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.
“Winging it” still works!
When reservations aren’t available, can campers still “wing it?” Marcy D. thinks so. “We have been RVing since 2003. Yes, things have changed, but like many of the other commenters, we have ways to make it work.
“We just got back from a six-week-trip to the Finger Lakes in New York, the coast of Maine and central Virginia. We live in Minnesota so we had lots of overnight stops as well as longer stays. On the way east, I had booked sites ahead. On the way home we decided to wing it.
“We were traveling midweek, so that is an important recommendation, but we had no trouble getting sites the same day. Since we can, we like to leave the weekends for people who only have the weekends to camp. We also found that if you stay away from the most popular sites and camp 10 miles away, there is no problem. Happy camping.”
Note “cancel by” dates and other great advice for campground crowding
Merkay M. has a system that works well for them and shares it with us. “Book your key ‘must stay at’ parks first, about six weeks or more in advance. Make note of their cancellation policies and mark your calendar for their ‘must cancel by’ dates and costs. Paying a reasonable cancellation fee is OK if you are aware of it in advance. I find state parks really cost a lot to change or cancel! Many private parks will not charge you a cancellation fee if you do so by their deadline.
“If I do not have a reservation when we are traveling from place to place, I have a list of at least three alternative places, with phone numbers that I can call a day or two ahead, or while we are on the road. For walk-up spots, arrive as early as you can, and be prepared with an alternative. I use Campgroundreviews.com for information about a park, then go to the park’s website for more. If it is only for one night and we are just passing thru, I am willing to stay at a poorly rated place and lock my doors!”
Start a lottery system to help campground crowding
Ed F. is having difficulty booking at Florida state parks and has a suggestion to make it more fair. “I tried for days to book a site for March at some of the Florida state parks. The available sites open at 8 a.m. ET 6 months out. Well, the 2-6 sites opening each day go in literally an instant. I found it impossible. Who knows if it’s due to computer internet latency, bots, or that there really are hundreds or thousands of people hitting their computer enter button at the same time.
“My suggestion is that popular campgrounds could go to a lottery system. You’d enter a requested arrival day, then a computer would pick lucky winners for each of the slots. If you win you would have a certain amount of time to complete your reservation, otherwise it goes back in the pool or to an alternate lottery participant. There are many other possibilities and variations on this idea but that would be the basics.”
Cheating the system adds to campground crowding
Camp host Rich I. is also taking issue with all the empty but booked sites. “Being a camp host one problem that’s also adding to hard-to-find sites is people cheating the system and booking multiple campgrounds and picking one that is favorable at the time and not canceling other sites.”
Reader Toni B. also mentions frustration when sites are booked but empty. “Camping with an RV has become very difficult in Oklahoma. Reservations are required through Recreation.gov and they are hard to come by. The sad thing is to see some of the best waterfront spots empty but they are reserved so the camp host will not let you rent even if days have gone by and it still sits empty. Waterfront camp spots should be first come gets the spot.”
They don’t even answer the phone!
Dawn A. is frustrated trying to make reservations over a year out. “WOW! It’s August 22, 2021, and I just called to make our winter reservations for Dec. 1, 2022 – April 1, 2023, in Port Aransas, Texas. I got the last spot and it’s only available until Feb. 15, 2023.
“We are full-time RVers with a rather large toy hauler and I’ve been working on our summer 2022 plans. A lot of the places I want to go in Oregon and Washington are already booked. Another problem I’m running into is no one at the parks are answering the phones or returning calls. I keep us booked 9-12 months in the future. Now it looks like I’m going to have to book us two years out… that is, if I can get anyone to answer the phone. Yes, I can and do book online but I need to know if golf carts are allowed, if there’s satellite reception and if there is cell service, so it’s nice to talk to a human.”
Not as friendly?
Sharon B. wrote us about a trend she sees in campers that we have noticed too. “I have been camping my entire life and find that the campers do not seem as friendly now. Is it because of the violence that has occurred in this world or is it the newbies don’t know that us ‘old timers’ are friendly, kind and always willing to help a fellow camper?”
Helpful tip for Fort Wilderness Disney fans
For all you Disney fans, here is a tip from Steve W. “To get last-minute reservations at Walt Disney World (Ft. Wilderness) call right at 8 AM EST. This is when they post cancellations from the night before and make them available. We have done this many times for sites right after Christmas … worked every time.”
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.