Monday, December 4, 2023


Campground Crowding: First-time campers with lofty expectations are tough on workers

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.

Last week we struck a nerve

Last week we published a comment from a reader asking the dealers to “stop selling RVs to folks under 50.” That certainly caused some comments and struck a nerve, particularly with those under 50! Here are a few of those responses:

RV Mama replied, “I think just the opposite. Stop selling RVs to senior citizens! They can’t handle rigs with their slowed reaction times. Send them to senior living facilities instead. Campgrounds aren’t equipped to handle their senior problems.”

Deborah M. replied thoughtfully, “I was saddened by the comment to ‘stop selling RVs to folks under 50.’ That’s too much of an ‘I got mine; bleep you’ attitude. I grew up camping and didn’t get the bug until my dad bought a small Class A when I was 21. My brother and sister were 14 and 10 and my dad was well under 50. Why would you want to deny a young family the joy of RV camping? It opened up the seasons and places we could explore. It’s not an age-defined lifestyle; it’s a lifestyle that can be enjoyed at any age. And the party-hearty folks come in all ages.”

Paul B. does have a point. He writes, “To Mike J., who feels that campground crowding can be solved if we ‘stop selling RVs to folks under 50 years old.’ The under 50 crowd can barely manage two or three weeks of fun a year. Sorry for impinging on the 52-week paradise you demand of the rest of us. How would you feel if the healthcare crisis solution was to stop selling healthcare to those over 50? After all, they’re using up all the spaces.”

Need more positivity!

Sue has a suggestion for us. She says, “I have a tip for How about more positive stories and articles? This forum seems to be full of complaints and people criticizing how others camp. Yes, campgrounds are crowded, yes, some people don’t pick up after their dogs and on and on. I, for one am tired of reading all about how horrible it is to camp these days and want to hear about a great park someone stayed at, or ideas to improve my camping experience.”

Dan replied to Sue about being more positive. “I agree. I’d much rather read good than bad. Pointing out problems is too easy. I’d rather see more articles on positive experiences. Less curmudgeon, more Pollyanna.”

OK! I hear you! Please send some of your favorite campgrounds, favorite places to camp and your best camping memories too. I would love to publish them. You can submit them here.

Full payment in advance

John M. points out that it can be difficult to make full payment in advance. He says, “So far this year, two RV parks have asked for payment in full in order to make reservations: the Golden Shore RV Resort in Long Beach, CA, and Pismo Beach RV park in CA. This is unnecessary, as sites such as Airbnb take an initial deposit, then as one approaches the cancelation triggers the deposit increases. Full payment made several months in advance is difficult.”

It’s not necessarily hoarding…

Julie L. writes about procrastination and hoarding: “We used to be able to plan summer trips at the first of the year. Now if we procrastinate, we have to plan based on availability. We get lucky sometimes and find cancellations. It’s not the easiest but we try to be flexible. One note about empty sites is that some places require a minimum night reservation for certain times—weekends or holidays. So when you see empty sites, it isn’t necessarily someone hoarding campsites. We had a site booked for New Year’s weekend and had to book a day before our arrival—we had no choice but to book more than we needed.”

Playing it by ear

Micheal W. usually “plays it by ear” and only books his favorite sites. He says, “As we head out for the Gulf Coast this morning we have began planning our summer trips. There are a couple of campgrounds in the hotspots of northern Michigan we will be making reservations to ensure we get our favorite sites. We could wait until just before we want to camp there but ‘our site’ would be reserved. Yes, there are plenty of other sites but we like the bridge and island view offered by those sites. Other than that, our trips are not scripted in the summer.

“As for the Gulf trip we are starting on this morning, we did make reservations for the first two months and we’ll play it by ear for the last month. Never had a problem doing it like this. Most of our reservations this winter were to make sure we got the site we like. We did have one park cancel due to storm damage. Getting another reservation at the last minute was not a problem.”

Hard for the campground managers too

Helene V. writes to us from the other side of the check-in desk: “I am a property manager for a family-owned campground near Hershey, PA. This past year has been tough. Lots of first-time campers with lofty expectations (one camper expected us to have a birthday present waiting at her site for her daughter!). More flagrant destruction of property than any past years, the culprits usually being bored kids who need adult supervision and aren’t getting it.

“Many angry adults who ‘have had a rough year’ and don’t want to be told how to behave in a community setting. It can be disheartening when you work physically hard trying to keep a campground looking lovely, and people tell you how nice it is while throwing trash on the ground in the same breath. What keeps us going? The folks who have been camping for years and respect where they are and are grateful for a clean facility, and tell us so.”

Thank you, Helene, for sharing this and doing so much to make our camping experiences wonderful. Without the campground owners, managers, camp hosts and all the people that it takes to run a campground we would indeed be camping in our backyard.

