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Campground Crowding: Reader says some campers should lose campground privileges… for life!

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.

Try the city parks

Nancy T. offers this advice to deal with campground crowding: “Try city parks. I used a couple this summer when I couldn’t find a traditional park. They generally have at least partial hookups (electric) and water available. Never had a problem.”

“I am a happy camper!”

Fred B. is a happy camper and has some great advice for us. “12 years full-timing so far and still very little if any problems with reservations. We do boondock frequently and love it. My tip: Set up your RV for boondocking, even if it’s not your first choice for camping. It will give you another option if campgrounds are full in the area you’re going to. Once you’ve tried boondocking, you may find you love it, and it may become your first choice. We will continue to travel full-time, regardless if reserving becomes difficult. Give me a remote spot in the mountains, or out in the desert where I can commune with nature, and I’m a happy camper, enjoying heaven on earth.”

Not just a North American problem!

Manfred M. says that campground crowding is not limited to the U.S. and Canada. “In my hometown of Trier, Germany, an ancient and historic city, all the campgrounds on the banks of the Moselle River have been sold out all summer.

Canada campsites go to oil workers

Ron J. has had to get a seasonal site due to a lack of available campgrounds. “We have, in the past, had little difficulty reserving a site, but residing in a Canadian province with a robust oil economy, found that oilfield workers, due to the expense of motel or hotel living, began to use campgrounds for their worktime residences, thusly denying the RV user from using the campgrounds for the purpose for which they are intended. We have switched to a seasonal site but now don’t get the experience of traveling nearly as much as desired.”

Take away camping privileges for life?

Reader Timothy S. sent us a rather scathing commentary on folks who reserve multiple sites and don’t cancel. We’ll keep our personal opinions about this comment to ourselves, but we are curious to hear your thoughts (perhaps a little more politely…).

Timothy writes, “So far, I haven’t experienced any problems making reservations for camping. But I make my plans one year in advance and seek out restaurants, events/attractions, or just places to relax. The overcrowding comes into play when some idiot can’t decide where he wants to actually go. And he makes a reservation at numerous campgrounds. When he finally decides where he is going to go, he waits until the last minute to cancel and leaves the site open and someone without a place to go. These are the ones that make it bad for actual campers. This site has nothing to do with ruining anything, but warning everyone about what is happening. You just didn’t go far enough. Print this and it will explain everything to those who have had problems getting a site. We need to find these people and take away their camping privileges for life.”

Well, how does this make you feel?
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Year in advance

Thomas E. confirmed what many of our readers say to do. Thomas says, “Planning is key. We reserve a year in advance. And I really liked the confirming a reservation idea except we don’t always get our emails when en route. Regardless, we do call and confirm our reservations weeks in advance to make sure they haven’t forgotten us – having made the reservations a year earlier. Most places price increases following inflation.”

Jim S. also books a year in advance and prepares to boondock too. “We spent the money on solar and inverters so now we do more boondocking. The campgrounds we love we book for the following year when we are there on our initial camping trip. This seems to be what it has come to. It’s not ideal but works for us. Gives us something to look forward to the next year without so much stress in finding a place later… GOOD LUCK!”

It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you…

Dave P. made me smile with his comment: “‘Do you have any tips or secrets you’d like to share about finding campgrounds that aren’t as crowded?’ Well, it wouldn’t be a secret if I tell you… right?

You are certainly right, Dave!

Kudos to RVtravel.com

Ron S. sent us a nice email about the work we are doing. He wrote, “Chuck and all at RVTravel.com, please continue what you are doing. You give all of us great information and ideas for camping and traveling in our RVs. Last year we noticed a lot of newbies with first-time RVs just trying to get out and travel during Covid. We tried to help when they needed it and tried to steer them to your site. Yes, it is harder to travel and find places, especially one night while traveling, but we have also found great places this past year.”

Now that’s what we like to hear. Thanks so much, Ron!

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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38 Comments
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Jeff
1 month ago
Well, how does this make you feel?" Read more »

Sounds draconian
There should be a reservation system that flags names of people who already have reserved the same dates anywhere. I get your anger but you really need to chill

Robert P Sandlak
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

There should be a personal limit to cancellations in State Parks. That would be easy to track. You can’t reserve more than 1 State Park at the same time for the same dates. It would auto cancel the last one.

Carson Axtell
1 month ago

Online marketplaces such as eBay, Etsy and others have ways of rating both vendors and buyers so that those who misbehave can be singled out for their abusive behaviors. The same can be done with online reservation systems so that bad actors can be identified and treated accordingly. Selfish people are takers who only abuse cooperative systems to the detriment of others. They are happy to push others out of the lifeboat if it means they get more provisions for themselves.

