an exciting one. Over 40 million Americans are RVers, and campgrounds are where these travelers hang their hats. RV ownership has reached record highs since 2020, meaning the demand for campground space exceeds supply in many parts of the country.  

RV parks and campgrounds can be built from scratch, or an existing park can be purchased and improved. Campground owners build a business that helps shape the RVing adventure, creates lasting memories for families, and—when done right—generates healthy profits.

But before buying an existing campground or building a new one, factor in the hidden costs of ownership. This post breaks down those hidden costs for a more complete picture to guide the decision-making process.

16 Hidden Costs Of Owning A Campground

1. Infrastructure

Buying an existing park means buying its current problems. Secondhand campgrounds may include a patchwork of costly repairs and upgrades for septic systems, plumbing, electrical, and more.

On the other hand, building a park from scratch can incur unexpected costs when installing complex amenities like advanced septic systems and shower houses that were not in the original budget. 
When purchasing or building, budget for the unexpected.

2. Lodging taxes

Many states and municipalities charge a nightly tax for short-term stays. Campgrounds will usually fall under this umbrella and you will need to pay taxes for each camp night at the park. These taxes are an important hidden cost that owners generally pass on to guests.

3. Web expenses

 Campgrounds need nice-looking, functional websites. DIY websites can work, but new owners will often hire this out–a worthwhile but oftentimes unexpected cost.

4. Insurance

Insurance costs factor into the budget of any new business plan, but campground ownership brings unexpected twists. For example, when purchasing an existing campground, older buildings and infrastructure generally result in higher premiums.

Amenities such as playgrounds and trails can also increase insurance rates.

And—most alarmingly—campground insurance is audited by carriers every year. If a campground makes more revenue than projected for a given year, insurance carriers will charge a backdated increase in premium.

5. Licensing, permitting, and zoning

States and municipalities will charge fees for campground operation and infrastructure.

Want to add additional sites? The area might need to be rezoned, new water licenses might need to be issued, and new sewer connections applied for and approved.

Want to start a camp store or offer new activities? There will likely be new taxes and licenses required for such operations.

Want to build a new campground? Costly permitting and planning might be required from the state and county.

6. Property taxes

Campground property taxes can often be higher than you might expect. The size of the campground, location, and any additional operations (e.g. camp store, pool, trails, etc.) can all lead municipalities to charge higher than usual property taxes to campgrounds.

7. Design costs

Building a new campground involves more than building expenses. Consulting and engineering fees to design a campground, plan the sites, and map out infrastructure can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

8. Fast, reliable Wi-Fi

RVers expect to be connected at camp. Many campgrounds are in remote areas where installing internet infrastructure can be more costly than expected.

9. Utilities

Utilities are a normal part of any business budget, but campgrounds often incur unexpected utility costs during abnormally hot or cold times. As a result, some campgrounds opt to charge extra utility fees to guests.

10. Cancellations

RVers are transient by nature and their plans can change on a dime. Cancellations become a hidden campground cost because it can be difficult to rebook a site on short notice. Owning a campground requires you to be somewhat flexible when it comes to expected income.

Campground owners can charge cancellation fees or require a reservation deposit to alleviate this problem.

11. Employee expenses

Team turnover, unexpected customer service issues, and more can all lead to higher-than-expected expenses.

12. Grounds care

Campground upkeep involves more than mowing the lawn. RVers appreciate well-cared-for and individualized sites that can result in higher-than-expected costs for grounds care.

13. Card fees

Credit card companies and credit card processing services have become necessary for campground owners. Card and processing fees add up, taking anywhere from 2.5% to over 8% of every transaction. 

14. Commissions

It’s often in a campground’s best interest to be listed on third-party sites like Good Sam, Campnab, Airbnb, and more. These sites will increase a park’s reach and generate bookings that might not otherwise happen. 

These third-party marketplaces charge campgrounds a percentage for every booking, resulting in added expense for campground owners.

15. Software costs

Most modern campgrounds use reservation software to manage bookings and payments. These services can range in cost from $50 to over $250 per month. Some services also take a percentage of any bookings made directly on the campground’s website.

16. Marketing expenses

A marketing budget is part of most businesses, and campgrounds stand to benefit from marketing outreach efforts. But campgrounds in remote areas or parks that don’t have the usual amenities might incur above-average marketing costs to expand their reach.

For example, RV parks that are off the beaten path might invest additional resources in creating and marketing glamping experiences to draw people in.

*

Campground ownership is an exciting opportunity with a growing customer base. Success in any business requires one to have a clear idea of projected expenses, revenue, and profits. By understanding the hidden costs of owning a campground, prospective park buyers will set themselves up for success as they welcome campers of all types and stripes.

