Opening a Campground: A Step-by-Step Guide

ByNemanja Vasiljevic
March 16,2022

If you love the idea of working in the great outdoors while also helping campers enjoy incredible vacations, opening a campground could be the perfect business opportunity for 2022 and beyond. 

Campgrounds and RV parks in the US did take a hit at the start of the pandemic, but the industry has recovered well to jump from a value of $5.48bn in 2020 to $6.32 in 2021. The 2022 forecasts suggest that it will be back up to the pre-pandemic $7.88bn within the next two years, and you can capitalize on their big return by starting your own venture right now. 

This guide to campground planning and regulations, as well as daily operations, will help turn that dream into a reality.

Starting a Campground - Why Do It?

There are plenty of reasons to start a campground. Before thinking about land acquisition or marketing efforts, though, you must first do some research.

There are over 4,300 campgrounds throughout the US, which instantly highlights that they appeal to many business owners. Some of the main reasons people decide to get into this industry are:

  • A better quality of life - when the bulk of your work is spent outdoors and supporting people in their leisurely activities, your mental and physical wellness can soar.
  • A huge demand - before the pandemic hit, there were over 78 million people camping in the US, and the number kept increasing each year. As the pandemic slowly fades out, we can expect more people than ever to embrace camping and outdoor activities.
  • Steady returns - while many people think of it as a seasonal business, popular campgrounds attract customers throughout the year.
  • Post-pandemic suitability - a lot of Americans are traveling domestically once again but are not yet ready for overseas travel. This can boost campground profit margins significantly.
  • Versatility - campground business owners can adapt many aspects of the venture, from plot size to on-site amenities to reflect their desires.

In short, starting your own campground is an enjoyable business model that puts you in control of your future. When you also consider the prospective financial rewards delivered by a huge potential client base, the appeal isn’t hard to appreciate.

How to Start a Campground 

Campground businesses can be profitable, but you must enter the process with a winning strategy. Otherwise, you could experience delays, disruptions, and financial penalties. Following this simple 10 step guide will help you get your business off to a great start:

Step 1: Research Campground Operations

Knowing that you want to build a campground from scratch is a good starting point, but you also need to develop a clear vision of the site you wish to run. Are you looking to attract overnight RV drivers or provide the perfect destination for a camping vacation? 

Stats show that six in ten Americans have a newly discovered love of nature, and you can embrace this through a wide range of RV park and campsite ideas. Some of the most popular choices include;

  • Motorhome only campground
  • Flyfishing campground
  • Senior citizens campground
  • Tent camping only campground
  • Rafting and watersports campground
  • Wildlife sanctuary campground

This is just a selection of the options at your disposal. Still, a clear understanding of developing an RV park in your mold can impact everything from profitability to your enjoyment of the work you’ll have to put in.

Step 2: Create a Business Plan

A detailed business plan is a document that can aid in finding funds, gaining the necessary campground licenses, and providing guidance in all aspects of business planning. It is a vital tool for opening a campground venture.

Business plan templates are readily available, including examples specific to this type of business venture. It can include mission statements, financial projections, design plans, and management strategies. Ultimately, it should answer key questions like:

  • What are the costs of starting the campground?
  • Who will you aim to sell campsites to?
  • How much will you charge per night?
  • What type of activities will you promote?
  • How many campsites per acre can you fit? 
  • What will the business be called?

A good business plan will also detail logistical aspects, while further preparations will consider the logistical obstacles you may face before and after the launch.

Step 3: Focus on Funding

When working out how to start a trailer park or campground, finding funding will be one of the primary considerations. A $50k ballpark figure (plus any land acquisition costs) is probably accurate for a small LLC in this industry. However, a detailed business plan should provide a clearer insight. Either way, you must ensure that you have enough capital, as a lack of funding is the chief reason why so many startups (campgrounds or otherwise) fail.

Regardless of the cost to build a campground, you will want to consider the following funding options;

  • Personal funding from your savings
  • Traditional business bank loans
  • Investments from private investors
  • Crowdfunding opportunities

You’ll also need to factor in ongoing costs (we’ll discuss those later). If you can’t raise funds for buying a franchise or opening a campground of your own, the business won’t have a future. 

