What To Do When The Campground Sucks

Listen to this post:
Subscribe to these audio posts using iTunes or RSS • Download Audio

This place sucks. The people aren’t friendly. We would just leave now but we paid for 6 nights and can’t get a refund.

Have you ever been in one of these spots?  It’s tough - but at least it’s temporary, right?

Another 4 nights and you’ll hit the road or pull up anchor.

Hidden Cost of a Negative Experience

There’s another cost. The memory of this visit will linger. Based on this one bad experience you might rule out an entire city, region, or state from future visits.

You may even become a negative tour-agent, selling your bad experience to other travelers and hoping they avoid it.

String together a few of these bad experiences and you may start considering giving up this life you worked so hard to attain.

Stop that.

Take action in the moment to reclaim that future memory.

We are coming out of one such visit. Here’s what we did - maybe it will work for you too.

Our Sucky Stop

We were in Louisiana - coming north out of New Orleans. New Orleans is one of our favorite cities. We’ve been there a few times and know how to find parking and live music for a fun night out.

We like Bayou Segnette State Park which is close to New Orleans. Just across Lake Pontchartrain is another Louisiana State Park we’ve heard good things about but had never visited.

It was a weekend but we stopped in anyway to see what was open. They had sites for two nights. Then the person ahead of us in line cancelled a reservation for the site we had just chosen. We were in for 6 nights.

Our Expectations

We like to say we go into experiences with no expectations. Yea, right. Here’s what we secretly expected:

  • An awesome state park (we had read other traveling family reviews that were positive)
  • A cost of $20/night (that’s what the last LA state park cost)
  • Free laundry (because the last LA state park had it)
  • Working wifi (because the ranger said it worked when we called)
  • An open visitor center (because the website said so)
  • An easy-to-navigate layout (because the last state park had it)
  • A list of rules and an explanation of where to put what tags on our vehicle and campsite (because state parks are pretty good at telling us their rules and processes)
  • Open well-marked hiking trails (because we figure rangers don’t want people to get lost)

What Happened

Here’s what happened instead:

  • The overnight cost increased $8/night the day we arrived
  • The laundry wasn’t free
  • The wifi wasn’t working
  • The visitor center was closed
  • The park layout is odd with tight corners around large trees
  • We received no list of rules and three different rangers told us incomplete versions of the park rules and processes
  • The hiking trails had large closed sections, other trails had planks through mud pits

The Other Campers

We were already feeling down about this stay but there was a larger context.

It was Easter.

Easter in a Louisiana state park is a scene of shiny trucks pulling new toy hauler 5th wheels. Carried along are big grills, sno-cone makers, bouncy houses, and battery-powered riding toys.

The soundtrack to this scene is loud music, hooting and hollering, and cheering at lawn games.

People would wave, nod, or watch us leave but then retreat back into their group. The kids tried getting a football game together with the neighbor kids and were rebuffed.

We kept thinking there was a different vibe to “these people”.  We then felt guilty for being judgmental of neighbors who were just out to celebrate Easter with their friends and family.

We were lonely and bored. We were just killing time before we could leave again. We didn’t fit in. We felt isolated.

We ditched the suburbs but the suburbs caught up.

What to Do?

With another 4 nights in this place yet I couldn’t stomach the vision of us all moping around the trailer staring at screens.

We had to do something.

We had to change our mindset. We had to take action to reclaim that future bad memory.

We had to quit being frustrated with complete strangers for not living up to our expectations.

We had to move.

Basically? We had to ditch suburbia again on a smaller scale.

We gathered ourselves in and pushed ourselves out.

Took Family Time

More time together is one of the biggest reasons we wanted to ditch suburbia to begin with.

We rented a Redbox movie - a superhero film with lots of explosions and gunfire. We cranked it up over the sounds of music and campfires outside.

