When Children Are Not Welcome at a Campground

UPDATE: I wanted to come back and edit this review to explain how we feel about this situation seven years later!  That’s right! It’s been nearly seven years since this visit, so I feel a little hindsight and experience there is more you need to know here.

The first thing you need to know about fulltime traveling is campground employees will make or break your stay.  One bad encounter with a Thousand Trails employee at ANY park can really ruin your stay there.  It doesn’t matter if it is the newest, cleanest, nicest park in the entire system; if the employees fail to realize they are working in a hospitality position and they are jaded, confrontational, rude, or unusually difficult, your experience and positive outlook is going to be completely tarnished. ON THE FLIP side: polite, outgoing, and happy employees can make your stay at even the most run-down park amazing!

Secondly, large families have a different experience than small families, or adults traveling without children, at many Thousand Trails parks. I have heard horrible stories from several other parents who travel as a large family and we all agree that the parks treat us differently.  Moral of the story, if you have two children between the ages of five and nine, no babies, toddlers, or teenagers, your stay is going to be great…maybe….look for the smiling faces y’all and you will be safe there!

Disclaimer: We stayed at Diamond Caverns as part of our paid Thousand Trails membership plan during the month of May, 2013.  We have received no compensation or benefits from them (or Thousand Trails) in return for this review.

I was so excited to arrive in Kentucky at Diamond Caverns, the park that was named “Thousand Trails Top Park!”

When we arrived we found the prettiest tent camping site (Site D1), right in front of the all of the action! While our site wasn’t too level, it did have green grass and shade. I loved our close proximity to the game room, main bath house, gym, and pool! How wonderful is that- no driving necessary!

 We arrived a little late (after 9 p.m.), so we decided to toss up our tent and readjust everything the next morning. Thankfully, we had pre-registered with the office online so they were able to leave us “after-hours check-in instructions”.  Simply put, we were told to go ahead and find a spot and come to the main off in the morning to tell them where we planned to camp for the remainder of our stay.

Wow- What a time Change!

We are not accustomed to the time change and woke up rather early. We thought this was fantastic, but on my husband’s way to the restroom he was greeted by an rather unfriendly worker who was DEMANDING to know who gave us permission to be in our site because he didn’t have us on his clip-board!

“Okay buddy, it’s not even 8 a.m. yet! Can you at least give us a second to gather our thoughts?”

After we awoke I was able to confirm with the main office that I had followed all of their directions correctly and he was mistaken- but wow! Boy is he friendly! (Just wait, it gets better…)

After I confirmed everything with the office, I came back to finish setting up our campsite when my husband noticed we didn’t have any water. I attempted to ask the cleaning ladies but they directed me back to Mr. Meanie. He was very helpful – here’s how that play by play went…

Me – “Hi, the water doesn’t appear to be working on our site”

Mr. Meanie – “No it’s not”

Crickets chirping for a few seconds…

Me – “Do you know what can be done about that?”

Mr. Meanie – “There’s a great site down by the dumpster you can move to”

Me – “Well, I really need to stay near the wifi, and I prefer a site that is more tent friendly…is there a reason the water isn’t working?”

[More open silence here as I am appalled that he suggested we move near the dumpster…]

Mr. Meanie – “There is a spicket next to the bath house you can use.”

Me – “Can we run our water hose from it”

Mr Meanie – “WELL NO!”

Me – “Okay, well then that won’t work too well. Maybe someone just needs to turn on the water in this section of the camp. I understand that some sections are often turned off during the winter. Maybe I am the first person of the season to ask..”

Mr Meanie – “No, there is a leak in the pump house and we can’t get to it because of the pool chairs”

Me – “Can you move them?”

Mr Meanie – [walks away and starts talking to the man painting the pool]

Pool Man – “The leak was fixed a long time ago. All you have to do is turn the water back on in that section!”

Mr Meanie – “I did not know that…”

Seriously? This guy had no intention of helping us in any way. If I hadn’t pressed the issue, that water may never have been turned back on this past spring! Ha!

Don’t worry, this isn’t the end of Mr. Meanie… he will reprise his role again in a minute.

Nice Game Room…

After we were able to get setup properly, we ventured around the park, and eventually, into the game room.  I was impressed, the game room was really clean, well maintained, and moreso- there was so much to do!   There was a large TV area with a couch and game tables, nearby was a play area for little ones, and through another door was a arcade!  All I could think was “My kids are going to have so much fun in here!”

STOProad

That was, until I saw the sign saying that children needed to be twelve or older to be in the game-room without an adult.  Ugh… this wasn’t a BIG deal, however, it wasn’t great either. My little ones won’t be able to play with the big kids without one of us joining.  This might be difficult considering our camp was directly in front of the game room… I guess the important thing was that my bigger bunch was able to go in on their own…

Later that day my son came back to camp sulking.  When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that Mr. Meanie told him he couldn’t be in the game room.  Confused, I went and spoke with him about the matter.

