Why cabins at RV parks are bad news to RVers

Why cabins at RV parks are bad news to RVers

By Chuck Woodbury
Editor, RVtravel.com

If I owned an RV park I would likely replace some of my RV sites with cabins. I’d make more money that way: renting a cabin is more profitable than renting an RV site. An RV park is a business, just like any other, and the idea is to make money.

koa-campers-2-756Well, sad to say for you and me, that’s exactly what’s happening: As cabins appear, RV sites disappear. And I’m not just talking about one-room cabins with a couple of bunks and a table, but fancy lodge-type accommodations you’d except to find at a luxury retreat. We’re talking heating and air conditioning, queen and king beds, full-blown kitchens, big screen TVs and fancy bathrooms. And none of it’s on wheels like the accommodations you and I travel with.

This increase in cabins and decrease in RV sites is happening at the same time that about 1,000 new RVs are being sold each day. It’s hard enough to find an available campground already, so watching one campsite after another give way to a cabin is not a welcome sight to me, and I suspect to you.

koa-cabin-756Look at the two images I’ve posted. These both came to me in emails the same day— one from KOA’s corporate office, the other from a KOA park in Bar Harbor, Maine. Look at the pictures: I’m telling you, the scenes do not look much like camping to me (of course, to be honest, camping in a 40-foot, $400,000 motorhome isn’t much like camping either).

Still, as an RVer, I’m not happy about seeing campsites disappear at the same time more RVers are competing with me for existing sites. Nor am I happy seeing the motel crowd join me in the campground. I wish the RV industry would look at this situation, and realize there will come a time when people will just stop buying RVs because they will be told “good luck finding a place to stay” by RVers who have been frustrated one too many times having to make reservations six months in advance to get a nice spot. 

I wish I had a solution beyond recognizing that more campsites are needed. Alas, I’m just one guy who has recognized that we have a problem. I’ll keep searching for answers and do my best to prompt some action by people in the industry who, like me, see that something must be done to make room for you and me, and all the new RVers joining our ranks in years ahead. And I’m not talking about more parking space at Wal-Mart. That’s not camping!

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17 thoughts on “Why cabins at RV parks are bad news to RVers

  1. Marcia Maule

    I find this conversation hilarious. People with “campers” with three air conditioners, a fireplace, washer and dryer, large screen TV inside and outside complaining about cabins being too luxurious in RV parks…HIlarious

    1. RV Staff

      😀 Diane at RVtravel.com

  2. Teri@HiddenValleyRV

    We don’t have this situation in the San Antonio, Texas area. Speaking as an private RV park owner who shares the RV business with about a dozen other RV parks in our area alone, we all have a cabin or two or three, used mostly by those who want the outdoor experience but don’t currently have an RV or even non-RVing family members of RV site users. But I don’t see any of us completely full to the extent that no space is available. The only exception would be during the month of February when the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is in town. Most of the reservations that we take at our campground are made within a week of the guests arrival. We, and other competing parks have all been expanding our RV site #’s to fill the present need you address Chuck and we invite y’all RVers to visit our city and stay at our area parks.

  3. Myron

    What bothers me is as soon as the cabins go in, the rates of the RV sites double or triple to help pay for the new cabins, which I have often observed are not rented.

  4. Lynelle

    The real problem is most campgrounds are franchised owned and must follow the main office/HQ plans to make the most money for the corporate shareholders. Most mom-n-pop places can’t afford to build cabins on their sites but are forced to put one or two up to keep up with Joneses. Those smaller campgrounds are far and few between and are usually reserved way in advance because, like me, I suspect most RVers don’t want to be in a franchised campground. There is a hit-or-miss with mom-n-pop places with too many of them having to charge way too much just to keep up with the bills. I don’t like to pay $40 a night for a concrete slab within arms reach of the next rig, and no amenities. I had to pay up the nose a couple times on my way to Michigan this past June because there was only one spot left in those smaller campgrounds. And they were very tight for a big rig. Most smaller non-franchised campgrounds were built long before the big RVs and cannot accommodate them. And they really can’t afford to upgrade their campsites, so they put a cabin or two to make up the extra money they need. It all boils down to money (franchised or not) and has nothing to do with the RV customers.

  5. Ray

    We are full-timers in a Class A Motorhome and lifetime members by Thousand Trails. Since several years Thousand Trails but Cabins and Seasonal or Annuals Site in their Campgrounds , and always they took for this the nicest sites. We members have every year harder to make our reservations.

  6. Jann

    Car trips and motels anyone?

