Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Campground Crowding: Memberships not worth it, and they don’t help get you a reservation!

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.

Happy New Year!

Before we get started, I want to wish every one of you a very happy and healthy New Year. As yet another Covid variant is spreading its ugly wings across the country and around the world, being healthy is indeed a timely hope for everyone. Once again, RVing seems to be one of the best and safest ways to still travel and vacation. We all know that will lead to more crowded campgrounds and difficulty in making reservations. So much for the hope that air travel, hotels and ocean liners will take some of the pressure off finding a site. So, plan away, and may your dream site be always available and serene.

Here are a few observations from our readers:

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Gary D. has some sound advice, particularly for those procrastinating on making summer plans. “My business training taught me that failing to plan is planning to fail. We research where we want to go, read the fine print, then reserve 6 months, 9 months or a year in advance of our trips. Another part of our planning was to equip our motorhome to be able to boondock for as long as our holding tanks permit so we’re never without a place to stay.”

Start planning for 2023 now

Is it too early to start planning for 2023 RV travel? Howie K. is wondering the same thing. “We have 12 trips already booked for 2022. Most trips are 7-8 nights with some linked for 2-3 weeks. We are traveling to New England and upper NY state. We did book many of the sites the first day they were available. Only one campground was already fully booked for 2022. Maybe we should start thinking for 2023!

No-shows make peaceful neighbors

The plus side to no-show reservations? Kevin K. writes, “Yes, reservations are very difficult to get. On the plus side, once you arrive it’s generally very peaceful, as all the no-shows make for a quiet campground.”

Canceling reservations? Call the RV park directly

Micheal W. has some good advice when needing to cancel a reservation and it becomes difficult if not impossible to get a full refund. “I am having a problem with the willingness to attack one’s wallet without cause. This idea presumes that all no-shows do it as inconsiderate RVers.

“Our little experience with the reservation industry has taught us once a reservation company sets a refund policy they apply it across the board, no exception. One policy fits all. What about those of us who have a legit reason for canceling? My example from the last ‘COVID season’ was we had to cancel reservations for the entire season at multiple parks due to travel restrictions.

“Those RV parks that operated their own reservations were not a problem. Most even returned the nonrefundable reservation fee. Our problem was with one reservation service company that would only return a portion of the fully paid reservation, telling us that keeping almost a third of our paid-up reservation fee was the company policy as a ‘penalty’ for cancellation. As we were canceling three months in advance, we called the owners of the park to complain. They returned all of our fees and canceled the services of the reservation company. We now have a reservation with this park for this season as they understand how things can happen that are out of one’s control.”

No more memberships for this camper

B.W.O. has done the math and is not joining a camp membership again. “I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind the suggestion that joining campground membership groups will help one find reservations. We have had memberships in several over the years. Lately, we have decided to drop most.

“Good Sam, Passport, et al., do not guarantee members a reservation – they just give discounts (some quite modest, given the increase in prices). Others have a ‘network’ of campgrounds still focused on saving money – i.e., XX nights free for your $$$ membership fees.

“No guarantees of availability AND they are often concentrated in certain areas of the country. One network I checked out listed a whopping 81 campgrounds available to members across the ENTIRE country… out of the 15,000 campgrounds in the U.S. Really? 81/15,000? How far out of my way would I have to drive to use one? The gas alone would defeat the purpose. I just don’t see how any of this helps me find available sites.”

It’s not a secret anymore!

Sam C. did share his secret to getting campsites. “You asked for our ‘secrets’ for finding campsites. If I told you my secrets they’d not be secrets anymore. But I find campsites by using RV Trip Wizard to see what exists in the area in which I am interested, and then phone that campsite and give them the dates that I am interested in. Usually, this is only a week or two in advance. In certain instances, like high-demand areas and/or high-demand times, it may be longer in advance. This system has worked for us for the past four years in which we have been ‘full-time’ campers.”

Insane policies

Joseph W. had some big issues with his National Park reservations. He writes, “There are some insane policies that contribute to this problem. We tried booking a reservation for a National Park campground. I will assume I made an error booking as when I got the confirmation, the dates were wrong. I tried to change the reservation but couldn’t, not for six days. Then I made another correct reservation and called the reservation system to have them cancel the first reservation. They said they could not change the reservation for six days. Crazy!!! So someone who is planning a trip will not have access to an open spot due to this ridiculous policy. Especially with these online booking sites (no human), one ought to be able to correct an error.”

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 the previous Crowded Campgrounds column here


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


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1 year ago

For the price of a Good Sam membership, something like $29.95 a year, you’ll get that money back just by booking a couple of parks that take GS and offer the 10% discount that comes with it. I agree it is becoming harder and harder to book state parks and C.O.E. parks, but so far in our travels up and down the East coast we always seem to be able to find a park. You have to be open-minded about what you’ll accept. I know a lot of campers are not. That being said, I do believe CG’s will be harder to book the more West you go and the more camping becomes a year-round pastime. My wife and I are hurriedly trying to tie up bookings out West for our cross-country trip starting in May. Yes, we did book some of the major national parks last year as early as possible, and now we are finishing rounding out our plans based on the reservations already made.

Michael Galvin, PhD
1 year ago

Gary D. says Failing to plan is planning to fail. Not in the case of RVing if you know what you are doing. Reserving 6 to 9 months ahead and locking into an itinerary is not for us. We want to stay extra time in some places, leave others early, and follow routes suggested by locals or websites. Of course, we can’t do that at Yosemite and the like, but have never failed to find a spot, planning 0 or 1 day ahead. Our Big Secret is camping at the hundreds of Elks lodges. Other than that, there are many apps to find parks and campgrounds, and others to find overnight pull offs and boondocking sites.

1 year ago

If Mike is happy camping at Elks Lodges I’m sure he will easily find a spot for himself a day or two in advance. Don’t expect that to work at Florida State Parks in the winter.

Alain T.
1 year ago

Have maintained memberships with good sam, passport america, koa, since 2005, when they had some value added. Even counting the last two years of restricted travel, we figure still having broken even, but it’s becoming quite the job to find rebates through Passport America as the black out rules just get more and more complicated. P.A. seems to embrace a policy of signing up as many campgrounds as possible, yet giving the campgrounds complete liberty of reducing access to rebates to only a few days a year, rendering membership practically useless. At least Good Sam and Koa (still) have a standard 10% rebate policy across the board, but they usually have higher rates.

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