RV park drops KOA affiliation: Owner explains why

From editor Chuck Woodbury
Andy Zipser is the owner of the KOA franchise in Staunton, Virginia (but not for long). I recently stayed with him for a few days. Andy was very eager to answer every question I asked him about operating an RV park, part of my ongoing education about the challenges of running a successful campground.

I learned a lot. And as someone who has stayed at at least 150 KOAs through the years (I had free passes for a decade), I am familiar with the system. I have been critical of it lately, after coming upon too many KOAs that I found run down, overpriced and crowded — or all of the above.

Andy’s park, on the other hand is meticulously cared for. It’s large by KOA standards (44 acres) with only about 150 campsites. Andy could double the number of campsites if he wished. But instead, he has left a lot of open space between most campsites and throughout the park’s grounds. 

But now, for reasons Andy outlines below, he is dropping his affiliation with KOA. I believe you will find his reasoning interesting.

By Andy Zipser
So we pulled the plug. Five years after buying the Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA, we’ve decided to not renew our franchise and will become, as of Feb. 1, the Walnut Hills Campground and RV Park. It’s a nerve-wracking proposition. Many RVers will shrug and say, “So? What’s the big deal?” But for us, this is a decision fraught with uncertainty.

Many, if not most of the campsites at Andy’s RV park have lots of space between them.

When we bought our RV park five years ago, our only campground experience was as campers — which qualified us to run a campground as much as digging into a steak qualifies someone to be a  rancher. The thought of having KOA’s deep backstop of talent to draw on as we bumbled our way into the business was hugely reassuring, and so was the idea of all that brand recognition to pull in customers. Small wonder, then, that we’d no more than filed our closing papers before my daughter and I were flying off to KOA headquarters in Billings, Montana in chilly February for a week at KOA-U, hoping to glean all kinds of campground operating wisdom.

Alas, that was not to be. Perhaps half of of our KOA-U time was devoted to teaching us the quirks of Kampsight, KOA’s creaky DOS-based reservation system that only now is getting upgraded to contemporary standards. The balance of our time was spent being introduced to KOA’s corporate culture, history and personnel. Time devoted to running a campground? Not so much.

Andy

As we learned over the years that followed, however, such a practical education would have strained the company’s resources. Few KOA staffers have boots-on-the-ground experience in the business, and only a handful actually get into the field for a behind-the-scenes look at one of the 370 or so franchisees in the system. Just about everything we learned in the months and years that followed came from the school of hard knocks and from other campground owners, who as a rule are enormously willing to share information, advice and cautions. The folks in KOA corporate, meanwhile, focused their energies on spinning abstract visions of what camping should be all about, from patio sites to deluxe cabins to the “branding” fiasco (of designating parks as Journey, Holiday or Resort).

Or to put it another way: while we were struggling with a 45-year-old infrastructure (think wheezing pumps, a decaying waterworks, uninsulated buildings and shared electric pedestals), the deep talent pool from which we had expected to draw was brainstorming a series of standards and “improvements” that invariably were either a) incredibly obsessive, or b) incredibly expensive.

The first category—the number of hooks in each shower stall, how many square feet per patio, whether a dog-park gate should have a latch even when on self-closing hinges, what color pants our staff should wear — sucked at our energy. The second drained our checking account. And all along we were paying more than 10 percent of all site revenues for the privilege of claiming the KOA name.

To be fair, this was not entirely as one-sided as the above recitation suggests. The KOA company is a marketing juggernaut. KOA has done more than anyone else to promote the RV lifestyle to the American public, has surveyed and chronicled the industry’s shifting demographics, and has positioned itself as a trusted and consistent provider of safe, clean and even attractive camping facilities.

Our French-Canadian campers en route to Florida (and back again) are fiercely brand-loyal, referring fondly to their “koas,” pronounced as one word rather than an acronym. Many new RV owners flock to KOAs as a safe harbor in an otherwise uncertain wilderness of sometimes sketchy facilities. We’ve heard many times from campers who say, “I always stay at KOAs” or “I wouldn’t stay anywhere other than a KOA.”

