Monday, September 25, 2023


Campground Crowding: Add extra $100 for each night a camper “no-shows”?

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.

Is it all just hype?

Several readers have been able to find campsites without a problem. They share their tips and what they find.

Carolle G. has had great luck camping this season in the Florida Keys and has this to say about all the crowding we report on here: “We are a newly retired couple who are 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 two 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.”

Steve P. shares similar observations: “We have had little problems finding campsites, however, we do not camp as a vacation. I think people who use camping as their hotel when visiting major attractions like amusement parks in Florida or summer vacations to the beach are the ones having issues finding sites. And as noted, the closer to the attraction, the busier the campgrounds. I should also add as retired people, we have a lot more flexibility on travel dates, which probably helps. This issue is not going to go away so flexibility is going to be the answer. Good camping.”

Learn how to manage your expectations

Sandra P. has an upbeat response to some of the difficulty finding spots, particularly as a newbie. She writes, “We went full time in May of 2021. We found it difficult to find the space at campgrounds we wanted to stay in, even 6+ months out. In one Minnesota state park, we had four different sites just to make an eight-day stay work. We have had open nights forcing us to boondock, which turned out to be a great learning experience for us newbies.

“I have been working on 2022 since July and am learning to manage my expectations. I think that is a key…manage your expectations. Is it what we dreamed it would be? No..but it is what it is! I look for more parks with 2-week stay limitations. I think the turnover in campers gives a better chance of getting a spot we need. Have these rules gone out the window? Yes… many full-time are ‘liveaboards’ never planning to travel. Their RV is their home. Period. My RV is my mode of transportation to my next adventure which I happen to live in. Different mindset. Would welcome ‘travelers only’ parks! In the meantime, I’ll manage my expectations!”

No-show solution

Tim has a solution for all the no-shows that I think may just work. Tim says, “As to the complaints of reservations made and then they are ‘no shows,’ just do what your doctor’s office does, or what a hotel does if you made your appt/reservation and don’t show… You get charged for it anyway. Once people start getting charged full rate for not showing for their reservation, there will be a lot fewer ‘no shows.‘”

Billy T. adds that hitting the pocketbook harder may end the no-shows. He writes, “Your average federal and state campground fees are, say, $35/night. Unfortunately, many don’t think twice about blowing off a couple of nights and eating the fees. I suggest this: If you don’t arrive at your site, place a charge on their credit card of an extra $100 bucks for the first night, and add another $100 for each successive night they fail to show. And here’s the best part: Apply that money to the respective camping facilities for capital improvements. Once that policy gets out, your stiffs will lessen considerably.”

Being new campers is poor excuse for lack of manners

This column gets a lot of comments about how bad-mannered a lot of campers are. The number of comments we receive could fill several newsletters! I am struck, though, by how the comments have increased over the last year.

Lorelei wrote about it in our forum: “Campgrounds were terribly crowded in the Northwest and filled with rude people, which isn’t new, but more of it. I watched spaces empty at dark that were still empty in the morning. Some campgrounds save spaces and say they are full. There was an overabundance of screaming kids on bicycles, scooters, and skateboards, breaking every rule. Yelling adults were everywhere, barking dogs, loose dogs. The six-foot leash rule was ignored. The guy next to me was messing with a guitar and caterwauling for hours. I had to tell a guy to remove his dogs from my space so I could get mine out of the car. The fact that some are new campers is a poor excuse for no manners or common sense.

“Snowbird tax” explained

Kelly R, a Floridian, wrote a very clear response to the suggestion of an out-of-state snowbird tax. “As a Floridian, we pay no income tax. We support our state through 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.

“I welcome ‘out-of-staters.’ Thank you for keeping my taxes low. Come from out of state or out of country and enjoy our sunshine.”

Dave H. explains the rental tax a bit more: “Florida does have a snowbird tax, a transient rental tax. It’s a 6 percent sales tax that’s added to rentals of less than six months. Counties can add on to that as it’s an additional 5 percent in the county we’re in. I think local jurisdictions can add on as well, as we paid 11.5 percent for our three-month site here in southwest Florida. We like it here and enjoy our visit, so it’s just part of the cost.”

Size matters

Tom puts it rather succinctly: “Size matters. The bigger you are, the less sites are available. Try Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome.”

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: Should there be a snowbird tax?


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.


  1. At many private campgrounds, you pay the full fee upfront. If you don’t show, or don’t call, you loose all your money, as well as your site. The public state run campgrounds, should adapt these rules. It would release a lot of sites that are left empty.

