By Nanci Dixon
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.
Suggestion from reader for part-time and full-time RVers
Last week we posted a suggestion by a reader that part-time campers should stay in the RV Park resorts and leave the state parks to the full-timers. That certainly struck a nerve!
“Made me angry”
It made Kristen K angry. “We’ve been summer recreational campers for 50 years. The comment that campers like us should give up the state park sites for full-timers and stay at more expensive RV resorts really made me angry. Does the full-timer have their permanent residence in Florida or South Dakota where there is no state tax? I have been paying state tax in my state for 54 years. Since my first job at age 16. I am entitled to go to my state parks. I don’t think the original intention of setting up scenic parts of the state as state parks was so that full-time RVers could live there and not pay any state tax ever to have supported the creation and maintenance of those state parks. What a selfish and self-centered view that reader who wrote in has as to the purpose of our state parks. They were not designed as temporary permanent residences for out-of-state folk to live cheap in. They were designed for tax-paying residents of the state (or vacationing visitors from out-of-state) to have a place to go and recreate, get out with nature and see the scenic and interesting parts of the state.”
Plan ahead. That’s all it takes.
Loraine G also had a comment about sending the part-timers to the RV resorts. “Plan ahead. That’s all it takes. And about the woman who wants the ‘new people’ to go to the expensive new resorts: The new kids in the playground get to use the whole playground, not just the parts you don’t want.“
David H offers his explanation of the difference between short term in state parks versus long term in RV report parks. “Your comments suggesting part-timers stay in resorts and full-timers use state parks is backwards. State and national run parks are for short-term stays (many 2 weeks only) and resorts are for long-term stays by full-timers and seasonal campers.”
Sue F put her thoughts succinctly. “I am a part-time camper. If I wanted to camp in a resort ‘parking lot’ site, I would stay in my driveway.”
NASCAR pit stop
Daniel M points out one of the common campground stressors. “I don’t see this year being any different than the last 10. It’s a little more booked, staffing is short, maintenance hasn’t been good, but I think this has more to do with the end of the boomer generation entering into retirement and branching out into camping. We’re mostly weekend campers with kids and 2 Great Danes. Most campgrounds have quiet times and I haven’t had any problems with other campers. If they’re still playing music after the posted time, I’ll just go over there and tell them. Most of the time people don’t realize how late it is. Direct, friendly communication will yield faster and better results than calling the campground, especially at state campgrounds where you’re basically on your own.
“As far as kids walking thru campsites, just make sure your response is age appropriate and remember that even though you and your family might know all the rules and follow them well, the people new to camping might not know and it’s an opportunity to be inviting and educational at the same time. I think the biggest source of stress at a campground is the dump station. Before pulling up on a Sunday at 11 a.m., make sure you’re ready to do a NASCAR pit stop. If you’re leaving midweek, you probably have all the time in the world. You don’t have to make your black water tank squeaky clean every time. Just dump it and go. We’ll book a full-service site every 3rd to 4th time, and that’s when we flush it really well.”
No-shows – open up that empty site!
Sandra M mentions a possible solution for the “no-shows” that is equitable for all. “My suggestion would be if the reserved site has not got a camper in it within 24 hrs. of day of arrival, it gets open for someone else. Now, if the campers who reserved the site explained their lateness (to the campground office) it should stay as reserved by them. The campground gets more money, wouldn’t you think?”
Ron S tells us about a policy he likes. “Most of the places we go require 4 – 5 hours of driving and we really need some assurance that there will be a spot open when we get there. So we need reservations. I like the way WA state parks open the site if the person who reserved it does not show up on the 2nd day. This keeps the site for you in case you have car trouble. I would like to see them not refund at all. But who can respond and get to a place the same day that you see it is no longer reserved? That’s hard to do.”
Editors note: The park we host at requires an eight-day notice to get any refund. I hope if a refund was offered for canceling a day or two before the reservation, there would not be so many premium sites standing empty.
Moving sites day to day
Bruce B found multiple sites through dedication, tenacity and a willingness to move around. “Recently at a state park on the east coast of NC. All online reservations. As with all, it seems weekends are horded way in advance. People just book out as far as possible knowing they may or may not use.
“Was trying to stay a few extra days and would keep checking for openings. Lo and behold, Thursday afternoon a space opened for Friday and then looking down the list saw a spot for Sat. and Sun. Could see it was only maybe half full. So I moved twice over the weekend within 4 spaces of where I was. Not like there was any real advantage from one to another.