But it was instructive, also, to hear from the many campers who swear they’ll never stay at a KOA — that the campgrounds are too expensive and layer on too many additional fees, meriting the “Keep On Adding” label — that the parks are too crowded and cramped, with too many sites shoe-horned into too small an area. Or that they’re inadequately maintained or the employees too surly or that they’re too close to a highway/railroad tracks/airport runways to allow for a peaceful night’s rest—enough for one wag to contend that the KOA acronym actually stands for Keep Out Always.

Many of the criticisms are bogus, in that they apply to a specific facility and are not systemic: any campground, KOA or otherwise, may have surly employees. Any campground, depending on how it’s managed, may have dirty bathrooms. But…

Andy and his family welcome each arriving guest on this sign near the check in area, a nice touch!

Last week we had a Texas camper who said we were the third KOA at which he’d stayed on his way north, and that he’d been happily surprised that our sites aren’t as jammed together as they are at those other campgrounds.  But he’d read our entrance sign, which announces we’ll soon be giving up the KOA brand and will become a Good Sam affiliate instead, which cost us $1,,000 to join with no further digging into our pockets. He was wondering why we were making the change.

Simple, I replied: being a KOA is incredibly expensive. For everyone.

For us, there’s the 10 percent of site revenues for franchise and advertising fees, which in our case came to more than $60,000 in 2017. That’s on top of the 10 percent discount KOAs offer to Value Kard Rewards holders, which we’ll be replacing with a 10 percent Good Sam discount in February.  

Then there are all the costs incurred by KOA’s branding criteria. Take, for example, the requirement that a KOA Holiday-branded campground must have at least two deluxe cabins—a minimum initial expense of $80,000, followed by ongoing housekeeping, maintenance and linen costs. We already have the cabins, but some campgrounds don’t and so have to figure out how to absorb their costs. Other expenses that come with being a KOA, such as additional credit card fees created by its proprietary reservation system, also aren’t seen by the public — but somehow they must be paid.

SO KOAs WILL RAISE THEIR RATES. Or they’ll squeeze in more sites to “maximize revenues.” Either way, they’ll do whatever it takes to meet the escalating demands placed on them by the parent company, but guess who ultimately foots the bill?

For some campers—and campground owners—that’s not a problem. Indeed, some RV owners are perfectly willing to pay a little extra in exchange for a perceived guarantee that certain standards will be met. And many campground owners, who would scream bloody murder if their taxes were raised 10 percent are more than willing to pay an equivalent franchise fee for KOA brand recognition and a loyal customer base. We came to realize, however, that we’re simply not in that group, and that we can continue to meet and exceed KOA’s standards without its burdensome payout—indeed, that the money we’ll save on franchise fees can be better used to further upgrade our facilities.

Which brings me back to my opening statement about this being a nerve-wracking proposition. Although we’re confident that most campers who stayed with us in the past will be back, with or without a KOA discount, we don’t know how many Value Card holders will never give us a look because we’ve left the system—and the KOA system is all they know. We like to think that’s their loss, but have to hope we’re not just whistling past the graveyard and that there are enough “Keep Out Always” campers who now will give us a shot, so that in the end it won’t make any difference.

But just like five years ago, we don’t really know what we‘re getting ourselves into. And yes, that’s nerve-wracking.

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73 Thoughts to “RV park drops KOA affiliation: Owner explains why”

  1. frater secessus

    I don’t stay in campgrounds much, but I’d prefer one like Andy’s.

  2. Dee

    I’d be happy to stay at Andy’s campground, it looks lovely. I prefer not to stay at KOA. They’re over priced, overly cramped, and there are too many kids running around. I like the peaceful tranquility of being away from my “neighbors” sounds of living.

