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Campground Crowding: Having an RV the size of a house is NOT camping

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.

Newbie discouraged in Florida due to campground crowding

John C. writes to us about being discouraged before their RVing journey has even begun. “My spouse and I are new to all this and I’m discouraged already. We live in Florida and are selling our home to travel and relax. It seems like there are more hassles involved than I’m willing to bargain for. I’m a Lions member but I don’t see any help being a member. Thought about buying land with hook-ups but all county’s have parking restrictions. What to do? Very discouraged.”

Do you have any words of encouragement for John? 
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On the road for 35 days with no problems, even on the weekend!

Reader Butch A. has been finding sites every day of their trip. “We have been on the road for 35 days. We’ve visited 15 states and camped in 13. Using state parks, COE parks and mom and pops. None of the biggies like KOA. So far we have had no problem finding sites, even on the weekend. We ‘moochdocked’ (Editor’s note: We like this term!) with a relative over Labor Day. Started in Jacksonville, FL. Now heading for largest Czech Egg in Wilson, KS.”

Sold their “large metal box” because of campground crowding

Katherine S. gave it up after finding spots nearly impossible to book. She writes, “We have been campers as long as I can remember and now it’s almost impossible to find a location or date available for us to camp. If and when we do find a place it’s usually the site no one wants. After this had been repeated for the past couple years, we finally sold our RV. I desperately miss the adventures of camping but I will not waste money to have a large metal box sit in my yard.”

Demand pricing in state park

Tom S. fell victim to demand pricing in his recent stay at a state park. “I try to use state parks when I can, mostly to keep from being lined up in a row looking like a car lot. I have experienced a lot of problems getting reservations this year. When you arrive, they have the ‘campground full’ sign out but you have sites all around you that stay empty for several days in a row.

“I have a bigger problem with demand pricing. Just stayed for three days (midweek, not a holiday or weekend, not at the beach) in a state park and the rate was different for each night. The average charge was $64 per night. Commercial campgrounds in the area were $45 to $65. I won’t name the state (but it is between South Carolina and Alabama). Felt totally ripped off for a basic site with electric and water, no sewer. I checked some other state parks in the state but they weren’t that bad. I have no problem with a business making a fair profit, just don’t make it all on me! For a state park to use demand pricing like this is just price gouging. That’s what ‘demand pricing’ is, what the market will bear. Well, I’m going to be more diligent on selecting what ‘market’ I shop in.”

Having an RV the size of a house is NOT camping

Jenifer M. is upset and writes to us about big RVs, rude campers and litter. She says, “State campgrounds used to be about 50 percent of tenters and the rest smaller RVs and very few large RVs. Now it is almost all RVs and about 50 percent of them are the size of a small home. There is something wrong with going camping when you have everything you have at home. Unless you are staying in one place long term you are just adding to our environmental problems. How can anyone consider themselves as campers when they are practically carrying a small hotel room behind a super-sized truck that’s getting 10 miles per gallon?

“Meanwhile people need to learn not to leave trash in the park, especially toilet paper. If you need to do something in the wild bring a plastic bag for the used toilet paper and take it out with you. If you or your dog pops you need to pick it up and take it to proper containers, and if there aren’t containers then take it home with you. Do not throw it on the ground because the trash is full. I was in Yellowstone last week and I was taking a picture behind this tree. Well, behind the tree there were toilet paper and human feces all over the place. There were masks in the parking lot. It was really windy and it was so sad to see people paper masks littering this wonderful park. This type of behavior is rude, sick, narcissistic and few other choice words that would get me kicked off if I put them down. If you take it in, please take it out. The only things you should take out of places of nature are happy and wonderful memories.”

“Love is being tested” due to campground crowding

Nancy S. says that her love of camping is being tested. ”Yes, it is very hard to find a campground. My daughter is thinking of selling her RV as well. I can tell you this has been the worst year and the sites you book are not user friendly at all for state parks. It was much better before. We love to camp but that love is being tested…

Full payment in advance – Is it a trend?

John M. had two private RV parks ask for full payment in advance. “So far this year, two RV parks have asked for payment in full in order to make reservations. The Golden Shores RV park in Long Beach, CA, and Pismo Beach RV park in CA. This is unnecessary, as sites such as Airbnb take an initial deposit, then as one approaches the cancellation triggers the deposit increases. Full payment made several months in advance is difficult.”

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

##RVT1020b

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Vick Barker
14 days ago

Could it be that “camping” has changed and now encompasses more varieties of getting away from home than ever before? I remember when camping was a tent, or on the ground, or even in the back yard; but shopping was never from a phone and online and watching TV did not involve YouTube until a decade or so ago either. Camping is a term with many more meanings to many more campers than ever before.

