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.
Prevent multiple campsite reservations for same day
Reader Mike W. has an idea to eliminate multiple reservations at different parks for the same day. “It’d be nice if the various reservation systems, covering at a minimum the state and national parks systems, prevented you from placing a reservation for the same time window at different parks. ‘We’re sorry, but you already have a reservation at another campground at this time. You will need to cancel that to place a reservation for this site.’ Shouldn’t prevent multiple site bookings for the same name at the same campground – sometimes you’re booking for friends and family. This would be an easy thing for the reservation sites to code”
Candy G. wanted to spend the winter in Florida but found that only the camper could stay – in storage! “We bought our camper this past March. We live in NH, and we made plans to travel to Florida in October and store our camper there, so we could come and go during the winter. (Can’t afford all winter yet.) Once in Florida, we found out most campgrounds are booked solid January – March and part of April. Disappointed our camper will spend the winter (in Florida), and we won’t be able to.”
Camping in the backyard was not the plan
Stephanie E. writes to us about her disappointment. “I was so excited last November when I bought my new-to-me 2018 Coachmen Prism. I was semi-retired so I could enjoy more trips. Well, the reality didn’t match the dream. It was so hard finding campgrounds and I haven’t been able to figure out boondocking yet. The rising gas prices have convinced me that selling my RV is my best option. But how to sell it is my dilemma – the dealership’s consignment looks like I will lose a lot of money on my still well-made RV. I am sad to let my dream go, but looking at my RV and not being able to use it easily makes no sense. Camping in my backyard was not the plan.”
Reservation issues? Buy a membership
If you’re having trouble reserving a campsite, perhaps listen to Richard C’s advice: “Reservation issues? Not to sound like Captain Obvious but, camping costs money! The more you’re willing to invest in campground memberships, the easier your reservations will be (and the cheaper your nightly rate). And yes, those memberships will always cost more than you think they’re worth. Just another of the many expenses involved in the lifestyle.”
Camp host Michele C. has noticed an increase in her campground being busier but also campers being combative. Yikes! She writes, “We have been full-time RVers for almost five years. We camp hosted for three seasons (April–September) in Montana. Not only are campgrounds busier (ours was the busiest season yet), the campers have become combative. From verbal abuse to physical. This was our last season camp hosting and if the [lack of] availability of campgrounds continues we may buy a home.”
“Please don’t hate me!”
Cheryl H. writes about only being able to use her reservations part of the time and the difficulty in changing dates, particularly on Recreation.gov. “Please don’t hate me. Sometimes a family need comes up (my parents are elders) and I may only use the campsite I’ve reserved for part of the reserved time. I generally use COE parks and would have to cancel my reservation and re-book for the new days. You have to go to Recreation.gov to reserve those spots and changing the dates is near impossible. The bots are out there waiting and boom! I’ve lost the entire reservation before I can re-book. My deepest apologies to anyone I’ve offended by coming a day later or leaving a day earlier. Any advice would be appreciated.”
Get into the wallet and solve the problem!
Robert P. has a suggestion to end the no-shows. “All campgrounds are crowded from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon. All campgrounds near favorite tourist attractions are crowded eight days a week. Families that have school-age children and/or are still working just have to work out a schedule. Been there and done that.
“As for the no-show reservations, campgrounds can easily solve that problem by increasing the fee for reservations. In a high-demand tourist area, a 75 percent – 100 percent camping fee for the reservation will stop most of the no-shows. It could be set up with a refund policy based on how long it would take to sell that spot to someone who will show up or who’s waiting. It would also include a processing fee so the campground would make a profit off the cancellation and renting the spot to someone else.
“I’ll guarantee if I’ve reserved a camping spot and I’ve paid $60–$80 deposit, if I’m not going to make it, I’m going to cancel as soon as possible. $30–$40 deposit is nothing to lose today, but double that, now you’re getting into the wallet seriously.”
Another reader, Bill T., also has a solution that hits the wallet: “It seems like for those who live in the western U.S. or in areas where you can reserve a year in advance are fortunate, but there are many of us who live in other areas of the country, Canada included, that need to wait for the 5-month window to open for national parks or early spring before most campgrounds open to online reservations. This is where the real frustration lies, especially competing with the ‘bots’ booking national parks sites in milli-seconds.
“Kudos to those who live in boondocking areas covering multiple seasons, but there are a lot of RVers who don’t. I believe a good place to start in reducing the number of those booking multiple sites is to charge full price upfront and rethink cancellation policy dates to 30 or more days prior for refunds.”
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.