Now, some questions for you:

• Are you finding more and more campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem?

• 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 join me in my forum to discuss your answer to these questions. Maybe other RVers have a solution for you!

Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column here: Stop selling RVs to folks under 50

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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Cere (@guest_166558)
1 year ago

We owned and operated a small RV park for about 12 years and I can honestly say, there are enjoyable guests who follow the rules, interact with and monitor their children and pets and behave and clean up after themselves and act friendly and courteous and lovely and then … there are guests who let their children roam free, destroying property, refuse to pick up their doggie doo (yes, refuse!), take ‘short-cuts’ out of the park and run over water lines and electric posts, leave their accidental black water sewage dump for our staff to clean up and generally act very entitled and irritable — in all age groups!! Please, just be kind, arrive and set up before dark, leave at a reasonable time in the morning (after 8am?), mind your children and clean up after yourselves. The stories I could tell …

Vanessa Simmons (@guest_166274)
1 year ago

I started RVing to be a traveler not a sitter in one place for a year. I had my homebase at a place I purchased a membership and would return there for a few weeks to a few months after a road trip. That campground has about half of its sites full of full timers living there year-round and getting pi$$ed off when they have to move at least one a year to prevent the campground from being recategorized as a “trailer park”. Some don’t have a tow vehicle and have to hire someone to move them and some of the motorhomes don’t run and have to towed or worked on extensively to make the moves. The campgrounds I’ve stayed at that have homesteaders, including this one, become trashy when RVers create piles of junk around their “home”.

Dc man (@guest_165984)
1 year ago

For the people that want to ban people over 50, go and investigate about a 84 years old lady in argentina that live in a RV, she spend her time traveling, i been told to be quiet in my camp after 830 pm by a bunch of 30 year old punks that want to get up early, the quiet time was at 2AM, we made all the way to 2AM and we wake up at 6AM long before the youngest, and im over 60 years old, i did build my rig too.

Cathi (@guest_165959)
1 year ago

Just a comment about the full payment in advance. This is a difficult challenge when I am trying to book several months for our travel season. Hitting the credit card with so many reservations at full value is a challenge. I try to save up from the months where we stay in one place that is only paid monthly.

wanderer (@guest_165913)
1 year ago

Here’s a tip for those who only want positive news and can’t stand hearing about campground crowding. Here it is: Don’t click on the link titled “Campground Crowding”. Seriously. I don’t click on things not of interest to me. You don’t have to either.

Herman (Dusty) Rhodes (@guest_165535)
1 year ago

I will be 82 in a couple of months and I’m in the process of building my 4th campervan. … 🙂 … I had an idea about a month ago that solves the campground problem. Buy 5 acres of land, survey it off into RV lots and sell them to get your money back (keeping a lot for yourself) then use that money to buy 5 more acres and do the same thing. A young person could end up with lots all over the state or even the country. No more campground rent or Walmart camping. If you can’t do this, write a book on it then buy 5 acres. … Herman (Dusty) Rhodes.

Nick (@guest_165871)
1 year ago

Most counties don’t allow land to be permanently used for RV’s. There are some places, but they are few and far between.

RoadTrip Eddie (@guest_165485)
1 year ago

Quit leaving fires at your campsites
To put a fire out you must douse it with lots of water and stir the coals. If you cannot put your hand in it not on it but in it, and it’s still hot, then you need to repeat above until it is cold and out. It’s simple I don’t know why people are of so such low intelligence and disrespect in the forest to not do so.
I always stay a day or two after the holiday traffic idiots vacate to babysit and put out fires in the fire rngs, before a ranger sees it and locks down the forest again, and it’s always 80 to 85% of the spaces still have a fire that a quick wind could destroy a forest there.
Most of you careless & obviously inexperienced people have started forest fires and they have closed our national forest campgrounds, even the entire Forest at times, because of this inexcusable behavior of leaving a fire still burning in your fire ring.
Fire isn’t always flames it’s about coal’s. Just like cooking

pursuits712 (@guest_165440)
1 year ago

We are planning a trip from southeast to southwest this spring, staying close to the gulf going out, and hugging state borders coming back.

What I noticed when I started planning was a little surprising. I had to do a lot of jiggling with dates/daily time on the road to find sites in GA/FL/AL, but then things seem to open up as we progress west! State parks were the most obvious, because they share similar reservation platforms providing visual availability info. I went from all “red” to more and more “green” as I progressed. Private campgrounds requiring phone calls were a little harder to follow, but those with online reservations revealed a similar pattern.

Questions to be answered:

Is the southeast creating most of the overcrowding we hear about? Why? (Population? BLM land out west?)

Are the online-reservation parks actually experiencing the most overcrowding, creating a skewed picture of the situation?