Last edited 1 month ago by Carson Axtell
Lhp
1 month ago

If I have reserved a site and paid for the site in full it is mine to park my RV on or leave it vacant. If paid in full and I am ok forfeiting my fee if I choose to not park my rig on that site than so be it. Maybe I arrive late and leave early…… maybe it’s not your business because I paid for it.

Ron Yanuszewski
1 month ago
Reply to  Lhp

Just because you can doesn’t mean you’re not a p***k for actually doing it, Also it becomes everyone’s business when they can’t get sites.

Carson Axtell
1 month ago
Reply to  Lhp

This attitude pretty much sums up the metastasized notion of individualist privilege. What has been lost is the sense of community and the belief that others also have rights that every individual has an obligation to consider if we want to maintain a functioning society. Continuing in this “me first, screw you” direction means the center cannot hold. As Lincoln said, “A house divided cannot stand.” And history shows us that eventually nations collapse from the inside out when its citizens treat each other as adversaries rather than as fellow passengers in a national lifeboat.

Last edited 1 month ago by Carson Axtell
Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Carson Axtell

Very well said, Carson. Thank you. Take care, and stay healthy. 🙂 –Diane

Uncle Swags
1 month ago
Reply to  Lhp

With rights come responsibilities. Money doesn’t absolve your behavior

Lyle Latvala
1 month ago
Well, how does this make you feel?" Read more »

Reserved. but unoccupied sites, are a common occurrence at the National Parks at which we volunteer. The NPS rates are simply too low, so some people will reserve multiple campgrounds and/or multiple sites because at $30-to-$50/night the money is meaningless to them. (must be nice!!!). The ONLY solution is to raise the rates substantially until it’s painful enough, but higher rates imply other issues and problems. Perhaps having a stated, non-refundable penalty for no-shows might be another solution (high enough to make it painful)?

Pursuits
1 month ago

There is absolutely no incentive for campgrounds to enforce policies that are not causing them any grief. They get their money, which is their purpose. I know of no non-profit campgrounds other than BLM lands. Truth be told, their life is easier when they have the money for those reserved site, but still have fewer folks to take care of.

When I was a manager, I frequently heard from employees about Jane or Joe taking too much time in the bathroom, yada-yada. My response: if you focused on your own work, you wouldn’t have time to mind others’ business.

I am much more concerned with those who DO show up and then leave their site looking like a garbage dump, the bathrooms filthy, and their dog poop in public areas.

MYOB and just chill!

Marie Beschen
1 month ago

It is frustrating seeing the empty sites that have “reserved” on them, and no one there – indicating a “no show”. But, having gone through ReserveAmerica many times, I know they have paid their fee in full, so the cg isn’t out any $$, it’s just that we know “someone else could have needed that site”. Sad, but, let’s face it, lots of various reasons of “why” there was a no show, and that’s life, and it’s not going to change. All we can do is be “a good example” and pass that along as we go. Believe “what goes around, comes around”.

Pat
1 month ago
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While I understand this is happening, I don’t know what to do about it. There are some people who will be jerks no matter what.

Irv
1 month ago

Is there any proof that anyone “makes a reservation at numerous campgrounds” let alone a bunch of people.

This seems more like an urban myth than fact. I think the empty sites are due to a lot of other factors.

The solution is simple: If you don’t show by checkout time the next day (without calling to explain the delay), the remaining days are canceled and the site re-rented.

It would also help if there was an incentive to cancel during peak seasons by 4pm. That way the site can be re-rented.

Jerry O.
1 month ago
Well, how does this make you feel?" Read more »

Would serve them right to be denied completely.

E. Cowan
1 month ago
Well, how does this make you feel?" Read more »

Timothy S., your reservation frustrations have merit, yet “banning someone for life”, seems a bit extreme. How would you propose this be done? Where should the limits be drawn? What about extenuating circumstances?

I recall an instance coming across a family, in Montana, traveling from the Northern Territories, CN, broke down, unable to get their tow vehicle repaired, missing established reservations, thus leaving those sites unused. Should they be banned for life too because they made reservations, but didn’t use them? As they were immovable in a rest area, they had no way to “prove” they broke down. Should a campground operator just “take their word for it”. Following that reasoning, all one would need to do is fabricate a story to get out of your proposed lifetime banishment.

I can sympathize with your frustration as I’ve experienced it myself, but your idea doesn’t appear to be completely thought out.

MrDisaster
1 month ago
Well, how does this make you feel?" Read more »

Tough talk…but seems enforcement would be an issue. How about campgrounds adopt a robust cancellation policy and release sites the next morning but keep the first night rental fee. CG operators could develop a “wait list” and offer the site to the next person on the list. CG managers could also keep a “banned list”.

