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Hidden camping costs are making the cheap holiday too hard for families

by Staff

It’s an Aussie right of passage to park a caravan or pitch a tent in the pouring rain, only to have to pull it all down, still soggy several days later.

It’s safe to say that campers make more than a few sacrifices to enjoy their favourite hobby in the great outdoors, in the hope that the kids will grow up with the same passion for nights by the fire and days of exploring with old friends and new.

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Hidden camping fees are making it a more expensive holiday

But in recent years, the growing cost of camping has made this once cheap-as-chips style holiday prohibitive for families with children due to what many are calling “greedy” extra fees.

In the Caravanning with Kids Australia Facebook group, many members are in uproar about a surcharge for children (and that includes toddlers) at campgrounds they have visited around Australia.

While most reported a $10 per night charge for each child, one family was shocked to find their child would cost them $50 just to stay in their own caravan for one night.

“It’s a joke!” says member, Jane, who has resorted to ‘other’ measures to keep within her family’s travel budget.

“Some places we have been charge $20 per kid! We are in month 12 of travelling and now don’t tell them we have kids. On occasion we have and very occasionally get told by the staff that they also think it’s ridiculous so put the kids down as infants. Our eldest is also 14, so sometimes we’re charged for an extra adult!”

Another camping mum, Bree, is shocked she has to pay up to $60 per night just for her children.

“We have 4 kids and it’s a joke,” she says.

“Some parks charge $15 extra.”

For members, Colleen and Claire, who both do not rely on any facilities, the surcharge is hard to take.

“Yep it’s getting ridiculous and cheaper to go into a motel etc in some cases and what’s really annoying is that prices keep going up and most of us these days are self sufficient and do not need to use their facilities,” Colleen says.

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Even babies and pets are getting slogged with a fee

“Try having 6 kids, being fully self sufficient so not even using the park showers and still being charged the full amount,” Claire adds.

Mum, Leah, was gobsmacked to be charged extra for her one-year-old child.

“We were just charged an extra $10pn for an almost 2 year old at Broken Hill Big 4 because ‘she would be using the facilities too’,” she writes.

“They said they were ‘doing us a favour’ by not charging for our 5 month old baby as well! Stayed one night and moved on.”

And if you’re thinking of taking a beloved pet out on the road, beware. They’re not free at many sites, either.

“We got charged $5 a day recently for a dog,” member, Andrew, commented.

Sneaky ways people are avoiding paying the fees

Several members admit to “getting around” the surcharge policy in various ways.

“We pre book like the night before and we never pay for our child,” Eden says.

“I just run into the office to check us in and they just give our site papers to us. There’s only been like 4 times in the past 10 months travelling that I’ve ‘forgotten’ to pay for our child.”

Dad, Phil, has managed to avoid the fee completely.

“My 4 year old has been an infant for the last 2.5yrs,” he says. “I don’t pay for her anywhere. No one has ever asked and no one questions it.”

RELATED: Mum’s clever solution to annoying camping problem

Should people be charged extra? 

Fellow camper, Lisa understands that some campgrounds have justification for a surcharge, but only for certain visitors.

“If you’re using showers or other facilities for the kids I wouldn’t mind it as you get what you pay for but if you’re not using anything it’s a bit steep to ask for more for a space people are already paying for.”

Outdoor enthusiast, Jessica, believes it should be one price across the board.

“It should be a site fee not a person fee and the site can hold up to so many people,” she says.

Some of the group’s members, however, sat on the other side of the fence and said the fees were “no different than staying in a hotel” where extra persons were charged extra, and those who opposed the surcharge but still stayed at the park had a “sense of entitlement”.

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