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Check-In Time Etiquette|What You Should Know About Early Check-Ins​

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Lately there has been a lot of buzz on some workamping Facebook groups about people wanting to check in early at campgrounds. A while back I wrote an article about how to check into a campground after hours so I figured it would be a good time to cover early check ins. If you have not read my article on late check ins, click here to read it.

Check The Campgrounds Policy

Every campground has their own policy on early check ins. Some charge for the convenience, some do not, and some will not allow it at all. Years ago I would take my kids camping at Strawberry Park in CT. They would not allow early check ins. What they would do if you arrived early (ask me how I know…lol) is send you to a separate area to wait until check in time.

It was a large field and you had plenty of room to park and relax until the time came for a check in. At the time I didn’t really understand what the big deal was about checking in early but at least we were in a comfortable area to wait. 

It Has Become Very Clear

Now that we full time and workamp, it has become very clear why some parks do not allow it or charge. Before I get into some of the reasons checking in early might not be allowed, let me just say I have seen myself and heard from coworkers that people get extremely mad when they are told they can’t check in.

After reading this article you will hopefully have a better understanding of why campgrounds put these policies in effect. Trust me there are valid reasons. 

Ok, Let’s Get Started

Let’s talk about early check-in fees. Not all campgrounds charge these but we will discuss why some do. You must realize that a campground is a business. Just like a retail store, restaurant, or gas station, the owner of the campground is in business to make money. They have set daily fees, weekly fees, and possibly monthly fees. They are based on someone checking in at certain times and checking out at certain times.

What would make you think it’s ok to check in early without paying at least a partial fee? Let me give you an example.

You Might Pay Less Later In The Day

If you go to an amusement park or carnival you will usually pay less if you enter the park after a certain hour. You see, almost every business bases it’s fees on a set time. I am sure you have no problem paying that reduced fee at the amusement park for entering later in the day so why would you think it’s ok to check into a campground early without paying an extra fee?

Does that make sense to you? By trying to check in early you are actually trying to get free time. Giving away free time is not really a good business practice. 

Hopefully now you can see why a campground wants to charge you extra to check in early. If they don’t charge you to check in early, give them a big thank you!!!

Another Reason

Let’s look at another reason a campground may not allow you to check in early. This is probably the biggest reason. It is one that we understand completely. 

Since we started workamping in 2017, we have done almost every type of campground jobs. The one we like to do is housekeeping. There are many reasons for this but we will save that for another article. I have also done site clean ups and these two jobs might have something to do with a campground not allowing you to check in early.

Site Clean Up

Let’s look at the site clean up angle first. At the start of every day the outside maintenance/grounds crew is handed a list of campers checking out. Just as there is a check in time, there is also a check out time. That means campers have a certain time they have to be out by. 

Let’s say that the check out time is 11am. That means that technically that camper does not have to leave his/her spot until 11am. Obviously, if you roll up at 10:30am to check in there is a problem. I have seen this happen and even heard the camper trying to check in tell the person at the desk to tell the other camper to leave.

What? Are you kidding?

That person has every right to be on that spot until check out time. They have paid for that site until the required check out time. No questions asked. To take this one step further, after that person does vacate their site, it must be cleaned. That could entail cleaning out the fire pit, raking up around the site, or even making a repair to something on that site. 

After all, you pay for your site. I am quite sure you would be a little upset if you pull up to your site ready to camp and the fire pit is full of ashes or half burnt logs. What if the electrical outlet needed to be replaced or the water spigot needed repair? See where I am going with this? 

A Clean Site Where Everything Works

You must also realize that even though someone may pull out of a site, this does not mean that someone is standing by to jump right into that site to clean or make repairs. Usually every worker at a campground has a list of things to do during the day. They will have to finish whatever they are working on before they get to that site. Each and every camper deserves to get to their site and have a clean site with everything working. Do you agree? 

The same goes for those renting cabins. People have until a certain time to check out. That cabin can’t be cleaned until the person checks out. As housekeepers we see this first hand. In the morning we are given a list of cabins to clean. We know which ones are going to be re-rented and we try to clean these first but again, we can’t get in until the previous guest has checked out. 

It’s Not Your Right

So you see, just because you decided to show up early, it doesn’t give you the right to check-in early. You need to realize that while most campgrounds will try and accommodate you, it is not always possible.

So the next time you show up early and are told you have to pay a small fee or have to wait a little while, please be patient. Know that most campgrounds will do everything they can to get you into your site as fast as possible.

If you do have to wait, I am quite sure they will have a spot for you to park in until your site is ready. This may be a good time to just sit and relax after a long drive, bring your kids to the playground, or maybe even plan out your itinerary for your stay.

If they do allow you to check in early with no fees, give them a big fat thank you!!!


Have you ever tried to check in early to a campground? What happened? Did they let you in, charge you, or tell you it’s going to be a while? Leave us a comment below and tell us what happened.

2 thoughts on “Check-In Time Etiquette|What You Should Know About Early Check-Ins​

  1. As a former campground owner, this is something that we had to deal with all the time. Our checkout time was 11 AM and check-in was 1 PM. That gave us a 2 hour time frame to clean the sites. It also gave us a small window of time to accommodate the folks who are running a bit late checking out and the folks who a just a little bit early. We did charge an extra fee to those who were extremely late or extremely early. When you get someone who registers for one night but they show up Saturday at 9 AM and leave Sunday at 3 PM, you have been payed one night for almost an entire weekend. That doeesn’t make financial sense as a business owner. Thanks for your great explanation of early check-in policies.

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