Tuesday, December 5, 2023


Campground Crowding: “I empathize with those who didn’t get to camp the way we did”

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.

Our readers have commented frequently on the increasing number of workers and full-time residents at RV parks. I have certainly noticed it, as well, since we have been traveling recently. If I didn’t notice it when we reached the park, I sure can notice it at 5:30 a.m. the following morning when the cars and trucks start revving up and leaving the campground for the day!

“Campground crowding” is a tempest in a teacup!

We get a number of emails from people that aren’t having a problem finding a campsite. In our travels, we seldom had an issue finding something for one night or two, either.

Larry R. brings this perspective to overcrowding: “We are having no problem reserving the place we like to stay. There are only so many spots in a campground. I am not sure what ‘overcrowding’ means. I think this is a tempest in a teacup.”

Eric R. wonders if talk of crowded campgrounds actually pushes people away. “It is Memorial Day weekend and I am staying at the Delaware Seashore State Park (Indian River Inlet) for the 6th or 7th year in a row. (2020 you could park and hook up but not use the bathhouse). Over any normal Memorial Day weekend, all sites would be full plus you would have at least 2-3 RVs in the overflow lot waiting to see if something popped open. This year there are at least six sites that are open for the weekend. I wonder if all of the overcrowding talk has pushed people away?”

It seems that reader Emma T. is one of those folks who Eric is referring to. Emma writes, “I have avoided camping so far this year because of all the comments on crowded campgrounds. I can’t bear the thought of being shoved in a campground. I’ll wait until all these newbies sell their RVs and get back to their beach house vacation rentals before I book a campsite again.”

Sue W. added this about full campgrounds: “We have been on the road for a month and have not yet seen a full campground. We are following our usual routine of calling the same day or a day ahead for a space. We have no schedule. I always have a fallback location, mostly a boondocking site if needed. I forgot about Memorial Day weekend and decided to call and book. This campground was near Reno and they had spaces. Maybe the ‘resort’ campgrounds are full, but we don’t go to those.”

Home for the holidays to avoid crowded campgrounds

Last week we mentioned how difficult it can be to get anywhere with hookups for the holiday weekends. Not only is it sometimes difficult to find a holiday spot, it is becoming increasingly expensive.

Robert B. wrote in and said, “For the first time in many years we are home for the Memorial Day weekend. We usually book about a month ahead, but this year even two months was not good enough. And when I looked, most places are booked up through June. On top of that, the prices have skyrocketed. A spot in Myrtle Beach that was $60 per night ten years ago is now $135 with fees and taxes. That’s just too much for a parking spot for retirees. If this keeps up I think we’ll sell the camper and buy a permanent spot in a mountain campground.”

Ellen L. explains her park’s deposit requirements: “I workcamp at an RV resort in North Central Florida – Ocala area. This past week before Memorial Day weekend, many people were calling in to reserve for the holiday. The first sites to fill up were the long pull-thru sites. Some were taking just Saturday and Sunday but most wanted at least 3 days. It was like they ‘just realized’ that there was a holiday coming up. Our policy is that the deposit has to be for the whole stay and is non-refundable. If you cannot stay with us, the deposit remains on your customer account for a different stay. In my opinion, parks have been burned by people not showing up when they only lose a small down payment. I tell guests, ‘You don’t get the deposit back, but you don’t lose it, either.’

We shall see how the July 4th holiday works out!

Should companies set up “campsites” at job sites?

Marty H. has this suggestion for easing the campground crowding and providing a place for a company’s workers: “As we know, parks are becoming filled with temp workers,(pipeline, plant rehabs, traveling medical, etc.). Many are being approached to rent the entire park at a premium price. Why don’t these corporations set up temporary accommodations at the job site? All they would need is a portable generator and to hire a pump-out service. These workers rarely take advantage of the park’s amenities anyway, and only require a place to hang their hat for the night.”

Book early, be persistent and really love RVing

Thom C. puts a positive spin on the future for those of us that really love RVing. “I am not retired. I work a full-time job. My wife and I started booking in March and have a long weekend or a week or better reserved each month through November. I had no problem booking my choice of sites at every desired destination.

