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.