I’m currently working at a private campground just outside of Nashville, TN. It’s great for guests, especially families, as there is a waterpark, a zipline/obstacle course, and it’s on a lake. Not only are there RV sites, there are also cabins.

We are in “shoulder season” right now and, with how things have been going recently, I was thinking some people might not really understand how shoulder season works. Many people love camping during shoulder season, but some have been quite disappointed. I figured I would take a moment to outline the pros and cons of staying at a campground during shoulder season.

Photo by atarin michaeli on Unsplash

What Exactly Is Shoulder Season?

Let’s start with the term shoulder season. What exactly does it mean and when is it?

Shoulder season is the time period between when a campground is in full season and when it’s in off-season but prior to when (or if) it closes.

There are typically two shoulder seasons-one is the ramping up to in-season and the other is as the campground is slowing down, or getting ready to close.

When shoulder season begins depends on the campground. In the case of the campground where I’m currently working, shoulder season is late winter to late spring and late summer to late fall. We are almost into our “in season” with a bit less than a month to go before things open up around here.

What Are The Pros Of Shoulder Season?

As I stated above, some people really love camping during shoulder season. But why? Are there any benefits to shoulder season?

In short, YES!

Often people will choose to camp at a higher-end campground during shoulder season as the rates do tend to be a little lower. Due to less demand, the campground will charge less.

Another reason people will choose to camp somewhere during shoulder season is because there are few people. They like it when it is quieter and there is less traffic.

If it is an extremely popular campground, it may be difficult to get a site when it’s in season, so choosing to go during shoulder season may make it available.

How About The Cons of Shoulder Season?

Though shoulder season can be a great time to camp, there can be some good reasons for not choosing to do so.

During shoulder season, the weather may not be the best for the area. It might be cooler or wetter, hotter or more humid.

Businesses and attractions might not be open during shoulder season meaning there might not be as much to do nearby.

The campground might be doing repairs or renovations during shoulder season. Things they can’t get to while in season because they are busy have to be done sometime. Off-season or when they’re closed might be too cold to get those tasks done.

If they have a camp store, they might not be stocked up yet or will have run out of stock when it’s not during their in-season time.

In addition, the campground may not have its full staff on board during shoulder season. Due to the lower numbers of campers, it doesn’t make financial sense to have full staff, so the workers that are there might be working fewer hours and wearing multiple hats to keep things going.

When Is Shoulder Season At Your Campground?

Our campground is almost in-season. We are just on the tail end of our spring shoulder season and are ramping up (hardcore) to our full-on BUSIEST time of year.

Because we have a water park and a zip-line and obstacle course park which are both open to the public outside of campground guests, it can get extremely busy here. There will be days when there will be a steady stream of cars coming into the park and we’ll have 40+ RVs and cabins checking in and out throughout the day.

On top of checking in guests and taking reservations, we’ll have multiple calls regarding the waterpark and the zip line park. We also have a camp store with three registers going all day selling souvenirs, snacks, beverages, and tickets to the attractions.

We’ll field calls about the marina and renting boats; the water sports area and how to rent jet skis and kayaks; and will sell lodging guest tickets to the waterpark.

In addition to all that, we’ll have tons of questions about the lake, the restaurant, and local attractions outside of what we have on-property.

Then there’s the shuttle we run to take guests to downtown and to the Grand Ole Opry.

It is going to be INTENSE to say the least.

Just before Labor Day, we’ll start slowing down and moving into our fall shoulder season.

I was here for the end of busy season and fall shoulder season last year. I even stuck around for the off-season when we were closed, too. Now we’re finishing up the spring shoulder season and I’m looking forward to it getting busier.

How Do You Feel About Shoulder Season?

Do you enjoy camping during shoulder season? Do you prefer going to campgrounds only during the in-season? What’s on your pros and cons list for camping during shoulder season?

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