Ralph Williams
18 days ago
Do you have any words of encouragement for John? " Read more »

Do your homework before you jump in to a completely different lifestyle!

RV Isntcamping
19 days ago

Well let’s be clear here… Having an RV isn’t even camping. Irrespective of it’s size.

Diane McGovern
19 days ago
Reply to  RV Isntcamping

As many in this thread have said, those of us who have an RV don’t think we are camping. We don’t want to camp. That’s why we have an RV.

Bob P
14 days ago
Reply to  RV Isntcamping

I camped for 7 1/2 years in the Marines from 1962-1969, I think that qualifies me to something better now in my elder years. To anyone who thinks their draft dodging life qualifies them to be critical of others, go scratch. I and millions of others sacrificed for you to complain about your “poor” life problems. Suck it up buttercup!

John O
20 days ago

“One bad apple can spoil the bunch.” That popular phrase is used to refer to a situation in which one person’s negative demeanor or bad behavior can affect a whole group of people, influencing them to have a similar negative attitude or to engage in the same bad behavior.

No doubt the influx of inexperienced first time campers as a consequence of the pandemic has exacerbated the problems – but it’s been growing steadily worse for many years now.

If you’re one of the millions of unhappy campers then you might want to consider signing this petition to the agencies responsible for enforcing the rules. Simply posting the rules at the campground entrance is not enough – they need to start enforcing the rules!

https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/unhappy-campers?share=201076c1-4d85-43fb-8a81-8b200e523997&source=c.fwd&utm_source=c.fwd

Matt C
20 days ago

Really feel the big RVing boom is a fad! People watching YouTube channels RV life, Van Life, Bus Life etc. the last few years. Then the pandemic made the perfect storm. Betting in time the hassles of getting a site, traffic, storage, maintenance costs, insurance, payment. People will find it is cheaper and easier to stay in a hotel. Full timers are a different story. Unfortunately I suspect buyers of new 2020-23 RVs will get burned on resell beyond the normal deprecation. Elkhart is having a hard time getting help. They are paying a premium wage for unskilled workers. Most Rv’s have never been of the best quality. RV dealers know what’s going on; they also need to stay in business. Nanci Dixon staying in RV it’s not camping it’s RVING. Camping is what you do in a tent and much cheaper. Fortunately for us we don’t have to deal with the general public at all the places we get to stay. Wish you all a better 2022 Rving season!

Ryan
21 days ago
Do you have any words of encouragement for John? " Read more »

We have found buying private rv land to be a nice supplement to travel camping. If you’re looking for options for land already vetted for camping take a look at landdocker.com.

Ellen L.
21 days ago

To Jennifer M. Regarding the size of RVs. We’re full-timers. Our RV is, in fact, our house. By boondocking and staying mainly in state parks, we manage to get out and enjoy nature just as much as anyone in a tent. And BTW we have that too, and have left the RV to camp in a tent, and I can honestly say they’re both valid ways of being outdoors.

Impavid
21 days ago

To Jennifer M. who has expressed ‘her’ opinion about the size of RVs, mine of which is 40 feet long, I’ll express my opinion: “Bite me.” And my big truck gets 12 mpg.

Nick
18 days ago
Reply to  Impavid

Lol. My Diesel Pusher only gets 7mpg (on a good day). I would love to get the 10mpg she was complaining about.

Neal Davis
21 days ago

I have no problem with the commenter who said that I do not camp. Our 43-foot diesel pusher has heated floors, a 10-kw generator, a drawer dish washer, a residential refrigerator, an induction cook top, a microwave/convection oven, a washer and dryer, a central vacuum, and 4 televisions. I never say that we are “going camping.” We “travel,” not “camp.” I have no desire to “camp.” I did that once and nearly froze to death; yuck. We tailgate at football games and stay in campgrounds with at least electrical connections when traveling.

Marie
21 days ago

Jenifer M, who are you to decide what type of RV is camping and what type is not?
Some have a large family, some like to have room in case of inclement weather. Some of us went seasonal and want a larger RV “the size of a small house” because we look at seasonal as our summer home.

Bert Wilkinson
21 days ago
Do you have any words of encouragement for John? " Read more »

We joined a couple of resort systems and do some planning ahead and have always been able to go and visit where ever we wanted to.

