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Campground Crowding: Snowbirds annoying locals since 1975

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.

Ever think of calling the campground?

Now, this just might work… Robert P. has a suggestion that works for him and it might work for the rest of us, too. In fact, it probably always used to work for the rest of us! Robert writes, “Why don’t you go back to doing it the old-fashioned way and call the campground!? If I have experienced no availability online, I pick up my phone and call the campground only to be gladly welcomed with a reservation. Computers aren’t foolproof, just proof that fools can operate computers. I once was told computers don’t lie. My response to that comment: ‘No, but liars operate computers.’ The modern world relies on computers for just about everything. They are great tools, but that is all they are. They are only as good as the person putting data into it.”

“Free travel seems to be gone”

Roger E. couldn’t find a campsite and had to return home. He says, “Recently on our return to Kentucky from Florida we had hoped to spend a few days in Gulf Shores, Alabama. After calling several campgrounds, we were unable to secure a campsite. We had to change our plans and return home. In the last few years we have found it harder and harder to find campsites without making reservations months out. Last year we attempted to make reservations in Tucson for March this year. After contacting all the campgrounds in the area where our friends live, we could not find a space. The RV dream of free travel seems to be gone. Very sad.

Lease a lot for a year and save money

Gayle M. found that leasing for the whole year saved a lot of money. Gayle writes, “We got lucky! We landed at Homosassa River RV Resort on Florida’s Nature Coast at a cost of $1,700 for the month of March. We thought that was a bargain! But we then overheard stationary full timer’s saying that their rent was $5,000 a year. Well, darn, I have been paying 3-5K a month in FL! We were able to lease a lot for $608 a month for a year. If we only stay six months it is a savings over our average spend!! We live in a 42’ class A MH.”

No full campsites and no “snowbird tax”

Michael W. has not found any full campsites this season. He says, “We just returned to our home base after three months on the road to Texas. Yes, we are ‘Winter Texans’ as they call us… not snowbirds. In our travels this season we never once had a full campground. Most not even close at maybe just 3/4 full. We stayed at everything from private resorts to state and federal campgrounds. Always had prime sites, many directly on the gulf or a lake or river. In one place we were both on the gulf and the intercoastal waterway at the same site. Full service sites were common. We did have reservations at many of our stops but found they were not needed with the exception of two where we had a particular site we liked. As for the guy that wants “snowbird tax,” his ideas would kill the tourist industry of states that depend on it. That makes my list of ideas to avoid.”

More about the snowbird tax

Ronald L. has this to say: “This is advice for anti-Snowbirds in Southern states and anti out-of-state visitors in Northern summers: Tourism or long-term RV stays in the south is the life blood of many businesses.

David H. also commented, “In response to Steve R’s comments that snowbirds add nothing and only take, he is wrong. As a snowbird for six months, I pay high campground fees, buy food, gas, eat at restaurants, visit theme parks and other attractions. I will bet he will find out that snowbirds are vital to his state’s economy.

Joe W. wrote this: “For the guy who suggested draconian measures for snowbirds who book a site for more than 30 days in FL, all those tourists pay tourist taxes and contribute to the local economy, which is mostly why you don’t have a state income tax.”

Snowbirds an issue back in 1975, too

Sharon B comments, “The issue of snowbirds in FL is not a new one. In 1975 I was learning how to drive in a town on the Atlantic side of FL. My driving instructor told me to watch out for any car that had NY plates, they were snowbirds with too much money and no driving skills and he would be glad when they went back home.”

This Florida resident asks snowbirds to please keep coming

Mike A. is a Florida resident that wants to say hi! He writes, “So, we are Florida (condo) residents with a house in Bucks County, PA, as well. We have a motorhome and travel cross-country in the summer/fall seasons. We do camp in the winter/spring months in Florida, but they have always required planning in advance. Even with that known, we do occasionally check Florida’s state park reservation system to see if there are any openings. Sometimes we are lucky and sometimes not. With all this being said, please continue visiting all parts of Florida. We enjoy your visits and your spending. A recent study in Clearwater showed that 30 percent of their income was during the second week of February and April 30th. That’s not even the Land of Mickey! Are the lines at the stores longer and traffic heavy? Yes, but I’ll survive it and continue to love and live it as long as I can enjoy it. BTW, if you are at Turtle Beach State Park 8/1, look me up and say hi!”

Kelly R. welcomes snowbirds too. “Those Floridians complaining the most are most likely not native Floridians, but those, like me, that have moved here from other states. Bring your tax dollars and enjoy our sunshine. During the summer, I enjoy IL, SD, IA, MS, Al, MN, MA, and take up one of your camping spaces, but I then leave a space for you down here. Get a grip, people.”

Gas prices high. Will there be more cancellations?

Kit V. wonders if there will be more cancellations. “We are full-timers (two years) and travel quite a bit, not sitting in one spot for too long. We make reservations as far ahead as possible and usually opt for the smaller mom & pop, off the beaten path campgrounds. There has only been one campground that said they didn’t have an opening, but suggested a place down the road we were able to get in. I was trying to make this reservation only a few weeks out in the middle of summer. Now my question would be: With fuel prices as high as they are, will we be finding there are a lot more cancellations/no-shows this coming camping season?

Read more about that here.

What do you think? Have your plans changed?

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 use the form below to answer one or more of these questions, or tell us what you’ve experienced with campground crowding in general.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column: Parks take advantage of canceled reservations and get paid twice

##RVT1045b

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Mike Albert
3 months ago

To further expand my thought from above, the campground owner pays property and school tax whether or not that space is occupied. Additionally, he collects and pays a FL state tourism tax and in some locals, a hotel tax for those staying less than 60 days. And when that space is occupied, I would bet that at some time, the occupant goes out and about and spends some money, thereby contributing to the local economy and paying some taxes. So for those a that say “Snowbirds” don’t pay taxes, think again. I know that in Florida the Snowbirds help keep me from paying an income tax and other taxes as well and do contribute to the maintenance of the infrastructure. They also contribute and help local businesses stay afloat during the off season.
So, Snowbirds, keep coming back and thank you!

Leonard Rempel
3 months ago

As a Canadian snowbird on my first winter to various parts of the Southern US, I spend ALOT of money here; and HAPPY to be able to do so!
I have already started booking sites in Arizona for late 2022 early 2023. Just a fact of life and ZERO concern for us.
I never camped in “the good old days” as I was too busy working toward my goal of an early and healthy retirement. Mission accomplished.
Anyone complaining about the high cost/inconvenience of camping has true first world problems. Let’s all reflect on how lucky we are. IMHO.

TexasScout
3 months ago

As a former resident of Rockport Tx, I lived there 1972-74, parents lived there 30 years and I can testify about “Snowbirds”. My mother ran a decorator and gift shop there for 30 years. As she put it, “the snowbirds come in handle everything in the shop and buy nothing”. That was true for three decades and I’m sure it’s true today. Back in the early 70s there were many that left their RVs year round and just drove back north in the spring. Back then you could get a spot right on the water for $50/mo inclusive. Now it’s $500/mo+. The oil companies would open their access roads in the the back woods to “birders” (Phillips 66 was a huge one) and it was great to check out all the wildlife. Alas the local free dump closed and a huge trash compactor was brought in and you had to pay to dump your trash. Soon all the locals were taking their trash and dumping on the oilfield back roads and they were soon closed to the public. Those idiots never figured out why.

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