Friday, December 8, 2023


Campground Crowding: “The industry is taking full advantage!”

RV sales have skyrocketed and more people than ever are taking up RVing. The result is campground crowding like never before! In this weekly column, readers discuss their experiences. Maybe we can find some helpful tips and ways to work around the problem.

Here are a few observations from our readers.

As the summer season progresses, I am noticing more and more of our readers’ emails are focused on the difficulties of finding a campsite, rude neighbors, empty sites and exorbitant campground rates. I am finding it difficult to find the “Happy Campers.” Please, if you are a happy camper, let me know!

I’m getting tired of it!

Last week I was surprised to hear myself tell my husband that I was “getting tired of it – the constant moving, the search for sites, the unforeseen repairs and the increasing expenses” of full-timing. I am the instigator of this whole wonderful lifestyle. He is more a sticks-and-bricks and roots man, but he encouraged my dream. My dream did not include these crowded campgrounds and unruly neighbors.

Jerry G. sums up a lot of experiences of both long-term and full-time RVers: “The fuller picture would also include less friendly neighbors and more restricted experiences. Let us come to face the new RV world that has descended upon us full-timers. It’s more challenging and increasingly less fun!

Supply and demand

Lucy D. told us about an over-the-top campsite price that shocked even me! “Been camping 20 years. In the past, camping was affordable and enjoyable. But now camping has become outrageously expensive.

“Example is the Flying Flags campground in Buellton, CA. Driving home from camping up north, we wanted to stay one night as we were tired. We pulled in and received a jolly welcome from one of the employees who directed us to check-in. They had availability. We were happy until they gave us the cost for one night… $172.00! Yes, you see that correctly. We were blown away, we had to ask again… ‘Is this for a one night stay?’ ‘Yes,’ they responded. And that was with a 10% senior discount!

“We wanted to see the location and how wonderful the site would be. Sites were very tight and the campground was full with kids everywhere. We turned around, jumped back into our truck and just drove away. Campgrounds have become so expensive it is getting more and more difficult to afford to camp. The industry is taking full advantage and digging very deeply into our pockets.”

If I had it to do over…

Dennis W. tells us what he would have done if he had known how frustrating and nearly impossible finding a campsite was going to be. He says,

“1. Last month I tried to book at our favorite state parks in WA. Nothing more than two days available until mid Oct., and then not much.
2. Have not done any RVing this year, don’t see it happening until late fall.
3. If I had it to do over, for many more camping options and convenience, I would have bought a camper van or pickup camper, not a 32′ 5er.”

More peace and serenity at home

Kristine M. also commented on the full campgrounds and lack of peace. “I live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, almost as far north and west as you can go, within 10-30 minutes from three waterfront state parks where we camp and I walk my dogs. I had NEVER seen them full before in November and December. Remember, this is rainy Washington state. As the costs of campsites go up, I see more populated camping. One person makes the reservation and then the in-laws, the neighbors, the grandparents show up to spend the day and often the nights with them. More peace and serenity at home.”

Fully reserved but full of empty sites

Phillip L. travels for work and likes to stay in state parks but has been noticing a lot of empty sites in the parks he camps at. “I travel for work. I often stay at campsites while I’m at a job site for the next few months. State-run sites are usually my top pick. What I’ve noticed the past two summers is that people are renting out camp sites for the maximum duration of two weeks and only being there for the weekend at best. I normally wouldn’t consider this a problem, but it is when all 20-40 sites are rented out with no one there using them, often by the same people week after week. Often they are just swapping sites with neighbors. Someone like me who would love to use the sites during the weekdays gets screwed.”

Waited 40 years…

Gail P. sent us an email about her experiences after waiting 40 years to become a full-time RVer. “I’ve been tent, pop-up, and TT camping since my kids were little and had a bucket list to travel when I retired. Well, I did it! And yes, it is so crowded and some newbies have no respect for other campers, campgrounds or nature! Some are rude and dirty and leave trash everywhere! Prices have gone up. I don’t understand that part – more people, more money is coming in, so prices shouldn’t go up as much as they have! One park I was at you were so close you could spit and hit your neighbors.