Utilizing Social Media for Your Park

Social media can be intimidating for campground owners. We have enough on our plates already just managing the day-to-day of our parks, and the thought of building a presence on social media is an added weight. You might wonder things like:

What social media platform(s) should I be on?

How can I possibly keep up with regular social media posts for my campground? 

What will social media do for me?

These are all fair questions. The good news is that, with the right strategies in place, social media can be a smooth endeavor that reaps rewards in terms of increased buzz, new guests, and people sharing your park with their friends, all of which make your campground more profitable.

Social Media For RV Campgrounds

Social media is about building community and sharing your story. That’s why RV park owners like us can use this tool to help people get excited about staying before they even arrive.

For example, you could share beautiful photos of special glamping options you may have, attractions near you, or guests having fun around the campfire. These images will help prospective guests paint a picture in their minds of what it’s like to stay at your park. 

Or, you could share stories on social media of rockstar guests or team members you have on site. Encourage these same folks to share your post with their friends to increase the reach of that post. 

Ultimately, social media for RV parks is about shaping the story you tell the world so that you draw in more of your ideal customers. 

Traffic on social media posts grows when shared with others.

What Social Media Platforms Are Out There for Campground Owners?

The number of social media platforms out can feel overwhelming. But you really only need to seek out the one or two platforms that make the most sense for your park and focus on those. Let’s dig into the social media platforms out there and when they might be a fit:

Instagram – This image-focused platform is perfect if you have unique campground features that are particularly photogenic or if you offer scenic views.

Facebook – Every RV park should have a Facebook page at a minimum because it’s something people look for these days. Facebook pages are quick and easy to create, and they’ll serve as a place for users to find your hours, general information, and a few pictures.

Facebook is also great for posting about upcoming events, special attractions near you, and guest stories at your park.

Twitter – This platform allows you to make 280-character posts that seem most effective for politicians and celebrities. While you should feel free to use any social medium to promote your park, Twitter can be hit-or-miss for businesses connecting with customers.

TikTok – TikTok allows users to make short videos that can go viral fast. This can be a good way to generate buzz for your park if you have an interest in videos and have (or can create) some visually stunning elements at your park.

Snapchat – Similar to TikTok, both are popular with younger generations if that’s a crowd you’d like to attract.

Pinterest – Pinterest is a unique bird that nonetheless can generate significant traffic for you if handled correctly. Think of Pinterest as a social bulletin board that allows people to pin cool pictures, articles, and other things they’re interested in one place. Pinterest can be a highly effective tool for RV parks that can create boards about stunning nearby attractions and notable amenities at the park.

For example, if you’re near a national park, you could create a Pinterest board that gives folks all the info they’d need for an RV visit to that park. Because your Pinterest board links to you, it would be natural for many readers of your posts to stay with you.

LinkedIn – This is a platform for professional networking. It might be worth your time there to make business connections, but it’s generally not the place to draw in new guests directly. B2B social media for your park is a great way to learn more about the industry and connect with other businesses and campgrounds that might benefit your efforts.

YouTube – While it’s primarily a platform to watch videos, YouTube has many of the same social media features in the sense that people can comment, share, and build community around content. This could be a good platform for you if you like video, have the time, and have a unique visual story that would be attractive to people.

Scenic views from your campground are worth sharing.

Which Social Media Platform Is Best for Campgrounds?

The answer is: It depends. If you have an RV park that features scenic views, glamping options, yurts, or other unique camping experiences that are visually appealing, then Instagram could be your best bet.

If you’re more of a traditional RV park, something like Facebook would likely be where you’ll want to focus most of your energy. 

Or, if you view yourself as a cutting-edge park wanting to appeal to a younger crowd, then Snapchat, TikTok or YouTube could be your jam.

In short, the best social media for your park is a platform that helps you best tell your story to the right people in a way that you can manage. 

10 Powerful Ways To Use Social Media at Your RV Campground

Now that we’ve chatted about the different social media platforms, let’s unpack 10 strategies for utilizing social media no matter which platform you focus on. 

1. Choose one or two platforms and nail it

One of the best ways to tank your social media strategy is to try to be everywhere. There are too many social media platforms for you to do all of them well. Pick the one or two that fit you best and put focused intensity there.

2. Be conversational

Social media is a back and forth. You should engage with past, present and future guests on social media to keep your story fresh. Also, be sure to pay it forward by sharing other people’s stories, liking other people’s posts, etc.

3. Know your tribe

Who is coming to your park? Who do you want to come to your park? Knowing the answer to these two questions will guide the language you use and the story you tell in social media.

