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Campground Crowding: Should there be a snowbird tax?

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

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Ellen
7 months ago

Finding a place to stay depends on a lot of factors: size of your rig, location of RV park/campground, time of year…. We’ve been full-timers for more than 13 years and have seen everything from being able to drive in almost anywhere and get a site for the night to having to book two years in advance for popular spots. We’re at the point where we stay longer periods in places we’ve come to love returning to, so we book our stays before we leave for the following year. We also obtained long-term lease sites in the Southwest so we’d be sure to have a spot waiting for us when we wanted to be there.

Except in a few cases, we haven’t seen much of the “freedom to go where you want, when you want in an RV” as the industry likes to advertise.

John Marucci
7 months ago

This is my fifth year in a row working remotely in Florida to escape the harsh winters up north. I mainly stay at Florida State Parks as to me they are the best value. You do have to book at the 11 month lead time to get what you want. One aspect that I am investigating is why many state parks keep sites out of the reservation system. Take Wakiwa Springs, for example, many campground sites are held out, including some very prime full hookup sites. It frustrated me lately when there that I stayed in a non-full hookup site when the park was letting a nice full hookup site sit empty all week. If you look at other state park campgrounds, you’ll find similar policies. First step is to increase the availability of the campgrounds that already exist but for some strange reason are not bookable. Also, if you are staying in an FSP campground in winter, count the number of Florida license plates. It may amaze you that there are lots of residents using the parks in winter and not just snowbirds.

robert
7 months ago

Snowbird tax ok but summers when we go north the state campgrounds charge more if you are out of state is that not the same thing? I live in Florida and have been trying to book a monday thru thursday stay for March for the last 3 months at different campgrounds and not finding anything available cause of snowbirds

Carolle Graham
7 months ago

We are a newly retired couple who is enjoying the Florida Keys right now. I was very nervous about coming down this year after all the warnings about no vacancies. I have been amazed that restaurants, RV resorts etc. have not been busy at all. We have only had to wait for a table at a restaurant once the entire 2 months that we have been here. We will be leaving here this weekend to travel north to get our RV and will stay at a new RV resort. After all the comments I have heard in the past year about overcrowding & full campgrounds I’m beginning to believe it’s all just hype.

John Bloxham
7 months ago

That a boy ‘Jim’. Tax the snowbirds. Are you nuts? Taxing everything is not the answer to anything. You should run for president, then you can tax everything and feel at home

Ron Cravey
7 months ago

Just finished planning a summer trip from Texas to Glacier. Had to give up on all state parks in the western states. All the electric sites were booked with a few exceptions. No problem getting sites in KOA and other private RV parks.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Ron Cravey

That’s because of prices, we have never been refused at KOA but you have to get way up off your hip pocket to stay there. I’d be willing to bet most of the overcrowding is in the SP, Local parks, etc. where people with young families can afford to stay. When my family was young we couldn’t afford the “high priced” parks either, so it was state parks, city/county parks etc. when we stayed at a KOA in Wichita,KS we had to pay $5/ea to use the pool.

Ray D.
7 months ago

Why not close your Fl. Borders for the winters, I’m sure we so called snow birds can find other states that will welcome our money.

Thomas Champagne
7 months ago

We (TAXPAYYERS) desperately need open season for politicians who think every problem can be solved by creating an additional tax ! Problems like “overcrowding ” will work themselves out by either creating more campgrounds, or larger ones if the need continues. We campers are contributing to the taxes thru our gasoline and sales tax for every penny we spend. “WHERE”S MY SHOTGUN” ! LOL

Engineer
7 months ago

Snowbird tax? What bunch of bunk…the State of Florida realizes hundreds of millions in increased revenue solely because of “snowbirds”. The bulk of residents here just complain and would never support the economy produced by the “snowbirds”. We pay dearly every year coming here…..

KellyR
7 months ago
Reply to  Engineer

Engineer, you are correct – a “bunch of bunk”. As a Floridian, we pay no income tax. We support our state thru sales, property, gas, etc. taxes. When an “out-of-stater” comes across our borders, they pay the same taxes we do, sales tax on anything they buy, gas tax to maintain the roads they drive on while here, and you can bet that anywhere they stay their rent will include part of the property tax for that property. AND they help support our businesses by buying things. Welcome “out-of-staters” thank you for keeping my taxes low. Come from out of state or out of country and enjoy our sunshine. As to complaints about Canadian drivers – Floridians alone are the worst, most inconsiderate drivers, I’ve seen in all of the states I have lived in or visited. I don’t know why but auto manufactures evidently remove turn signals from the cars they sell here. My current B&B neighbor and family are from Canada, and the most polite people in my neighborhood.