“I have been waiting over 40 years to become a full-time RVer and retired February 2020. COVID hit in March when I emptied my house and put it on the market. I have made it my new job to make reservations 6 months to a year ahead of time. I don’t know if I will be able to reserve or afford to be a full-time RVer. I’m so sad that it has come to this. I will continue to camp if I can during weekdays, but we’ll see what the next year brings.
Good luck everyone. Safe travels.”

Bless the newbies… or at least some of them

This is a common theme among long-time RVers and campers. Some newbies just don’t know the etiquette of camping or, if they do, they choose not to follow it.

Lorelei J. wrote to us about some of those folks. She says, “Rude people who don’t follow rules or any etiquette. People roaming and riding through my space. Not keeping dogs on leash, so they attack. Campgrounds are jammed. I can’t plan far in advance because of weather and having a teardrop trailer. It’s a mess.”

Jeanette A. told us about similar issues but did have a good word to say about the newbies who want to learn. “Very few of the newbies make good neighbors – they are loud past quiet time, let their kids run rampant through everyone else’s site and are obnoxious when you try to explain things to them. I have seen them curse the park rangers and get evicted for their behavior quite frequently. Bless the newbies who want to learn and do it right.

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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bwodom (@guest_132738)
2 years ago

Folks who reserve sites for two weeks just to get the weekends? Folks who pay $172 a night for sites? For that kind of money, I would prefer someone else doing all the work…as in airbnb.

Can these folks really afford this or is what we are seeing just a knee-jerk reaction to the COVID restrictions loosening? We will wait it out, but we are too old to wait too long!

CTK (@guest_132650)
2 years ago

I would like to think if we could just hold on for a year or so that this camping “fad”, initiated by the pandemic of last year, will end. They are already predicting used RVs will be a dime a dozen then, thus a lot less campers. Prices – I’m not so sure about. Once the taste of huge profits is ingrained, they usually did not go down, especially with corporately owned Parks.

Mike (@guest_132630)
2 years ago

Ya know… seems to me, I remember a time not too terribly long ago, campgrounds were complaining about people NOT staying with them but optioning to stay for free at truck stops, Walmart or other. Now times have changed and they are certainly taking advantage of this and us…

BILLY Bob Thronton (@guest_132628)
2 years ago

Word of advice. If you want to end fulltiming, wait a bit till the housing market crashes, and oh it will. Otherwise you will be upside down from where you were when you sold sticks and bricks to do the venture. Better to take the coming hit on your used RV,than pay top buck for a fixed home, only to suffer the pending crash, that surely is coming.

wanderer (@guest_132623)
2 years ago

I’m a very happy camper 90% of the time, despite the hassles and rising prices. Let’s face it, the big problems are within a few hours’ drive of any population center. It is really rough out there, with people booking up weekends months or years in advance. If I lived in a major metro and worked during the week, I would think very hard about investing in a camper, since you are going to be competing every weekend with growing crowds.

But, if you have the freedom to get out in the boonies, there are still great places to go. There are quiet forest service sites amid the tall trees, BLM lands, some great COE parks, other public facilities, and a good many decent mom-and-pops out there. You have to lock in important dates in your year ahead of time, and then be flexible the rest of the time. This includes overpaying for some days in return for the free or underpriced sites you get some other times.

Janet Herrell (@guest_132600)
2 years ago

I haven’t had a problem finding campsites. I have had a problem finding campsites im willing to pay the price they are asking for……been on the road since June 1st in Montana and Wyoming ..too many people…too crowded. Bought a nice quiet generator and look for a nice quiet out of the way place ..even Wal-Mart.

Tom Horn (@guest_132645)
2 years ago
Reply to  Janet Herrell

I am having a hard time understanding why campers think they need to pull into a campground to camp and enjoy the outdoors. DON’T BE A SLAVE TO THE CAMP GROUND CARTEL. Set your rig up to be independent. That’s why RVs are built with holding tanks.

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