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Campground Crowding: They paid in person, but a later online reservation got them kicked out

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.

All the large RV sites were gone in 30 seconds

This week, I personally discovered the unfortunate truth that so many of our readers have written to me about. The available campsites disappear in seconds on opening day. Every year at exactly the minute campsites are released for the summer at a regional park in Minnesota, I reserve four weeks at one of our favorite spots. This year, as always, I was super ready—logged in on my computer and iPad, dates and sites wanted written in large letters on a notepad along with RV license number and credit card info. At exactly 9:00 a.m. CST I hit the button and the sites were gone. Gone, gone, gone. Not just our favorite sites but all except one large rig site.

We were camp hosts at that park. I know the last of the sites is not desirable and it will be a tight squeeze to even get into it. If we want to sit outside any time in the first two weeks, it will be sitting scrunched up to the side of the motorhome so we don’t get hit by passing cars.

Geez! I booked and paid more than $600 for the first two weeks and another $600 for the last two weeks. As we can only book 14 days in a month, I am left scrambling for the remainder of the summer. Wish I had heeded more of our readers’ advice and planned earlier…

Longtime camper says “book in advance”

Richard F. gives us the advice I should have followed. Richard says, “Longtime camper here (78-years-old). Yes, now you have to make reservations, if you want a specific site, as soon as reservations open up… to the minute! The West Coast is much worse than the East Coast. One-nighters are pretty easy, especially if you join things like Harvest Hosts, but still, it’s best if you book in advance.”

Pick fewer hookup options

I liked this tip from Karyn C.: “I have not found any issues finding places to stay. Choosing USFS, Army Corps of Engineers, state and county parks more than KOAs and other private parks has been a big help. For the really popular spots, I still find you need to book 6-12 months out, but this has been normal in the Pacific Northwest for some years now. I do more off-the-beaten-path camping in general.

“Pick places with fewer hookup options as they are almost always easy to get into. I generally am happy to dry camp for several days, and don’t need wifi access to be happy (that’s what Verizon unlimited is for now, lol).”



Using their money for other things

David W. looks at boondocking not just from an availability perspective. He says, “My wife and I mostly boondock. I own a Class A motorhome and we prefer boondocking as this allows us to use our money for other things. We stayed at a campground twice this year. No crowds there.”

Got kicked out after paying!

JQ had an unfortunate experience in Utah. They wrote, “American Land and Leisure out of Utah is the worst thing that has happened to camping. Ridiculous, confusing rules just to maximize their profits. One-way communication with the camp hosts and forcing people from their sites because online reservations have top priorities over verbal, face-to-face payments.

“We found an open site on the Oregon coast. Paid for three days, and two hours later was told by the campground host to move because someone just took it from us with an online reservation… after we paid in full! The campground host also mentioned calling the sheriff if we didn’t immediately move. I asked them where should we go? The host replied, ‘Anywhere but here.’ Gee, thanks.”

“I resent this”

Vicki S. laments staying the summer in Yuma. “We have been full-time RVing for 15 years. Yuma in the winter and Salt Lake City in the summer. There are no longer campsites in SLC and we have to live in Yuma. 117 degree temps during the summer. I must admit I resent this.”

Glad they are at the end of RVing

Sue is sadly at the end of camping and sums it up. She says, “If you have to go to all that effort to camp, glad we’re at the end of our RVing life. Still have an RV and belong to a membership campground in Branson, so we can go there with no hassles.”

From our forum…

Cathy S. has a suggestion using license plate numbers: “They should set up a system where people can’t reserve more than one spot at the same time by using license plates as a default to catch the double-booking. Choosing several and deciding at the last minute ties up spots. Cancellation costs are so low that some people don’t care.”

Tina is not finding campground crowding, even while traveling. She writes, “We have stayed in an RV Park in Sierra Vista, AZ, for several months for the past five years. It has expanded during that time, but has rarely been full. The management is fabulous and there are several amenities to enjoy right in the park. On the annual trip to AZ from MN, we have never been told there was ‘no room in the inn.’ We are currently in Amite, LA, after leaving AZ, and the large park here is not half full. Are we just lucky, or are others more particular about where they stay?”

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: They called one campground 121 times for a reservation

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Al B
6 months ago

I had a campground try to move us after we paid for 5 days in advance. We were already set up at the site when a guy pulls in and asks when we were leaving. I told him in 5 days. He said he had that site reserved and told me I had to move. I told him I would leave in 5 days… go talk to manager.
A few minutes the manager/owner showed up and told me to move. I told him I have a paid receipt for 5 days for the site and I was not moving.
His mistake and he would have to work it out with the other guy. It did not go well, the other guy said he was leaving and never coming back.
Sorry this happened and the owner/manager could not keep his business straight… he should have offered the other guy a free or discounted site; but he did not.
This was the summer time and I did have a great site with shade trees… in Texas!

