RV sales have skyrocketed and more people than ever are taking up RVing. The result is campground crowding like never before! In this weekly blog, RV Travel 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.
Camping at La Quinta due to campground crowding?
Mitza G. tells us about their experience trying to find a campsite on a Monday night. “Recently had the experience of finding every campground in eastern South Carolina and Georgia full on a Monday night. I had to attempt those campgrounds with after-hours access, since we had to take our rig to the factory for work that we had no idea how long it would take. We were finished and on the road by 5:15 p.m., and after driving through two states wound up staying at a La Quinta Inn on the state border (pet friendly)”
If the world changes, adapt!
Georgia RV lady sent us her comments this week. She wrote, “Yes, there are more RVers this year. The campgrounds are often more crowded. That did not stop us from planning three months ahead of time for a trip cross-country. We had no trouble finding a spot. Often one of the ‘best’ spots in the campground. The world changes and we adapt and make the best of it or give up. We don’t plan on giving up, we love life in our RV.”
Part-timers: RV resorts are open, give them a try!
Reader Diane C. suggests that part-time RVers book at the resort RV parks and leave the state parks to the full-timers. “Yes, we are finding the cheaper state park campgrounds are more crowded, but we are also finding many more resort-style places are opening up almost weekly. Sure they are more expensive but have more amenities. Maybe the part-timers will take those spots and leave the others for the full-time folks. We have reservations out every month for the rest of the year, no problem.”
Disgruntled in West Virginia
We received this email from Wendy B. detailing her current experience in their seasonal site. “We have been seasonal campers at one campground for six years and for 25 years before becoming seasonal we would rent different sites in the campground. This year has been horrible with inconsiderate campers and a greedy owner. We had a large area with two other seasonal sites and two to three weekender sites with plenty of room for each family to play their own field games (football, badminton, etc.) and not get in each other’s way. Now we only have room to sit by the fire and we had to argue to get that because they moved the fire pit right under our awning.
“On top of that, they raised the already crazy rate by $500 and opened a month later. And the most annoying part is the five non-seasonal sites that are now on the other side of us are always booked with families that are all together and let their kids run through our site, dogs that non-stop bark, loud partying or obnoxiously bright color-changing lights.
“You would think with all the money they are taking in they could change stained toilet seats, replace moldy shower curtains or fix the constant sewage smell coming from the bathhouse.”
Campgrounds are “full” but have empty sites
My husband and I (the author) are camp hosts at a regional park and it is pretty much booked all the time – every site on the weekends and most on the weekdays. The electric sites are in high demand. For the last week, many of those most requested sites have been empty. Booked but not canceled probably because there is no refund. I did go to park management and mention that if they changed their refund policy from canceling nine days prior to one or two days, those sites would probably open up.
Barbara O. wrote in about this same issue. She says, “Sometimes my husband and I can find a campsite during the middle of a week but not a weekend. We see empty lots and ask about them and the campground owners say that the lot was reserved but no one shows and they can’t give it to anyone because it’s paid for even though no one shows. People just reserve the spot just in case they decide to camp that week. Not right! Something has to be done about this.”
Lin S. also wrote to us about empty sites. “I find state campgrounds show as booked, but if you find a last-minute cancellation, you see that there are MANY empty campsites in the park once you are inside – especially during the week. The rangers say there is nothing they can do – sites are booked, and no one shows. They are still making money because the people are supposedly still charged. They say they now have ‘bot’ systems booking the sites months ahead. Parks get the money, have fewer sites to clean, and fewer patrons to deal with when no one shows up. Apparently, there are campers who are happy to pay for unused sites they book even a year ahead ‘in case’ they can get off work that week. It’s just a pain in the neck not to be able to get into the popular sites ahead of time.”
Miss camping but not the headaches
John K. has noticed a big difference in the eight years they have full-timed. “I full-timed for about eight years. I noticed that a number of parks are selling seasonal and annual sites too, in some cases, makes things easier for financial reasons. You can’t blame them. They have to survive too! In doing so, most, if not all of the desirable sites are forever unavailable and there are fewer sites for traveling RVers. I sold my motorhome this year and moved into a small house. I miss camping, but not the headaches.”
This park sounds ideal – lots of open sites!
John H. told us about the park he manages with plenty of open sites. Part public service and, yes, part ad – but so helpful. Thanks for sharing, John! “Don’t know if this is allowed, but the park I manage has plenty of open sites, 55 out of 122 to be exact. We have 35 acres of lawn, yes, lawn, five fishing ponds, and one swimming pond 6-9 ft. deep, yes, pond. Our mature sites have grass all around, newer sites are hard-packed limestone gravel. All sites are 30-, 50-, and 20-amp ready, sewer and water. We have a laundromat and showers, we even have open dry tent sites.
“We are one mile from the Bay and three miles from a boat ramp. Oh, and did I mention we have free ice? Come on down, check out Coastal Bay RV Park: 1631 TX-159 Spur, Port Lavaca, TX. We have a Port Lavaca address, but are near Port Alto, Texas. 361-563-4739. By the way, we’re having a mild summer, have not reached 100 degrees yet, and have nice gulf breezes. This is a quiet park with no wild parties.”
Editor’s note: We took a quick glance at the reviews for Coastal Bay RV Park and they pass our review-o-meter with 4.2 stars. We’re not saying it’s the best place, but if what John is describing is accurate, it sounds pretty darn nice! (Had the park not passed our review-o-meter test, we wouldn’t have shared this with 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.
Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column here.
The situation of reservations being made and failure to show needs to be upgraded to have verification of intent within 72 hours of reservation start date. Failure to verify opens the site for next customer. Simply cancel your reservation when you know you can’t use it. Most cancellations can be done by phone and/or the internet. Treat others as you would like to be treated, Okay!
