What Do You Look For?

I am thinking about opening a van/camper/RV/camping place. It will be quite simple. My kids are out on their own. I have the support of my husband, and I finish school in the spring. As I have traveled, I have seen many abandoned hotels and motels, etc… I would love to run a place of my own. When you chose to stay at a place, what do you look for? Many travelers are self-contained in their rigs, but there may be something they seek when stopping through their journey.

If they are abandoned, maybe they weren’t economically viable, because not many people stop there. I wonder if those are risky places to buy. Of course, maybe the camping community is willing to travel a little further out of the way than hotel/motel users, so that might not always apply.

Bear in mind that I’m not really a van lifer. I’m more the weekend camping sort, who sees tent and vehicle camping as a cheaper alternative to hotels. But having seen that the costs of apartments are going up, I’m possibly rethinking this.

I wonder also there is going to be a trend towards groups of rigs forming communities that travel together. And there have always been youth groups that camp together. E.g., boy scouts, girl scouts, church groups. For these you need some larger group camp sites. For one thing, there are a lot of people who seek safety. Unfortunately some of the obvious ways to achieve that - e.g., video monitoring and recording - might not appeal to some people - but there is always a tradeoff. Ideally they should have a central firepit, because a lot of people in groups love them - which for safety implies that they are not surrounded by woods or other highly flammable vegetation.

Of course, a lot of people also want it fairly quiet, which somewhat contradicts that. So maybe the group campsites should be in another area.

And there are quite a few people who look at living in a rig as an alternative to expensive local housing. Many of them would like long term campsites, the ability to receive mail, to list your site as a long term address (even if they might leave it to travel for months at a time). It is also important that the site be open year round for that. Perhaps, though this isn’t always practical, they should be within reasonable driving distance of a decent hospital.

In terms of mail, while they are on travel, there needs to be a way to keep the mail for months at a time.

I’m not sure how practical this is - but for families who don’t home school, there needs to be nearby some sort of school system that would allow the kids of families to go. That’s a bit messy. If you are in a taxed city area, that raises the cost for you and everyone. And some private schools are very expensive.

Some families want nearby places of worship. Maybe ideally including somewhat inclusive groups, that don’t require everyone to be of their denomination. E.g., I’ve heard that Unitarian churches often have non-Christian members. And some places of worship are actually somehow shared by several denominations.

For students who seek long term camping, you probably need to be near a college or university. Distance learning schools have become more popular - but there are some things it is easier to teach and learn in person.

Cost matters a lot too. I’ve been looking into “long term campsites” myself as a cheaper alternative to apartments, and they (e.g., KOA) often rent for about $50-$150 / night, and not all that much less for long term. The problem is, that is often no less than the cost of renting an apartment.

When I was younger, a lot of us deliberately looked for fairly primitive tent sites. Nowadays, campsite wide high speed WiFi, as well as cell phone access, is something a lot of people expect. And as I’ve gotten older, I admit I’d like that too. And even when I’ve gone tent camping, an electric outlet is nice. Especially in the winter, so I can maybe plug in an electric blanket. A outdoor water faucet is nice - but the lines might need to be turned off and drained in the winter.

You may also need to have repair people (handymen and women, mechanics, plumbers, electricians) available, or keep a list of such people and their contact info, so people who have problems can deal with them. There should also be somewhat nearby places to buy groceries and the types of hardware that people in camping rigs need.

Because not everyone is self contained, and sometimes those who are need repairs, you need bathrooms and showers.

The RVers need a sewage dump site. And propane needs to be available nearby.

Some sort of recreational facilities might be nice. That could vary a lot. Many campers love the outdoors. E.g., hiking trails, which double as XC ski trails if you are in snow country. Bike trails - which for safety really should be separate from hiking trails. Places where they can canoe or kayak (some such places cater to the whitewater community, others to the flatwater community, and others to the open water community). And some would like a place to watch TV or movies together. You don’t need a full theater - big screen TVs might be good enough.

I know of one campground that has also run social dancing (e.g., International folk dance, ballroom dance, country dance, maybe hip hop) sessions once/week.

There are also more expensive facilities, that might not fit your “simple” parameters. E.g., swimming pools, ice rinks, alpine ski trails, rentable cabins, skate parks, etc.

I guess what I’m basically suggesting is that some of your customers might almost want a traditional community, rather than to live on their own.