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Campground Crowding: Need a site? Run an ad for one – it worked for these readers

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.

Have a spot for us at the quarry?

Jim T. commented on how difficult it is to make reservations six months in advance. He says, “It’s almost impossible to make reservations 6 months in advance and know you’re going to be available for that time to camp. We do get to camp at parks occasionally but it’s not the same good ol’ campin’ people used to enjoy. People now are rude, noisy, and messy. We have an 8-acre stone quarry with four 30-amp hookups. Most family and friends camp with us there now on off-scheduled weekends when campgrounds are unreservable. All our friends now would rather camp and relax there.”

Campgrounds featured on YouTube are fully booked

Popular campgrounds are being featured on “vloggers” (video bloggers) channels on YouTube. But are they accessible to the general public? Kevin B. found campgrounds he found on YouTube fully booked. He shares his experience: “I’ve just wrapped up a trip to Key West and made a ‘loop’ around Florida. I’ve been able to pretty much book a site in my campground of choice the entire trip, though some slight modifications in the number of days was needed. I did find some of the campgrounds that I’ve seen on YouTube RV channels were consistently fully booked, but alternatives were nearby and available. As a travel tip: We have a preference for State Parks, and we have found that, generally speaking, Sunday thru Friday nights are almost always open and the campgrounds seem to be around half occupancy.”

Memberships not helping

In last week’s column, reader B.W.O. said that camp memberships just aren’t worth it (read more about that here). Reader Paul S. agrees and writes, “We have a membership that has 81 campgrounds as part of it and have not been able to make a reservation in some places or be able to check in on a particular day. It is harder to find a site with so many annual people moving in.”

Catherine B. is also disappointed with her membership. She says, “We are very disappointed in our favorite camps, state and Thousand Trails. It’s impossible to get into any regular stops. I’m ready to stop camping. Especially in Florida due to a change in reservation service.”

How do you feel about memberships? Do you think they’re worth having or not?
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Tensions are rising…

Denise N. is having trouble booking their favorite campgrounds. “We have found that our favorite campgrounds (Army Corps) are more crowded and harder to get into now. We have to plan further in advance and risk having to amend or cancel due to travel changes. That causes a lot of tension. Without planning, we would have nowhere to stay!”

Ask for first-come, first-served

A very lucky Rose D. isn’t having any problems. Rose writes, “We camp with our 19-ft. RV all year-round. I have found that a lot of the campsites have a first-come, first-served section. You just have to ask. We are set up for boondocking also. Never any problems.”

Getting reservations in Colorado is “just a joke”

Rod M. has been RVing for 30 years and used to enjoy it. Now, well, his view has changed… “Allowing people to book a site 6 months in advance, well, a lot of us cannot book that far ahead. We have been RVers for 30 years and always enjoyed it until the last few years when getting reservations at our favorite state parks here in Colorado has become a joke. Now it is not camping, everyone just relocates from their neighborhood to the state park with little or no monitoring from the staff. It’s all about money and not the experience.”

The booking process needs to be revamped

Since 2015, Tommy S. has only been able to reserve in state parks eight times. Yikes! Tommy says, “I purchased my camper in 2015. I have only been able to camp in State Parks maybe eight times due to no availability. I have at least 20 such parks in my 50-mile radius. When I am forced to use a private campground it’s expensive and there is not much to do if you enjoy nature. The whole booking process needs to be revamped for people who cannot make a reservation far in advance or afford to pay cancellation fees like those who lock down sites for times when they aren’t even there.”

Nasty old campgrounds charge as much as new ones

Richard B. is now set up for boondocking, and he’s got the right idea. He says, “Campgrounds are only getting worse and the nasty old ones charge as much as the new ones. Set your trailer/RV up to boondock in style. I have upgraded a few items in my rig and l do not need services for two weeks. Mainly to fill fresh water and drain tanks. You don’t need a park to camp and have fun. I am in Eastern Washington and parks are full in the winter and summer. I wake up 100 ft. from the lake or river almost every day…. no problems.”

Run an ad!

Denise P. has a suggestion that worked for them. She writes, “Last time we decided on a last-minute RV trip (this was years ago) we put an ad in the local Craigslist where we wanted to go asking to rent a space on someone’s wooded property. We got so lucky – beautiful wooded acreage with no human occupants right on the lake, and for less than we would have paid at a campground. That was years ago, but I would think with careful research you could use CL or Facebook the same way.” Editors note: If you decide to try this, please consider the risks, be cautious and stay safe. If it’s a safe situation, it could be a wonderful option!

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

NEW! Join Nanci on her Crowded Campgrounds forum.

##RVT1034b

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Paul
9 days ago

I have never been tempted by the membership campgrounds. There are too many rules and too much planning is required to take advantage of them. We are lifetime Passport America which was a great deal in our early years, but most of them also offer Escapees discounts and that is our primary membership. GS is a waste, I became Lifetime years ago and have regretted it ever since. 10% savings is small potatoes in the cost of camping, its better than nothing but only just barely. We chose to join an Escapees Coop – Jojoba Hills in Socal for our extended winter home base. But it is one location and not suitable for those who tend to move every month. I know some people belong to more than one SKP Coop for just that reason.
When we were part time RVers our needs/desires were far different from what they are today as older full timers. Still never saw a club membership park I would want to spend a lot of time in.


Donald N Wright
9 days ago

Anyone have any experience at time share campsites at Campgrounds?

BWO
9 days ago

Not sure if these are present in all states, but here in SC there is a “Catch and Release” page on Facebook where people advertise open spots that they have had to cancel. I think the idea is genius.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/sccampsitecatchandrelease

gary
9 days ago
How do you feel about memberships? Do you think they're worth having or not?" Read more »

We’ve been using thousand trails in the west but so far have been disappointed. Most of the sites are filled with long term residents in older, sometimes unsightly RVs, leaving very few sites large enough to fit our motor home, forcing us to sometimes look elsewhere. We’ve also experienced that the long term residents seem to be a higher priority for management over those staying two weeks or less. These are some of the reasons making me wonder if buying into a membership was worth the money. Right now, I’m seriously thinking about getting out of this membership we’ve only had for a year!

wanderer
10 days ago

The membership ‘clubs’ are not working any more. Long ago, they were a way for a campground to get noticed by travelers. Now, that is no longer needed. People can find campgrounds with an array of websites and apps.

Now, Good Sam is merely a way to slap a 10% lodging tax on casual RVers who don’t pay dues to a store they hate. Passport America is losing campgrounds, which no longer need or want to give big discounts to get spaces filled. Thousand Trails is an expensive buy-in which then locks you into a restricted pool of parks with lots of ‘gotchas’.

Tommy Molnar
10 days ago

I feel sorry for campers east of the Rockies. I think open land is at a premium back there. But if you live west of the Rockies, boondocking sites (or areas) abound. You have to develop an eye for spotting areas ripe for camping, and be willing to drive off the main drag and onto dirt roads. Over the years we’ve found camping spots in areas where friends swear there is no free camping. Sometimes there is no real ‘view’ that would attract some people but we’re looking for quiet, peaceful places where we can enjoy each other’s company. It works for us. It all depends on your ‘needs’. The less you ‘need’, the more opportunities you find.