  3. Nanci

    When we first began camping we went to a number of KOAs, particularly for our kids. Now as full timers I find I want more space, less neighbors and better sites than generally provided by the current KOA’s. This is the first year we are not renewing our value card (don’t use enough) because of the general decline in quality and the crammed together sites. Good Sam. Campendium and RV park reviews for us!

    1. Patrick Granahan

      Before booking any RV Park check for reviews
      posted on RV Park Reviews…they are honest evaluations by fellow campers. I found them to be very reliable.

      I must agree…KOA Parks are for the most part overpriced and over crowded!!
      Another fact you may not be aware of is that in order for a small campground operator to get a listing in a Woodall (AAA) Campground catalog or a Good Sam (or similar) directory they must pay a fee…..no fee no listing. Many small quality campgrounds cannot afford these fees for listings.
      State campground directories however do not require payment of high fees for listings. Try to pick up State Campground directories at state information centers often found on major highways when you enter each state….or write for one from internet listings.
      Happy Camping !!!

  4. Mike & Louise Bacque

    In this age of social media and dedicated apps for peer reviews of campgrounds (RVParkReviews, Campendium), Andy stands a very good chance of exceeding his vacancy rates as long as he maintains his service standards.

  5. Jillie

    All I can say is wow. Sorry to hear he got jacked. We have never felt cramped. We have felt like outsiders and we never felt like KOA was out to get them or us. Except Montreal South. Avoid that one like the plague. At any rate always a great experience no hassles. Yeah a bit more expensive but worth not going for the unknown. Although we have done unknown and love it. There are two new KOAs opening up and I am rather intrigued. One is the Smokeys and the other Alaska. I wish this guy luck. But for the buck? If I am stuck? KOA all the way.

  6. MBrooking

    We’ve stayed at this park and enjoyed it very much. We actually are both Good Sam Members and KOA members. Either way we would return to this park as it was well taken care of and very nice. Good luck to them in the future and hope to see you agin soon.

  7. CB Roberts

    We use websites such as RV Park Reviews to decide where we will stay. Reviewers tell us what they think and we can find out pricing etc. We can even use Google Earth to take a look at the place. We rarely stay at KOA because they can be one of the highest priced places to stay. We do not need more than full hook ups – the rest is for someone else and we do not want to pay for what we do not use.

  8. Bob Taylor

    Not much to add. First camping experience after purchasing a travel trailer in 1988 was at a KOA and was disappointed. Not the campground as much as all the add on prices. $2 Extra for anything and everything. Example. It was too cold to use AC but because I had an air conditioner on the roof I had to pay. Never stayed at KOA until a couple years ago when I visited one in Sevierville, TN. OK experience but KOA is just another choice as I travel.

  9. Laura C

    As former full time rvers and now part timers, we don’t see how anyone can afford the rates at KOA parks. As retired folks we don’t use the playgrounds, water slides, bike rentals, etc and don’t appreciate all the kids…we like kids ok but don’t appreciate all the kerfuffle at the end of a driving day. We’ve become dedicated and serious dry campers and are happier out of RV parks but with all the folks on the road now it’s getting harder and harder.

  10. Keith

    We’ve been RVing since the 70s and full timing for the last twelve years. Years ago we’d stay at KOAs because like a good hotel chain, you could rely on a standard of quality. But no more. We’ve stayed at an occasional KOA when a better rated park wasn’t available (thank you, rvparkreviews.com) and been disappointed in both the price and quality. Simply put, there is no longer a “standard” to KOA quality – some are great, some horrible – but all overpriced. While some are attractive and suited for family vacationers, they simply don’t fit our lifestyle. I applaud this owner – now….will we see a decrease in rates?

  11. Danny Smith

    I have stayed at Andy’s campground multiple times over the years. The staff have been very friendly and helpful. The campground and amenities are well maintained. My family and I enjoy camping there and will continue hopefully for many more years to come. This is our favorite campground. Thank you Andy for not destroying the campground by putting in too many cramped sites and taking the family atmosphere out of it.