  7. Dave W.

    I’m a homeless RVer. That is, I have a home but when tough times hit a few years ago I was forced into bankruptcy and my beautiful class A motor home was repossessed. That was painful for many reasons I won’t go into here but suffice to say there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t want my RV life back. Renting a KOA cabin is as close to it as I can get so that’s what I do two or three times a year. I love the parks, the rigs and talking with people about their adventures. I love the friendly RV park hosts and exploring their little shop at check-in. I don’t want a motel room and I believe my desire for some trees and gravel roads is just as valid as some of y’all wishing there were more RV spaces available. I don’t blame you but come on, those of us who can’t afford the road life have rights, too.

    I never imagined that I would be looked upon by RVers as a pariah of sorts in their park. It kind of hurts and it will certainly bother me the next time I check in at a cabin.

    1. Chuck Woodbury

      Dave,

      I personally don’t fault campground owners for installing the cabins — I would likely do the same if I owned a park — nor am I offended by those who stay in them. You’re right, it’s better than a motel for someone who wants a little bit more of the outdoors. I just believe that with all the new RVs being sold today that there needs to be a growth in places for RVers to stay, not a decrease. I plan to keep exploring this situation. — Chuck

      1. Dave W.

        Having personally seen the view from every angle I suggest the only solution to the problem is not one most RVers are going to accept with a smile. Increased demand always results in higher prices. It’s Econ 101.

        I pay three times the price of an RV hookup to rent a one room KOA cabin with no bathroom or kitchen. I do so willingly, knowing that RV owners are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for their rigs plus insurance, gas and maintenance expenses. I would happily rejoin you all if I could afford to but the expressions expressed here by some, e.g. “that’s what motels are for” smacks of elitist bigotry.

        I spend quiet weekends in those cabins envying my neighbors. I really don’t want to start thinking of them as condescending snobs.

        1. Dave W.

          PS. I’m finished here. Didn’t mean to sound like one of those social media flamers. I just wanted to present the other side of the story from the perspective of one who uses the cabins and enjoys hobnobbing with RVers. Unless and until I can get another RV it’s as close as I can get.

          By the way, Chuck, I was THRILLED to learn you’re headed back out on the road. Enjoy your life as it was meant to be lived.

          1. Chuck Woodbury

            I understand, Dave.

            The reason that you use cabins — because you don’t have an RV and want a “camping” experience — is likely one of the reason that the cabins are there in the first place — to serve you and countless other non-RVers who wish the same type of experience. That’s good, but the fact remains that many of the cabins are taking up space once reserved for RVs at a time when there are more RVers on the road who need them.

  8. RamblinMan

    We went into the KOA in Jackson Hole, WY in ’11, & they were in the process of adding a LOT more cabins. The # of RV sites was getting pretty small. . . I was told by one of the peeps there that their Winter ski business was really growing, & people just flew in, rented a car & went skiing. . . I thought that’s what motels were for. . .

  9. Pat Wilson

    Ken, why must the campground owners save enough sites for rvers like you and me? It’s a money making business and cabins seem to be what’s the up and coming thing. On the other hand, there’s something as yet unknown coming down the owners’ pikes that will replace the cash flow from cabins and when that happens the money dance starts all over.

    We’ve noticed that some rv parks are happily run in connection with other money makers: farms, vinyards, permanent and semi-permanent living accomodations, rv service providers, rv dealers, fair grounds, marinas, etc. We’ve gotten good camping suggestions from people at places of interest we visit or the gas station filling our tank. All may not be lost quite yet; rving is too dynamic.

    Look forward to seeing you.

  10. Phil Atterbery

    I can see both sides of the discussion. I guess it comes down to individuals expressing their opinion with their wallet. My wife & I prefer to stay in a CG that doesn’t resemble a manufactured housing subdivision. A family owned, non-franchise park with a few safari tents are fine.

  11. Eric Schrader

    Maybe if RV campground owners did some creative land planning, they could install park models in currently unused areas of their campgrounds without eliminating RV sites. A typical park model is about 11’6″ wide by 35′ deep, so the footprint for a park model set up shouldn’t be more than 15′ by 40′, more than enough to handle a park model set up.

  12. Ken

    This is exactly what we’ve been running into this summer. Left AZ in early May and have been touring the USA in our motorhome. But as you stated, having to reserve way in advance is no way to see the USA! Too many times I’ve had to bypass something because I had a reservation! I don’t mind a FEW cabins, or seasonal sites, but these owners must save enough for the transients!

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