Got Out of the Park

We know that physical movement is important to shaking off the funk of a bad experience. We:

  • Took a long father/son bike ride and talked about how to look for jobs, how temporary agencies work, etc
  • Went to the local library and sucked down great gobs of wifi that actually worked
  • Had a parking lot date - sitting on the truck tailgate drinking a coffee and eating a snack
  • Got our kayaks out and took a long morning paddle through a bayou and into Lake Pontchartrain


Louisiana Flower from our Bike Ride

Louisiana Flower from our Bike Ride

Water Lilles on Easter Weekend in Louisiania

Water Lilles on Easter Weekend in Louisiania

Kayaking Cane Bayou in Louisiana

Kayaking Cane Bayou in Louisiana

Speed recommendations for Zombies

Speed recommendations for Zombies

Bayou opening into Lake Pontchartrain

Bayou opening into Lake Pontchartrain

Boyink kids kayak past trees laden with Spanish Moss

Boyink kids kayak past trees laden with Spanish Moss

Harrison and Miranda Boyink kayaking in Louisiana

Harrison and Miranda Boyink kayaking in Louisiana

I loved the colors on Cane Bayou in Louisiana

I loved the colors on Cane Bayou in Louisiana

Our first snake sighting while kayaking

Our first snake sighting while kayaking

The Easter message of rebirth after death found in a Louisiana Bayou

The Easter message of rebirth after death found in a Louisiana Bayou

Sometimes the best way out of a sucky campground experience is to move to a new campground. But isn't that a hassle? Ease that pain by downloading our How To Setup Your Fifth-Wheel Trailer in 20 Minutes or Less ebook. We'll send it along as a thanks for subscribing to our newsletter:

The New Memories

Changing things up did wonders for our attitude.

We exchanged pleasantries with people on the water. We talked with a biker standing on a bridge we were kayaking under (I asked if he was waiting to spit on us). We got a “Happy Easter” from a passing fisherman.

We came back to an emptied-out park. With the weekenders gone we found other Michiganders. I walked over and had a great conversation. They were from our home town and knew a former boss/client of mine.

I got some great photos while biking and kayaking.

These will now be the memories we focus on when recalling our Fontainebleau State Park stay.

Yes - if we dwell on it long enough the other aspects of the stay will come up as well. But they won’t be the primary thing we remember.

We saw the negative memories coming and took action to head them off at the pass and replace them with some positive memories.

How Do You Deal With the Sucky Stops?

What’s your sucky stop story? How did you deal with it? 


6 Comments What To Do When The Campground Sucks

  1. Picture of Mike Fischer Mike Fischer April 06, 2015

    What timing! We’re in the same situation right now… very disappointed in our current RV Park (we’re full-timers traveling every week or two). We need to be in the area for 17 days, and chose an RV Park (a commercial one, not county/state) based on great reviews. “Just in case” we only booked a week, and planned to extend once we checked in and were wowed. Unfortunately we really don’t like it. Yesterday we drove around to a couple others within an hour of here and found one we like much more, so we’re moving there after our week here. In the meantime we’re getting lots of chores done (cleaning RV inside and out, flushing water heater and replacing anode, taking dog to the local vet for shot updates, grocery shopping, etc.) since we already aren’t enjoying our stay. This way we’ll have lots of free time at the nicer park which we should really enjoy!

  2. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink April 06, 2015

    There you go - great idea to use an uninspiring park to catch up on those naggling chores.

  3. Picture of John DesLauries John DesLauries April 07, 2015

    Thanks for your ideas. Loops like a great time! We’ve noticed a huge difference in the attitudes of those full-timing and the week-enders as well. We stayed a week at St. Bernard St Park a few weeks ago, and fully enjoyed it. It is just the other side of New Orleans and an easy drive into the city.

  4. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink April 07, 2015

    Thanks John - for some reason that park never came up on our radar in the NOLA area. We’ll consider it next time!

  5. Picture of Tristin Tristin April 10, 2015

    Loved this post.  While we’re still in Suburbia and planning our escape, it’s pretty easy to fall into the very same traps of negativity that you listed… but moving forward and doing what we can that falls in line with our core values is ultimately up to us, no matter the setting or the timing. 

    For the record, I’m loving the new site and the new blog setup.  ; )

  6. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink April 10, 2015

    Thanks for the comment Tristin!  It’s true - we have the power to change our our mindsets and attitude no matter the context. It’s crazy how hard it is at times though - gravity seems stronger when you are discontent.

    Thanks for the comments on the site!

Comments are no longer accepted on this article.