  12. Rusty

    We are not Walmart or truck stop over nighters. We use KOAs as are stops between here and there. Biggest complaint is cost per night stay.

  13. Sherry

    Tonight we are parked in a $60/night parking lot listening to the expressway. Note it is the middle of winter and we will not be using the pool or any other “resort” amenities. RVing is getting to be a racket and KOA and Good Sams the perpetuater. Last spring I decided to give both companies a second chance. I was impressed with the good Sams trip planner feature, sad but you cant use it on the app which is when you really need it. KOAs and Good Sams are undependable as far as cleanliness and amenities. I wish to thank Andy for his insight into park ownership and recommend that he just rely on his good reviews on sights like rv park reviews which do not seem to be biased. .

  14. Tom Becher

    The last KOA I visited was in Florida near The Villages if I remember. It was the worst Campsite I have ever been in. A lot of old trailers that had become permenant residences, A swimming pool that was half full of very green algee infested water where my grandchildern were looking forward to play in. Just downright unacepptable. Thankfully I was only there for one night, but for the condition of the place I should have paid 1/2 price or less. KOA is on my list of places I do not look at to stay. Hope you do well by not being a KOA. I for one would look to stay with you not being a KOA

    1. Wm Olendorf

      That KOA left the system.

  15. Marvin Thomasson

    Why do folks like to diss KOA so much? They evidently forget the campgrounds that are substandard and sprew about KOA. The worst KOA I ever stayed in was much better than campgrounds I spent the night in. What makes a campground great is the owner/manager and crew, not a name. And some people choke on smoke if someone half a mile away lights a fire. I’ve worked as a workamper from WI to ME to TX to FL in KOA’s and in privately owned campgrounds, the quality is not in the name, but in the owner and how he maintains and operates.

    1. Dave

      Wow, thanks Marvin, finally someone has addressed the issue of individual campgrounds and not the “brand” in general! In my opinion KOA as a corporation is trying to maintain a higher standard of campgrounds and promote the RV lifestyle. Yes there will be a few “klunkers” that will pop up in any business due to the owners or management but for the most part my experience with KOA has been exceptional. And what is my LOE (level of experience)? Over the past 59 years I would estimate that I’ve stayed in a KOA Campground over 200 times, starting in 1972 in Gettysburg PA and as recently as Ponoma CA in Oct 2017.
      It looks like Andy used the KOA marketing machine to build a customer base that are repeat customers and decided he can maintain enough reservations without paying the fees and being listed in the GS book will keep him filled? Good luck working with GS, I’ll stick with KOA

      1. Michael Schwarz

        We stayed at Andy’s park when it was a KOA, but the reason we stayed there had nothing to do with KOA. RVParksReview.com had glowing reviews for it. After the number of years we have been staying at RV parks, our experience is that KOA affiliates are mostly like non-affiliates. Some are good, some are bad. For us, their marketing does nothing. The layered on fees mean that unless there is a substantial difference between reviews of the KOA and others, we will usually opt for the others in the hopes that the price will be a little more reasonable.

        I don’t care about how many hooks are in the shower or what color pants the staff wears. Those kinds of things may promote standardization, but they don’t differentiate the experience in any meaningful way…at least not enough to pay for.

        Their reservation system provides some benefit, but with the proliferation of cell phones and mobile data, its value has been diminished (at least to us).

  16. Mary Warner

    We have stayed at Andy’s campground numerous times in the past on our annual cross-country trip to visit family on the east coast. The first time we stopped is because it was convenient for visiting another relative. We continue to visit each year because it is a nice place to stay. The “overnight” area at the front is away from the holiday/vacation campers and all the available activities. The staff has always been friendly and helpful and the restroom / shower facilities are always clean. We will continue to stop even if they are no longer a KOA. My suggestion to Andy in this digital everywhere age is to spend some $$ on putting up a really good website and paying somebody to do the search engine optimization. I suspect you will get many more customers that way than you ever would have by being a KOA.

