Monday, September 25, 2023


Campground Crowding: The park told them to overbook!

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.

A good motto: “Change your adventure”

Donald W. has gotten that dreaded cancel call. “I have gotten the call, ‘Oops, sorry, we have to cancel your site.’ It’s usually a fire, or a flood, or a fire ant infestation… You look for somewhere else and change your adventure. Twice I have had a nice motel room in Amarillo.”

Editor’s note: Thank you, Donald! I love that idea! Change your adventure when everything starts to go haywire.

“There should be a penalty”

Jeff K. has found the entire season booked up then narrowed down. “Every year, even if I start booking eight months before I travel, I find that many of the campgrounds are already booked. This has gotten much worse over the last two Covid years. I found out that many RVers will selfishly book an entire season, then later narrow down the dates when they’ve finally decided when they’re going to travel. This makes things so much more difficult for anyone else trying to book a reservation. There should be a penalty for this selfish behavior. I would suggest that no one be able to block out a reservation for a campsite for more than two weeks at a time and that long-term reservations be non-refundable! Maybe the possibility of losing deposits might make people more considerate!”

Yikes! Park told them to overbook and then cancel!

Rich R. hasn’t had as much of a problem as some others but he was told by a park to overbook! He writes, “We travel approximately seven months a year and have NOT had this problem as much as folks seem to be talking about it. We are in Idaho and travel through Utah, Arizona and Texas for our winters. We make our reservations about 4-6 months out and I would say we have about a 95 percent rate of getting reservations where we want them. But we DO get frustrated with seeing so many spots open due to late cancellations. There must be some sort of fee…at least 50 percent for this. We have even had parks tell us ‘If you want the 10th – 17th, call and reserve the 3rd – 17th, and in a week call and cancel the 3rd – 9th.’ This is just an example, but you see what they are doing.”

Easier this year

Has it been easier to find a spot this year? Ron B. is finding it easier to get reservations for this summer, at least for some states. Ron says, “I have been making reservations for our trip this summer to Texas, Missouri, Michigan and Wisconsin. The reservations are for 3-6 months out and it has been easier to find open campsites than it was last year in Idaho and Washington. We usually prefer to stay in State, County and COE parks and some highly rated private RV parks.”

Never a problem

Larry K. and his wife have a system that works for them: “We have a 26’ Class C motorhome and camp from Tennessee to Florida, and have been cross-country. We make reservations for the first spot, then my wife researches while driving. Never a problem. Nowhere to go, all day to get there! Happy hunting.”

Mini suburbs in the middle of the forest

Karen M. is trying to stay positive but it is difficult for her. Karen writes, “The numbers and types of campers have already affected the use of my RV and the number of days I am out traveling. I am retired now so I should be able to take advantage of those less crowded days but it is not that easy.

“It is disappointing to see open sites when you know there are campers who would like to stay for the night. I too remember the days when state, county, FS, COE, BLM parks were used by campers. People in tents or a variety of small rigs that were there to enjoy nature, fish, hike or just sit around the campfire. I guess, like the world in general, things change.

“Many people arrive with big rigs and more than enough yard and equipment to imitate the best downtown playground or bar. Lights all night, big-screen TVs or stereo playing for us all to enjoy. Instead of being a part of the surroundings, they are creating mini suburbs in the middle of the forest. Then leaving their mark with trash, cut trees, feces or damaged property.

“I am spending less than 50 percent of my time camping in my home state than I did before retirement four years ago. I have been going to these parks for decades. Now even if I can easily find a space I am so dismayed by the damage to the park or the lack of courtesy that my enjoyment is fading. I know I am old and am quieter than a family, but I feel I am a generally tolerant person and enjoy family fun, so it’s not that.

“Instead, it is the total disregard for the “community good” within the camping community that I find depressing. I am hoping camping, and yes I will say it, boondocking, goes out of fashion. I add the latter because my job allowed me to travel miles and miles of back roads over public and private lands tracking federal power lines, which provided me with a lot of first-hand experience of the trash, destruction and pollution of the streams in the Pacific Northwest caused by boondocking.

My year in Arizona just solidified my feelings as I witnessed large expensive rigs pull in for a night or two only to find a large pile of trash, including furniture, in the space where they stayed. Of course, those groups always left before dawn. Where do these people come from?

“It may not sound like it but I am trying to stay positive and start every trip with a fresh perspective. I did have a very positive 10 day trip across Wyoming with only one camper cutting through my space to get to the bathroom, it would have been OK except he banged his hand on the side of my RV as he balanced between the shrubbery and my rig! My dogs loved it.”

Arriving unannounced might work?

Allen C. has found a technique that works for him. “I found arriving at a campground unannounced and going in after-hours that there were tickets hanging on a board by the door to take your pick of unoccupied spaces, then pay the next morning. I found this was a common practice.”

Bought a private lot

Irvin B. bought a lot to always have a place to stay. Irvin wrote, “I dislike the ReserveAmerica system. Because of all the articles on crowding we are moving less and expecting less to visit attractions we would like. We bought a private lot to park on so it will always be there for us.”

Editors note: Irvin, I hope the articles here did not alter your plans. Yes, a lot of campgrounds are crowded and reservations are sometimes hard to come by, but it is still possible with just a bit more work.

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: “The campground is not the enemy”


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. Twice in the article I see people who drive big rigs being blamed for bad behavior; “leaving their mark with trash, cut trees, feces or damaged property” and ” and witnessing “large expensive rigs pull in for a night or two only to find a large pile of trash, including furniture, in the space where they stayed”. I completely disagree. People who can afford big rigs are generally older and experienced RVer’s who know proper etiquette. Those who drive smaller campers may not know proper behavior or have children who misbehave. However, it’s just common sense not to dump trash or damage property. If someone acts like an {bleeped} it doesn’t matter what size RV they drive.

  2. IMHO, has become more difficult, not easier, to use since Booz Allen Hamilton has taken over the operation of the Website. It is also much slower, at least on my laptop, despite still not having photos of each site. Don’t know how long the BAH contract runs, but a new contractor is needed. However, they should be on a performance-based contract that requires major usability and speed upgrades.

  3. Interesting comment about arriving unannounced. We have work camped at a lot of parks, and many leave tickets out for RESERVED late arrivals. I have yet to see one leave tickets out for unreserved late arrivals.

    However, we have been awakened by a reserved late arrival whose ticket had been absconded by an unannounced arrival. We were booked, so the unannounced gentleman had to move. We told him he could park in the front parking lot until 7 am. When we arrived to open the office, he was nowhere to be found (we did get his license number!)

    While most campgrounds will place a reserved tag on the site itself, please don’t assume you can just pull into an open site because it is after dark. No one wants to arrive late to their reserved spot and find Goldilocks sleeping in their bed!

  4. I don’t know if it’s luck or what but we have never not been able to secure a spot to camp in our travels. When possible we call the campground directly instead of using the reservation systems, seems to work for us. Most places we stay at have available spots based on the after hours site boards we have seen.

  5. Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome can save your trip. We have a favorite “Boondocker” spot in Florida that will always be in our plan, when going that way.


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