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Campground Crowding: “l resent snowbirds for taking over everything”

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.

First time snowbirding in the U.S.

Leonard R. is enthusiastic about this winter and looking forward to next year already. “Plan ahead! I am looking to book our snowbird trip starting December 2022 – May 2023. It is not a big inconvenience, but rather a labour of love! I am thoroughly enjoying our first winter trip in the Southern U.S., and can’t wait for next year’s adventure to start!

“As far as campground memberships go, I have researched many of them. I joined Harvest Hosts in 2020 and love it! We have stayed at farms, wineries, breweries and golf courses about 15 times over the last 1 1/2 years. This is a no-brainer to ‘fill in the gaps’ when we have longer reservations a couple of driving days away.

“I agree on some of the third-party reservation systems. I had to shorten a stay at Kathryn Abbey SP in Jacksonville due to the extended border closure. When I contacted them two months in advance they said they had a no refund policy. WTF??? I sent an email directly to the park explaining my situation. Eventually, I received a partial refund with ‘only’ a cancellation penalty of about $75. It is what it is.”

Avoiding membership campgrounds

Tyson K. has decided to avoid corporate campgrounds altogether. “Looks like I will be avoiding corporate campgrounds. Namely Encore and Thousand Trails! Nice work by those purveyors! I wonder how lawyers deal with that? Avoid them altogether.” (Scroll down here to see what Tyson is referring to.)

Early check-in charges … or not?

Lorna G. has found a way to manage early check-in charges and restrictions. “We find campgrounds are becoming more strict on arrival time. We’ve been told ‘no’ and we’ve been charged extra to check in early. Since we don’t travel far each leg, if we leave by checkout time at one stop we’re too early at the next. At cheaper places with late check-in, I’ve started reserving an extra night before our arrival so we can check in early without issues. I just call the first day reserved and say we can’t make it but will be arriving the next morning. So far, no problems with this.”

“Yes, it has affected our travels”

Robert T. has definitely noticed the changes and has some good advice too. “Yes, more campsites booked up and more inconsiderate campers with the ‘I’ll do what I want’ attitude. Places to stay (camp) are becoming harder if not impossible to find when we want to travel. Campgrounds are already at capacity for the warmer months and, yes, it has affected our travels.

“Taking our seasonal fall color tour has been reduced to three days instead of our more normal ten. This has impacted my landscape photography.

“Tips and secrets: Stop geotagging your ‘special’ place because it’ll cause crowds of people. When you are traveling be polite to others and lose the bully attitude. If you boondock leave no trace, don’t scar the grounds, trees or alter the environment.”

Resents the snowbirds taking over everything

Go away, snowbirds! Reader Patrica S. lives in Florida and says that snowbirds are taking all the sites. “I have given up camping. Living in Florida, it is frustrating when people come from the northern states for the winter. They take up almost all available camping spots in State parks and private campgrounds.

“I can’t plan a camping trip a year in advance, l won’t. Maybe l’m a free spirit. I like to plan no more than a week out or that day. I’m from Alaska, l must be spoiled. I never had a problem getting a space in the summer, even at ‘overcrowded’ Denali. I don’t know the answer, but l do know l resent snowbirds for taking over everything – every fall, winter, and part of spring.”

Empty sites all the time and no incentive to cancel

Joe H. sees empty sites all the time. “My wife and I are retired full-timers and volunteer at state and federal campgrounds. We see ’empty’ reserved sites all the time, and it’s increasing. Part of the problem is that there is little incentive for people to cancel reservations at those places. With different passes available the rates are low enough that it’s not a significant amount for many to worry about canceling. The other reason is that like at one park we were at, the cancellation fees were almost as much as the cost of the site. Reserve America was in charge of that. If more parks cancelled reservations after a no-show and punished habitual no-shows by restricting the ability to make reservations it might help. Reserve America makes it hard to modify reservations, and costly to cancel.



No-shows might not be as prevalent as thought

Susan M. has some thought-provoking comments about no-shows. “Regarding fully reserved campgrounds that appear half-empty: As a volunteer camp host at National Parks, I hear this complaint frequently. Consider the time of day. If you roll through in the afternoon, the day’s departing campers have left and the next wave of campers have yet to arrive. Indeed, some arrive well after dark. The sites they reserved and paid for only appear empty. Additionally, campers in motorhomes have taken their rigs to see the sights. Their campsites also look empty.

“So yes, there will be the occasional ‘no show,’ but it’s not as prevalent as you might think from just rolling through a campground at 4 p.m. And for those who lament the need to make reservations, the old days are gone. We (myself included) all need to accept it and learn the new system.”