We LOVE our state park system – manage to enjoy all that the local nature activities can provide wherever we go – and lots more in the state parks than in glamping resorts here in FL. So glad our system has a 2 week limit so that everyone can try to get a site – that said we book 11 months in advance just to get the state parks with the activities we like best. If you are a full timer you are much less likely to continually engage with the environment around you so the glamping resorts where they park you like a neighborhood would be your better bet or try boondocking instead where you can stay as long as you like! .
Perhaps Diane’s suggestion should be reversed? Many state parks have stay limits, fewer have full hookup sites as the norm and, as mentioned, lot sizes are usually not meant for larger RVs which are more likely for full timers. Seems private campgrounds are the ones who have seasonal sites, monthly rates, more likely to have FHU and more modern-sized sites.
Couldn’t be that she is suggesting that full-timers should get state parks because they are usually cheaper, would it? If you can’t afford full-timing, that should not be the problem of part-timers.
Totally agree~ our State taxes are paying for our State Parks…sorry I want to enjoy them even if we are not full timers…
State Parks vary widely in the amenities, the price, the size of rigs they accommodate etc. This retired part-timer far prefers state parks over any rv resort. We don’t need, use or want the pool, the games, the rec area etc. Trees, shade, some nice walking trails etc. are what make us happy. COE are also high on our list. RV parks, resorts–not so much.
Wow, first fulltimers like to stay longer at parks sometimes than State Parks allow. Plus some of the bigger rigs do not fit. I love the state parks in some areas. I love some of all campgrounds.
I say let campers stay where ever they want. I do not like others telling me where they think I should stay.
Agree Lisa. Next they’ll want is another government mandate. If you like rules stay at a hotel. Get a life.
Wow, Diane C. You full time so for some reason you should get the nicer State Parks over the families on vacation? Sounds a little selfish. No one is making you full time, it’s your choice, but you expect special treatment? These days you need to plan ahead, then you will find campsites. It just takes a little effort.
State parks are cheap, they’re subsidized by the state, so it’s like section 8 camping, and you get what you pay for. Many of the people buying campers are basically becoming camper poor, they spent all their income on the camper and truck they don’t have the funds to stay at nice resorts, this is why you’ll see $60k 5th wheels and $80k trucks boondocking like squatters in abandoned homes. I find it hilarious, I will never be a seasonal camper, to me it completely defeats the purpose, but I understand the concept and respect their sites, the daily rate sites however, you rented for a 3 day weekend, relax, and don’t worry about the 7yr old running to the playground.
Some state parks may be subsidized by their state but NOT in Washington state.
Sorry Daniel… but state parks are far from cheap. Not sure what state your talking about but seems to me you have no idea what your talking about. And what does a 7yr old running to the playground have to do with anything?
“Disgruntled in West Virginia”. Congratulations, you have stopped becoming a guest at your campground. Since you always return for the whole season, you have become a tenant, and the landlord no longer feels any responsibility to act like a host. This often happens when the founding family ages out and is replaced by a new generation who cannot even grasp the concept of hospitality.
On the upside, you had a good run for many years. Times change. Maybe there is a business out there that actually wants your business enough to work for it.
I am not sure what makes full timers feel so entitled to preferential treatment like sole use of state parks but it is indicative of the mentality we are up against in society as a whole. The mobile homeless have no more right to our public lands and nature than the weekend warriors who like drinking in the woods and letting their delinquent children run amok to be raised by others. State parks need better controls over their reservation systems like preventing robo purchases (and eventual resales) and charging extra for missed reservations.
I don’t see how State Parks are a better option for full-timers, considering most make you leave at 14 days. Besides that, I’ve watched as SP’s become more & more full of people that have NO camping manners. Just this past week I had to ask people on three different days to NOT cut thru my site. Never had to do that in the past few RV Parks. Then the folks who think being loud all night is just fine. It’s getting worse in SP’s.
Joe, unless you missed it manners and consideration and politeness have disappeared in America along with honesty. Sadly this is the new ‘normal’ just like happened in Rome and Ancient Greece. Great civilizations eventually fall and that’s not just camping. Just read any newspaper if you want to get depressed. Leave it at home along with the tv and boondock if you want to be free and happy.
Are these the same full timers that complain state parks don’t have big enough sites for them because the parks were built years ago?
Seriously Mitza G.? So the part-timers, who are far more likely to be young with families or retirees with limited funds than full timers in their luxury buses and 5th wheels, should stay at the expensive Resort Parks and leave the SP to full-timers? Staying at those parks would be great if we had unlimited funds, but we have to watch our money to string together a 3 or 4 week trip in our retirement. We seek out the lower priced State Parks and COE Parks because of that.
I whole heartily agree! Plus the resorts have you packed in like sardines. I go camping to enjoy seeing the outdoors, not the rig parked next to me!
Actually, it was Diane C. who made that suggestion. But the rest of your comments are spot on. Suggesting that someone else pay more for their vacation sounds pretty elitist, sort of like some people who want to restrict access to hiking areas to only those who hike full time.
Thank-you. Yes, I should have referred to Diane C.
Roger and Kaeleen- Please don’t confuse me with GA RV Lady! I’m one of those underfunded elder rvers myself! I had NO suggestions to deal with crowded campgrounds- I was just posting my experience for those who may believe that weekday stays are easier to get than weekend stays- it ain’t necessarily so!
Sorry about that. I meant Diane C.
I agree, this idea is not a solution. But I do think the state parks have reached a crisis point with overbooked weekends by the same people over and over, and no-shows who get no penalty, and parks which do not release the no-show sites for use. Maybe there should be a 6 p.m. deadline, if you don’t show by then, your site goes FCFS. And if you get caught making phantom reservations 3 times, you and your vehicle tag get banned from camping.
Works for me!