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.
Camp host throwing in the towel
Not only are campground owners throwing in the towel and giving it up, so are some camp hosts. Camp host Jade E. reflects on newbies, crowding and having to book out further and further: “Hello there! Campground host here! I’ve been full-time at the same campground for about three years now. I can definitely agree that things are booked further and further in advance and there’s a lot of ‘newbie’ campers who have yet to learn, or care about, camping etiquette. It’s a sad thing to see, and this year doesn’t seem to be slowing down now that more and more things are opening up. It’ll probably be our last year camp hosting because of the mass amount of blatant disregard for the mountains, and also with the campground constantly being full, I have no time to enjoy nature myself! Definitely love the old school campers!”
Weekends are FULL
It seems that one week no one has a problem getting a site and then the next week everyone does! I have posted several times previously that we had no problem finding spots while traveling and have had good luck now that we have “landed.” I take back the ‘having good luck when landing’ part. It is the weekend as I write this in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes and about triple that number of people out camping! Or at least it seems like it…
It is a record heat wave here now. For the last two weeks I have been online and calling to find a two-night Friday/Saturday site with at least 30-amp service. No, no, no. Anyone who camps in an RV in the heat knows that the interior heat is compounded. Outside is usually cooler if the AC is not running. So … yes, there is campground crowding, at least on the weekends.
Tom G. wrote about jammed weekend camping in Wisconsin and an incentive to camp weekdays. “Campgrounds are jammed on weekends. Some campgrounds in southeast Wisconsin are now offering a ‘stay four, pay for three’ deal on weekdays. Come in on Monday afternoon and leave on Friday before noon and pay for just three nights. That cuts a $60 a night stay down to $45 a night.”
Goodbye to “Harvey the RV” – but not due to campground crowding
Rich S. is sadly saying goodbye to their RV. “Upon retiring in 2017, we bought a used class A motorhome with the desire to ‘see the USA.’ We’ve have camped in 47 states and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It’s with some sadness we’ve decided to sell our ‘Harvey the RV’ in August and end the RV life. But it’s NOT because of overcrowded campgrounds. It’s more the cost and the work that goes into running an RV on a fixed retiree’s income and slowing down as we age (70+). My best wishes go to all RVers everywhere that they have safety as they travel and enjoy camping as we have.”
We wish Rich all the best as he passes along the RV keys.
Tips to get a site in spite of crowded campgrounds
Ed T. shared some of his tips learned from experience for getting a site. “When we went to Alaska in 2018, we encountered full campgrounds (Colorado, Yukon, Alaska). This typically happened when we did not call ahead and waited until 4 p.m. or later to start looking. As RVing becomes more popular and campsites get harder to find, we will try to camp during less popular times and be diligent to reserve as far in advance as possible. The downside of this is that our travel itinerary has become much more rigid.
– Book as far in advance as possible.
– Know booking windows for national and state park campgrounds and be on the reservation website when the sites are made available. Often available sites will be booked in less than 5 minutes!
– Be flexible. Know black/gray water capacity and take a partial-hookup site if available when a full-hookup site is not available.
– Use a camping app like RV Trip Wizard to see all campgrounds in the area should your first choice not be available.
– Boondock more and use America the Beautiful (parks) pass to save 50% on camping (you must be 62 or older).
– If you don’t have reservations, call ahead to book and if you can’t call, don’t wait to start checking until late in the afternoon.”
The cost to camp has skyrocketed!
My husband and I are full-time RVers and the cost of camping has skyrocketed in the last five years. Where it was unheard of to book a $60-a-night campsite, I am finding sites up to $118 a night on the West Coast. Even a local regional park has raised its rates from $35 a night to $50 a night for a full-hookup site his year. And compared to the private campgrounds in the area it is a bargain! When traveling, I am finding our monthly site costs are more than a house mortgage would be!
Ed T. wrote in about the challenging costs of camping. “A bigger challenge is the cost of campsites. It is getting more and more common to pay $60+ per night at commercial parks and $40 per night at state parks. This adds up over an extended trip.” It sure does, Ed!
Montgomery B. also commented on the higher costs of camping. “Getting weekends at any COE park is not possible near where we live. Private RV parks are not as crowded, but the pricing model will ruin them if it continues. I bring my bathroom, sink, stove, and heat/cooling with me. So I don’t want to pay $90 a night for a spot. I want to pay $20-$35 a night. It’s my money and I choose to spend it my way. I don’t need your campground if you are too expensive! Value is in the eye of the user, not the beholder.”
Pass it on
Jan K. is a full-time RVer who has also found campgrounds full. They have been able to pass on their knowledge to the newbies. “We are FT RVers who boondock the majority of the year. There are a few favorite state parks we like to stay in and, yes, this year the spots were reserved well in advance of our usual 3-4 month pre-arrival reservations. We stayed at the NPS Marble Canyon, AZ, campground and it was full all 10 days we were there. We’ve had the opportunity to tutor some new RVers as to how campground reservations/FCFS work, that some campgrounds don’t have utilities and how to know this in advance, safe waste tank dumping and more. It’s nice to be able to pass on some knowledge to help their experience be positive.”
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.