Other observations?

wanderer (@guest_165911)
1 year ago
Reply to  pursuits712

Crowding is a problem near population centers. Where the population is less dense or the metro centers are quite small, there is no problem. But yes, all state parks are the first ones to fill up, particularly if they are easily bookable online.

I don’t want to bring up politics, but it may be that officials in the southeast are refusing to entertain the possibility of providing new, expanded recreation facilities as the population grows. As long as the legislators have access to their own hunt camp land, or grandpas land to hunt, and have a place to fish, they couldn’t care less if the little people have a place to camp. Out west there is more national investment, and more of an awareness that camping is an industry that creates jobs.

Linda (@guest_165431)
1 year ago

Interesting that, with all the outrage being expressed over the comment about younger campers, immediately below is a comment from a campground manager that references damages by unsupervised kids and their entitled parents. I’m assuming that they are under 50 and something similar might have triggered the original remark. In our experience, negative behavior has been heavily weighted to those younger campers and their children. Rarely do our paths cross an older person who behaves poorly. It happens, just much less frequently. YMMV.

pursuits712 (@guest_165437)
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda

Agree. We older folks don’t usually misbehave…many of us can’t! The rest of us are just jealous of those who can or just plain grumpy (which is why we complain about the young folks.)

Gordy B (@guest_165455)
1 year ago
Reply to  pursuits712

I am 76. I feel that many of the older folks have forgotten that they were once younger and probably made a few mistakes along the way, and are less tolerant of others in their old age. The younger people (those who seem to have no respect for property and rules) may just need a little coaching or directing to be made aware of their failings. Campgrounds need to enforce rules to have compliance. Reminders of the rules should be provided when there is a breach, if that produces threats law enforcement should be notified. They pay their share for protection so why not call. I get the feeling that a lot of the older folks also have the opinion, “we were here first, so we get to change the rules to fit our generation (no campfires, no night lights, etc).” I do not have any answers to all this, but I think tolerance of one another would go a long way to a solution. Happy Trails.

Herman (Dusty) Rhodes (@guest_165536)
1 year ago
Reply to  pursuits712

I used to be young about 60 years ago.

Jared Billman (@guest_165456)
1 year ago
Reply to  Linda

I myself am a drop in the hat away from 50, one year to be exact. I have seen people over 50 have their dogs off leash and matter fact attacked one of my dogs that was on a leash. I am tired of this gate keeper type mentality and that older people can do no wrong. I have seen older people trash sites, play loud music and even block roads in RV parks because I guess they think they are entitled. I have seen younger families be just an unruly and I am certain that I probably upset someone along the way….just please stop with your entitled gate keeper attitude! You are no better than the 30 some family with a few kids….Jared

Leslie P (@guest_165423)
1 year ago

We now choose to boondock with the occasional state park stop to refill & empty. We avoid all private parks. We don’t even attempt national parks anymore. We have a truck camper with a lot of solar. Try to get a state park reservation for the next 3 months in Arizona for longer than 1 or 2 days. We’ve been full time traveling for 5.5 years. Times have changed and become harder for travelers like ourselves. That’s why we stored our 40’ fifth wheel, we couldn’t go to the places we wanted to go, reservations were a pain unless I want to go to a “resort”. Which I don’t.

Zeet (@guest_165415)
1 year ago

Since last Feb to Nov, we went from Tucson to NJ and back staying 3 to 4 days and sometimes a week each stop. We usually made reservations 2 or 3 days in advance of the next stop. Rarely did we not get our 1st choice. Only places I ran into crowding and having to take 3rd or 4th choice was around the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and around the Quartzsite RV Show. We did not stay at any national or state parks however. We are now in California and doing the same. Stayed in a county park in Riverside County, plenty of spots available when I reserved online.

I read these reports of crowding and don’t get it. Is it mainly the national and state parks or the high end resorts perhaps? Maybe a deeper dive needs to be done to characterize where this crowding is. Over the months I have seen others report having the same experience we do. We have been full timing for 4 years and see no difference.

BTW, we stay at parks with good reviews, full hookups and ones with decent sized sites.

Richard (@guest_165402)
1 year ago

The “Serenity Prayer”. Know it, Use it.

Vincee (@guest_165399)
1 year ago

I really don’t understand those who are upset with payment in full to reserve a campsite at a private campground. Those that complain are probably the same ones that look first at state and public campgrounds (as do I) before they “settle” for a privately owned establishment. However, when booking public CG’s using either Reserve American or Recreation.Gov you “have to pay in full with the reservation”.

For my wife and I when we book locations public or private in advance and pay in full for a trip not coming up for maybe 6 months, to us it is spreading out the cost of campsites and freeing up money to explore and enjoy each local we travel through.

wanderer (@guest_165912)
1 year ago
Reply to  Vincee

Glad this is easy for you to handle, count your blessings for having excess money at your disposal.