  17. Lorane

    KOAs were always our last choice. We have had one negative experience with Good Sam campground. It really depends on the owner/manager not the name.

  18. Terry Wilson

    It sounds like you overpaid for the property and did not assess the condition of the Business Andy in reality it takes money to make money

    1. Robbie

      Sounds like Andy is one of the few willing to put in sweat equity instead of paying for corporate greed. Bravo Andy.

  19. Onwego

    Say what you will about KOA, but most of them run at 90%+ occupancy rates no matter what they charge. Methinks the cool kids miss the point of this organization. Its customers pay for the comfort of consistency and predictability, which KOA mostly delivers. Some guy named Ray Kroc applied that concept to food awhile back. While “everyone” sniggered at what his restaurants offered, and still do, he died a billionaire. Pass the ketchup, please.

  20. peggy coffey

    We love KOA campgrounds. We have never found an old one, or a dirty one, or one with bad customer service. Maybe we’ve been lucky but I do know that we have stayed in some Good Sam parks that would be comfortable in a third world country. Yes they are expensive but no more than some of the horrible places we have stayed in. We know they’re clean and nice. And no , I don’t work for KOA, we’re retired and fulltime, but we like KOA.

  21. Popeye

    In 25 plus years of RVing we have stayed in only 2 KOA campgrds. The experience was so bad, we would rather dry camp in a busy Walmart then go to a KOA.

  22. christopher

    Looking at this from a macro view — “too many RVs being sold every year, too few campgrounds to accommodate them” — the campground owner’s decision to drop his KOA affiliation shouldn’t result in fewer customers. And it sounds like besides the “reservations from club members” — probably offset by no reservations from the “never at a KOA” set — a KOA affiliate doesn’t gain much in terms of business assistance, just 10% higher costs.

  23. Eric Eltinge

    I’ve owned 3 franchises. The only reason to own any franchise is to go absentee or multiple. Hopefully the franchisor has the systems, procedures, and controls to allow you to do so. Otherwise, if you are a professional operator, you should go solo.

    1. Todd

      As a former franchisor, there are many reasons to own a franchise. Absentee or multiple are two good reasons, however for an owner-operator one location, we found first hand that one of the primary reasons is for what was originally stated in this article. Training, support, marketing, and the good will of the brand.

      We’ve found the KOAs so inconsistent that, while we’ll say at some, they certainly aren’t a priority when we are planning our trips.

      My observation both on-site and after reading this article, is that the franchisor has seemingly not evolved over time to meet the type of franchise standards & protocols that most top ranked franchise systems in other verticals have done to meet the needs of today’s franchise and consumer customers.

      Would love to read their FDD.

  24. Bob Godfrey

    We travel I-81 through Staunton on a regular basis when visiting family up north and we have never stayed at Andy’s KOA simply because it is a KOA and have never found one to be of good value. We actually travel in our RV (48 of 49 continental states including Alaska) and don’t normally spend more than a few days in a park unless it is to winter in Florida. Since Andy has decided to drop KOA we would definitely give it a try now. The few times we have stayed at KOA we have been very disappointed at the cost for a simple overnight stop. When researching a stop for a night or two we use RVparkreviews.com for user experiences primarily rather than Good Sam or others sources and have been very satisfied with that resource.

    I wish you well Andy and I’m sure you’ll get great reviews in the future!

  25. Rita Black

    I hope they are ready to update their website before the season starts. I will be sure to put them on my preferred campground list I am making as I plan to start at least part-timing this spring. I live in PA and planning to make my first stopover in VA so they sound perfect.

  26. Mike

    We still use KOAs quite a bit. I rely heavily on Good Sam overall ratings of parks and in particular their rating for the bathrooms as the DW will only use very clean bathrooms. Unfortunately Good Sam seldom rates KOAs and often doesn’t list them at all in an area. This puts the KOAs at a disadvantage for me choosing them.

