We never thought this would be an issue for us when we began traveling in our converted school bus. We figured that a motorhome would be considered a motorhome no matter what, but we were wrong.
To our surprise, and the surprise of many with whom we have shared this experience, many rv parks will simply deny us a stay, sight-unseen, when we mention that we drive a converted school bus. This hasn’t stopped us from our travels, but it has on more than one occasion detoured us away from our intended path just to reach an open-minded rv park or a state campground.
So what is the problem? Why should an rv park decide that our humble little skoolie poses some kind of detriment to their establishment? Why would they refuse to take our money? Well, here are the two big reasons why rv parks may discriminate against school bus conversions and other non-traditional mortorhomes (including van conversions, and older rv, even if they are remodeled).
The first reason is the association of school bus conversions with hippies from the 1960s or Burning Man-type festival goers. For some park managers the image of a skoolie is synonymous with the drug use and “loose morals” of my mother’s generation. They expect our bus to arrive with large colorful flowers painted on the sides of the bus, with peace signs for hubcaps, and a permanent cloud of pot smoke trailing behind. They simply assume all skoolies are driven by hippies.
The second reason has more to do with the preferred clientele of the rv parks: retirees with very expensive Class A motorhomes and wealthy weekenders on holiday. Since rv parks have the luxury of picking their visitors, and they compete fiercely for the top dollar rv’er, many decide that the loss of revenue that comes from turning away a skoolie or other types of DIY motorhomes is worth it if it protects or increases the top dollar clientele. To some extent we can appreciate the logic behind this rationale.
For this very same reason the same rv parks who might deny us a stay, also tend to dislike older rv’s. In one of the parks where we stayed the standing rule was that no rv would be allowed to stay unless it was ten years old or younger. This is an effective way to keep poor people out of the rv parks. (NOTE: we have never been denied by a KOA campground)
Skoolies like ours, even if they are well made and express only conservatively tasteful aesthetics, still raise a number of questions about our life choices and finances of the people living within and that steers many rv park managers away from accepting skoolies. To go along with the first reason, rv park managers that do accept skoolies enter into a uncertain bargain wherein the possibility arises that a crappy, run-down rust-bucket of a school bus conversion ends up parked next to a $100k Class A motorhome. More often than not rv park managers would rather have a park full of wealthy clients whom they can overcharge for everything, than a park full of cost-conscious DIY’ers.
So, how have we dealt with this? First, we keep a supply of recent images of our skoolie, photos from inside and out, ready to email to any rv park if they express any concern about our vehicle. We make sure to include a picture of Finn, our little terrier mutt, for the extra “aww” effect. Also often we have gotten into the habit of not volunteering information about our vehicle. They might ask something like, “what year is your RV?” and we honestly answer “Our motorhome is a renovated 1996 model.” If they ask about the model or brand, we tell them honestly, “it is an International 3800.” Only if they ask directly if the motorhome is an rv, do we say it is in fact a converted school bus. Also we always have Katy and her sweet angelic voice make the reservations, just in case.
When that particular rv park mentioned earlier that would not admit any rv’s older than ten years, the only reason we got to stay there was because they made a mistake and never actually asked us about the nature of our vehicle. Only after a couple of days at the park did we find out that we were in violation of their policies and they refused to extend our stay. Oh well, another rv park ended up with our business.
In the end, we do not have a “right” to an rv park and they have the right to refuse service at will. So this kind of discrimination will likely continue. Also there are always alternatives to rv parks. We can boondock in BLM lands, we can stay in public parks and campgrounds, and there are National Parks. If all else fails, there are highway rest stops and Wal-Mart parking lots. In any case we always try to act like the model rv’er to try and dispel any negative stereotypes, but that’s the long road ahead.