Stephanie Jenkins
1 month ago
Well, how does this make you feel?" Read more »

So July of 2020 I reserved a site for July of 2021 during a music festival. So my mother-in-law fell Ill and end up passing away the Monday after the festival. So obviously we did not attend the festival and our spot was empty. So according to his rational I should be banned for life. This is a ridiculous stance you never know what causes some to walk away from a paid reservation.

Jane
1 month ago
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95% of places we booked ahead took your payment info and stated “if you do not show up you are charged for the night.”

UPRIG
1 month ago

Never a problem… improvise, adapt, overcome… yes it is that simple.

Scott V
1 month ago
Well, how does this make you feel?" Read more »

if people don’t cancel, first off all their $ should be forfeit Plus a fine and next time they book their price per night, should double.

Vincee
1 month ago

Hasn’t this subject been beaten to death in the newsletter? Campgrounds are going to do what they need to do to survive. We as consumers still do have choices whether it be Walmarts and Cracker Barrels to BLM lands out West to the mom and pops still out there. Chose as you need, be flexible with your itinerary when possible (not always the case when coordinating with work and children’s schedules), be willing to accept less than 10 point rates campgrounds and we all should be able to enjoy the lifestyle we so love.

Virginia
1 month ago
Reply to  Vincee

Agree. Tired of the moaning and groaning. Life ain’t fair. End of story.

Gary F Broughton
1 month ago

We’ve been turned away but we find something. We’ve made reservations a couple months before. We’ve been next to nice people, dirtbags, let your dogs run people, party people but we survived. But we’ve found that the bigger your RV is or the richer you are the more you seem to be the problem people, sometimes. Weekends and tourists areas are the worse so you need to plan. If you really feel bad, change your itinerary, stay a few days longer, visit friends or museums, every little town has a nice grandma restaurant. The alternative is to stay home.

Billinois
1 month ago

Banning for life seems a bit drastic. Why not just line them up and flog them?
Seriously though, the no show problem could be eliminated by requiring full payment at time of registration, and charging double to the card if no one shows up or fails to cancel. Spell it out in the Terms and Conditions at booking and have a checkbox to agree.

Drew
1 month ago
Reply to  Billinois

This is exactly how I feel and I’m surprised more places don’t have that policy.

Janet
1 month ago
Reply to  Billinois

I agree. Not showing and not calling to cancel is totally rude and inconsiderate.

When we travelled in our RV, we had a few times when we had mechanical or medical problems that prevented our arriving at the reserved date and time. There was always a discussion of who did we need to call and where did we need to cancel our reservations.
We found that when we called and explained our problem to the camp host, our problem was met with understanding – probably because it had happened to them somewhere along their travels. A few times we had to forfeit a deposit, but most times they just appreciated knowing they could re-rent the site. I never minded paying a night in advance or having to forfeit it when we cancelled a day or two before we were scheduled to arrive, and appreciated the campgrounds that understood issues out of our control. To make a reservation and just not show up is simply wrong on the part of the campers. Even in the examples stated above in these comments, there is no excuse for not having the consideration to call the campground.

There was only one park – in Golden Colorado – that charged us the full two nights of our planned stay in advance when we made the reservations (reservations made six months ahead). We’re talking several hundred dollars. We ended up having to cancel the entire eight weeks of our trip because of slide problems and the rig was sitting in the repair shop for months. We called TWO MONTHS in advance to cancel. The campground owners refused to refund our money or any part of it. They asked when we thought we might reschedule and use our “credit”. We said we were going to try to take the trip about the same time the next year but weren’t ready to commit to a date. Well, they committed us to a date and the following year let us know we hadn’t shown up for our reservation (that we didn’t know they had made) and they had applied our “credit” to pay for our no show. We tried to discuss it with them and were told “too bad, so sad”. I hate it when people are no shows; it’s not fair to campers or campground owners. Still, I felt this was total theft on the part of the campground owners.

Rick
1 month ago
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AGREED! If you can’t cancel your reservations in a timely manner then you don’t deserve the privilege.

Jerry
1 month ago
Well, how does this make you feel?" Read more »

In Kansas the state parks already do not allow you to cancel, you pay full price to reserve. Kinda inconvenient if something comes up,but I understand why they do it.

Firefly
1 month ago
Reply to  Jerry

So in Kansas there is zero incentive to cancel. That doesn’t solve the problem. It just exacerbates it.

jeanne
1 month ago
Reply to  Firefly

It will in many cases as it could cost someone like that a pile of money if they do it too much.