  27. john stahl

    Hot topic. Lots of comments. We stayed at many KOAs. Some good. Some not as good. Depends on each individual owner. But they all cost too much. But even non-KOA RV parks are too expensive. And the more popular tourist areas the RV parks charge even more. And most sites could be a little more roomy. If camping in Texas the best place to stay are the State Parks. They are roomy and the cost is usually between $18 & $25 per night.

  28. Ken S

    We stayed at a park in Lebanon, OH over Thanksgiving a few years ago. It was an OK park – not great and they had reasonable prices They have since become a KOA park and raised their rates by a large margin. Definitely not worth it. I had looked forward to staying there again but as a KOA park with the higher rates, no thanks

  29. Janeen McGinn

    Agree with so many of the comments. But, we frequent KOAs because they almost always have fenced dog Parks. Our two goldendoodles won’t “go” on a leash.

  30. Sally Summerfield

    I applaud your decision. We stayed at one KOA. It was crowded and noisy and tons of children. Our children are grown so this environment is not what we are looking for. We would only choose KOA for an overnight if there were no other options.

  31. Grumpy

    Chuck
    This is a good story. It could have been a great story if you had reached out to KOA Corporate for a response. Printing one side of a story and not giving a chance to the other side is a good example why I have been critical of your tactics. I admire and appreciate your efforts to take the side of the RVer against the corporate RV world. But, if you actually expect to make a difference you will need to take the high road and employ a higher level of ethics and character than those you accuse of not doing same. Otherwise, you will always be seen as just a grumpy old man. 😉 And rightfully accused of accusing others of what you do.
    Just a thought from a Grumpy old timer. 😉

    1. Traveler52

      We have only stayed at two KOA’s since we started Rving in 2002.
      For that simple reason we make it a point of not using KOA.
      Most over priced and out of date.

    2. GBehrle

      Good Point. I would like to hear their response.

    3. Oscar

      This is an op-ed style piece written by the park owner, though, not an article written by Chuck. While a rebuttal from KOA might interest you, it’s not exactly a “story” in the traditional journalistic sense.

      1. Mike Sherman

        You are spot on Oscar, not Chuck’s article. Besides, ANY response from a corporation would probably be a waste of time.

  32. JB

    Most all KOA’s I have been to are way outdated,especially the electrical which I found some to be downright fire hazards.Most KOA’s were built when your grandfather was camping in a 15 foot weekend camper trailer,not 35-40 foot fifth wheels or monster land yachts.No Good Sam for me either as they are affiliated with Camping World.To sum it up…too many people in RV’s and not enough modern RV parks to accommodate them.

  33. Nokogranny

    We have stayed at only one KOA — in Grand Junction, CO and it was delightful. However, in the two years we have been traveling with a towable, that is the only one. We avoid them because of their cost. That said, like every other franchise, they are only as good as their owners and managers.

  34. Phil Biggs

    Not being a KOA would put you at an advantage with us, Andy. KOA is always the last choice for us. Crowded, old, run-down describes most. There are some that will stay at… but not because they are KOA. I hope you find business increases in the years ahead, and thanks for your commitment to those of us traveling.

  35. Peter McDonald

    We have never stayed in a KOA and probably never will. We have not ever gotten to the issue of rates because so many will not allow a dog that LOOKS like ours. He is a rescue with a large head and a very soft personality. No aggression. We recently rescued a cat and he joined our travels. No problems from Clancy the dog! But, many campgrounds, including KOAs are so afraid of having an issue and being sued that there is no space in the inn for Clancy.

    1. Karen

      Clancy sounds like a sweetie!

  36. Captn John

    In the 1970s, a long time ago, there was a nearby KOA we spent a lot of time in. Our daughters made friends with others that also spent a lot of time there. Now they are always avoided if possible. In recent travels we have stayed in 2 FORMER KOA CGs and were happy although one could use a little asphalt on the roads.
    The recent review here put this one on our ‘try it’ list and now will go to the ‘stay here’ list when in the area.

