Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Campground Crowding: State park policies holding RVers “hostage”

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.

Be the camper the host wants back

Vicki S. has a new spin on getting the best sites. “I’m sorry to say that campgrounds have become like many businesses: You’re treated differently if you’re a friend or family member or a friend of a friend. One suggestion I have is to get yourself moved to the top of the list when you get into a park … in other words, make yourself memorable. Be the camper the host wants back. The number one thing to put you on the bottom of the list and keep you there is your pet. Keep it quiet, leashed, and at your site.”

Boondockers Welcome, get a membership – really!

Every week we hear about Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome as crowded campground alternatives. Many of the staff at RV Travel have memberships and use both. We can’t recommend them enough.

This week Ramona C. wrote in and said, “Join Boondockers Welcome. It is a membership program of RVers who have extra space at their homes (could be a driveway or acres of land) and will let you park for free for one or more days. They are great people and the only thing they sometimes charge is to plug into their electricity (which is fair). THAT is the best tip I can give anyone because there are people [hosts] all over the country and that is always my fallback position or sometimes my first choice depending on the property.”

Paul G. also mentioned Boondockers Welcome and shared his experience so far this season finding spots. “We have been on the road for just over 30 days this season and we only had one reservation made a couple of months ahead for a known date and location. We traveled over several days and got sites at first-choice campgrounds each night, and we had no problem finding boondocking sites either. This was May in CA, NV, and NM. Our trip also included a Boondockers Welcome stay. After a couple of days, we moved out again and have found sites in commercial campgrounds with a couple of days’ notice and also stayed at one Elks Lodge. I imagine we may run into some problems as we get further into the season but we are very flexible with Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and access to the Days End Directory through our Escapees membership. The willingness to dry camp extends our options immensely. Solar really helps.”

“We’re really struggling” due to crowded campgrounds

Gabor B. explains his frustration this summer. “I’m a FT RVer with my partner. We hit the road two years ago and still enjoy this lifestyle. Sadly, we experience the same things I just read in this article. We had no plans for this summer up until now, because we had so many obstacles. Now that we have an idea of what we want to do, we’re really struggling. All the weekends at all the campgrounds are fully booked from north to south on the East Coast. After two full days of research, we were able to find a few weeks’ worth of traveling/camping sites in NC and TN. Because of this experience we are already planning our winter trips. I’m not happy about this because I don’t like planning that far out, but we have no choice. Camping has changed a lot this year, and not for the good.”

Held hostage by policies

Sharon S. has bid goodbye to staying at state parks as they travel. She writes, “We use our travel trailer to travel. Most trips have many ‘one-night-stands’ until we reach a destination. In the past, we have enjoyed using state parks along the way for those single nights. (Often, a taste of the park from that stop puts it on the list for longer stays in the future.) The last couple of years we have found many state park systems are requiring a minimum of 2 or 3 days (and not just for weekends). It’s too bad, but we have pretty much written off those parks and systems as we plan future travel. Life’s too short and we have other options to use to be held hostage by such policies.

Campground crowding and costs are pushing them out

This week, several people wrote that they are just not going to put up with the hassle of booking a site in these crowded times or pay the price to do so. They’re giving up the RV life.

Dave P. is one of those people. He’s going to leave the parks, noise and overcrowded restrooms behind and find 5-star hotels instead! “Reserving a weekend campsite with electric in the tri-state area of PA, WV, and Ohio is getting to be too difficult. If I’m lucky enough to even get one, the overcrowded restroom facilities and blaring noise take the joy out of camping. I’m quitting, buying a comfortable vehicle, and booking 4-5 star hotels and VRBOs near where I want to play or sightsee.

Jeff M. is fed up too. “The cost of owning and operating an RV and the ever-rising campground fees and overcrowding is pushing us out of this once wonderful pastime.”

Reader thanks us!

Last week we published an email from Richard S. about selling “Harvey the RV” and this week we received this nice “Thank you” note from him. “This is a P.S. to my previous message about selling ‘Harvey the RV’ and ending our RV life. I should have added a big thank you to RV Travel for the informative and helpful newsletters that made our RVing experience more pleasant. They were definitely worth the little financial donations we gave. I encourage all that benefit from RV Travel to contribute. (This is unsolicited).”

Thank you, Richard! Hearing those words makes all the writing, editing, and researching for RV Travel so worthwhile! Take care.

And, not to toot our own horn, but if you like what we do and want to support us like Richard, you can do so here. Thank you!

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


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.



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Lorraine A Gehring (@guest_133133)
2 years ago

I understand that RV camping has changed. Change is the nature of life.

But lamenting that things are not as they once were is silly. Often these complaints sound selfish. A state campground changing its rules so it remains solvent? That is not being held hostage. New people ruining it for you? Perhaps you *should* stop camping and let others enjoy this lifestyle.

But be real. Costs and physical upkeep are the leading reasons many people give up RVing. “Crowding” is just a justification.

I’m 63 and when I read Nanci’s column I think, “What a bunch of old farts.”

Will ( (@guest_132050)
2 years ago

Not sure there’s been a newsletter by RVTravel in a year that doesn’t include the phrase “campground crowding”.

While perhaps a problem for some, as full-timers we have had very, very little problem finding campgrounds to stay in. We aren’t interested, though, in “resorts”.

You could save money, support smaller businesses as RV’ers by staying in smaller, less corporate (or government) controlled parks. There are many of these that would welcome your business. Most of us either have a tow- or towed- vehicle and there’s no need to be stuck at the RV park. The surrounding towns would welcome your business, especially after the pandemic struggle.

bwodom (@guest_132044)
2 years ago

An addendum to Sharon’s “state park hostage” post. Both of the parks at which we volunteered this year are reverting to site-specific (reservable) only next season. Good for some, perhaps not for others.

Also Vicki’s mention of good behavior earning merits for your return. That is great for private and small campgrounds, but especially in state and national campgrounds, hosts are often there for as little as a month at a time and few have any influence on reservations. However, the registration folks do know the names of the troublemakers, so good behavior is always appreciated!

Gman (@guest_131794)
2 years ago

You need to update your opening paragraph. With the exception of the borders(Canada, Mexico), the country is pretty much opened and getting back to normalcy.

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