Ray D.
7 months ago
Reply to  KellyR

Thank you Engineer and Kelly couldn’t said any better. Ray and Joy from the Frozen Tundra.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  KellyR

The main reason FL drivers are so bad is their age. FL was the first state to pass a law about slower traffic keep right, now if the State Police would enforce the law. How many times have you come up behind a silver haired driver in what use to be called the Montfort Lane(far left) driving 52mph in a 70 mph speed limit when traffic is running 80? By the way I’m 79, but I’ve got enough sense to drive in the slower traffic lanes. There is a reason why truckers call FL God’s Waiting Room.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago

I applaud the forum owners, in their abilty to allow engaging dialect. Thank you, Elvis has left the building.

Richard
7 months ago

We haven’t seen the “Over crowding”. We avoid high traffic areas because we don’t like them. Not because we have to, to get a spot. We are 70 yrs +, so we aren’t burdened by the entitlement mentality that is overwhelming society. We know how to be flexible and make things work. The only constant is change. That’s life. Deal with it and enjoy.
We’ll soon be restricted where and how we can travel by our communist leaders, under threat of electronic castration. It’s being tested in Canada as we speak.
Vaccine mRNA health complications are starting to kick in globally, so the crowding will soon diminish.
Enjoy your stay.

Bill
7 months ago

We are in Florida for the winter. We wanted to visit relatives near Marco for a few days, with a hard date on either side, and weren’t able to find a site within a reasonable distance. We also had our first choice say they were full for the nights we wanted near Port St Lucie. Other than that, it hasn’t been all that hard to find a spot, and some have more empty sites than we’ve ever seen before.

Dave Holmack
7 months ago

Florida does have a snowbird tax, a transient rental tax. Its a 6% sales tax that’s added to rentals of less than 6 months. Counties can add on to that as it’s an additional 5% in the county we’re in. I think local jurisdictions can add on as well, as we paid 11.5% for our 3 month site here in southwest Florida. We like it here and enjoy our visit, so it’s just part of the cost.

Abby Coffey
7 months ago

We fulltime and have a 40ft class A. We haven’t encountered these dreaded full campgrounds because we don’t stay near large metropolitan areas and we don’t stay near tourist areas. If you have a toad, try staying further away from these places. Use your toad to go into town or to visit the tourist areas. We have been fulltiming for 5 years now and there are a large number of people on the road who seem to have never left their couch. We have seen almost every stupid noob trick and some aren’t pretty.

Zeet
7 months ago

Since it was asked to follow up on doing a deeper dive, we are a 38 ft Class A flat towing. From Feb in Tucson we used I10 to Florida, private campgrounds with FHUs usually within 30 miles or so from the highway. May thru July up to Cape May NJ parallel to 95 but seldom on it. Went up to Hartford, CT then using I70 to Colorado by Sept and 25 down to I10 back to Tucson. In Jan headed to outside San Diego. See my comment in the article, didn’t see campground crowding.

Dennis G.
7 months ago

On our 2021 summer trip, we left the first week of June, hoping to beat most of the school crowds with our teenager. From South Lake Tahoe through, Great Basin, Salt Lake City Tetons, and Yellowstone, we had campgrounds that were solidly sold out solid. Even the lightly visited Great Basin NP’s campgrounds were full up. The only night stop, which we had no reservations for was in Wells, NV. We winged it, and got the last open spot, at Mountain Shadows. Unless boon docking, we are not traveling without reservations.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago

Canadians need to escape the oppressive socialistic government. They are a polite bunch, but up until now, use to snicker at how us Americans (mostly conservative until recent), wore out patriotism.

Well, now they see how voting liberal governments in for the past several decades has eroded their fredoms granted to them by their Charter of Rights. You see, their Charter of Rights was instituted in or around 1983, recent by American Standards, and there is still the last living gentleman, who helped draft it. The best part is that, he “was” a flaming liberal until the current tyrant in charge, trampled the rights of ALL Canadians.

Wake up call to All Canadians to continue to peacefully assemble, as you did in your Capital, and do not let the tyrant leftists control what is your rights.

We will be taking your lead in a few days, and i fear our current [bleeped] will use force to try and stop our intended peaceful protest headed to Washington D.C. on the Sixth of March.

Don Barylski
7 months ago

Billy, I am a Canadian born and raised here, I have made over 70 trips around the sun already. I have no particular allegiance to any political party. Explain to me the oppressive socialist government we have?
Have a good day!

garrett fricke
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Barylski

Read the news and stay in Canada please.

Don Barylski
7 months ago
Reply to  garrett fricke

Thanks neighbour, good to see you have open mind!

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Barylski

Don, so nice of a reply. You have a Charter of Rights, which is in some ways, akin to our US Constitution. In your charter, you have the Right, to peaceful assembly. That right, which comes from the people, not elected officials, was violated in your nations Capital yesterday. You should be proud on how peaceful your citizenry handled themselves. When one individual, your PM enacts the law, that essentially gives total authority over your rights, you are now at the behest of a tyranical leader. Your parliment, should act, as perscribed by law within seven days to uphold, or deny such power by your PM.

I ask you to look up the last living politician, who is still alive that helped draft the Charter of Rights passed in i believe 1983. He is a devout liberal, and is appalled at the abuse by your PM. That is like having one of our founding fathers still alive, to quiz him on all the back story of the drafting of said document.