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 hop over to my forum 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

##RVT1035b

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UPRIG
4 months ago

Firm believer in ‘first come, first served’… sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t… I move along as a happy camper doing it my way… it’s the adventure of no planning ahead ever.😷

Ruben Reveles
4 months ago

Reading through these comments is a reminder that the young kids today who go through life with an inflated ego and sense of entitlement didn’t make it up on their own, it’s clearly a taught behavior

BlueCat49
4 months ago

Close enough. I was going to point out that those campgrounds would CLOSE for the “winter” if it weren’t for Snowbirds.

Or at the very least charge HIGHER rates year-round to stay profitable.

Andy debuque
4 months ago

I resent the comment on snowbirds taking all the campsites,90 percent of the camp grounds in florida where built and profit from the snowbirds and it’s good for area businesses,, resentment has no place in the camping world, we all love the facts but camping is temporary and don’t lose what camping means and respect those who visit our areas and help the local economy

BlueCat49
4 months ago
Reply to  Andy debuque

Weird. GMTA. See my other comment. You are right on.

John S Vanhoose
4 months ago

MLK DAY, SERIOUSLY?

John S Vanhoose
4 months ago

Can’t make a reservation today cause there closed to do what?

Maridocs
4 months ago

We have also found the opposite problem. Last year after being delayed about 5 hours because of the snow closure of a pass we had to cross, we arrived at the campground after the office had closed, only to find our reserved and prepaid campsite occupied with an RV, but no one in it. We wandered around the campground and did find another, less desirable site. I spoke with the campground manager the next AM and he just said, “the campsites are all the same and you did get one.” This was only an overnight stop as we needed to travel the next day, so it did not really matter, but it certainly would have if the campground had been full. (This was in Nov but I still thought his answer was rather nonchalant and did not speak well for the campground.

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago

I’m for current campgrounds expansion to handle the load of new & old campers! Just makes good business sense!

Donald N Wright
4 months ago

Let’s ask Tony to visit Reserve America offices for interviews and how everything works tour.

Bob Palin
4 months ago

I’ve started reserving an extra night before our arrival so we can check in early without issues.”

Thus making the overcrowding issue even worse!

Raymond Clark
4 months ago

We are snowbirds in a Palm Beach County rv park that has empty sites on the lake.
The only Florida license plate is on a popup trailer that no one has been in in two weeks. Rumor has it that it’s owned by an NFL player
Where is this crowded park you speak of?

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Raymond Clark

Campground management should tow it to a storage site!

Dennis G
4 months ago

As Susan M. stated, empty campsites don’t always mean no-shows. We travel with a 30′ class-a, without a toad. We also leave our campsite by 6 or 7AM and go to our days hiking, or site seeing destination. We often do not return to our campsite until late afternoon or evening.

KellyR
4 months ago
Reply to  Dennis G

We do the same with our class B. Our site looks empty while we are gone during the day. We have come back to our site after dark to find that someone else has decided that the “vacant” site is theirs for the taking. Frustrating for us and for the camp host as we have to bother them to find out which site we can move to.

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  KellyR

We were always told by management to leave a lawn chair to designate occupancy!

Dennis G
4 months ago

One solution to arriving early to a new campground, before check-in time. We usually do our grocery shopping, stop at a city park along the way, go to a beauty parlor, have a nice lunch. Basically we do something with that extra hour or three to amuse ourselves. Once we stopped at a mini-golf and had some fun.
We have only once had to check-in early. I was having bad stomach/intestinal issues at the time. The park took pity on us, and allowed us to check-in 30 minutes early.

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Dennis G

We usually stop early to buy groceries and that’s what helps local communities!

Kenny
4 months ago

We just ran into a couple who double booked sites just in case their plans changed. We hope they don’t wait to long before canceling one of those so someone else can use the site.In the mean time one of those places will not be available for someone else to enjoy. After we walked off from our talk I wish I would have said something to them about tying up two sites.

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Kenny

Some people are greedy and only think of themselves, their RV should be surrendered to local governments for stealing!

Paul
4 months ago

I know people like to make plans at the last minute, but my suggestion is to plan ahead. Near the end of the year my wife and I discuss where we want to go in the next year and I start looking at how far in advance so I can make those reservations. I even put reminders on my calendar exactly six months before we want to go to a state park, so I make reservations as soon as they are available and get my preferred spot most of the time.
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!!!!

Bud
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Us too and never have a problem! Just plan, figure it out early!

Bob Palin
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Never!

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Like!

Ron
4 months ago

The very thing people are “bitching” about is the one thing your ancestors came to America for, Freedom. It’s time to take a deep breath and adapt.