Step 4: Register Your Business Entity

Before you start trading, you must register the business entity. Forming an LLC with minimal state LLC costs is the most prudent choice, not least because it protects you from personal damages should a visitor sue the company. 

You will also need a registered agent service, but this is something all good LLC services will provide. Even if you’re looking at how to start a primitive campground that forgoes standard reservation campsites for remote options, letting your customers know that you are ready to open your doors to visitors is vital.

Other steps at this time include registering for taxes, opening a business bank account, and getting a company credit card.

Step 5: Obtain the Necessary Licenses

Licensing is probably one of the first issues you’ll research when looking at how to start an RV park, but it’s also very easy to overlook this once you have got the ball rolling. This industry employs over 50,000 workers and serves millions of guests annually. Sadly, businesses operating without the correct licenses can face huge fines and even closure.

The regulations for opening a campground can vary slightly in different parts of the country. However, you must be sure to comply with or obtain the following;

  • Federal business licensing requirements, including state permits
  • State permits and licenses to operate a campground business
  • A Release of Liability
  • A Certificate of Occupancy, which includes meeting zonal laws

Even when looking at foreclosed campgrounds or taking on an existing franchise, you must pay attention to the licensing requirements or face the consequences.

Step 6: Find a Location

The location of your campground is unquestionably one of the most significant features that can impact the level of planned bookings and passing trade from RV drivers that need a place to spend the night. For starters, land may cost significantly more or less than the national average of $12,000 per acre, depending on the state you are operating in and some other factors.

The location of your site will also determine, or at least influence a wide range of other related issues, such as:

  • What activities can be completed on the campground
  • Whether grants for starting a campground may be available
  • When you can expect the peak season to be
  • The demographics of your visitors

You may also find that the location will determine whether it’s possible to start a franchise or not. 

Step 7: Build a Brand

Depending on your location, especially when situated between two popular tourist destinations, you may secure some overnight guests due to little more than geography. In most cases, though, establishing a brand that helps your site stand out from the crowd will be a crucial aspect of running your campground business well. 

Your first goal is to ensure that you sell a good percentage of your available campsites frequently - don’t worry, even the most popular campgrounds aren’t 100% booked 365 days of the year. However, the strength of your brand may also allow you to charge more. This can be very important as RV camps charge an average of between $25 and $80 per campsite per night, although it is possible to fetch over $200.

Branding elements can range from the campground logo to deciding on your niche audience (families, senior citizens, etc.) Once you have a clear vision of the business you want to be, it’ll guide your web design, offline marketing, and general client interactions.

Step 8: Grow Your Team

Very few businesses can be managed with a single pair of hands. When you own a campground, getting a great team to support you will be essential for its success. With this in mind, knowing your EIN number and making the necessary preparations to legally hire workers will be essential. 

You may require a variety of workers, including on-site employees and remote staff members as well as temporary contractors. Some examples include;

  • Admin staff, including receptionists and customer care teams
  • Maintenance teams for campsite facilities and amenities
  • Campground activity leaders, cleaners, and catering teams
  • Marketing and sales workers
  • Financial advisors and legal workers

Staffing is one of the most significant ongoing expenses for a campground owner, so this is a key aspect to consider. Besides, when you have confidence in the team, you can maintain a clear mindset.

Step 9: Focus on Amenities

Some permanent campsite ideas are as simple as focusing on the campsites themselves, with not much else on offer. However, most good ideas also rely on the amenities and organized on-site activities for making a profit. The theme of your campsite, as discussed earlier, will determine what works best. Ultimately, it’s about providing unforgettable experiences to your visitors.

Of course, this will impact the expenses, including garbage disposal, payroll, permit renewals, inventory, maintenance on camp vehicles, and more. Likewise, you may need to consider the cost of equipment you hire out (such as fishing equipment).

While some campers look to save as much money as they can while camping, many others will spend a good amount while at your site. If you strategically plan the amenities and how to maximize your earnings, your business will have much higher chances of success.

Step 10: Opening Time 

Finally, with all the above steps completed, you will feel ready to open your doors to the public. You’ve registered the business and a real estate LLC while also preparing the campsites, branding elements, and so much more. It may take time before you start to see the percentage of occupied spaces increase, but you can temporarily lower your prices while establishing your company on the market.

Following this, you will need to consider the long-term management and ongoing expenses for a campground. By now, you will have everything in place to run a successful campground business. 

