Frequent Campers Find Fun/Value in Seasonal Camping
Stephen Shermer and his family love to camp. So much, in fact, that they spend almost every weekend at their favorite campground – Heartland Resort in Greenfield, Ind., with their two children.
But while camping is widely considered the most affordable vacation option, the Shermers are spending even less than most people spend to go camping, according to a news release.
Their secret? They are what the campground industry calls “seasonal campers.”
Instead of renting campsites at different parks for a few nights at a time, the Shermers rent a campsite at their favorite campground for several months at a time.
“It’s not widely known, but long-term camping rates are typically at least 25% to 50% lower than the prices people pay to camp for just a few nights at a time,” said Paul Bambei, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
He said roughly a third of the nation’s 8,000 privately owned and operated campgrounds offer seasonal camping rates for campsites that are rented or leased for several months or even a year at a time.
“It’s a great way to camp, particularly if you have a favorite campground that you would like to visit more frequently,” Bambei said.
Shermer, a 38-year-old mechanical designer from Greenfield, said he learned about seasonal camping after doing research on ways to lower his family’s camping costs. He said they used to travel to various destinations in the Midwest about every other weekend, but the costs of traveling so frequently began to mount.
Then he discovered he could rent a seasonal campsite at Heartland Resort, and enjoy all the benefits of spending quality time in the Great Outdoors with his family as often as they want for less money than they would typically spend.
Shermer estimates he saves about 30% to 40% by renting a seasonal campsite. But saving money isn’t the only benefit.
By leaving his fifth-wheel at the campground, he no longer faces the prospect of setting up and tearing down camp every time he goes camping. “I like that I don’t have to hook up the camper, drive somewhere, unhook and unload at 9 o’clock at night,” he said.
Shermer added that he can stay at the campground longer on Sunday, since he no longer faces the pressure of a midday checkout time, all of which translates into more quality time that he is able to spend with his family.
The Shermers have also made friends with other seasonal campers at the park who also have children. “We’ve made some really close friends, and those friends have kids. So we have lots of eyes on our kids at all times,” he said.
Many families also find that renting a seasonal campsite helps increase the amount of quality time they can spend together as family.
Tami Bradshaw of Reno, Nev,. is a case in point. The 40-year-old mother of a 4-year-old boy works long hours as a hospital compliance manager and rarely has time to connect with her family during the week.
“Even though my mom watches my son during the week, the only real time I get quality time with my family is when we go camping in the summer,” she said.
But Bradshaw, her parents, Tom and Beverly Bradshaw, and her brother, Tom, have each rented seasonal campsites from May through October at Forest Park RV Spaces in Canyon Dam, near Lake Almanor in Northern California. The campground is about a two-hour drive from their homes in Reno, which is close enough for frequent weekend getaways.
“When you’re home,” she said, “you feel the pull of chores and responsibilities. But if you’re 2 1/2 hours away, it’s far enough away to get away from the stress.”
Spending quality time camping also helps the Bradshaws rekindle the many fond memories of summer camping trips with her family when she was growing up in northern Nevada. “We’d spend the days fishing and we’d sit around the campfire at night. Those are just the most awesome memories,” Bradshaw said, adding that seasonal camping enables her to relive those experiences at Lake Almanor.