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.
One year to use voucher
Chloe D. didn’t get a refund, but she did get a year to use her reservation. “We booked and were required to prepay our week’s stay at Crazy Horse Campground in Lake Havasu. A month prior, my husband found out he was going to have his aortic heart valve replaced and surgery would happen the day we were scheduled to arrive. The campground lists a no-refund policy. We were given one year to use our prepaid reservation. Guess where we are today? Yup!”
Looks beautiful, Chloe! So glad you and your husband were able to go at a later date.
“If a park charges a cancellation fee, we avoid it”
LB needs a more flexible cancellation policy. They write, “I have encountered quite a few RV parks that either have a very strict cancellation policy, or a no-refund policy. Their reasoning for doing so was because people would reserve and not show up, especially after 2020. I understand them doing this, but for full-time families like us, that would be a financial disaster.
“Sometimes life happens and one has to reroute the route, and in our case, we’ve had to do that a few times. We always cancel ASAP because these parks are our home and we want to have a good relationship with them.
“Can you imagine how much money we’d have lost with those cancellation policies every year? So, if a park charges a cancellation fee we avoid it. We even reroute our trip to stay at parks that don’t charge us before 48 hours.
“A better cancellation policy would be to give vouchers for another time to people that live within two hours of the park if they cancel within a certain time frame or lose their money. Full-timers need more flexible cancellation policies. Also, I have for the most part been able to reserve where I wanted to stay until this year. 2022 is a nightmare. Every park seems to be booked solid, and it’s taking us extra time, and many reroutes, to go where we need to go.”
Boondockers Welcome is busy, too
Robin C. is a Boondockers Welcome host and is glad to meet the demand for campers. She says, “We are second-year Boondockers Welcome hosts in the Midwest. We have been much, much busier this year than last. Already have 15 nights booked in April alone. I attribute that to the merger of Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome organizations, as Harvest Hosts members who pay for the combined membership now have access to our site. About 2/3 of our guests this year have come from Harvest Hosts members. Both categories seem to be much more active in seeking reservations this year to help offset the high fuel costs. And, we find both to be great guests. We are glad we can use a small portion of our farmland to meet this need.”
Book by phone only
Tom M. only books by phone and has great luck. “We are currently at a Georgia state park that we reserved a month ago for two weeks’ stay. This park is full on the weekends by local campers and 75 percent empty during the week. We booked 6 weeks near Gulf Shores, Alabama, on a moment’s notice. We book everything by phone, not the internet.”
Need high limit on credit card
Donald S. had to pay full payment to reserve. “I have booked our 2022 summer trip for three months. Most stays are for two weeks,, and 30 percent required full payment upon booking with various refund policies. All stays are in Texas. So, if you don’t have a high credit limit on your credit card, you can’t afford to stay in a lot of places here.”
National parks are a different animal
Kathy N. is a planner and has few problems, except at national parks. Kathy says, “I am a planner, and we are still pretty new to full-time RVing. When we make a decision on the general route that we will be taking, I begin looking at possible places to stay. We use RV Trip Wizard and Harvest Hosts mostly to plan our 8-9 months on the road. If I know that where we are heading is a pretty popular spot, I will make those reservations as early as possible. Other than that, we have had no problems getting into state parks, RV parks or boondocking when we need to. National parks are a different animal and we can rarely get in those, but we are 40′ long with a toad.
Campgrounds need to enforce rules
Bruce W. accepts the crowding but not the irresponsible noise. “Camping as I write this in one of our favorite local campgrounds, Buccaneer SP in Mississippi. Easter weekend and the place is packed.
“I am okay with the crowding, but NOT okay with the noise. Some older idiots thought late evening (10:30 p.m.) karaoke on an amplifier would a good idea. Then younger idiots thought blasting their radios so loud that we ate inside was a good idea. Others that were riding around in golf carts thought blasting music was a good idea.
“I hate rules, but I think we are to the point where campgrounds need to post signs and enforce rules. What gets me at this park is the staff live onsite and can hear the daytime and late-night music. They need to put a stop to the breach of campground peace/lack of respect to other campers. Someone please explain to me why have the outside TV blaring when no one is there watching TV?”
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 Crowded Campgrounds column: Even membership camping services are booked up!
If you’re not a planner and book as far in advance as you can, it’s a serious gamble to find a place to stay. Even if you ARE a planner, booking a site has become increasingly challenging. With Canada’s national park reservation system, it used to be you could reserve and were placed on cue first-come-first-served. NOW, you’d better be online the second the reservation period opens and then you’re given a RANDOM place in line and may wait HOURS to make a reservation. Some Canadian parks are fully booked 2 years into the future. At least Canada allows reservations–many U.S. National parks don’t even take reservations. Traveling in an RV, spontaneously finding a place for the night is all but impossible anymore. Planning the trip used to be part of the pleasure–now it’s a chore I dread because so many places have their No-Vacancy signs permanently illuminated. We’re still doing it, but I can see a day when we’re just going to sell the RV.
Because we live in the West, we bought all our RVs–travel trailer, fifth wheel, and current motorhome–with a length of less than 27′. This was the maximum length that we could fit into many national and state park, US Forest Service, BLM, and USFWS wildlife refuge campsites and Walmart parking lots (for shopping using two back to back parking spaces). By keeping within this length (<27' RV + detachable TV or toad), we have found very few campgrounds, even when completely full, where we couldn't find a suitable site. If we were able to find longer sites available, this combined length allowed us to stay overnight without even unhooking. And, as "travelers" not "campers", we have had hundreds of overnight stays.
I was recently surprised to arrive at a Harvest Host location, I was approved to be there, to find it packed with campers. It was so full we had to squeeze in our truck camper. If we had been any bigger we would’ve not been able to stay. We’ve seen it a lot lately. Only once did we have no one there. Used to be common, but not anymore. We boondock almost exclusively but I’m looking at NP more often, which I’ve been avoiding for the last 2 years, it’s been easier to get in when we’re 20’ long.