Final Words

If opening a campground is a business venture you’ve considered for several years, now is the perfect time to do it. It’s a wholesome business that can improve people’s quality of life while earning you a pretty penny. 

Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to start a campground?

A campground business doesn’t cost much to start. In fact, most business owners can get their ventures started for under $50k and potentially as little as $10k. However, this does not include land acquisition, which will be the largest cost by far if you do not already boast a large plot.

Is owning a campground profitable?

As with any industry, there are success stories and failures. However, experts estimate that the average RV park owner can expect to see an ROI of 10-30%. Of course, this can only be achieved if you operate the business well. Still, it makes owning a campground stand out as a wise investment.

How many acres do you need to build a campground?

When thinking about how to build a campground, there are many variables that could impact the demand for land. This includes the type of campground (i.e., overnight park versus RV resort). As a rule of thumb, though, 5-6 acres can provide 45 campsites, which is enough to operate a profitable small campground.

How hard is it to start a campground?

The process of opening a campground can vary greatly depending on whether you have the land already, decide to acquire an existing business, or need to apply for permits. Still, you could open the site to campers within months and start to see profits right away. Ongoing maintenance is relatively minimal, so you should start seeing profits fairly quickly.

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How To Make the Best Use of ECommerce Trends ECommerce is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up. However, by staying informed and making sure your eCommerce platform is up to date, you can ensure that your business is able to stay ahead of the competition. To make the most of the latest eCommerce developments, consider the following: 1. Keep Up With the Latest Trends To stay on top of your game, you must be proactive and regularly seek out new information. There is a number of ways to do this, such as reading industry news, following relevant blogs and industry influencers, and attending eCommerce conferences. You can get to know what’s going on in the industry and find inspiration for your own business.  Read up on the research data and statistics that are available on eCommerce growth trends. This can help you understand the current landscape and make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts.  2. Take Advantage of Digital Tools There are a number of digital tools that can help you improve your eCommerce business. From marketing automation software to customer relationship management systems, there’s a variety of features that can make it easier to run your business and provide a better experience for your customers. Check the data and sales figures, and invest in analytical tools so you can understand where your customers are coming from and what they are looking for. 3. Learn From Your Competitors It’s important to keep an eye on your competitors to see what they are doing and how they are reacting to the latest eCommerce retail trends. You can learn a lot from observing their strategies and understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Should they fail, you can learn from their mistakes. If they succeed, you can try to replicate their success. Final Words As the global eCommerce ecosystem continues to grow and evolve, it's important to stay on top of the latest trends. Instead of leaning on traditional shopping methods, more and more consumers are turning to the internet to purchase items. Mobile phones play a big role here, as they provide a convenient way to shop on the go. What's more, consumers are getting more comfortable with new technologies such as AI, AR, chatbots, and voice search. These eCommerce trends in technology are changing the way we interact with eCommerce platforms and retailers. With all that said, we're confident that you now have a solid understanding of the current eCommerce landscape. Just remember to keep your eyes peeled for new trends so you can stay ahead of the curve.
By Danica Djokic · September 15,2022
As a business owner, you are likely responsible for overseeing all aspects of your company’s operations. This includes setting your own salary. This decision can be difficult to make, especially if you’re not sure what’s standard or how to determine what’s appropriate for your situation. In this article, we’ll discuss some factors you should consider when deciding how much to pay yourself as a small business owner. What To Consider When Setting Your Salary Setting your own salary can be daunting, especially if you’re a freelancer or small-business owner. After all, you need to make enough money to cover your expenses and earn a profit, but you don’t want to price yourself out of the market. So, what factors should you consider when paying yourself from your business? Business Structure One of the first things you should consider is your company’s business structure. Are you a sole proprietor? Do you have a business partner? Are you an S corp? Your company’s business structure will affect how much money you take home and how much in taxes you need to pay. For example, if you’re a sole proprietor, you’ll likely take home less money than if you’re running a corporation because you’ll be paying taxes on both your business income and personal income. On the other hand, if you’re running a corporation, you’ll only be taxed for your corporate income. This means that more of your business profits will stay within the company, which can be reinvested or distributed to shareholders. Business Expenses Another factor to consider when paying yourself as a small business owner is your business