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Campground Crowding: “Am I supposed to employ a bot or two to make my reservations?”

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.

Overcrowding is real!

This week, Robert P. gives us some sage advice about being patient and adapting. Robert writes, “Speaking only as a retiree, we have made three trips this year since buying our 23’ travel trailer. One to Chattanooga for our anniversary, one to Pigeon Forge, TN, just to be going, and one to Lake Guntersville, AL. We travel during the week; this may be why we don’t have problems. We did notice the campgrounds do fill up by Saturday morning and empty out Sunday afternoon.

“I’ve been there and done that 40 years ago so I know your frustrations. I believe the overcrowding is real for the people who still have children in school and who still have jobs to go to during the week. We went through these same frustrations 40 years ago but there weren’t as many campers as there are today.

“Be patient, live with it, adapt, and accept it. Your day will come, you’ll find if you don’t require the high demand tourist areas and are willing to drive a couple of hours to get to Disney World, you can find many places to stay. If you want to be in the center of activities you’ll have to pay the price of overcrowding. That’s no different from staying in motels/hotels.”

14,000 miles with no problems

Can you imagine traveling more than 14,000 miles and not experiencing any issues with reservations? Rick S. has it down! Rick, we need your secrets! “We traveled more than 14,000 miles this year and did not have any problems with overcrowding! We plan our itinerary with a ton of flexibility with reservations. Next month we head out for four months and everything is in place. Remembering how it ‘was’ is nice but we find that ‘how it is’ is much more enjoyable…” Good for you, Rick!

Call the campground

Jerry P. has a method that really works for him. “My answer to short-term reservations is to actually call the campground and talk to a real person. I think most people complaining about being unable to get a site are just looking at a website and moving to the next place if there’s nothing available. Canceled reservations don’t always make it to the website before they are reserved by someone on the phone. In most cases, even if there’s nothing available, they can put you on a waitlist for a site. Sites that come available with someone waiting don’t hit the website either.

“We did a 3,000-mile trip this summer and had no issues getting sites. We were wait-listed at two of the more popular places and got calls from both before we left. We were planning on a Harvest Host stop in Tennessee, but decided a night without AC in TN in August wasn’t a good idea. I started looking around and found a site at a popular FHU COE park just a couple of days ahead.”

Group reservations are a thing of the past

Julie L. is finding it harder if not impossible to make group and rally reservations at RV parks. “We are not retired so have limited extended time to camp. We’ve been camping for many years with tents, pop-ups, travel trailers, and, currently, a fifth wheel. We prefer Corps of Engineers, National Forest or state parks to camp at and mostly have managed to make reservations in advance, but for quick getaways, that becomes more elusive.

“What we have discovered that’s worse is that group reservations at RV parks are becoming a thing of the past. Rallies are harder to book and some RV parks are shutting them down altogether because they stay full without having to block out a rally. I see both sides of that, but bottom line is that this lifestyle has changed for everyone – full-time and recreational campers. Very sad.”

Another reader, Audrey E., is a wagonmaster and is also having a hard time booking group sites. “As a wagonmaster, I have found booking groups into campgrounds much more difficult than it has been in the past. Campgrounds are so busy, understaffed, and in a couple of situations, employee turnover has ‘lost’ my original request for group sites (19 rigs!! Ouch!).

“I ALWAYS book either my single or group reservations well in advance and have found that calling a campground to get single reservations is more difficult than it is to get a site online. I haven’t found campgrounds completely crowded (we camp often but not full-time) and will continue to book early (despite requirements to pay in advance, I have no problem with that as long as the cancellation policy is reasonable). The way things are now, I’m probably going to get out of the wagonmaster booking part of my camping.”

Above reader Jerry P. thinks it’s easier to get a site when calling the campground, but Audrey E. disagrees. What do you think? 
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A great resource

Janette S. sent us a great option for finding sites. “I travel with WIN, Wandering Individuals Network, at rvsingles.org. If you look at our website you will see we stay at a lot of Elk and Moose lodges and even an occasional Eagles Aerie. It works great for us! The California coastal ones required reservations but most do not. It’s a great resource!!”

No match for the Bots – two years in a row

Bots, bots and more bots! Eric C. tried repeatedly to book four days at Yosemite and was out of luck. He writes, “Two years attempting to book four days in Yosemite. I had selected multiple sites within the same campground and had the form completed and was ready to hit submit. Exactly when the booking site opened, I hit submit but got an ‘all sites reserved’ message within seconds. I immediately switched to another browser with another selected site, the form also completed, hit submit but again, got the same message. I repeated this process for all the sites I had selected but all were booked. I understand my feeble attempts were no match for the bots.

“I later learned many of the locations I chose were empty. Those campers paid their fees but didn’t show, selfishly preventing others from enjoying the opportunity. I don’t think this is right, yet am I supposed to employ a bot or two to make my reservations?

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

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Debbie M
7 days ago

Anybody ever heard of Campnab.com? It’s a paid site that scans thousands of reservation sites often, looking for cancellations. I subscribe for $10 a month and it’s been successful in finding me sites at always booked up places like Yellowstone, popular state parks, COE’s etc. Well worth the money.

Robert Pulliam
10 days ago
Above reader Jerry P. thinks it's easier to get a site when calling the campground, but Audrey E. disagrees. What…" Read more »

I have never used online reservations, I’m old fashioned I use the phone. Most campground offices are busy most of the day and may only check their internet once or twice a day. When the phone rings someone picks it up.

Marie Beschen
17 days ago
Above reader Jerry P. thinks it's easier to get a site when calling the campground, but Audrey E. disagrees. What…" Read more »

I agree that calling works. I’ve been able to involve the park in my quest and they in turn often work to “make it happen”. Sometimes it’s moving sites around, sometimes it’s putting me on a wait list and sometimes it’s giving me a name of another cg. All of which I couldn’t get on line.

gFab
17 days ago
Above reader Jerry P. thinks it's easier to get a site when calling the campground, but Audrey E. disagrees. What…" Read more »

It all depends on CG your trying to reserve. While camped at a state beach and waiting my turn to speak with the park employee at the gate, guy in front of me was inquiring on making a reservations and was told to go online. Guy stated that they couldn’t get through on the website.

Tommy Molnar
17 days ago

Many RV’ers want to travel to destination sites or areas. I understand that, and that’s fine. But we don’t. We RV to be together (wifey and I) and it really doesn’t matter where we end up. We have to make 2-3 trips between Reno and Houston every year and we have found our favorite RV parks on the route. This way we have our daily mileage planned. None require reservations. We just drive in, pay, and spend the night. Nothing fancy at any of these places, but they’re off the highway, quiet, and clean. Other than this trip, we’re boondockers. Over the years we’ve found (and saved in our ‘camping book’) many great spots that we continue to enjoy. We also look for new spots. I guess our idea of RV’ing differs from others – but it works without the frustrations.