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Campground Crowding: They called one campground 121 times for a reservation

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.

Full fee upfront… or not?

There is an ongoing discussion in this column about campgrounds charging the full rate for the entire stay upfront. This seems to be a rather new development that RVers are experiencing. On top of paying upfront, some cancellation fees are extraordinary. Here’s what a few readers have to say about that:

One reader, CL, suggests state campgrounds could adopt that idea. They write, “At many private campgrounds, you pay the full fee upfront. If you don’t show, or don’t call, you lose all your money, as well as your site. The public state-run campgrounds should adopt these rules. It would release a lot of sites that are left empty.”

Donald N. pays ahead. “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’d be 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 p.m. I also found the Ford Dealership in Rapid City has a couple of 30-amp sites out back if your RV is in for repairs. Really nice folks!”

Diane M. has been RVing a long time and has never had to pay ahead of time. “We’ve been doing this for 26 years. 300K miles with two motorhomes. The majority of stays have been at private parks. We have never had to pay the full campground site fee upfront. I know during events/holidays many RV parks 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 that we have never experienced the full fee upfront.”

Gamed by campers

A number of campers have figured out how to beat the system on the 14-day limit. I am a park host in a county park and noticed that many folks have figured it out. They’ve cheated other campers out of a chance to camp here.

One reader, Tom, notices the same thing and writes, “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?”

Need more West Coast campsites

Mark S. wrote to us about his frustration in getting a site for Thanksgiving. It is a family tradition and took a lot of diligence to get one. Mark writes, “Here in California, trying to find a campsite close to the ocean is very, very hard. Yes, it’s very hard to try and plan to go camping 12 months in advance.

“Here in California, the campgrounds book 12 months out. It’s crazy how the campgrounds can just let an empty site just be empty even when you have called so many times to try and book it. My wife and I called on November 1 of 2021 to make reservations for next year’s Turkey Day. She called 54 times and I called 67 times and I finally got through and made reservations for Turkey Day of 2022. It is so stressful.

“We go RV camping every year on the coast. It’s been a family thing since I was a kid and now that my mom is gone I just feel closer to her there. I truly wish there were more campsites on the coast.”

Complaining does us no good

Phil R. has an idea to put an end to policies campgrounds have that we, as RVers don’t like. “Complaining will do us no good. The problem is, we don’t know how to stick together. If we collectively agreed to stop making reservations at places we don’t support, Eventually, they’ll change their policy. They would be forced to. A complaint here or there means nothing…. you’re just blowin’ in the wind.”



Some never return a call

Sandra P. has numerous ways she finds a site. She has to, since they are full-timers. “We don’t always get what we want but manage our expectations and find other locations that work. I use a number of membership search engines, even Google for remote locations, that are not members of a ‘club.’ The biggest challenge is campgrounds that require a call. Some never return the call! I’m stuck in that town until I know the dates of my stay there, which impedes the reservation process. We are currently reserved through mid-June (Yellowstone) and just trying to decide how we want to spend the rest of the summer from ND back to Texas for November. We are full-timers traveling through 2022… good Lord willing! Here’s to 2022!”


Why RVtravel.com exists and where you fit in: “RVs don’t break down. RV roofs do not leak.”


From our forum

DJ mentions the role climate change is playing in barren campsites and the closure of others. “Your article fails to mention the closures of campgrounds due to climate-change-related beetle kills of tall trees. There isn’t enough budget to take out all the widowmaker dead trees promptly, and the barren campgrounds afterward are not appealing. I’ve seen sites or even entire campgrounds closed in Rocky Mountain National Park, in Steamboat Lake State Park, in the Sierra Nevada of California… Our ferocious nonstop fires have also impacted campgrounds.”

Jackie H. posted about workers using the campground. “We are on our winter trip. Of the four campgrounds we have stayed at, three have been full of monthly campers. These monthly campers are electrical workers working on a power plant and workers laying fiber optic cable. The campground only had a few spots for daily or weekly rentals.” (More on this here.)