“The campers coming in just stayed for a day each. Three other campers who came in Fri. were doing the same as me – moving each day by one space. Point is, with someone working and looking at this, I could have stayed in same spot, some others would not have had to play musical spots and probably could have opened up some more spots. They should do some no-show times even if paid for. Have to call by certain time or comes open. Of course, the campgrounds don’t care to lose the money or go through the hassle of refunds. Or do like a few parks I see with a percentage of first-come, first-served spaces set aside. Gives some fair chance. My dog thinks it’s ridiculous at times too (:”
COVID, camping and buying land
With COVID on the rise again and campgrounds crowded, Alan W found their solution. “We are so concerned with COVID and how hard it is to find campsites we purchased land in Wisconsin that we can camp on and have a permanent site in Florida for the winter months. We are full-time RVers and had planned on traveling the U.S. last year but with everything closed down we made the decision to do what we did.”
Right on the beach and for free!
Manfred M lets us in on this prize spot. “And, a few miles south of the Port Lavaca RV Park, is Magnolia Beach (TX), where you can camp on the water for free.” Manfred, I did a bit of searching and found it on the Texas Coast. It even comes up on Google maps as Free Beach Camping!
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.
I recently called a Thousand Trails park I was reserved at as a “guest”. I wasn’t going to make it on my first day of the reservation so I called and told them I wouldn’t make it but would be there the next day. The person even said “You will be here tomorrow?” Yes I said. Get there and the reservation was cancelled! They did have a space though after a lot of hemming and hawing. By the way the place was a dump. Left a day early and went to another nearby campground I usually stay at when they had an opening.
Stop with the setting against each other. Reminds me of that guy the WH two administrations back. The great Divider.
I like the idea about cancelling those who walk away from their reservation. Call in and tell em your issue. Otherwise cancel em, and open those sites back up.
State parks are our favorite spots, so I was also quite annoyed by the inference that I should give them up and pay more in a crammed non-private resort. I search for sites and plan our stays months in advance. If others are interested in the same parks, they can do the same instead of expecting me to give them up.
The original post about giving preference to fulltimers over locals was, of course, absurd. But Kristen’s response is also questionable.
I paid state taxes in 5 different states during my working career. Also federal and city taxes. I almost never used state parks for camping. Now I am retired and trying to see the country, on a budget. This means I cannot pay $72 a night at a ‘resort’, and have to use the new ‘standard’ rate of $38 sparingly. So I use a combination of public and private facilities as I travel, a few nights here and a few nights there.
Now you say I do not deserve to use your state parks, even with the extra and rising fees I might be charged. Doesn’t seem fair, but ok. I have already been forced to stay away, because locals lock them up every weekend. From what I’ve seen of the locals in state parks lately, I’m better off avoiding them.
I think Kristen K made some valid points. She didn’t seem that “angry” either. I don’t know why you would use that as your headline. Journalist sure love their hyperbole I guess.
I agree she had good points and didn’t seem that angry . It seems like bad journalism to brag about making a reader angry in a headline just to try and draw in more readers
I agree with Kristen also. And I agree that she didn’t sound that upset and the clickbait headline was just that, clickbait.
Kristen K said right in her comments that it “really made me angry.” I guess it’s beyond me how that makes the headline “hyperbole” or “clickbait.”
Yep, Mike , you and Nanci got it just right. I am able to read too. I guess quoting a quote is just not good enough for some people. I guess Kristin, the author, did not sound angry because she did not use four letter words that the other readers may have understood.
Our family has been camping for roughly 13 years. We have still been able to camp where we want. Is it more crowded? Of course. As for etiquette, there are some who you can tell are new and will hopefully learn the do’s and don’ts. Our biggest issue this season has to do with common decency. Three times we’ve witnessed dog walkers allow their pets to relieve themselves and then make no effort to clean it up. Imagine their surprise when my wife yells from our camper “Would you like a bag?” They quickly stammer Uh, yes please.” These are the ones that no amount of experience will improve.
As a former campground host, we tried that ( would you like a bag?)as the kinder, gentler way. My favorite response was “my dog is not going to go”.
As a pet owner I always have extra bags on hand & have given them to people as they try to walk away from their ‘duty’. Personally would not have a problem with a ‘pet fee’ of a buck or three that results in giving me some great bags to use while there – might remind people what is expected!
I am guilty of not showing up for my campsite in Selina. I could not find it. There were no signs directing me to where it was. Folks in town Knew about it, “do you have 4WD?” The office closed at four pm and no one dares answer the phone. even google maps could not find it.