Self-Registration Camping

We have stayed at a wide range of campsites in our first month on the road ranging from very well appointed family style campground complexes to boondocking (also called dry-camping) in a Walmart parking lot. The price per night has been $20 -$40, some accepting our club discounts (up to 50% off) or free in the case of boondocking. Much of those fees are used to cover overhead, like park maintenance and employees.

Last night we looked for a campsite that accepts our Passport America club discount and found the Rainbow Lake RV Park. Our discount would have brought the rate down to $15/night but when we got there we saw they no longer accepted club discounts. They instead went to a self-registration model where you find an empty RV spot, then fill out a payment envelope and drop it in their fee box. This is sometimes how State and National Parks collect fees. The reduction in overhead lets them set the fee at $20 and this seemed fine so we grabbed a spot near the lake away from the bulk of the other RVs. The bath/laundry building is new and well maintained but also uses the honor system. If you wash a load of clothes, you’re expected to deposit the $1.50 in a drop-box. This morning I saw one of the owners driving around matching registrations to license plates and checking on the overall status of the park. It seems that the overall good nature of the community makes this a very workable model and I’m impressed at how easy and relaxed an atmosphere it fosters.

I think that when people are offered a reasonable price for a service they’re more likely to manage themselves. Paying a bit more might push them into a hotel style mindset that makes them think, “I payed for this service so someone will clean up after me.” Also, the implied trust of the honor system generates a mutual respect between the owner and customer. I’m a fan.

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