    • We’ve been doing this for 26 yrs. 300K miles w/2 motorhomes. Majority of stays at private parks. We have never had to pay the full campground site fee upfront. I know during events/holidays many RV parks with ask for full payment weeks or months in advance of arrival. Totally understandable when something is going on. Not saying I disagree with your suggestion to fix the problem of no shows, just we have never experienced the full fee upfront.

  2. I am your enemy. I have made reservations for June. Most places I have to pay for my entire stay in Advance. I have paid for my site even if I am stuck along the way, wreck, breakdown, or emergency. I am happy to call the office to tell them to give my site to an overnighter for free, if they would just answer their {bleeped} phone or they closed their office at five pm. I also found the Ford Dealership in Rapid City has a couple of 30 amp sites out back if your TV in for repairs. Really nice folks !

  3. Well, as some of these commenters pointed out, people staying in “resorts” instead of campgrounds may not be having many issues finding spots, because the commoners of campers aren’t flocking to $125 a night spots. However it’s these same grade of ‘camper’ who will book 3 sites in popular camping spots just so they can get one and don’t really care that they screwed other people out of a spot because they just flat don’t care how much it costs at current rates. So if there were penalties for no-shows, it may cut some of that out. Folks that legit need to cancel can still do so because who knows what’s coming in 6 months?

  4. I just finished planning a trip from Texas to Glacier and back starting in July. Our favorite places to stay are state parks. Every state park was booked and this is over 6 months in advance. We are now calling ourselves the KOA couple since that is mainly where we will stay.

  5. There should be no refund on no-shows plus “administrative charges” There should also be a limited number of maximum days allowed in a season, as well as a 14-day limit. License plate numbers should be included in reservations to reduce people using different names and credit cards. They could also require National Park Pass numbers or state park pass numbers if applicable.

  6. At the beginning of this year, the Newsletter asked for suggestions from readers on the type of information we would like to see in the Newsletter, whether seven days a week or like me just the weekend editions. Apparently, there were not any or enough good suggestions that the Newsletter keeps hammering the same story “campground overcrowding”. I have not read the current installment nor do I intend to read subsequent articles on the subject. It has been beaten to death!

  7. We are currently at a KOA in the lower Keys. It was wiped out by Hurricane Irma in 2018 & reopened last summer. We had been staying there every year since 2006 when we got married in Key West. We got a call from them last Feb before they announced to the public to reserve. We got a beautiful site, view of water. In the past could always book for the next yr prior to leaving, giving 3 sites as preferences. So 2 days after arriving went to office to book 2023. They were booked solid until March 9th which had 2 back in sites available. We understood policy to be booking 12 months in advance. We were told they allowed 14 months, never telling anyone. The site charges are off the charts. This is not a Class A only resort. Many trailers, Class B’s along w/5th wheels & Class A’s. We won’t be returning. Also, the Keys are way more crowded than we saw in past. Another reason to pass.

    • Anyone that has traveled the Keys by any means knows space of any kind is limited. It is No wonder that it is hard to find campgrounds there. When my wife and I visited Key Largo and West last February everyone told us if we don’t book a site at least 12 months out we should forget it. Well, we planned out the whole trip with the dates we wanted 4 months out.

  8. Tim is either nostalgic or delusional thinking people don’t already get charged for being no-shows. I can’t remember the last site I reserved that didn’t need to be prepaid, either in full or the first night.

  9. Agree with Sandra about the need for 14-day limits. I ‘ve been shocked to find how many public facilities allow monthly and virtually permanent rentals. That’s the owner’s choice in a private park, and if they want to slowly convert it to a trailer park, that’s fine.

    But a county, city, or state facility should always have stay limits. And in crowded facilities, a ban on excessive repeat visits (people booking every weekend of the summer, for example). Only way to let everyone have a chance to use the facilities.

    • Many parks with 14 day limits are gamed by “campers”. They reserve several sites in a row, using different names and credit cards, and just move every 14 days. Tough to stop. Maybe RV license plate number?

      • What do you mean? I found a beautiful spot on skid row to camp, and under a overpass next to the river in Red Bluff CA. Just had to ignore the graffiti and trash thrown around and oh yeah don’t worry about that junky shooting up next to you.

  10. We spent a couple nights in a “Full” state park in Oregon. There were more than 50% reserved but no one in the sites. It’s not hype just in a different area than a lot of people are. This was early winter, wet & cold, usually very easy to get a site. I don’t do reservations often, in Arizona you might get one spot within a week. We don’t go to RV resorts, so I can only speak to how crowded they are. Even boondocking, which we mostly do, is crowded in the west.


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