BeenThere
6 months ago

Every public campground I’ve ever been to that had sites that are online reservable have always had a “1 night at a time” use policy on available sites. I’ve been able to extend my stay on a day to day basis, but I’ve also had the campground host come by at 0900 and post a “reserved” sign for that day, meaning I have to move on by check-out time. It’s been my experience that reservable campground sites are usually available Monday thru Thursday, but Fridays to Sundays are reserved. Folks who reserved these sites did so when the reservation period opened up. Trying to make an online reservation while sitting in the campground is futile. Especially since most reservations systems only accept a reservation for 24 hours out or more.

Kyla
6 months ago

I’ve honestly never understood the appeal of campgrounds or massive RVs, unless you literally live in it that is. I’ve been camping my whole life and I’ve only stayed in campgrounds a handful of times, the only exception is if a specific place I wanted to fish, hike, etc doesn’t have much dispersed camping around. Like blue Mesa reservoir, that lake is huge and it’s hard to access it from any of the dispersed camping spots, but it was 4th of July weekend so we couldn’t get a spot anyway and had to stay up by the horse corral. Yet the beauty of that spot was well worth the extra drive

Donald N Wright
6 months ago

Are corporations using their computers to rent multiple sites ? On my last visit to Yellowstone NP, there were six sites altogether with the same companies class C motorhomes.

Bruce2868
6 months ago

At a state conservation park in NYS I made a reservation for one of the longer sites for my 35 foot class A. There was only one spot available for a rig my size. When we got there all the large sites were occupied by tent campers who just wanted a lot of room to spread out. I feel that if the state made sites for larger vehicles you should have a large vehicle to be able to book it.

Vincee
6 months ago

Just wondering, is there a Stub Hub or similar site for campgrounds?

jillie
6 months ago

What surprises me is that most time when you are a camp host your site is reserved. Period. No questions. It is like that with all of the sites I have seen for camp hosting work kamping areas. So I would look into it and see if there is a site for a camp host. And the site is free. I know in Michigan and in NC it is. And from a work kamping web site I am on as well. I am heading to Main for 3 months and got a seasonal site that goes May to October but I am arriving at the end of May and leaving at the beginning of September. Just saying as a camp host your site should be reserved and free. Check into it. I would.

wanderer
6 months ago

Not sure why Nanci feels she is entitled to four weeks at the same PUBLIC campground year after year after year. Welcome to the world the rest of us live in, where the locals and regulars scoop up the desirable sites for way more than their share of the season.

GWM
6 months ago
Reply to  wanderer

I had the same question as well! Let’s learn to share children.

Don
6 months ago

Don’t know if the folks thrown out after paying in person is a real story, but it should never have happened. Once you’re paid, you have a contractual right to that space, and the campground will just have to deal with the other person. No one should move in that situation. The answer should be “go ahead, call the Sheriff!”

Irvin Kanode
6 months ago
Reply to  Don

+1

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Don

Should have told them to call the sheriff. If the story is correct, the sheriff would have to protect the paid customer.

Drew
6 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Tommy, here in Ca. the deputy just says it’s a civil case and heads to Dunkin’ Donuts.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Hmmmm. Probably right since it’s on private property. So, do you just stand your ground and tell the on-line renters they are SOL, and THEY should take it up with the office?

Ken Parr
6 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Sounds about right. That’s why most police forces had to abolish their physical fitness requirements.

MattD
6 months ago
Reply to  Don

yeah…my thoughts exactly. There’s something more to this story..

Gail M Pulaski
6 months ago
Reply to  Don

I agree! Call the sheriff! I paid. Im here not movi g!

Mike Whelan
6 months ago

Must be blessed here in Texas. On our slow trek north from our two month tour of the Texas Gulf. We had reservations at this campground and our last one. Neither campground was full. This camp on a lake on a weekend is about two thirds full. Camp host said they will not approach full until the start of summer when the schools are out. We will be here a few days and then move further north. Checking ahead most campgrounds have plenty of space. We won’t make reservations for the rest of the trip. I will let you know how that works out for us. Happy Travels.

Bob p
6 months ago

We tried online reservations one time couldn’t get one, put the iPad down picked up the phone and called the campground, “Yes we have openings, how many would you like?” I think campgrounds who are subscribing to these online reservations systems are losing money on them unless they are getting the cancellation fees forwarded to them. I was calling about us and our daughter/son in law, she had also tried online and was told there was no opening. Upon arrival there was 9 sites that sat empty for the entire week. This was in the Smokies during the summer.

Stinger45
6 months ago

To the folks that secured a site and paid cash for it on the Oregon Coast, I would tell the camp host to go ahead and get the Sherrif. I would file charges on the camp host for trying to commit fraud. They paid cash face to face and that is the contract. The host was wrong and needs to reevaluate their priorities. STAND YOUR GROUND! Don’t be intimidated.

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