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

##RVT1042b

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Adrian L. Cahill II
6 months ago

New Problem we have people that are in rental business and they are renting several spots all month long at state parks and you don’t stand a chance of getting in. One state park in my area have three known persons doing rental business and have put a hurting on getting a spot. I believe the State should stop this and make it if you rent a spot you need to be in that unit.

Lorelei
6 months ago

No offense, but if you share your secrets and tips online, those camp areas will soon be jammed with rude people just like all the others. That’s a lot of why they are all crowded now.

Phyllis Miller
6 months ago

We have been finding that the state parks in Florida have empty campsites every single day where people have paid for reservations in advance and do not show up. Besides fining the no-shows, perhaps after one day resell the campsite to folks who have been trying for months to reserve there. Please Florida State Parks, open up these unused sites. Allow walk ups to camp where reserved sites are unoccupied.

Sue
6 months ago

If you have to go to all that effort to camp, glad we’re at the end of Rving life. Still have a RV and belong to a membership campground in Branson, so can go there with no hassles.

William
6 months ago

I feel with the astronomically hi prices we see at the pump we will see fewer campers this year and maybe next. People will be camping closer to home. That should free up a lot of spaces.

BILLY Bob Thronton
6 months ago
Reply to  William

It will collapse the RV industry. One has to look no further than in the past. When fuel prices increased Fact; the average number of days, an RV is used in a year is 13. Interest rates are beginning to climb, buyers way over paid for their rigs of recent. That coupled with the current admin reluctance to drill domestically, will only hasten the collapse. Be at your computer to pick up massive cancellations, they’re starting to come now.

Richard WATTS
6 months ago

IM 65 YRS.OLD AND ONE DAY I SOLD MY LATE WIFES 4 BEDROOM HOME PAID CASH FOR A ALMOST NEW RV.TO PRESUE CHUCH FULL TIME.ITS BEEN HARD NOT HAVING THINGS ON DEMAND LITES,WATER,SMALL THINGS.ITS BEEN DIFFERENT AND LOVE THE KNOWING THAT THE BANK DOES NOT HAVE A SAY.HOT IN THE SUMMER,COLD IN THE WINTER.ALL IN ALL,I DID GET MORE TIME TO BE WITH GOD.THANKS REV.RICHARD DALE WATTS.

Michelle
6 months ago

I manage a campground in south Ms. I am always looking for ways to improve this park and make my guest happy. I love suggestions…My office phone is forwarded to my cell 24hrs. I couldn’t imagine not answering my calls or at least calling people back. That’s half of the managers entire job!

Cindy
6 months ago
Reply to  Michelle

I totally agree with that statement..as business owners also..I dislike no calls back it is very frustrating to feel like an unwanted guest

Wtf
6 months ago

California state parks (which comprise most of the beach parks) have a 6 month reservation window. You can call a year ahead all you want, you’re not going to get that site.

Bob O’Loughlin
6 months ago

We had a truck/5th wheel combo that we sold 2-3 years ago. One of the reasons we sold it was because we had a very difficult time finding campgrounds with open sites in the camping season. We live and camped in Colorado, a very popular camping state. Even with the 6 month in advance reservation system, many campers must have booked online 1 minute after midnight 6 months in advance.
I have driven through our favorite Colorado campground multiple times in late evening to see sites empty with a reservation card from 4 days ago. I checked with the lady at the check in booth and she said many wealthy campers with the massive Class A’s pay for extended stays multiple times and then don’t show.
We loved RVing but just got plain fed up with the situation. We went to hotels and VRBO houses.

BILLY Bob Thronton
6 months ago

Typical government ineptitude. Simple solution would be to surcharge their credit card a $100 bucks per day, for every day they stiff. Monies collected go directly to the capital improvements of that park. Will stop the nonsense in short order. But, its gov’t, and they dont care, dont have to. It really is that simple.

Kathy Ropiequet
6 months ago

I don’t have a problem with paying upfront for all fees. Takes one more stress out of the situation. Parks have to change their policy on no-shows. Nowadays EVERYONE has a cell phone or can borrow one to make a quick call and cancel their spot one day in advance. There will always be those who legitimately have an emergency. But parks need to keep their 1st night fee and also their reservation fee. Its the only way to stop those who reserve more than 1 spot at numerous campgrounds.