  37. K Luke

    For the reasons already stated, we are also not a fan of KOA campgrounds. Seems they began to lose (for us) their glory about 10 years ago. We keep up on all the “horror stories” around the campfire with other RVers who have [recently] passed through a KOA.

    We are full-timers and our finale KOA stay was more than 5 years ago. It was the Buena Vista, Colorado, resort. In spite of very little road noise and spectacular views, the pricing, site spacing, and unapologetic check-in staff made the experience a deal-breaker for us. Amen.

    1. River Rat

      That would have been about the time the son of the owner of the holding company which owns KOA Corporate was starting to take over. Didn’t go well for others in the “Franchise Services, Inc.” sphere.

  38. Linda H.

    It’s a scary move but one that I think will pay large dividends with time. As long as you maintain the quality of your campground, campers will find you. Most folks start with KOA because they know the name and feel like they “know” what they are getting. It doesn’t take long to realize that isn’t always the case. For us it was the assurance that they would have sites – and turns – that could handle our big rig. But you quickly learn which key words to watch for in park ads – and how to check park reviews for the real story. You’ll be fine – and your campground looks nice enough that we will add it to a future trip.

  39. Tommy Molnar

    “Keep out always”. I like that. We’ll use that term every time we pass a KOA – and pass them we will.

    The RV park at Boomtown just outside of Reno, NV used to be a fairly nice place to stay. Fairly reasonable , nice grounds, and if you like restaurants and casinos, close to those as well.

    Enter KOA. The park went KOA some time ago and the rates went through the roof. Not only that, the grounds went to pot about the same time. The grass turned to dirt with a few blades of grass hanging on. I could go on, but there’s no need. I can say with authority that we’ve NEVER stayed at a KOA, and never will. We’re basically boondockers anyway, but once in a while we ‘need’ to hook up. We WON’T be hooking up at KOA.

    1. robert maher

      I agree with you about the boomtown KOA it was nice but they ruined it. I now go to the Hotels in reno they are cheaper most ot the time and move on to camp.

  40. Bill

    We have never stayed at a KOA in the 40 years of camping. They are over priced

  41. PeteD

    KOA is our stop of last resort. Small overpriced sites. I’ve never understood why they are so popular with some folks. Paying for amenities few of them use. I will add this former KOA to my list on my trips through Virginia.

  42. Carol

    We have full timed since 2010. We avoid KOA’s because they are too expensive. They’re filled with amenities that we are not going to use and don’t want to pay for. For an overnight stay, we look for $20 or less. Passport America is my preferred source with Good Sam second. I also check the Free or Low Cost directory. I don’t often stay in a campground more than a few nights. I have rarely had difficulty finding a campground the same day. We have stayed at or near many national parks with no problem.

  43. Bill Semion

    Speaking truth to power is always somewhat dangerous, and enlightening in the same breath. I’ve stayed at the KOA in Livingston, down the road from Billings. When I began, the sites were spaced nicely. My last visit, the whole place was packed. On our last visit to Livingston’s trout, we stayed elsewhere, at a campground overlooking the Yellowstone, and another National Forest site that I was envious of, and will pick the next visit.

    1. Steven M Jenkins

      We stayed at that koa in Livingston in October. Beautiful place but tight sites for a 35 ft type A motorhome. What was the park on the Yellowstone?

  44. jim

    We stayed at a KOA a couple of time out of necessity and found them to be over priced and restrictive. Nice places……some….. but way over priced..

  45. Jim Cicalese

    Andy,
    My hat’s off to you, all the money you save from KOA franchise now can back into you retirement plan and you campground, instead of the big corp that sitting in the office and is not or never be booths to the ground of probably never camp in their lives.

  46. Mike

    Andy, we have stayed at your campground several times. We found it one of the best we have stayed at. As long as you keep showing your commitment to a great customer experience I can assure you we will be back. The brand only gets campers in the door. It’s your customer service and great camping experience that keeps them coming back.

