The “Camp” in Campus Park and Ride

The website promises no trees, grass, lakes, or anything else that you typically associate with camping. They weren’t exaggerating. Campus Park and Ride is a parking lot where commuters to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and surrounding areas can park their cars and take a shuttle bus. A typical park and ride… except that this park and ride developed part of their lot into a makeshift RV park and also reaches out to Philadelphia tourists.

Our “campsite” next to a bus

Large trailers and crowded city streets generally don’t go well together. We had promised the kids a day at the Franklin Institute before we left the Philly area but we didn’t have many options for parking our trailer within a reasonable distance. Then we found Campus Park and Ride.

In general, we would recommend it to other travelers, though there are some things that I wish we had known beforehand that could have made our stay even better.

What we liked:

Location, location, location. It wasn’t hard to find and there was minimal driving on narrow city streets. Most of the drive was on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76). We had a beautiful skyline view. The shuttle got us to within a reasonable walking distance of where we wanted to go, so we skipped additional transit costs. The employees were friendly and reasonable. There was a gate with a security guard and security cameras in the lot, so it felt like a safe place to park.

Philadelphia RV

The front of our camper, the back of the shuttle bus and the skyline in the background

What we liked less:

The shuttle runs 24/7 at regular intervals and when the shuttle bus isn’t picking people up or dropping them off, it’s sitting in the RV lot idling. It’s not a quiet place to park. The bathrooms are adequate but a bit cold inside. We were not daring enough to try the showers. There were no sewage hook-ups at the sites, and the dump station was in a very awkward place where we would have needed a much longer hose in order to use it. The site was definitely not a place where we could let the kids go outside by themselves because of traffic, but that was to be expected. The security guard at the gate was sleeping when we were leaving, and after waiting and honking our horn, we eventually had to walk over and wake him up so he could open the gate and let us out. So maybe slightly less secure than we thought.

What we wish we’d known:

The costs listed on the website are unclear and therefore a bit misleading. When it lists a rate of $30 per night for RVs under 30ft (which ours is), this is only the price for the RV or trailer itself. Our tow vehicle cost an additional $13. Most RV parks assume that your trailer is being towed by something and there is rarely an additional charge for this vehicle. Also not listed is Philadelphia’s parking tax of 22.5%. Obviously there’s nothing they can do about this, but since most tourists are not aware of this tax we felt it should have been listed on their website. So we expected to pay $30 per night, but the total was over $50 per night. When we reacted to this and explained our surprise, they only charged us for one night, though we stayed two. They were really reasonable about it, but we felt blindsided.

The stop for the return shuttle was not marked in any way and among a number of other bus and shuttle stops, it was difficult to find, especially in the dark. It was basically across the street from where we got off in the morning, but still we nearly missed the shuttle as we stood waiting in the cold because we weren’t quite in the right place. Eventually Staffan ran down the block to ask the driver of an unmarked shuttle bus and then waved the rest of us down to get on the bus before it left. Nothing like running on a crowded sidewalk with two kids and a stroller!

 

In the end, the cost worked out well since they only charged us for one night. Had we known that it would cost us over $100 to stay for two nights, I’m not sure if we’d have chosen to stay there. Had we stayed someplace cheaper outside the city, a family train pass or all day parking would have eaten up a lot of those savings. The time saved in transit may have been worth paying a little extra.

Staying at Campus Park and Ride was a unique and overall positive experience, and RVers who plan to visit Philadelphia should definitely consider it!

 

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