Owning and operating a campground sounds like a dream job for some of us. Full-time campground living can mean ditching the city for gorgeous scenery, socializing with happy campers, gathering around crackling fires and finally perfecting that perfect s’more.
With nearly 500 locations across the US and Canada, KOA’s owners and managers live the campground lifestyle daily. And while there’s lots of fun to be had living and working on a campground, there’s a fair share of hard work, too. So what’s the day-to-day life of a campground owner really like?
The best way to answer that burning question is to ask the experts – KOA owners. Here’s what they had to say.
So we’re curious, what sparked your interest in owning a KOA?
“We began our journey to own a campground because we wanted to be in business for ourselves and thought people coming to us for vacation would be a great way to be around happy people while making money at the same time.” Anita & Bill, Chautauqua Lake KOA Holiday
“After our daughter went to college we sold the house, bought a fifth wheel and went on the road after learning about KOA’s Work Kamping Program. We thought we’d Work Kamp for years, but the universe had other plans. We loved campground life and started looking for a KOA to buy never dreaming we would find the perfect place so quickly. We visited, fell in love and the rest is history.” Iris & Ken, Bay Center / Willapa Bay KOA Journey
As a campground owner, how would you describe your typical day?
“If a day is ever ‘typical,’ that’s not typical! I try to have a punch list of things that need to be done every day, however, if a sewer is clogged, a site had lost power, or a mess is made the priorities change promptly. We’ve got to roll with things accordingly; but I love the uncertainly that each day brings. I also love four and half months off to work on camp projects.” David & Lori, Indianapolis KOA
“My day starts in the office. I like doing check-ins and new campers really like meeting the owner. I also work with staff to plan activities, place orders and more. We are big on doing every job our staff does. Staffing can be a challenge and that can mean really long hours – in high season 16 hour days are not unusual.” Gary & Cathy, Copake KOA Holiday
“Not including walking the dog? We monitor the public areas early to assess what needs to be done each day. Then we look at reports of outgoing and incoming campers to get sites cleaned and setup for incoming guests. We plan gatherings, monitor and order stock, manage a full office and maintenance staff. There is the phone to answer, fire wood to deliver, gardening to be done and making sure guests are safe and comfortable. That’s just a quick glimpse!” Patti & Henry Grover, Augusta / Gardiner KOA Journey
What do you like most about owning a KOA?
“We love our campers. We’re blessed to have some of the greatest families ever who camp with us season-after-season. Many camp multiple times each year and we love laughing and seeing the kids have fun. We’ve had the honor of watching families make a great investment of love in their children and produce fine, successful adults. Beyond that, we love being a KOA because they bring us a world of support other campgrounds don’t have. KOA is a benefit to our business and supports us meeting our campers’ needs.” Tim & Robyn, Meadville KOA
“Owning a campground is a life for us and we thoroughly enjoy the friendship of our campers. We aren’t in this to become rich, it’s the friends we make both on the campground and within the industry that will last a lifetime. There is a camaraderie in the KOA system we like as well. You know that you can call any campground owner and they will be there to help you out.” Garry & Vicki, Shelby / Mansfield KOA Resort
“Being a part of making memories is something special. When you get to help someone build their first ever campfire or roast their first marshmallow it makes it all worth it.” Iris & Ken, Bay Center / Willapa Bay KOA Journey
What’s your best advice for someone interested in campground ownership?
“To be successful it takes many hours or hard work. The campers like to see the owners involved.” Garry & Vicki, Shelby / Mansfield KOA Resort
“Never stop learning. We’ve spent the last three years learning a business we thought we knew!” Chris & Sally, Bangor / Holden KOA Journey
“Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy! Also, don’t forget to stop and take a few moments each day for yourself.” Anita & Bill, Chautauqua Lake KOA Holiday
“Start in the Work Kamping Program and work at a couple of KOA’s for a few seasons. This will give you a good idea of the culture and work required to own a KOA campground.” Iris & Ken, Bay Center / Willapa Bay KOA Journey
And we can’t help but wonder, what did you do before owning a KOA?
Bill: I was a farmer
Anita: I worked as a teacher, but was also a mom and a waitress
Garry: I designed waste water and water facilities as an engineer
Vicki: My previous career was as a high school band and choir director
David: I owned my own logistics company in northern Ohio
Tim: Prior to KOA I was an office manager and division accountant
Robyn: I developed circuit board photo polymer films as an engineering technician
Ken: I was employed by Walmart
Iris: I was a project manager at a check printing company
Gary: I worked as a mechanized equipment designer
Cathy: I was in corporate America working in senior and mid-level management
Sally: I managed condominiums
Chris: I was in advertising sales for Yellow Pages
Want to learn more about owning your very own KOA? Visit www.ownaKOA.com.