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.
It’s getting easier again
Ashley W. uses a variety of apps and websites to find sites and shares with us. She writes, “While it is sometimes hard to find a site, it is definitely doable, and it does seem to be getting somewhat easier again. Part of the trick is timing. If you are trying to go during the busiest times, it is going to be harder but can still be done.
“It just takes persistence in the search. I recently found a site in a newly opened resort just off Hilton Head Island for the weekend of Memorial Day. I also just booked a site for the first weekend in May at a local state park, and I also have the week of July 4th booked at a campground in the Great Smoky Mountains.
“Looking in different places helps too. I booked the July site through Hipcamp, which has some really neat places including private lots in campgrounds as well as on privately owned land. If you don’t find what you are looking for immediately don’t give up; keep searching as spots may open up closer to time or you may find campgrounds you didn’t initially see. Campendium, Spot2Nite and CampSpot are other good places to look in addition to Reserve America and individual campground websites.”
Motels are getting more competitive
A reader who calls themselves Winnebago B. knows that it is getting harder to get reservations. “If it keeps getting harder and harder to find RV park reservations, I guess it will be time to sell out. With rising operational costs of RVing, staying in motels is getting more competitive. Reservations are easy to get and most all of them have frequent stay discounts. I would hate to have to hang up the keys, but even RV manufacturers aim advertising toward the younger generation.”
How can they be booked so far in advance?
Gail C. asks this question as she searches for a site: “I’m also having more trouble finding open campsites. I’ve been looking for weeks to book reservations for next winter in Florida. I don’t see how they can all be booked this far in advance.”
Travel off the beaten track and find the hidden gems
Dawn A. has some suggestions for finding the hidden gems. “The crowd has already affected our camping. As lifetime campers, we have had every type of camping out there—tent to motorhome. We found it better to stay away from the campgrounds with all the amenities. The more they have, the more they cost, and the bigger the crowds they draw.
“Stay in small campgrounds and make your own fun times or just kick back and relax. If you need the extra amenities make your reservation. Travel off the beaten track, no need to go where everyone else goes. There is great countryside and hidden gems with no crowds tucked in all over. Enjoy the great outdoors—that is what camping is about.”
Don’t count on this as a backup plan!
Robin C. sent us this warning: “We are Boondockers Welcome hosts. If other hosts are like us, visitors may find their ‘favorite’ hosts booked up. We have been, or will be, booked for at least 20 nights in April and have numerous reservations already in place through mid-July. Much busier this year than last. So, don’t count on Boondockers or Harvest Hosts as automatic backup open spots.”
Book short-term stays
Paul G. prepares for alternatives as he travels cross-country. He says, “We book short-term stays usually mid-week as we travel cross-country. We seldom book more than 24 hours in advance and are looking for comfortable campgrounds near highways.
“We are prepared for many alternatives, from Elks to Boondockers Welcome to Harvest Hosts to Passport America, as we roll. Dry camping for a few nights is fine with us. We have been back and forth across the country two round trips since 2020 with no problem finding a place to stay. A couple of times we have been turned away from private campgrounds but no more often than in the prior 10 years. We do plan to avoid any family-friendly campgrounds on the weekends. Too crowded and too noisy for our taste. We travel no more than four hours a day and plan to stay two nights every other stop when we are in transit.”
Searching in a 150-mile radius
John L. has to search farther for campsites now. He explains, “The days of deciding to go camping last-minute are over. Not long ago my wife and I could pack up on a Thursday night and leave immediately after work. Now, some campgrounds are booked up 6-12 months in advance. Gone are the days of first-come, first-served.
“I could also go on about the fees charged by the two main government reservation systems and their refund policies, but I won’t. We all know. I live east of the Mississippi and boondocking is almost non-existent unless you are in a tent. Out west they’re more common than gas stations so it’s easier for those that have that option. For us, no longer are we fixated on a specific park or location. We now search for camping in a 150-mile radius. We may not be on a lake or in the mountains, but we’re camping. If we’re doing an extended trip, we start making reservations the day they become available to reserve. I don’t see this changing even after the pandemic.”
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.
Read last week’s Campground Crowding column: Is this the “strictest cancellation policy ever”?