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, RVtravel.com 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.
All these crowds really take a toll on enthusiasm!
Reader Dennis D. wrote in about campgrounds being full. He writes, “The ‘campground full’ encounter is becoming more frequent. Adding to this is the demand for longer-term stays. This discouraging experience does take a toll on the enthusiasm for camping. If I can’t find a place to stay, what do I do with this equipment? To be sure, we are not that fussy and have stayed at alternate sites and been perfectly happy, but there seems to be fewer and fewer of even second and third choices. We do try them all: commercial parks; state, county, and city camps; trailer parks; and military parks. The luck has been with us but this year I see the difficulty finding sites becoming much more difficult. Our camping chapter is more frequently booking individual sites for the weekend rather than wagon-master securing one reservation.”
Giving up due to crowding and other issues
It was sad to read that Karen M. is giving up camping for a number of reasons – reasons that we are all aware of. She says, “I have essentially given up camping. Crowding, rude behavior, noise and trash have taken the joy away. The crowd new to camping today has a totally new vision of what it is. They require large motel-type rigs, every convenience from home and the demand to use these items when and wherever they want. Outside entertainment centers, large group parties, multiple motor vehicles, invasion of other’s space.
“Being outside in the woods, beach or lake quietly enjoying what is there seems to be unimportant. This is reflected in how the site looks when they leave. I am assuming this is what the new users want. It does not appeal to me or a lot of people, but it seems to be the future. Can I find a site for a night? Sure, almost always. But gone are the days you can plan a vacation at a park without booking nearly a year before. It’s just a new game where we the people are ruining it for us all, and loudly complaining about it.”
Not looking for a resort!
Tom D. moved from tent camping to a trailer and is not looking for an RV resort. “We’re former tent campers now in a 25’ trailer. We’re in our mid-70s so we’re not looking for a resort but a small, quiet spot to use as a base camp for exploring. We do not have a TV – we camp. Instead, we play games, have a campfire, explore, and talk.
“We try to plan a few months in advance but sometimes it’s a few days. Never had a problem finding a spot. Sometimes crowded but mostly friendly campers. We love WY, MT, SD, UT, CO, and AZ. Usually out for six weeks, staying one week per camp.”
The magic formula!
Herb and Kathy B. have a system that gets them a site without fail, even with all of the campground crowding. Shhh! Don’t share their secrets! “We are full-time RVers, have been for five years and we are not finding problems in getting a spot for the night. We stay at about 20 percent commercial RV parks (so we can do laundry, dump, and take on water) and 50 percent in state parks, COE parks, city parks, fairgrounds. The last 30 percent we utilize Elks Lodges, Harvest Hosts, and Boondockers Welcome, along with the occasional Cracker Barrel, Cabela’s, Sam’s Club, Casino, or anywhere else we can find a large parking lot mostly empty where we clearly won’t be in anybody’s way.”
A grim picture ahead…
Is the future of RVing grim? Tony D., a full-time RVer and workamper, thinks so. Tony writes, “As a full-timer and workamper, I’m seeing more RVs of all types and sizes on the roads – many on the side of the roads – and in the parks. A very large factor in the recent explosion in RV ownership has come from full-timer nomads, young and old, retired and remote workers.
“Unfortunately, too many RVs of all types and price ranges are so poorly put together they not only bleed out the finances of many new owners, they present a safety hazard to owners and others both in the parks and on the highways. The direct result of an industry with no real standards and arguably under-regulated.
“Then, there has been a huge increase in private parks being acquired by hedge funds or absorbed into larger institutionally backed conglomerates. State parks are being ‘privatized’ out to management companies (often owned or headed by cronies of state-level politicians).
“Pricing models get more and more ‘exotic’ with many designed so as to mislead campers as to what the park’s price really is until too late. Again, no standards and under-supervised.
“Finally, fuel prices are moving through the roof to the extent that one has to wonder if the ‘oil industry/cartels’ is really trying to push their customers into non-petroleum-consuming vehicles.
“I suspect that, within the next couple of years, we will see a large sell-off of RVs purchased in 2020 ~ 2022 combined with an inverted or negative ‘hockey stick’ in the sales performance turned in by larger manufacturers.
“Seeing a bit of that now in the towable segment. The corporate-owned parks will fade away as demand disappears, leaving a grumpy class of investors in their wake. In short, what we have now is a classic ‘bubble’ where, once again, the collapse of an industry will have been self-inflicted, cheered on by Wall Street. As for the consumers, well, in the end, RVing can be a great life … until it isn’t.”
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.