Johnny
6 months ago

Been on the road 4 months not seeing the problems these whiners are talking about. Just plan ahead and keep your reservation. Many flakes in RVs these days.

some beach
6 months ago

California is just plan $$$$ good luck getting coast site. It’s almost the same price as staying at a hotel with gas and all.

Joy
6 months ago
Reply to  some beach

That seems to be the case in just about every state. By the time you’ve booked a three week vacation in multiple states, paid the gas, cooked the food, had the check up on the rig, it’s cheaper, easier and much more fun to stay in a VRBO or hotel then to go camping. I am over it after just 10 months of owning a class b. Can’t wait to get rid of it.

BILLY Bob Thronton
6 months ago
Reply to  Joy

Joy, i wonder if you’re the anomaly, or is this the coming trend?

Dean G. Porter
6 months ago

Have any of you tried HipCamp or Couch Surfing as an alternative for short term last minute stays / re-group ?
My wife has been a couch surfing host in Tucson, AZ for over a decade, hosting hundreds of people for numerous reasons. Even people in RVs to park out front & come in to use the facilities of our home. What ever they may be.
We have just recently, a week or so ago, used HipCamp & got a beatiful set up in southern AZ when the State Park we usually go to was booked out for 6+ months for a group of 3 campers & 1 motor home (8 guests) just for 2 nights.
We had a great time !

Pamela Jobson
6 months ago

We’ve never had a hard time making reservations from Here in WI down towards and in-between FL. Also all the in-between States such as MO, AR, TN, KY and also AL. No problems going East as well, IN, OH, PA, NY and finally VT NH. This during Sumner and Fall months. Yes, I made my resrv 2 to 3 months ahead. No problems anywhere.
This all must be a West Coast Problem

Last edited 6 months ago by Pamela Jobson
Virginia
6 months ago

Just finished planning a trip from SE coast to Texas…likely our last one outside of our region. It is getting tougher to find openings on weekends, and hate putting all those $$ so far up front.

As I punched in the last reservation and received a confirmation, I breathed a sigh of relief.. Then I received this notice (still posted on the campground site):

Due to personnel shortages, this park will remain closed until further notice. We apologize
nada, nada.

The notice then gave us other parks to try: neither of which had availability for the dates we needed.

Here we go again…

MrDisaster
6 months ago

It is time to urge campground operators to adopt more robust cancelation policies. They need to be spelled out on their website and referenced in their confirmation e-mail. Last year we dealt with several RV parks in the east that complained about “no shows”, held the deposit until the customer appealed to their bank. The bank (in two cases) explained there was no refund/cancellation policy on the website so the customer got their money back. This policy would allow the campground to recover some of the cost of the “no-show” and release the site to be re-rented.

Marty
6 months ago

Arizona has beautiful state parks. We can only stay for 2 weeks in a month. Reservations open a year in advance. You have to pay upfront the entire fee but if you cancel you are charged only $5.00. When you call to cancel staff are friendly and efficient.

Leslie P
6 months ago

We have struggled to get reservations for state parks at least in Arizona. We are lucky that we almost exclusively boondock but we need to come in every 10 days to at least dump/refill fresh water tanks. I’ve found if I dig around I can find a overnight in the not as popular parks. We usually get the smallest, least popular sites but that’s ok since it’s just for the night and we are 12 feet long. I have zero problems with paying in full up front it makes sense in the current campground situations in the west.

Dennis G.
6 months ago

Happy Side:
We made a reservation in Jackson, WY last June. The lady who runs the RV park was kind, and helpful getting us reserved. It did take multiple calls back and forth, but she was always nice. When we arrived in Jackson, I sought her out and thanked her in person. We had a great stay subsequently.

Deborah Mason
6 months ago

Just reserved in Twin Falls, ID. We are taking my sister in a Bucket list type trip, so chances if needing to cancel are very slim, so I did accept the fact that full payment for all days & no refund is how they operate. So far it’s the only one of our stays with those conditions. Not happy, but …

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