The people of Canada will not back down, because they are acting within their Rights, as granted by the Charter. I suggest you do not rely on the CBC, or any other liberal media outlet, and find direct feeds in real time from the protest sites, and make your own mind up.

When your PM takes away your Right to peacefully assemble, that is Oppressive.

Don Barylski
7 months ago

And thank you for your reply. I respect everybody’s opinion, yours included. Rational and respectful dialogue is always a good thing. As I mentioned before I have no particular allegiance to any particular political party, but I always vote in elections. I vote for the party that has the most common sense although sadly it isn’t that common anymore! Yes our Charter gives us many rights among them the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
I personally don’t believe in mandates and prefer the carrot over the stick approach. In the end it’s personal choice that matters. However having said all that, I’m a firm believer in science. Science and data don’t lie and science is continually peer reviewed and self correcting. And yes I am tired and skeptical of main stream media because they all seem to have a narrative. But I am also vaccinated because I have done what I believe is risk assessment for my age, and I am comfortable with that! As for how this pandemic has been handled in this country and around the world, well these are extraordinary times so I am willing to cut them some slack! But we will NEVER let our Democracy disappear.

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Barylski

Again, always a pleasure to have a meaningful discussion. There is much to know about the so called vax. I know thats the buzz word, but in the true meaning of the word, it is not a vax. However, they, did change the definition of the word, but the original is archived, and stands.

Recently, Pfizer was ordered to release all clinical data regarding the trials. There response was to bleed it out over 55 years. A federal judge trumped them and ordered it in 9 mo. So, the fight is on to get the “science”. This fight for total transparency is OUR fight here, we the American people paid, at last count, 35 billion to Pfizer, so its OUR data not theirs.

It has already been documented, that Pfizer lied about actual adverse effects in the control group, where multiple insiders were so upset, they came forward. If that is proven, then fraud was committed, and the immunity from law suits (we love them down here), granted by our congress is null and void. God help us all if the vax was not safe, i pray money and greed didnt prevail. But if it did, god help those who lied for money.

DLPJ
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Barylski

Don, been a neighbor of Canada all my life, Montana & Washington. I love visiting Canada and have met the nicest people. I also am mostly Scandinavian by DNA and I think their Socialistic government is something to be envied. God Bless Canada and may we get back to being a United State of America, since 2016 our nation has forgotten the United!

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  DLPJ

“I think their Socialistic government is something to be envied. You should put the bottle down, wait till tomorrow and try that again.

Rick
7 months ago

Your political BS serves zero purpose for this discussion. Get over yourself and your negative comments, or you are just part of the problem.

J J
7 months ago
Reply to  Rick

Haha, ever hear of a Canadian named “Billy Bob”? We’re with Canadian friends right now and they haven’t. More foreign interference in another country’s affairs perhaps?

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  Rick

Rickie, to you its BS, however, try giving it a meaningful reply. To just do a liberal hit and run, is getting old.

Joseph Phebus
7 months ago

To all the Florida whiners. Be careful what you ask for. Florida has no personal income tax largely because those dreadful snowbirds and tourists bring in sales tax revenue and tourism $$$ to the service industry from out of state. Eliminate that and you’ll see real quick how deep the state needs to reach into your pockets to maintain the current level of services.

garrett fricke
7 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Not true at all.

J J
7 months ago
Reply to  garrett fricke

This snowbird is spending over $150 every day for the three months we’re here, most of it to support those RV parks the Floridians can then stay at for next to nothing during the other nine months.

If you don’t think the snowbirds keep your RV parks open, just ask their management how last winter was. For many of them this year is helping them break even because of the lost business from last winter.

Or would you prefer they go bankrupt or sell out to home developers? Or even better, put in more permanents and squeeze the transients out?

tom
7 months ago

Size matters. The bigger you are, the less sites are available. Try Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome.

bull
7 months ago

TAX, TAX, TAX!

You ain’t seen nothin yet!

Like anything else to git the results you desire hit folks in their pocketbook.

As stated many times above charge folks FULL PRICE for the full reservation time period for NO SHOW’s and NO you can’t come after the day you were supposed show up. Sob story, broke down, med emergency you shoulda cancelled your reservation.

The bad press a campground will git from the few that like to complain will be far outweighed by having a place for those willing to show up ON TIME along with a TAX on those that do not show up. That TAX on those that do not show up will be the Value Added Profit to the campground owner public or private.

With US USA TAXPAYERS having to pay increased TAXES for all the unfunded spending from Federal, State and local officials will take care of overcrowded campgrounds and many other leisure activities as far fewer people will have the extra income to spend on fun things.

Stand back and watch!

Paul
7 months ago
Reply to  bull

I don’t mind it on a POLITICAL forum. I hate it on this RVing forum. Take it elsewhere

BILLY Bob Thronton
7 months ago
Reply to  bull

Dude, your misguided and here’s why. The authority to TAX, is political. The End.