4. Have a plan

Randomly posting once in a while without a plan is generally not a good idea on social media. Consistency is key. That doesn’t mean you have to post every day, but if you decide to post once per week stick with that plan.

You could also use a social media scheduler like Hootsuite or Tailwind to help you stay on top of this.

5. Create searchable content

Social media can be a great way to boost your ranking on search engines if you create posts that provide answers to questions people are searching for.

For example, you could figure out what travelers are searching for in your area and create social media posts that help them plan their trip.

6. Call your followers to action

Sharing your story and creating posts is essential on social media. It’s also vital that you have a strategy for frequently calling people to action. You could run a monthly special at your park that you share on social media, ask your followers to leave you a review, or even host a contest on social media to bring new business to your park.

7. Seek out influencers

These are people on social media with large and engaged followings. Within the full-time RVing niche, for example, there are many couples and families who are sharing their journey with sizable audiences.

You can connect with influencers in many ways. One example would be inviting them for a free stay at your park in exchange for sharing a story about you with their audience.

8. Stay focused, and avoid the social media black hole

Social media is effective when you choose the right platform for you and combine it with a planned strategy.
Social media is ineffective if you get drawn into the drama, don’t measure the results it’s giving you, or if you otherwise get sucked into conversations that don’t help you move the needle.

9. Consider social media ads

Buyer beware: These can cost you a lot of money without generating a result if you don’t know what you’re doing. But, if you’re willing to invest the time and energy into learning effective social media advertising, it can generate new reservations for your campground.

The key is that you measure the impact of each dollar you spend.

10. Measure what’s working, ditch what doesn’t, and double down on the rest

Test a few different social media platforms at the beginning to discover the one or two that’ll work best for you.

Look at the end of every month and see which social media posts got shared and which didn’t.

If you ran any deals or coupons on social media, which ones were the most impactful?

By taking steps like the ones above, you can figure out what’s working and what’s not. Double down on what does and ditch the rest. 

As campground owners, we can choose to embrace social media or shy away from it. But should you opt to use it, the beauty of social media is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to reach your target customers. You’ll reap the benefits of these powerful platforms by implementing a straightforward and focused social media plan.

Creating a Guest Experience Campers Actually Want

Creating a great guest experience is one of the most impactful things you can do as a campground owner. 

Stellar guest experiences lead to solid reviews, repeat customers, and smoother operations for your campground. But how do you create a guest experience that campers actually want? 

Memorable guest experiences don’t just happen—they are made through a carefully crafted set of actions you undertake at your campground. Let’s chat about ways to build a campground that caters to your guests.

Creating A Great Guest Experience Before Your Campers Arrive

It helps to put yourself in your guests’ shoes: try to capture their attention before they arrive by broadcasting the experience you will offer. Here are the things you’ll want to consider:

1. An easy-to-navigate website

An online presence is a must for any campground. You also want to be sure that folks can easily check availability, see pricing, and read up on the amenities you offer.

We know websites can be intimidating, so that’s why we created Good Sam Campground Solutions—your one-stop shop to create a smooth website that has the features that today’s campers want.

2. Photos, photos, and more photos

Campground shoppers are visual people. They want to see your campsites, amenities, images of guests having fun, and more.

Be sure to take lots of great photos with plenty of lighting that show off your campground and the people in it. Load those photos on your website so prospective guests can get a picture of where they’ll be camping. Check out this article for more info on taking great photos.

3. Online booking option

Today’s traveler wants the option to book every bit of their trip online. The same is true for campground-goers. You’ll set yourself above the fold by offering a way for your customers to book and pay online.

4. Set expectations

Your website should paint an accurate picture of what it’s like to stay with you. While you should highlight what makes you great, you should also be open about any restrictions like rig size, cell service, or other factors that might surprise an unexpecting guest.

The goal here is to share what makes your campground awesome while also ensuring that guests know what to expect when they arrive.

5. Communication

Be sure that guests promptly receive a receipt with a note letting them know how excited you are to have them. It’s also a solid practice to follow up with guests a few days ahead of their arrival with important details for their stay.

6. Offer additional camping options

RV and tent sites are the lifeblood of what we do as campground owners, but experiences like yurts, glamping, cabins, and more are quickly becoming an important addition to what we do. Guests love these experiences, and these stays can also provide significant extra revenue.

Here are 16 ways to add unique camping options to your campground offerings.

Creating A Great Guest Experience When Your Guests Arrive

Once your guests arrive, the real fun can begin. This is where you put the wheels in motion to help your campers build lasting memories with their families. Here are the pieces to have in place for a great during-trip guest experience.