For those who travel a lot or full time in their retirement, it is like a landlord demanding you prepay your rent 6 months before you move in. Then informing you there are ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS when you have to cancel because of a family illness.

Firefly (@guest_165389)
1 year ago

How about more positive stories and articles? This forum seems to be full of complaints and people criticizing how others camp. Yes, campgrounds are crowded, yes, some people don’t pick up after their dogs and on and on. I, for one am tired of reading all about how horrible it is to camp these days and want to hear about a great park someone stayed at, or ideas to improve my camping experience.”

That sounds great, but this is the crowded campground column. So those better be positive stories about a crowded campground. Maybe a positive story about the most crowded campground.

Duane R (@guest_165460)
1 year ago
Reply to  Firefly

Very true! Also, “Please send some of your favorite campgrounds, favorite places to camp“: Uh, no. I don’t want my favorite spots to be unavailable when I want to camp. Fishermen don’t tell others where they caught the big fish, or tons of fish. Why would we share our favorite camping locations? “Colorado” is about as precise as I will share. 😉

Jack (@guest_165382)
1 year ago

There are many sources of glorious information on RV traveling and camping which I enjoy reading. But, I also like to know the other side of things. I like to be informed of the pitfalls that may await me on my journey and appreciate RV Travel for that information. Since reading the RV travel newsletters over the last couple of years we have become avid boondockers!

Kat (@guest_165373)
1 year ago

A suggestion for pay in full/up front/no refund Camp Sites. With the need for last minute available camping spots you should offer at least a 50% refund or 50% value voucher to the cancelled patron if their opened up site is filled. Last year a tropical storm between our location and our destination prevented our arrival to a prepaid non refundable camp site. I did not call and notify the camp site that we would not be arriving for this stay. And the reason was I was not going to get a refund or even a future voucher that could be used. A voucher would be a very good marketing tool to assure a returned customer. I know that this facility had a last minute call list as we were on it for additional days to be added to our stay there. And I felt this facility did not need to benefit from our unforeseeable interruption. I can bet I am not the only one.

Duane R (@guest_165459)
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat

So, out of spite for the campground (no refund, so you won’t give notice of inability to occupy the site), you likely denied another family of spending a night at that campground. That’s mature!

Richard Bettendorf (@guest_166528)
1 year ago
Reply to  Duane R

While I understand your comment and certainly don’t want to deprive anyone of a night’s stay, it assumes that the campground is full which means that if Kat had notified the park of his delay, according to the no refund policy they could charge Kat and then rent Kat’s space to someone who didn’t plan ahead. So, another way to look at it is that Kat paid for a space and the park then rented that spot to someone else and didn’t over Kat a refund. Hmm, seems like the park double dipped, penalized Kat for planning ahead and rewarded someone else who took their chances and just drove in without a reservation.

Pat Brown (@guest_165344)
1 year ago

Joel, I could almost ditto your comments/planning. May-Nov trip from North GA. Pre-planning takes the stress off. Started booking in November. 41 campgrounds already booked for our West Coast trip. 4 days ago booked 3 reservations in Oregon where we secured the last spot. Whew! Albeit, reservations a challenge given our 40′ Class A. Steer away from State/Nation Parks as spaces are limited I use RV Trip Wizard too. RV Park Reviews is accessible for free without using that package. Steer away from State/National Parks as space is limited for our rig. Yes, usually more expensive but seems the campers there are a bit more inconsiderate than the private RV parks.

Tom (@guest_165342)
1 year ago

I too would prefer more positive articles than all the negative articles on this RV I want negativity I can just watch the 6:30 evening news.

Joel MacLeod (@guest_165337)
1 year ago

• Are you finding more and more campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem?
For 2022 May > August I planned, scheduled & confirmed our West Coast (coast) trip. Living in AZ; CA, OR, WA, Olympic Peninsular, Idaho, UT and back home. 27 campgrounds with planning started in Dec 21. Only 1 time did a full campground hit my reservations. I used RV Trip Wizard.

• If campgrounds continue to be crowded and RVing continues to become more popular, will it affect how or when you RV?
No – plan early, stay positive & travel on.

• Do you have any tips or secrets you’d like to share about finding campgrounds that aren’t as crowded?
We don’t typically utilize state or national parks for our longer stays 10 days or longer. Most crowding I found are @ state & national parks.

Kris Campbell (@guest_165334)
1 year ago

I tried to reserve one night at a Wisconsin State Park in August. The campsite was unoccupied for that night. It kept kicking back my reservation and not allowing the reservation to proceed. Finally I read where there is a window of time in the summer where you are required to make at least a 2 night reservation. So essentially (it seems) that campsite will be vacant that one night. The night before and after that one night I wanted were already booked. All I needed was that one night but I couldn’t book it!

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