Dan
4 months ago

More doomsday negativity. You folks should practice what you preach.

Leonard Rempel
4 months ago

Two comments;
1) Thanks so much for publishing my comments about Campground Crowding. We are currently in New Orleans, moving on tomorrow! We are loving our adventure!
2) In regards to Patricia S.’s post above on “Go away, snowbirds!”. Is this not just a bit hypocritical? She is after all from Alaska, which is a Northern State! I do realize that we all live in the same “me, me, me first” society, but let’s all take a deep breath and realize how lucky we are to be able to have this discussion about camping. Millions of people on both sides of our great undefended border are struggling, and we have first world problems of camping. I wish everyone a wonderful MLK Jr. day tomorrow, from your Canadian friend.

Leonard Rempel
4 months ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

I forgot to mention that as we will be in the US for five months, we have and will continue to spend quite a bit of money on fuel, campgrounds and parks, clothing, gift shops, golf, museums, restaurants and grocery stores; you get the picture. And happy to do it!

Caren L
4 months ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

From another Canadian, well said, we agree whole heartily! We decided to stay in our frozen north again this year due to the pandemic but hope to meet up with southern friends in the near future.

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Caren L

Welcome!

Robert Seeberg
4 months ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

Don’t want to hear any whining from our Canadian folks when American campers finally discover the beauty of the RV parks and campgrounds in Canada during the summer. I plan to stay in BC from August until the first snow thinks about falling.
Yes, I live in Florida and am tired of hot summers and high electric bills for Air Conditioning! See you there!

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

You got it, man, thanks! Love Canada!

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago

BTW I’m from southern Illinois land of the pharaohs, little Egypt!

KellyR
4 months ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

As a Floridian I agree with you, Leonard, and the other Canadians. Thank you for spending your money down here and keeping my taxes relatively low. I am willing to share my sunshine with you in exchange for you dollars. lol. I’m sorry that I don’t have much sunshine to share with you today, and being a bit windy and chilly that has me in a jacket, but I’m sure you are still enjoying our 65 deg day. Our next door Russian/Canadian neighbors aren’t complaining at all – in their shirt sleeves. Alaska to Florida? – and then complain that those who live in-between are unwelcomed visitors? Uh?????????

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

Our forefathers camped and were courteous to their fellow campers!

Richard Hughes
4 months ago

Last year we had no problem finding camping spots in Arizona. This year spots are empty in State Campgrounds and we are told many are booked by no show snowbirds. They sit empty, but there is no way to know if people didn’t show. We were also told it appears that the same campers book two weeks and then another two weeks in another spot. If they don’t show, a day is lost for booking and anyone looking to book in advance sees the time booked.

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Richard Hughes

Empty campsites with no-show reservations should be canceled and no refunds!

Mike Whelan
4 months ago

Just not seeing it. Weeks into our snowbird migration we are experiencing plenty of space to camp, even at some of the more popular locations. So far the campgrounds are less than half full. The lake side campsite we are at now has no one near us. The only camp we can see from our site 1/4 mile away across the lake. Campers we talk with are reporting the same. At this point the best justification for all of our reservations is to insure we get our favorite spot on the Gulf, lake or river. Of course maybe we will find the crowds later in the trip.

Dan McCown
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike Whelan

We are looking for a site in Florida for a month from late February to late March. Any suggestions? Thanks.

John Graham
4 months ago
Reply to  Dan McCown

You might try Fiesta Key RV resort. I have friends there now & they are surprised at the vacant spots.

Last edited 4 months ago by John Graham
HappyCamper7424
4 months ago
Reply to  John Graham

No wonder, $190/night!

Jeff johnson
4 months ago

I paid almost $90 at a crappy campground in Estes Park last fall. Never again! Noise from adjacent campsites, traffic at all hours ( diesel trucks are the worst), I can’t imagine paying $190 for the privilege of parking and plugging in for about 12 hours!

Michael L Wallace
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike Whelan

This is the problem with the news, short-sited and many times late!

Retsy Lauer
4 months ago
Reply to  Mike Whelan

Mike, Not sure where you are but in Florida my husband goes on the revamped Fl State Parks website to make reservations every morning. Besides the website redo is absolutely un user friendly. Everything is booked. I have an appointment at UF Health in mid-May, the park has been booked since before Christmas. This is all over the State parks – Booked! Sorry but yes snowbirds go home, we can survive very well without you & your horrible driving..

tom
4 months ago

We dislike “Reserve America.” It is actually unfriendly, user hostile. Wish there was a better way around it.

Larry Lee
4 months ago
Reply to  tom

Agree that!