Mr. Meanie kindly explained that they had experienced some vandalism a few months back and they are more cautious about children being in there without adult supervision.  I get that, really I do.  But I still went on to explain that my children are the only ones in the park at the time, parents are located nearby, and we were following the rules as their sign states my thirteen year-old IS allowed in there without me… he backed off.

After dinner was over the girls opted to watch Steel Magnolias with the women in a large movie room/pavilion area.  Since my oldest son has little interest in the movie, we allowed him to watch TV in the game room on his own.   Within thirty minutes a nighttime camp host kicked him out of the gameroom… here we go again.

Since this was a new guy I attempted to keep my cool. I explained that he was of age to be in there alone, he was sitting quietly watching tv, we knew this because we had checked on him at least once already [to be sure the camp hosts were leaving him alone, lol…].

The nighttime camp host (Mr. Grumpy) stated that Mr. Meanie told him “No Kids after 8” and he was following directions.  He then said “Well, if it is a problem, I may go ahead and close the game room for the night altogether until I can find out what I am supposed to be doing about this matter.”

Confused me says “So, because you don’t want to follow your own rules, you are going to close the game room at eight o’clock on the weekend so you don’t have to deal with me?  That doesn’t make any sense.  You have a ‘chick flick’ playing in the other building, and the only thing my son has left to do while the girls are off watching that is sit in the game room, text his friend, and watch TV! You are going to deny him that because you don’t FEEL like dealing with your OWN rules?  Do you want to go and watch Steel Magnolias with the elderly women?”

Mr. Grumpy shook his head and said “No!”…

“So, why would you think my thirteen year-old would want to?”  I asked.

Mr. Grumpy:  “I guess he can stay in there until the movie is over.”

Round Two (or is it three?):

The next morning I awoke to a cranky Grandma (my mother) complaining that the game room wasn’t open yet for the day.  To top it off, the internet wasn’t working and I needed to get several hours of work completed online… “Ugh, here we go again”.

Not wanting to be a thorn, I decided to wait this out for a few minutes.  I sat at my camp watching campground host going about their morning, the maintenance and housekeeping crew came and went several times.   At ten o’clock I decided I had waited long enough.  I set off to find some answers…

After a few minutes I stumbled upon the manager making her rounds.  (Perfect).  I asked her about the game room and told her about my unpleasant experience thus-far.  She assured me that she would have the room opened and would talk to them to be sure they understood that my oldest bunch is allowed to be in the game room without adult supervision… etc., etc.

Pleased with the discussion, I went back to camp and waited for someone to unlock the door.   Within minutes the door was unlocked.  I sent my son along while I gathered my laptop…

He is DENIED ENTRY!!!!  Mr. Meanie stood in the doorway and refused to allow my son in the game room!

Are you kidding me?  At this point, I flip!  My husband flips!  Grandma flips!  Game over…..  I can’t even give you a play by play because there was a LOT being said all at once.  Not good, not good.  The conversation closed when Mr. Meanie took the sign [that says my son was allowed in the game room unattended] down and started to walk away.  At this point I was already on the phone with Thousand Trails.  When I told him I was on hold with Thousand Trails he proceed to tell me:

“Go ahead, I don’t answer to Thousand Trails anyway!”

At this point I am DONE DONE DONE!  While I am on hold on my cell, I get in my car and drive to the front office.  When I arrived, they were already expecting me and I was directed to the main office, about two miles down the road.

Remember that sweet manager I spoke with earlier in the day?  I got to see her again.  She gave me a long song and dance about how Mr. Meanie has been working for that park for years and he is not well. Of course, she wasn’t making excuses for him in any way.    Our conversation ended with us demanding a refund and reservations at a nearby park in Tennessee.  She took care of it for us and we packed up camp.  We were Tennessee bound by noon.

What you want to know….

While I was at the manager’s office I asked how the park received the honor of “Park of the year”.  She told me that many of the elderly RV clubs hold rallies at their Golf Resort and enjoy their stay enough to place their votes for them.  I also learned that the campground for Thousand Trails members is completely different from the camp that the retail Golf Club uses AND all of the activities are separate- as though they are two different parks.    What this means is, when you are looking at the brochure and information for this park, you need to be sure you understand that you will not even see anything that is on the photograph during your stay.  It isn’t even on your campground map!  I find this dishonest.

During our, (almost) two-day stay, we noted that the grounds and facilities are well maintained.  The main bath house was very clean and in good working order.  I would say this was our top maintained bath house we had seen so far that summer!

My only recommendation is to proceed with caution when camping with your kids here, and maybe consider the Yogi Bear right down the road.  From what I understand the Yogi nearby is VERY kid friendly.

Notes:

My apologies for not providing you with pictures of our visit.  We were supposed to be there for two weeks and only stayed for two days.  As a result of our short stay, we were not able to complete proper photographs for this blog post.  Please checkout this video I grabbed from a YouTube so you can get a view of the park.  The preparer of the video is NOT associated with Travel Family Adventure and they are not involved in this matter in anyway.  I am only including it so you can take a look around the park for yourself.

