By Nanci Dixon
More people than ever are taking up RVing. These newbies have determined that RVing is the safest way to travel in our pandemic times. The result is campground crowding like never before. In this weekly blog, RV Travel readers discuss their experiences. Maybe we can make some sense of this and find ways to work around the problem.
Here are a few observations from our readers.
As we all know, camping and RVing are on the rise. Sales are through the roof and RV manufacturers are seeing record profits. While we know the travel restrictions during COVID contributed to the onslaught of new campers, one reader has a different take on it. He believes websites like RVtravel.com may be creating the crowding!
IS RV TRAVEL CAUSING THE CAMPGROUND CROWDING?
SDW wrote: “It’s because of sites like this that have caused the crowding problem.
Everyone wants to quit their job and work on the road. And they go on YouTube trying to make money and tell the world how great RVing is without giving the whole picture. Heaven forbid they say anything negative since it would make them look like they made a mistake. Well, it’s starting to catch up with them. Sites like Campendium have done the worst damage.”
REALLY? WHERE IS ALL THAT CAMPGROUND CROWDING?
More than a few folks have written to say they are not finding the campground crowding that we talk about here and that others are seeing. Do they know something we don’t know? Or are they just really lucky?
Jennifer C. is finding sites and having a blast. “My husband and I are on an 8-week road trip with our travel trailer. We read the article, looked around at our current campground and wondered where this is happening? Camping isn’t meant to be luxury, it’s meant to be fun, relaxing, eating, exploring. I haven’t booked a site more than 2-3 days in advance with the exception of Memorial Day weekend. We are having a blast, have met great people and are absolutely loving life!!”
Ed B. is also finding places to stay for the night with no problem regarding campground crowding, and they have really been on the move! “Since the pandemic started we have traveled over 24,000 miles and we have no problems finding places to park for the night. We rarely stay in campgrounds anymore. Mostly BLM, Cracker Barrel, Walmart, and rest areas.”
BLM SITES AVAILABLE
Beverly C. had 26 BLM sites to themselves! “No, we haven’t had issues. We tend to like camping, especially boondocking in the cooler months bordering end of winter, early spring and fall. Also, we enjoy camping in non-peak season and if we really have a favorite camping spot we do book a year in advance – we love it. We got our trailer in late 2019 but have been tent camping for more than a decade before getting the camper. We just got back from Colorado and had a BLM campground with more than 26 sites to ourselves. Camping couldn’t be better.”
Dave J. is finding spots on their trip and RV dealers with full lots. “We routinely travel to/from the Black Hills of SD to Quartzsite. This year we detoured up to Mountain Home, ID, on the way back to the ‘hills. Never found a full park anywhere along our route as we meandered along rolling about 200 – 250 miles a day.”
AND THE STORAGE LOTS ARE FULL, TOO!
Ruby S. writes, “I have always been a planner and booked our trips in advance but booking has definitely become more and more difficult over the past 12-18 months. In addition to it being difficult to find reservations, many campgrounds are taking larger deposits and have changed their cancellation policies so there are monetary penalties even when you cancel more than 30 days in advance.
“After a very frustrating few months in 2020, we made the decision to leave the full-time RV life we loved so much and go back to a sticks and bricks home. We sold our 40’ 5th wheel and downsized to a 29’ travel trailer so we can still camp and travel whenever possible.
“Our TX state parks take reservations 6 months in advance but finding a spot is nearly impossible, even during the week. Another issue we’ve run into is finding a place to store the RV. Storage lots are completely full due to the large number of people who now also need a place to store their units when they aren’t using them.”
A WELCOME BLESSING
Dan E. mentioned Boondockers Welcome as an alternative to crowded campgrounds in his email. “Boondockers Welcome is a major blessing. Lots of sites and almost never have “no vacancies.” Every RVer should join boondockerswelcome.com. 3,000 hosts all over the world. It’s the best $50 you can spend in camping.”
Nita T. has seen the prices go insanely up, up, up. “As a Wagon Master for SMART, I have been trying to price out an RV Caravan on the Pacific Coast. Not only are the parks so booked, but the prices have gone through the roof!! I never, ever thought that we would have to pay $80 to $100 per site per night! Insanity is the new normal!”
A SYSTEM THAT WORKS!
Sam C. shares his system of travel that works well for him and his wife, and avoids campground crowding. “Our method is to first pick a destination using RV Trip wizard. Then we pick the desired route. Our rate of travel is about 200 miles each Sunday. (The days between Sundays are for relaxation and seeing the local area, and maybe short side trips.) We then start calling parks in the desired stop location and reserve for the desired week. Usually, this is at least a week in advance, often more.
“I’d be content to plan only a few hours in advance, like while underway for the coming night. But my wife is working remotely and requires stopping in someplace with internet availability, almost always at an RV park. And she is uncomfortable if she doesn’t know for sure. I retired years ago and uncertainty has never been a problem for me.”
RESEARCH AHEAD OF TIME SAVES HEADACHES LATER
David J. reminds us that planning, as painful as it is, can save headaches later. “Retired two years ago, we spent a ton of time and money on mods for our Class A. We find doing a little research ahead of time saves a big headache later. Living in California we completely understand the overcrowding issue. Planning is key although sometimes frustrating. We’ve always been able to find a site where we want to go. I don’t let this upset me too much. After all, we are retired and have no schedule, so if one place doesn’t work another one will. Happy trails to all of you.”
Now, some questions for you about campground crowding:
• Are you finding more and more campgrounds booked up? Or are you having no problem finding places to stay?
• If campgrounds continue to be crowded and RVing continues to become more popular, will it affect how or when you RV?
• Do you have any tips or secrets you’d like to share about finding campgrounds that aren’t as crowded?
Please use the form below to answer one or more of these questions, or tell us what you’ve experienced with campground crowding in general.
Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column here.