Come September, scenes like this put a wide smile on campground owner’s faces.
We have often considered buying a campground when this trip is over. So whenever we can find an owner who has time to chat about what it’s like to run one, we love to listen and hear about what it’s really like. When we arrived at one resort in Maine, it was a quiet weekday, and the owner was happy to share some advice about the realities of running a campground.
This owner has owned the 65 spot campground for just over four years, and runs it with his wife. Prior to buying it, he owned a storage business, and his wife was a teacher.
One of the biggest lessons he learned after getting into it was, never underestimate The Entertainment Factor. He told us that he had no idea how much people expect a full activities schedule when they check into a destination campground like his.
When you run a destination park, you have to keep campers entertained, he said. If he didn’t have such a packed activity schedule, he would lose up to 40 percent of his business. It’s nothing like campgrounds near amusement parks or other major attractions where campers tend to only spend the night.
Their first years in business, he and his wife put on a Christmas in July, with a full turkey dinner, three BBQ dinners, and another Turkey Dinner when they had a pre-Halloween party. It was so much work! They didn’t have any commercial grade appliances, and had relatives making mashed potatoes for ninety people with plain old consumer-end kitchen beaters. He had no idea what they were doing, he said, and by the end of the season, they were wiped out.
Recently, they cut back a little on the dinners and BBQs (and nobody has complained), they still have a summer schedule crammed with activities like campsite decorating contests, luaus, scavenger hunts, and other fun things for kids and adults.
But he’s having to be more creative to find activities that will hold the attention of today’s kids. Whenever he does a scavenger hunt, there’s always a handful of kids that refuse to finish it because “it’s too much work” to think about the clues, he says.
And even if he has a one hour break in activities, there will always be some parent that comes up to him and says “Now what am I supposed to do with my kids?!”
Todays, kids, as well their parents, have ADD, he says.
By Labor Day weekend, you’re burnt out and ready to go hide. When Monday rolls around, he says that the smile never leaves his face as all those campers are driving away.
18 thoughts on “Life as a Campground Owner; Never Underestimate the Entertainment Factor”
Hi, enjoyed reading the article. Very true about activities as my experience when I was younger. They had the Christmas in July with lobster dinners and everyone brought a dish as well. On Lake Berlin in Northern Ohio. I live in WV now where the pipeline business is booming and workers need campsites so I recently started cleaning up a 3 acre riverfront property thats in pretty rough shape. Well, with hard work the past 3 weeks its almost cleaned up to a somewhat manageable condition. The electric lines that were downed by a tree are being fixed by the power company this week and my main question is water(fresh, grey, black). It has a well on the grounds but I’m looking for a fast approach to move these campers in and work out the kinks later. Any ideas on this? Thanks
Hi Brandon. Congrats on making the most of the influx of workers, you rock! So do you mean you are looking for a fast way to handle waste water? If so, what about a septic pumping service coming in 1x a week? We have seen many impromptu worker-oriented parks doing that in places.
i so want to start a camp ground with the little amish buildings circling a large fire pit horse corrals for every cabin and bath house picnic tables and Pavilions . next to flowing river creeks and natures land.i have the small river 2 creeks on 58 acres its all in my brain but not in my budget. with that said god bless my dream
You have the vision Tammy, don’t let it disappear and keep trying, you’ll get there!
Have found laws & regulations pertaining to campers but what are the campground owners liabilities?
Ya might consider consulting a lawyer with that one! We have never owned a campground.
I have had this dream of opening and running my own campground for a while. I have camped since I was born and it never gets old. I have been struggling to realize what it is I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t until I had gotten a job at a state park that I finally knew what I wanted to do with my life. I’m only a second year college student but I am certain that it is my passion and what I want to do. When I told my mom of my Epiphany when I was at work she had said my aunt shoey (recently deceased) had the same dream so now in memory of my god mother I hope to someday make my dream and hers, a reality. This article was very helpful and I hope my campground is as fun and activity filled as this one sounds.
Meagan, always follow your heart, you can’t go wrong. I hope all of your dreams come true! Thanks so much for reading.
Hi everyone, I am very new to the business as my dad started the paperwork and my mom, brothers and I are carrying on his dream after losing him last October. We have 12 sites and two cabins so not too large, but relaxing and lots of water things to do. I have not had one person ask us to entertain their kids. We have a boat launch and the water is clean and clear on Sebec Lake, in Maine.
I stumbled upon this site while reseraching about owning campground. Very helpful. I always wanted to own, but still don’t have enough info and resourcse to pursue this dream in reality. I love camping myself and never expect owners to entertain. We do take guitars, we plan hikes, bikerides and other outdoor activities ourselves usually. I always stress to my co-campers the importance of recycling and cleanup and being earth friendly. Hopefully, when I own a campground most of my campers will be as respectful as I am 😀
Now these are the kinds of campgrounds I rarely frequent, as I have no children. It is interesting to read of how much work can go into running a destination campground such as this one. I sure hope your hard work is appreciated. One large destination campground I have visited out West did have organized activities for the families with children, plus there were two playgrounds! If that isn’t enough to keep kids active and engaged, nothing would!
Of the thousands of times I have gone camping, I have never expected the campground owner to “entertain” me or my friends. That’s what the alcohol is for! 🙂
But seriously, I guess I have just never come across a campground like this. Interesting Post.
I have never before had the joy of reading an article from the perspective of a campground operator and yes, I also have a new respect for all that it is that you do. Staying busy and keeping an active and fun activities list sounds like a full time job for sure.
I DO own a guitar – and I read this one as well. Nice article, the entertainment factor is huge. I’ll always bring my guitar on camping trips with the family, along with a small catalog of tunes to sing along with. I know it sounds corny, but especially for the younger kids – fun activities help them relax and get comfortable in an otherwise foreign environment. Plus it helps to pass the time if you find campign boring (not me!).
I read the whole thing. And I don’t own or play a guitar.
I have a renewed appreciation for campground owners now, and I’ll try not to be so demanding when we next visit one – for example, no more requests for whipped cream and strawberries at two in the morning (don’t ask).
I wanted to leave a witty remark but I diod not have the patience to finnish the article before my mouse clicktonitis went to read something else…
What was I reading about anyway…
Ima go play guitar