 

 

I sent the following email to Thousand Trails immediately after the incident on May 20, 2013:

RE: Diamond Caverns, KY

Hi, we just left Diamond Caverns over the weekend after being there for a couple of days due to the misuse of authority by the long-term work camper there named Walter. I have addressed our concern with the manager (Lana) and she helped relocate us to a friendlier park, however, I would like to be sure the issue is handled and not just pushed under the rug once we left.It is very clear to us that families with children are not welcome at this park. We have five children, ages 13-0 and have never had a problem with our children’s behavior at a park before. The work campers refused to allow my 12 and 13 year-olds access to the game room with out an adult although their sign said they were permitted to be in there alone.

Each time my oldest was in the room sitting on the couch watching TV alone he was confronted by a work camper and told to leave.

On one occasion the women of the park were watching Steel Magnolias in the pavilion. Since my daughters were watching the movie we allowed him to go and watch TV in the game room instead (what 13 year old boy wants to watch Steel Magnolias?). A work camper came in and told him he had to leave. When I confronted the camper (not Walter but another man from Texas) he said that Walter told him that the kids were not allowed in there alone. I explained that my child was over the permitted age to be in there alone and he said “well, I have to close it at 8 pm anyway because I close everything up at 8.” (at this point it was 7:52 pm) When I pointed out that the ladies are still in the pavilion and asked if he could stay so long as the ladies were still there he agreed.

The next morning (Saturday) both male camp workers refused to open the game room even after I asked Lana to have them open it. It was 10:30 when I finally asked for the 4th time and Walter opened it only because I needed to get in there and work online. After he opened it he stood at the door and refused to allow my son to enter unless he brought an adult with him. At this point – we were furious and pointed out AGAIN that their sign says he can be allowed in there. So, Walter goes and pulled the sign down and said “Now he can’t”. I stood at the door and attempted to call customer service of Thousand Trails and he said “Go ahead, I don’t answer to Thousand Trails anyway!”

When I did not receive an answer from your office I drove down to see Lana. She then gave me a song and dance about how Walter is aging and he has been working for that park since before her and that is why they do tolerate more from him than other workers – but she does understand that the issue needs to be addressed. She kindly refunded my stay and helped us relocate to Natchez Trace, TN instead.

Yes, we relocated, however, we relocated before we had the funds to do so, ended up lost in the middle of nowhere in the middle of night – it was a mess of a day (to say the least). I also lost over $100 in profit because I had to relocate to another state when I was supposed to be working. His abuse of power resulted in a bigger mess than just him being a jackass and us moving on. It put my family in quite a bind.

I do not feel that he should be an employee of Thousand Trails any longer and am demanding he be terminated.

This is my first attempt at having this matter handled further than Diamond Caverns. I will also be contacting Thousand Trails by telephone, contacting board members in writing, as well as writing a full review and report on my travel blog for other traveling families to be aware.

Please advise if there are additional steps that should be taken to rectify this situation.

I received the following email later that day:

Hi Victoria – We are sorry to hear about your experience at Diamond Caverns. We have passed this along to upper management and will be in touch as soon as we’ve heard something from the team. Thank you for making us aware of this situation and we hope you ended up enjoying your time at Natchez Trace.

Much like most urgent matters that have been brought to Thousand Trails corporate office, I never heard back from anyone.

18 thoughts on “When Children Are Not Welcome at a Campground

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    Looking up reviews is always a great idea. Sad that this happened.

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    sigh. camping is a wonderful family activity and it always makes me sad when my kids are not welcome.

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    Sounds like you should have gotten a refund.

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    Wow, I’m glad I’ve never been camping. It doesn’t sound like a very pleasant experience with children. Thanks for posting!

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    I hate when people who are clearly not ‘people persons’ go into hospitality jobs. They are soooo not in the right jobs.

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    What a horrible experience. I will not ever go there.

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    It’s very unusual that children aren’t welcome at a campground

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    Wow! How a mean, grumpy employee can ruin a whole camp site.
    Good tips in your update.

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    Sounds like you had a bad experience

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    Wow, I didn’t even know this was a thing! Seems an odd thing to do because you would lose a lot of family business.

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    Oh my if I had nickel for every time an issue got moved to the “upper management”. What the email should have said is “We could care less but it would take to much effort on our part so here is a few words that we have saved Ina file to placate and make you feel like your complaint was received.”

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    This is so sad. I don’t know if I would have handled this as nice as you did. I am so sorry for your experience. I know one thing. I will never go there with my family. Thank you so much for sharing this

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    It’s so strange, you would think campgrounds would always be super family-friendly. We live out on the edge of a state park and one of our neighbors has made a living from the park, selling necessities, snacks and showers! He even has working toilet outhouses he “rents” per use! It’s pretty funny the things some campers just can’t seem to go without. But water? I can’t believe they’d even rent out a spot that had no water access, they really should be ashamed.

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    This is just not the kind of experience that one wants to deal with when on vacation. I am not surprised that you left after 2 days.

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    Wow. What an awful experience! We’ll be sure to never stay there on our travels!

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    Wow. I’ m so sorry that happened. Mr. Meanie and Mr. Grumpy absolutely would not have like me!

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    I will check reviews from now on. Thanks for sharing.

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