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Campground Crowding: ‘RVers don’t look after each other anymore’

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 “easy-peasy”

Steven P. has some advice to make camping easy: “The secret to finding a campground site is simple: Don’t go WHEN everyone else wants to go and don’t go WHERE everyone else wants to go!! Easy-peasy!”

We’ll take our chances

Jorg F. camps on the shoulder seasons and mid-week. Jorg says, “It’s been a slight problem since Covid, but since we’re retired and don’t care for heat, we nearly always go spring or fall, e.g., before and after Memorial and Labor days. We also go mid-week, so this combination solves most of those problems for us.

“Also, we prefer uncrowded sites, so we are getting more into BLM and forest service lands. Unfortunately, sometimes the best, most scenic sites are in state or national parks. Personally, we will avoid any park that charges a cancellation fee if possible. But… both Reserve America and our state reservation systems charge for cancellation, and that makes me livid. To solve (or mitigate) that, we call the rangers and ask if sites are generally available or booked when planning to come. If available, we’ll take our chances without reservations and have backup plans just in case.”

Musical chairs

Susan R. writes us about “musical” campsites in Utah. “We just spent five nights at a state park in Utah. When I booked in January there was only one site left and it was the worst site in the campground but I booked it. During our stay, at least 4-5 of the 10 prime partial hookup sites and another 4-5 of the dry sites were empty every night. There are only 24 sites, so at least 1/3 of the campground was empty each day. However, online the place was 100% booked and every site had a reserved sticker.

“The gate closed at 10:00 p.m. so each night after 10:00 some of the tent and van campers were moving into the hookup sites for electricity and then back to their own sites in the morning.

“It was like musical chairs and kind of comical! That was too much work for us in our travel trailer so we stayed put. I asked the ranger every morning if I could move sites, but she told me they were all booked. She told me even though no one showed up, the sites were paid for and they had to hold them.

“If only people would cancel their reservations if they aren’t going to show up. I guess they feel since there is no refund, why bother? I used to feel that RVers were a community and looked out for each other, but not anymore. Not taking the time to cancel a reservation demonstrates a huge lack of consideration for your fellow RVer. Sad times.”

Times have changed and we need to adapt

One of our Canadian friends and fellow RVer, Leonard R., understands times have changed for the longtime RVer. Leonard says, “As Canadian Snowbirds we just wrapped up our 5-month trip to multiple points south. Before we left in early December, we had EVERY stay booked. The only stops we didn’t book were our travel overnights with Harvest Hosts, which is an awesome program! We are now almost fully booked for our trip from December 2022–May 2023.

“As a relative newbie of only two years RVing, I understand the frustration of the long-time RVers; however, times have changed and we all need to adapt. We have needed to plan ahead, and accept terms at the campgrounds/resorts that we want to stay at.

“As far as the angry RVers who complain about us ‘out-of-staters’ taking ‘their’ campground sites, please remember that we contribute enormously (and happily, I might add) to your local economies. We welcome our American friends to our parks, and I can say that we were welcomed by 100% of the people we met along our trip. One final thought: How lucky are we all that we have such beautiful and friendly countries to travel between? See you in December!”

Have my own waterfront camp

Bill B. has a solution that is probably the envy of many RVers. “I have had my own waterfront camp in Maine where I live. I purchased a new 38-foot fifth wheel in November in TN and brought it home. Driving the 1,200 miles back, I had difficulty finding a place to stay at night. What I have been reading ever since scares me for even wanting to take my 5th wheel anywhere except my camp.

“I have 1,200KW of solar, and replenish my water from the Penobscot River, where I have 367 feet of frontage. Since I have such a beautiful camp, I’m thinking why go anywhere else? I can move in a short time if and when this over-population of RVers settles down to a normal flow. When I was still working, my work took me all over the 50 States and all the Provinces and Territories of Canada. Been there, done that.”

Affordable RV sites

Lydia D. writes, “Tip: Hipcamp has tons of affordable RV sites available! The listings are pretty unique too, and range from full hookups on a walnut farm to dry docking next to a private waterfall.”

Psst: Want to know how you can stay at Hipcamp locations for free? Check this out.

Emotionally exhausting

Walt S. spent a lot of time booking his trek north and is exhausted. “During our 2021 summer escape from Florida in early June, it took me two days of constant calling for campground reservations to get my four-week stays (usually 2-4 nights per stay) in order to get to our Northern destination for a two-week visit with family.

“Then, prior to our return trip to Florida, I spent another 2-3 days on the phone in an attempt to stay at RV parks close to destinations of places we wanted to visit along a different route back South, and eventually home to Florida before Labor Day. This was emotionally exhausting, as we were forced to spend nights in locations that were not particularly attractive. My wife and I have been RVing for over 20 years and enjoy seeing the U.S.A. We’re not ready to give it up yet. I guess we will trudge thru another round this summer and see what shakes out.”

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: “2022 is a nightmare”

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rick krough
8 months ago

There are 400+ units in the National Park System, 63 of them are *National Parks*. The crowding problem is 80% of visitors are all trying to get into the same 10 or 12 parks. Our last visit to Yellowstone (8/2020) lasted a day. Other than the geysers you can have the same experience in plenty of smaller less crowded National Parks.

Camping hasn’t been a problem. We typically avoid the freeways and RV resorts. We travel the two lanes mostly where the smaller and older campgrounds are seldom booked full. Some of the smaller towns even offer free or inexpensive camping.

Zeet
8 months ago

I’ve posted before about not having issues getting campgrounds. Since Jan we’ve been traveling north from Tucson thru California and now in Nevada headed toward Yellowstone making reservations 3 or 4 days ahead of each move. Usually a week stay. Next week we will be in Idaho.

This weekend, given that summer and holidays are coming I figured I’d better plan ahead. So we are booked thru Aug hitting Yellowstone, Devils Tower, Mt Rushmore, Custer State Park and the Badlands and then south to Denver and Pueblo.

Only issue was Yellowstone where I could only find 5 days when I wanted 7 plus we will be there over Jul 4th weekend. I go thru reviews, find a campground acceptable to us (FHU, not full of unsightly RVs, don’t care about pools and other amenities) and within our budget. The resorts are not available and have online booking so easy to check. But the smaller family run campgrounds have spots. Other than around Yellowstone, never made more than one call to book a spot.

Ron
9 months ago

The Divided States of America

Mark O.
9 months ago
Reply to  Ron

????

Steve
8 months ago
Reply to  Ron

You’re right about that. And even when we agree on something, we disagree on why we agree.

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