expenses. How much does it cost to run your small business? You should consider expenses like rent, utilities, payroll, and marketing. You’ll need to make enough money to cover these costs, plus your personal living expenses. One common mistake small business owners make is not accounting for all of their business-related expenses. Make sure you have a clear understanding of all the costs associated with running your business before you start setting your salary. Personal Living Expenses In addition to business-related expenses, you also need to account for your personal expenses, such as housing, food, transportation, and health care. Again, one common mistake people make is not accounting for all their personal expenses when calculating the business owner’s salary. Industry Standards Another factor to consider is industry standards. What do other businesses in your industry pay their employees? This will help you determine a reasonable salary for yourself as the business owner. Of course, you don’t want to undervalue your services.  Ultimately, setting your salary comes down to determining what you need to earn to cover your costs and make a profit and then finding the right balance between pricing yourself too high and too low. By taking the time to consider all the relevant factors, you can ensure that you set a fair and competitive price for your services. How to Calculate Your Owner’s Pay You should consider a few balance sheet items when calculating your salary as a small-business owner. These include your monthly net income, all business-related taxes and fees, and business expenses.  According to some small business revenue statistics, 86.3% of small business owners earn less than $100,000 a year. However, this does not mean you must stay within this bracket. Below are some steps you can take to get a clear picture of a small business owner’s salary and how to calculate it yourself. Calculate Your Monthly Net Income Your monthly net income is the total revenue your business brings in minus any taxes or fees. This number can fluctuate from month to month, so it’s important to take an average over a period of time to get an accurate number.  Next, you’ll need to subtract all business-related taxes and fees. This includes income taxes, self-employment tax, and any other business-related expenses. Once you have your monthly net income minus taxes and fees, you’ll be left with your profit.  Calculate Your Tax Savings The next step in calculating owner pay is determining your tax savings. This includes any deductions you can take for business expenses, home office expenses, and health insurance premiums. You can consult with a tax professional or use a tax calculator to get an accurate number. Once you have your tax savings figured out, you can add this amount to your monthly net income to get your total monthly compensation. Calculate Your Business Expenses The final thing you’ll need to consider when setting your salary is your business expenses, including office rent, utilities, supplies, and employee salaries. Once you know how much it costs to run your business each month, it will be easier to calculate how much to pay yourself as a small business owner. One mistake many small business owners make is not accounting for their salary when calculating their business expenses. This can lead to severe financial problems down the road, so be sure to include yourself in the equation. By following these steps, you should be able to come up with fair and reasonable compensation for yourself as a small business owner. Remember to avoid common mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to success.  Ways To Pay Yourself As a business owner, you have two options: Either pay yourself a salary or take distributions from your small business. Here are the pros and cons of an owner’s draw vs. a salary.  Paying Yourself a Regular Salary To pay yourself a regular wage, just like you would an employee, you’ll need to set up payroll for your business and withhold taxes from your paycheck. One advantage of this method is that it can help you separate your personal and business expenses and make it easier to track your business expenses come tax time. The downside of drawing a salary is that it’s subject to payroll taxes, which can eat into your earnings. Additionally, if you have a slow month or two, you may find yourself struggling to cover your personal expenses if you’re relying solely on your business income. An Owner’s Draw If you are self-employed and paying yourself a salary, an owner’s draw is another method you can use. This method is often used by small business owners with irregular or variable income. With an owner’s draw, you simply draw money out of your business bank account as needed to cover your personal expenses. One advantage of this method is that you don’t have to worry about payroll taxes. Additionally, it can give you more flexibility regarding how much money you take out of your business each month. However, one downside is that it can be challenging to track your small business expenses come tax time. So, which method is right for you? How to pay yourself as a sole proprietor? Ultimately, it depends on your circumstances and the needs of your business. If you have a stable and predictable income, having a regular salary may be the best option. However, if your income is variable or unpredictable, an owner’s draw may be a better option. Final Thoughts Paying yourself as a business owner can be a tricky task. And there’s no universal rule on how much business owners should pay themselves. However, by following some simple guidelines, you can ensure that you are fairly compensated for your work without putting your business finances at risk.  What’s most important is to find a method that works for you and your business. And, of course, to avoid any common pitfalls.
By Nikolina Cveticanin · September 14,2022

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