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.
Stored their fifth wheel and got a truck camper
Leslie P. writes about the hassle of reservations, particularly with a large fifth wheel and what they did about it. “We now choose to boondock with the occasional state park stop to refill and empty, and we avoid all private parks. 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 three 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.”
Not so fast! We don’t see the crowds…
Several people have mentioned that they are not seeing the crowds that others are seeing.
Mike W. posted just that on our forum this week. “We are just a few weeks into our annual snowbird migration. We did the planning to get our preferred sites on the Gulf Coast and on our trip south. So far in the migration, we have experienced no, as in none, overcrowding.
“We made no reservations for our first few travel nights as we never can tell what the weather will hand us. Yet, we call a campground as we get close and find plenty of space. Our first destination with a couple of weeks’ reservation, less than half full on weekends and only a third full during the week. Our next stop, same story. As we talk with other campers they are having the same experience. One of them has been visiting some of the ‘hot spots’ and experienced plenty of vacancies. Sitting here on the lakeshore at a beautiful paved campsite we have no neighbors. Maybe the crowding is more of a west coast trapped by the Rockies phenomenon. We will see as the winter progresses how difficult it is to find a great place to camp.”
Reader questions crowding
Another reader, Zeet, has had no issues getting sites and questions the crowding we talk about here. “Since last Feb to Nov, we went from Tucson to NJ and back, staying 3-4 days and sometimes a week each stop. We usually made reservations two or three days in advance of the next stop. Rarely did we not get our first choice. The 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. We are now in California and doing the same. Stayed in a county park in Riverside County, plenty of spots were 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”
Part of the adventure
Donna has a positive spin on reservations and the adventure of camping. She writes, “My hubby spent a couple of weeks setting up reservations at different campgrounds for our trip from April through October. It took time and frustration but he managed. Some campgrounds we have no idea what they’ll be like. But, that’s part of the adventure, isn’t it? Some campgrounds we’ll never return to. Some we probably will. And there are some who remember us from past visits. The campground we stay at October through April is an older campground in town, packed to the gills, and we love it. All this to say, YOU make your journey. I am grateful that my husband does all this so we can see our beautiful country. And I’m content. Thank you, my love.”
It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it
Bob writes about finding a spot with diligence and dedication, even in Florida in the winter. “I decided late (Christmas) to come to Florida for the winter. I have found sites at every campground I called, some just not on the first call. One place required I call back every morning and every late afternoon until there was a cancellation, then BAM, about the eighth call, I was in for three weeks!
“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Almost everyone I talked to says that you can’t do this in Florida in the winter. It’s tougher than other years, but still doable, no far advanced reservations, no upgrade memberships, no paying in full in advance.”
Florida’s dreaded snowbirds; are Canadians really to blame?
Lots of folks have something to say about Florida, whether it is about the snowbirds or parks (reserved or empty).
Gene S. travels for work and has trouble finding spots. “My wife and I travel in a 5th wheel for work. We are from north Florida and finding a campground in south Florida can be a daunting task. Instead of being able to set up in one campground for the duration of our job, when we get the call to go, we have to call several campgrounds and coordinate with them based on their vacancies. The reason? Canadians. Wasn’t an issue last year as the Border was closed, but they come down in droves and stay for months at a time. Once COVID slows, I see them coming back again.”
Snowbirds bring in money
Larry L is aware of all the money we snowbirds bring in.”Snowbirds create a balance problem and have pros and cons. One pro is all the money it brings to South Florida. If the campgrounds were not full for part of the year those campgrounds would likely go broke. Just like retailers depend on the Christmas sales to make a profit for the year, South Florida has come to depend on the sales/rentals to the ‘dreaded snowbirds.’ No doubt they create traffic problems, restaurant congestion, difficulty finding a place to stay in any kind of short time or emergency, but it doesn’t help any to just despise them or get angry at them.
“We can be much more creative than that. I know some campers who are mobile workers who have invested in equipping their RV so as to be able to dry camp longer and have become friendly with campgrounds which allow them to dry camp with privileges to dump and refill water. They depend on solar for electricity with generator backup. They consider it the cost of running their business on a mobile basis.
“When difficulties come our way, creativity must come out to solve the problems. Plus, it usually gives us a feeling of accomplishment and being more in control of our lives when we do. Best wishes for creative solutions.”
“Florida residents should have priority”
Another reader, Jim, thinks Florida residents should have priority. He says, “Snowbirds are a problem for the local Florida residents who would like to go and enjoy the state and county parks that we pay taxes on. The Snowbirds come down and book up the campground then don’t show up. We have run into this several times. We get an unscheduled family weekend and would like to go camping and the parks are full of empty spots in the park. The Florida residents should have priority and be able to book places over non-residents.
“There should be a Snowbird tax. They are welcome to visit. If they stay for a certain length of time, pay taxes to keep up the roadways and parks that they are using. The parks are full, roadways overcrowded, and there is more congestion at the hospitals and other areas.”
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: First-time campers with lofty expectations are tough on workers