Bryan
21 days ago

camping
[ˈkampiNG]
NOUN

  1. the activity of spending a vacation living in a camp, tent, or camper.
  2. “camping attracts people of all ages” 
Peter
15 days ago
Reply to  Bryan

hmm…what’s a “camper”?

Suru
21 days ago

Responding to Jennifer M: I think the people that use the woods for a bathroom are probably tent campers or backpackers. I have my own restroom in my trailer (pulled by a truck that only gets 10 mpg when towing) and never use the woods. I also refer to all my trips in my trailer as “camping trips.” 🙂

Irv
21 days ago

It’s a little work but not that difficult to find campsites.
• Find out when peak season is for your destination. Peak season may require reservations a year in advance.
• Check on dates of any special events such as sporting events or festivals.
• Avoid the above and holidays and go during the shoulder seasons.
• Be flexible as to the type of park you’ll book.

Reservations are a good idea but often not well implemented.

Darin Severns
21 days ago

Rather than telling people how they should “camp”, it would be more productive to give feedback to the campground/RVpark. They are making the rules of who camps with what equipment where. There are a LOT of rules out there for RVing and camping. I do not go to places that don’t say they can accommodate big rigs and there are a LOT of places I can’t go. I would suggest camping at places that don’t allow RV’s or limits them to whatever size you find acceptable. Believe me, I do not want to be suckered in to staying at a place that can’t accommodate my 44′ 2nd home. We went camping regularly in our first small RV — shorter trips and shorter stays. It was just big enough to sleep in and get out of the rain and be dry if needed. Now, we travel in a large motorhome and don’t call it camping. But I can not see how this is anyone’s business. Most site neighbors I meet are friendly and courteous. That is a far more important factor than the size of their RV.

Diane Mc
21 days ago

With all due respect, I have never said we are “camping”. I tried camping in a tent, not my thing. I do love to travel and see this beautiful country in a way an airplane/car rental/hotels really can’t. I love traveling by motorhome, because it is a “home”. My own bed, bathroom & kitchen. After a long day sightseeing nice to come home to. If weather is bad, nice place to snuggle up with a book or look for more places to visit. You know, just like at home. I don’t judge those who tent camp or are in travel trailers/5th wheels or whatever they choose. Or only use state parks, etc. To each his own. That’s what makes this country so great. Thankfully my husband and I are on the same page!

Nick
18 days ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

Agree – Well said.

Traveler
21 days ago

We aren’t camping. We are RV-ing.

Kathy
21 days ago
Reply to  Traveler

Yes! We didn’t buy our RV to go “camping.” We bought it to “travel and see the United States.”

BrianR
21 days ago
Reply to  Kathy

Exactly

E. Laws
21 days ago
Reply to  Kathy

Hear hear.

Paul S Goldberg
21 days ago
Do you have any words of encouragement for John? " Read more »

First, get out of Florida, it has always been overcrowded and difficult to book in the season since at least 2003 when we first went there in an RV. Stay away from major attractions, they too have always booked up way in advance. Get on the backroads and find the wonderful small hidden places that are still half empty. Join a coop or other long term spot where you can have your own place, not in Florida.

Darin Severns
21 days ago

Great advice!

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
21 days ago

It seems there are 2 quite different types of “camping” trying to fit under a too-small umbrella here. “Camping maybe being tents, vans, and TTs up to 20 feet”, and “Portable home bring along+ everything else”. Both types of “camping” suffer from ignorant newbies and old timer curmudgeons. No one will have a change of opinion if we can’t even define the terms. But definition IS needed, as otherwise we are just spinning our wheels on the ice without any kitty litter to afford traction.

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
21 days ago

First I see only good things from a more narrow definition of terms. Monster sized PHBAEE surely don’t want to navigate campground roads sized for rigs, and slips under 30 feet in length, and TVTT don’t want to be snug in a tent when a 50 footer mistakes their small footprint as an “empty slip” and whips their portable housing into same (Dh lived in a houseboat during college, watery parking spaces for THAT sort of RV were called”slips” hence my usage)PHBAEE NEED more electric than a TVTT and probably more dump facilities.

The campground can pack more TVTT spaces onto their property than PHBAEE will need, and they probably will wind up monitoring and charging for extra electric for the PHBAEE. I guess that campgrounds catering to PHBAEE are mainly of the 10 years old no more persuasion and likely to tie into longterm rentals also.

I get the feeling most of us are on the same page here, but each kinda holding “that other guy” responsible for the current state of the industry.

Laurie
21 days ago

Jennifer M did you really suggest putting something biodegradable in a plastic bag. Plastic bags are a big part of the landfill problem. I would suggest burying TP.