Monday, October 28, 2019

First Impressions of Kampgrounds of America

Lumberton/I95 KOA

Let me state the facts first. I have camped in two KOAs during the first half of October--the first in the West Virginia, an overnighter; and the second in North Carolina, for a two-night stay. Both KOAs were located near more than one interstate highway, and both were also fairly near towns with population between 50,000 and 200,000.

These two KOAs were not destination spots, at least by my standards--although they had pools and accommodations that would suit campers with children or campers who liked all the amenities and who planned to stay close to their RVs. I can see how these two KOAs could be fun for some folks, but for me they are not spots for me to arrive and then settle in for a long "camp."

Here are a few reasons these KOAs are not destination spots for me:
  • few active opportunities, such as bicycling or hiking
  • most sites were in full sun
  • large RVs were the standard campers present
  • the sights/sounds of highways nearby
These sites charge about the cost of a one- or two-star motel, so it would be possible to travel across the country, staying in inexpensive motels, and the cost for a bed at night would be about the same. For folks who travel in their family car instead of their RV, there would be a big savings in gas by not hauling the weight.

Having just spent one night (out of eight) in an inexpensive motel instead of my tiny trailer, there are some very real positive reasons to spent a night at a KOA, rather than a cheapie motel. These reasons are why many people travel with a camper.
  • more control over your environment
  • sleeping in your own bed
  • able to cook your own food
  • very possibly more clean
That's a pretty good list of plus features. The staff at the two KOAs I've stayed at have been positive and helpful. I have to say that I loved the bath/shower house at the Lumberton, NC, KOA. They have a "family style" accommodations--a large room with toilet, sink, and shower; well lit (except no dedicated light for the sink mirror, a minor inconvenience while shaving). You go in, lock the door, and have the whole accommodation to yourself. There were two of these rooms in the building next to my trailer, and two smaller set-ups. The Lumberton KOA had the cleanest and best set up bathroom/showers for any campground I've ever visited: private, new tile floor and fixtures, and a real sense of freshness. So, yes, I very much enjoyed a chance to stop for a bit during my road trip and being able to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I also did my laundry while at Lumberton.

However, during my trip so far, I have also spent nights at private campgrounds near freeways that were more rustic (and therefore a bit funkier) but still clean and maintained--just older and more basic, I guess you could say. Two of the three campsites had more shade and campside atmosphere; the third campsite was in a meadow without shade. All cost 30-40 percent less than the KOAs.

Huntington/Fox Fire KOA

As a price comparison, campsites in Iowa state parks with water, electric, and possible sewer, cost from $16-22. The mom and pop private campgrounds on this trip have been $30-35 a night. The two KOAs have run $45-55 per night. If I had searched more, I probably could have found nearby campsites for less than either the KOAs or the mom and pops. However, after driving all day on a multi-day trip, the convenience of a quick-and-easy stop has a great deal of appeal.

The Lumberton KOA did have this trail of maybe a quarter mile behind the campground. The trail skirted this canal, the canal merging into an overgrown and sluggish river. 

You will probably notice that I've made no ultimate judgements of KOA campgrounds. If I could find campgrounds similar to what I'm familiar at home with in terms of costs, sites, and amenities, and convenient locations, then I'd be staying in those campgrounds. However, if I can maintain my sense of personal lifestyle while not having to pay a hundred dollars a night for a more expensive motel, then I'm all for that.

If I find that my scheduled miles of driving at the end of the day locate me near a KOA, then I'll pull in and flop. Based on my experience so far, I'll know the bathrooms will be clean and well-kept, the campsite will be flat so I won't have to worry about leveling my trailer, and the management will be friendly and helpful.

For this trip, my destination spot is Huntington State Park (at $65 per night), on the ocean in South Carolina. From what my friends tell me, this is indeed a spot worth coming to and staying for a while. My thanks to KOA and those roadside mom and pop campgrounds that helped me get to my destination. A compilation of my blog posts for this trip is at my Green Goddess Expeditions link. There are probably lots of campers who have more KOA experience than I have. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

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  1. I think KOAs have their place. They are all very different though. I think a campground applies to be aa KOA, so as far as I have seen, they have a bunch of similarities but can vary greatly. A whole lot of them should say RV Park instead of campground in my opinion.

    1. That's a good observation. I stayed overnight in several RV parks on my recent trip.

  2. We've camped at different KOA campgrounds in a few states. They all aren't the same but we have enjoyed the ones we've stayed at.

    1. I think it was like staying in a Motel 8. You know what to expect.

  3. I would recommend only one KOA that I have stayed at. It was for an extended stay (1 week) while we were in Denver visiting out son. The Denver West KOA in Central City was very nice with extremely beautiful views and not close to any major road. Otherwise KOA's work for what you mentioned, a quick place to park your trailer on the way to your final destination. They always seem to have spots available.

    1. Thanks! If I'm heading out West to see my brother, I could get through Denver and then have a place to stay.