If you’re a camping snob, you can pass this post up! I have no shame in RV, van or camper life. I love it as much as I do tent camping in the backcountry. They’re both completely different experiences and I enjoy them all around.If you follow us on Instagram, you may have noticed that we stayed in quite a few KOAs along the way on our cross country roadtrip. There are a few reasons why, which I am happy to share as we had pretty great experiences at each one.
KOA was founded in 1962 in Billings, Montana. The founder decided to start creating a system of campgrounds throughout North America and then began to franchise them. There are now over 500 locations across the US and Canada!
Each KOA is privately owned and operated (mostly by families) but we did come across a couple that gave temporary job opportunities to men and women traveling from outside the US and actually witnessed the super friendly owner in Estes Park speaking with two girls from Macedonia about job applications! I thought that was very cool.
I am usually absolutely all about camping in and supporting state and National parks. Alas we were traveling during busy summer vacation season in July (and the week of the 4th at that!) so nearly all of the state and National parks had already been booked far in advance. But with the KOA app and membership, we could book sites very easily from the road – plus access a map with those nearest to us, which was very convenient for us in our circumstances.
When we tent camp (and offseason camp in the winter when it’s less packed) – it’ll be all about the state parks! We only became KOA members in March when we bought our camper. It’s a $30/year rewards card membership that gets you 10% off your daily rate, plus points toward discounted or free future stays, coupons and other deals.Our first time staying in a KOA was Memorial Day Weekend in Terre Haute, Indiana.
So far each experience has been very different, from the grounds to the sites, but the quality of the campground and staff have been quite consistent and outstanding. I would say that while the prices seem to be a little higher and vary more depending on location than a typical campground – it’s a price I’m willing to pay for the amenities while traveling.– When we are driving a long distance, a tidy bathroom, private clean showers and laundry are a must. Now, I am not afraid of, too proud for or a stranger to a dank vault toilet with a broken hand sanitizer dispenser hanging off the wall, or tons of dead flies and spiderwebs when I open a creaky door to a rustic privy. But, when I’m paying $35/night or more at a camping “resort”, I do expect a nice bathroom! And KOA delivers.
– A majority of “KOA Kampgrounds” have stellar camp stores with location-specific souvenirs, easy to grill food, ice, and one even had a bar. Again, a plus after long days of driving. If this is just a weekend trip it does seem a little extra! When we pulled into our spot for the night and decided that hotdogs and chips will suffice for dinner, we could just walk up to the store and there it was.– WiFi, which we happily used at night after dinner to upload photos or stream Netflix while lying in bed after driving or hiking all day.
– They’re pet-friendly and have dog runs or even large dog parks.– Some had operating kitchens, where you could get a coffee, a hot breakfast or even order a pizza for dinner.
– Most had a pool and/or hot tubs, which was great on warm lazy days.This pool at the Palm Springs/Joshua Tree location was fed by natural hot springs!
– If you reserved your stay online, check-in is a breeze and I love that they give you the option to have your receipt emailed to you.
For a road weary traveler, a KOA is a welcome place; that little yellow logo on a highway sign is like a sanctuary. You know what to expect and all of the things you may need are likely onsite.
I will say, like any RV campground – you’re very close to your neighbor. It is wildly different than backcountry camping and if you know to expect that, it’ll be fine. We know that when we “camp” like this it’s bound to be more populated than if we spend a weekend on the Ozark Trail.
The Sam’s Town KOA in Las Vegas location was like camping in a parking lot. It got packed by evening!
Besides, with a camper as unique as ours we get a lot of questions and comments, and it’s fun to talk to people from ALL over. We had camp neighbors in Arizona from Switzerland and a couple next to us when we stayed in Colorado that were from Germany.
We have traveled in so many ways. Flying, renting a vehicle, trains, fancy hotels, janky motels, strangers couches, condos, AirBnB…I have to say that this trip has been the most memorable. We had our own vehicle available to us and got to live in our cozy home away from home in a different place nightly or every other night…