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Camping at the KOA

going camping

Do you love to take trips, but hate paying for hotels? Love the outdoors, but aren’t one for roughing it? Well, you could churn some credit cards to get free accommodations, but if you are paying off debt or into saving money, you could learn to love the KOA.

What is the KOA?

Kampgrounds of America was founded by a business man named Dave Drum in 1962. He was inspired when he saw people heading for the Seattle World’s Fair and he set up a campground on his land by the Yellowstone River in Monata. He offered showers, restrooms and a small store. KOA turned into a franchise and now has over 450 campgrounds in North America. KOA’s vary in ammenities and locations. There is actually a KOA right by Circus Circus in the heart of Las Vegas, and there are many, many more in rural and remote places. While all have the same showers, restrooms, and stores as the original, many offer unique experiences like staying in tee pees or train cars. Some even offer free pancake breakfasts or live entertainment.

Why Do I Love KOA?

Plumbing

Before our daughter was born, we were die hard tent campers who tried to get as far off the beaten path as possible. One child later, I have no desire to brave the wilds and battle the bears, skunks, and squatting in the woods to pee. While many people take their kids on back country adventures, we like being close to running water, and I honestly don’t ever want to go two days without a shower anymore.

Ease of Location

We used to drive for hours looking for the perfect campsite. With KOA, you know where you’re going and have a spot all reserved when you get there. We have a small pop-up camper, and we can choose a site that won’t leave us lopsided and sliding downhill all night long.

Amenities

Our daughter is a great little hiker, but she does succumb to whining when she starts to get tired or bored. If we can bribe her with a pool later, she is much more eager to finish a hike without too much complaining. Most KOA’s have a pool or playground for the kiddos. If we forget something, they also have the little store. It is pricey, but if you are not close to town and forgot the marshmallows, you aren’t in the doghouse.

Price

While staying in the wild is the cheapest option, and some campgrounds are less expensive, I’ve found KOA’s to be really reasonable. You can even stay in a cabin for around $65 a night if you don’t have a tent or camper. 

While we do stay in other campgrounds or in state parks, we like having a KOA option available in most places. Although I hate to admit it, I do like my creature comforts. I’m not one to shy away from an adventure, but while my daughter is young, it’s nice to know what we can expect if we are going somewhere we haven’t been for a camping trip.

Do you camp? Do you like KOA or is it too commercialized?

Image: debspoons/Freedigitalphotos.net

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

24 comments

  1. I enjoy camping. I just drive straight past the KOA and camp in the actual park. I’d rather be closer to nature than free cable and wifi.

  2. Doesn’t sound too commercialized for me! I don’t mind having a few amenities when I go camping 😉

  3. I love camping but we haven’t been able to because our girls are so little. In a few years, we will definitely take them camping. Since they are only 3 and 1 right now, I think it would be hell!

  4. We haven’t been to a KOA, but this sounds right up our alley. We do camp at state parks though, and you’re so right: when you have little ones, the “fancier” campgrounds are definitely the way to go!

  5. We used to camp all the time when I was growing up, but it’s been a number of years since I camped. That is quite the story that the founder just started it one day and it’s grown to that many locations. I never knew that had one right in the heart of Vegas, that would be very interesting to stay there.

  6. We camped in the wild most of the time when visiting the US, and found KOAs pretty expensive since it was too cold to use the pool or anything else, the price of cabins were often slightly higher than a motel. Motel had less charm but a bathroom inside and better heating. Rates seemed great for families, for the two of us we would pay almost as much as 4 persons.

  7. The KOA is indeed awesome. Unfortnately their price is higher than the rental we’re using for our Florida trip. 6 of us are staying in a condo for $150 for one week. The KOA wanted over $350, and we’d have to sleep in tents. If we didn’t have such a cheap place to stay, this would have easily been our backup plan!

  8. I love camping and so does my wife. We are back country hikers though and have never thought about staying in a KOA. We have no idea how that will go since we now have a son, but camping is our thing. We have done the Appalachian trail and camped for weeks on end. We love it and have the know how to get our necessities. Maybe one day we would use the KOA, but I just don’t know.

  9. We own a camper, and we’ve done our stays exclusively at State campgrounds. Michigan has a great system, one of the best in the country, so the campgrounds are generally well maintained and great for the family. We’ve yet to stay at one that hasn’t been a lot of fun. They don’t offer hookups for water or sewer, and they don’t have pools or any of that fun stuff, but we generally gravitate toward the campgrounds that have a beach or are near a lake, so this has never been something we’ve missed.

  10. I love KOA cabins. They’re like glamping, but on a budget 🙂 Planning a cross country drive this year and hoping to stay at many of them along the way and back.

  11. I’ve never been much of a camper, but if I did decide to to it this sounds close to what I’d be looking for. I don’t want to go more than a day without a shower either!

  12. I haven’t gone camping in any form since my kids were adults. The last time I rented a RV with another family and camped at a state beach. I like the idea of staying at the beach, but not the cost of owning camping stuff.

  13. I’m not a big camper, although we rough it once a year when my entire family descends on my father’s remote cabin. No phones. No TV. Just us and I love it. I do appreciate having a bathroom too. 🙂 If we did camp, KOA sounds perfect – still outdoorsy but with a few creature comforts.

  14. Don’t you need some sort of membership to camp there? Or is that something else? $65 ain’t bad. And I don’t call that camping, I call is Glam-ping 😉

  15. I would love to go camping! But my wife has a rule, camping is limited to hotel rooms or at the very least, a decent size trailer with a hot shower 😀

    • Ha! My wife has a rule that’s similar. We can only spend two nights camping before we spend one in a hotel….she needs the clean shower and a little “civilization.”

  16. These seem like a great way to have some sense of security in the wilderness, too: a bit of a buffer, if you will. Will keep them in mind in the future!

  17. I’ve had a mixed experience with camping. The first time I went, it was ok. We camped in a giant empty field with a bunch of other people for a music festival. But the other times I’ve camped – once at a campground and once at the beach – it was awful. :S

  18. Have not camped out for a while, but KOA seems like a pretty good deal and a real solid way to go. Thanks for the tip.

  19. We originally stopped camping because Mr. FBS has sleep apnea and it was too hard to find camping areas with electricity. I also found my love of flying to new states and fun hotels in the middle of it all. Well that and I don’t have the budget for a camper right now, but KOA sounds promising.

  20. I have never been to a KOA but from your description I would prefer it to going out in the woods or another campground with no restrooms. Especially with my two little ones.

  21. In general I love to camp but I’ve never stayed at a KOA. When I was younger vacation was camping mostly because my parents couldn’t afford to do much else.

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