1. Friendly faces

Even if you offer a self-check-in process, it’s important that you have a crew in place who loves people and is ready to help with things like parking RVs, selling s’more kits, and starting campfires.

And before you think you can’t afford to hire great talent, think again. Campgrounds are uniquely positioned to offer employees benefits far beyond money. For example, many campgrounds can offer staff advantages like free RV sites, autonomy, flexible scheduling, and proximity to fun excursions.

Here are a few other tips for nurturing a team with a smiling attitude.

2. Offer a self-check-in/self-locate option

While many campers will want to connect with a friendly face upon arrival, another ingredient for a great guest experience is to have a self-serve option where campers are able to arrive and navigate to their campsite on their own.

Campground booking software will allow you to set this up and provide step-by-step communication to guide your guests in. 

3. Good Wi-Fi (or no Wi-Fi at all)

With the rise in remote work, campers are demanding solid Wi-Fi more than ever before. You need to have good Wi-Fi at your campground if you expect to provide a guest experience that campers want.

The exception would be if you are a campground that markets yourself as a place of solitude and disconnection for people. In that case, it could actually be part of your brand that people would stay with you because they want to disconnect from the usual hustle and bustle of their lives.

But that’s an either/or situation. Either you have good Wi-Fi or you’re a boutique spot marketing an unplugged experience. Because nothing upsets the guest experience more than expecting good Wi-Fi to find it’s less than.

4. Expectations set. Expectations exceeded

The “before” experience you offered your guests showed them what to expect at your campground. Now it’s time to go above and beyond that.

Think of WOW factors you can offer to level up your guest experience. For example, you could provide complimentary firewood and a s’more kit for your guest’s first night, host a bonfire, or create a deal with a local restaurant for a discount for your guests.

5. Communal hangout zones

Campers generally love connecting and sharing stories. Create spaces at your campground like outdoor grilling areas, reading rooms, communal fire pits, and more that encourage people to mingle and connect.

Doing this will create lasting friendships that guests will fondly associate with your campground.

6. Highlight unique amenities in your area

It’s common practice for campgrounds to share a list of area restaurants at check-in. While this is a good practice, creating an excellent guest experience demands extra creativity.

What cool things to do in your area that only locals know about?

Is there a weekly farmer’s market in your area that’s fun to go to?


Could you partner with local outfitters to offer excursions specifically for your guests?


Travelers love getting the inside scoop on the areas they visit. By offering that to your guests, you’ll set yourself apart.

7. Regular communication

One of the best ways to keep your campers up to date about events happening during their stay is to incorporate text-based messaging into your guest experience.

Texts currently have a much higher read and response rate than email, so they are a great way to let your guests know you’re thinking of them. Some campground management software will have this built-in to make it very easy to text your guests about that bonfire you’re hosting, a concert in your area, or any other fun thing you want them to know about.

And guests often like to communicate via text anyway, so having an option for them to text your team is a valuable amenity to offer.

8. Don’t forget the fundamentals

While all of the above are important ingredients in the guest experience stew, it won’t all flow together if you don’t have the basics in place. These include things like:

  • Level sites
  • Good infrastructure (e.g., water, power, sewer)
  • Fire making areas
  • Signs guiding people around your campsite
  • Regularly walking your campground looking for ways to improve your guest experience
  • And always listening to guest feedback for ways to continue improving

Creating A Great Guest Experience After Your Guests Leave

A great guest experience doesn’t end when someone leaves your campground. Here are the best practices to keep up with guests after they go:

1. Ask for a review

Most guests won’t proactively leave a review unless they get a little nudge. That’s why you should have a follow-up process that asks for guests’ feedback and then encourages positive respondents to leave a review.

Generally speaking, the best way to do this is via a short follow-up text sent on the day of departure asking your guest to comment on their stay. If they loved it, shoot them a link to your Google review profile so they can share it with the world!

2. Offer specials to past guests

If guests loved staying with you, encourage them to come back. You could offer them things like an early booking window for your peak season, special rates, or free/discounted amenities during their next stay.

3. Implement feedback

If you’re consistently getting the same request from multiple guests at your campground, be proactive about adding the things guests are asking for.

Unfortunately, far too many campgrounds are stacked with reviews mentioning the same negative guest experience over and over again. One of the best ways to create a great guest experience is simply by listening for consistency in guest feedback and promptly acting on that feedback.

With more campers than ever, it’s an exciting time to be a campground owner. It’s also a terrific opportunity we all have to level up our guest experience so that our customers are delighted by their camping experience. The tips above will help you build a game plan for a campground that guests rave about and return to.