“Some friends decided to join us during two of our trips – one in June and one in November. The site we booked for November is full-up and they cannot get in (yet), but the site we booked for June had a couple of sites open up after initially having no vacancy.

“Our friends were persistent and got what they wanted and for when. And they started trying to book at the same places we did, but in mid-May. So, I found that if you book early or are persistent, you can still find a nice spot.

“One last comment. I believe that once everything is back to pre-COVID norms, many of the new campers – those that simply needed to get out – will return to traditional vacationing, and those of us who love RVing, truly love it, will be left with much more choice.”

Location, location, location to avoid crowded campgrounds

Campground crowding appears to vary by location. We often hear about both coasts, the short-season Northwoods, Utah, and Montana being difficult to reserve.

Karen A. says, “In Montana, it is hard to reserve good campsites. There are a lot of out-of-state campers and a lot of new ones, so, yes, it is hard to reserve especially Thursday thru Sunday. No reservation sites are just as full also.”

Ahh – The good ol’ days

Mo K. reminisces a bit about the evolution of camping and the good ol’ days. “My first camping experiences back in the ’70s were primitive style. Once we even built a lean-to to sleep in, then graduated to an old army tent! We always gravitated to forests and lakes with lots of solitude and quiet. We enjoyed cooking over a campfire, even roasts and lobsters! And then watching the flames leap… The next step involved a canoe, so we looked for state parks near lakes. These were all no-hookup sites back then. Then even these places got crowded, sites were smaller and closer together, rowdies brought along boom boxes, yelling ‘Where’s the party?’ Ugh. So things are evolving and we miss the old days and old experiences. And I empathize with all those who didn’t get to camp the way we did. We still seek out the quiet places, but being seniors we appreciate the hookups at state and county parks, as well as our 27′ travel trailer! And folks generally respect the restrictions on noise, etc., in our area as long as you choose places with the fewest amenities and the largest sites!”

Now, some questions for you:

• 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.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column here



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Brenda Odom (@guest_129729)
2 years ago

Not sure how many other states have these, but I just noticed here in South Carolina there is a Facebook page called “SC Campsite Catch and Release.” Folks who are cancelling their reservation post the information on the FB page, giving location, dates and time they are calling to cancel. Those who are following may be able to call and get that site. Thought this was a great idea!

TomS (@guest_129588)
2 years ago

I wonder how many of those empty sites are no shows ?

Genette Dies (@guest_129568)
2 years ago

Full timing it is not what it used to be. My husband and I started out eight years ago full-time in our 32 foot Rv.
When he passed away three years ago I decided to continue the life, first of all it was an inexpensive way for me to live on my limited income as a senior citizen but most of all because I love it.
That is not the case anymore. Although I keep my home neat and clean often times I am not allowed into a park because my RV is 14 years old. More times than not they have gone up so much in price I cannot afford them.
This year I am sad to say I will be selling my RV and looking for a studio apartment somewhere in the south. Not what I wanted to do but it’s either that or live with my children and that does not appeal to either them or I.
Times have changed and unfortunately I am seeing more and more of where the RV lifestyle is becoming more for those with the fat bank account and less for those that depended on it to enjoy the end of their days in a frugal way.

Cher from Texas (@guest_129405)
2 years ago

It may depend on how close the campground is to a large city. Those state parks fill up quickly here in Texas–especially for the weekends. If you can camp during the week, you are okay.

It may also depend on location. I have a friend who lives in Florida (not a retiree) who wants to go camping in South Florida with her family. Everything was booked many months out. I suspect these are “snow birders” who live up north and who come south and move around the state campgrounds every two weeks. I know some couples who do that here in Texas as well. I realize this is good for the state’s tourism business (so I’m not putting down the large number of people who do this). However, it also doesn’t seem fair that the people who live in the state and pay the taxes can’t find a spot in a popular place.

I also wonder what happens if we have an economic downturn (let’s hope not a collapse!). Will people try to use the state parks and nature areas as living space? Not easy to solve this.

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