  47. Jay French

    We are Real Louisiana Cajuns, means camping to us is a Party. We have bonfires, outdoor cookouts, music & beer drinking. We are extremely friendly, always make new friends & encourage them to join us. We decorate the outdoors & have sometimes multiple canopy’s plus large electric fans.
    That being said – we avoid KOA’s like the plague.

  48. Eric Ramey

    When we 1st started RV’ing 10-years ago we always stayed at KOA’s. As we got older and wiser we travel more and look for campgrounds with the best rates and best reviews….sometimes it is a KOA sometimes it is a hidden gem of a campground.

  49. Ann Wilson

    I have worked at several KOAs in 13 years of workamping, one in particular for the last few years. This KOA , 50 years in existence, always gets the maximum awards. Our owner has actually combined 2 sites, many of them. into one, thus creating much bigger sites with extra parking. This has cut down quite a bit on the number of sites available but each site is lots nicer. We do have some sites left as they were, size-wise, and many campers then complain about the small, close together sites. I have no complaints either about the other 4 KOAs that employed us. They all did their best to make the camping experience good for the campers.

  50. Jeff

    As a long time RVer. My Wife and I have stayed at many KOA’s around the Middle US. Unfortunately, we have not always had good experiences at various KOA’s. Some KOA’s are far and away very Rundown and Need serious upgrades. Most of the KOA’s are Very Overpriced. To paraphrase a post here, “I just want to spend the night, Not buy the place”!

    My Wife and I always try to research out trips prior to rolling out the driveway, knowing where we are going to stay for the entire trip.

    KOA’s have pretty much become a LAST DITCH choice, if nothing else is available.

  51. Steve K

    On the front page of the newsletter it mentions that RV Travel is looking for writers. I would love it if you could talk Andy into writing a few articles about campground ownership.

    1. Lee Ensminger

      I’d like to second Steve K’s suggestion. I’d enjoy learning more about what it’s like to own and operate a campground. Both the good AND the bad.

  52. Bill

    Well written. I agree with your decision. Our local “keep out always” just went through this rebranding nonsense. Nothing changed except the prices went from $55.00/night for full hook ups to $76.00/night. Not staying there anymore. These are the same folks who are crying about RV’ers stopping at Wal-Mart overnight. I just want to sleep for the night, not buy the place.

  53. Ric

    Never stayed at one. Most are overcrowded and costly. The value and quantness that KOA once seemed to offer 30 or more years ago no longer exists. I also don’t stay at RV “resorts” that’s not what RVing is or was ever about. It’s about seeing the beauty of America, campfires and family, getting away from the city life and our jobs. RELAXING!

  54. Cathy Sorrells

    We have full-time for over 3 years now and have never stayed at a Koa. They are way over rated and to expensive.

  55. Darrel

    My wife and I avoid KOAs whenever possible. Full timing since 2009, used KOAs maybe 2-3 times.

    1. Joy

      My husband and I stayed at a KOA in Cherokee, NC one year and it was the worst experience we have ever had. The campground is located in a valley and when campers lit their fire pits, the smoke filled the camper. There was no place for the air to sweep out the smoke from the pits so it stayed clogged in the valley and, as a result, infiltrated our camper. Most of the pits had already burned the wood in them but they were just smoldering and clogging the air. I felt like I was going to die of smoke inhalation. Really, I was beginning to panic and I don’t ever have that problem. My husband wet some dish towels and swung them around the camper over and over to absorb the smoke. I walked outside wrongly thinking I could catch my breath but it was horrendous. I told my husband we have got to get out of here because I feel like I am smothering. It was late so it would have been horrible to try to find another place. Anyway, that was our last experience in a KOA.

      1. Terry

        Not a KOA, but I had a similar experience in a camp in sycamore IL…nice place, but there were 2 long term rv-ers behind us whose wet wood and angled smoke sent us to the ER for smoke inhalation & acute bronchospasm after it filled our closed rig for > 1 hour 2 nites in a row .

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