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.
Never going back to booking madness
Michael has invested heavily in solar, batteries, and an inverter. It is paying off. He writes, “After issues finding camping spots for the weekend due to my job, I installed solar panels (and not just a couple). I put in 1,800 watts of solar and invested in AGM batteries, 700 amp-hours worth, and a 3,500-watt pure sine inverter. I did the installation myself for under $2,500. Been camping at Natural Resource Districts and similar golden areas basically all to myself, lakeside, free of noises. As I type this on Memorial Day weekend, there is only one tent camper at this magnificent recreation area due to ZERO electric, water, or wifi. I have it all at an average of $30 per day camping fees. Paid for my system the first year and will never attempt to go back to the booking madness. I’ve covered eight states and never spent more than $10 for an entry fee instead of annual park permit. Having zero amenities pays off.”
We’re sad to hear that Stephanie E. has given up due to crowding. “It has been so difficult to find places to camp that I am giving up and selling my Class C RV. We cannot book out 4 to 6 months. Plus, the huge amount of time I spent last summer trying to find campsites on a long-dreamed trip to Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Mount Rushmore… I surrender. It has become too stressful. The only other option is to camp in the backyard—that was not the plan.”
Beginning to reconsider going camping
Laura G. has had a tough time making reservations, particularly at State Parks. She says, “Have not been able to get a State Park reservation since 2019. I’ll drive through my local State Park that claims to be booked for the weekend and the campground is half-empty. I’ve been camping all my life and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s selfish greed to do this and not care about other campers or the loss of income for the State Parks. We’ve had an extremely difficult time booking reservations and finding a place to camp. Beginning to reconsider going camping, which is something I thought I’d never say.”
No spots with ReserveAmerica
Walter M. tells us about his favorite spot which is no longer available. “We only use campground reservations about four times per year and have found that all of our favorite spots have started using ReserveAmerica and there are no spots available. One spot we have been reserving for over twenty years is using the system and we can no longer book it!”
Nick S. likes using Campgroundviews. “I’ve been camping for 30 years/RVing for 15. There is no other way to travel the country with family and friends. I have many stories, good and bad, because of time spent in our RV. If you plan ahead, usually always you can find a site or a nice place to stay. I’ve been using campgroundviews.com for a couple of years now and it is great. I’ve booked my 6-week trip this summer using exclusively that site and I’m confident I got the best spots at each park.”
Okay with price increase, if…
Julie L. has a suggestion about adding more employees, increasing fees, and releasing canceled sites. She says, “I can’t deny that it is disappointing to not be able to just spontaneously get in the RV and go camping for the weekend. Those days are gone, at least for now. I used to think, if only people knew how great it is to camp…. Well, they know now! But we just convert those ideas into longer-range plans and open the area to consider going. It works most of the time. Sometimes we get lucky and find cancellations closer to home.
“I don’t think there is a perfect way to have a reservation system. I do think if these parks were manned with full-time employees, the empty sites could be managed better. That may be the best solution but it would reflect in higher costs, so there is always the downside. I think most of us would be OK with a $1-$2 increase to enable short-term cancellations to be released for use.”
Finding wide site for wheelchair lift is daunting
Tony S. needs room for a wheelchair lift. He explains, “Yes, it’s much harder to get campsites now than it was just a few years ago. We have a Class A with a wheelchair lift and finding an accessible site wide enough for the wheelchair lift can be daunting. It’s very frustrating when somebody who has a minor medical condition uses their accessible parking placard or license plate to justify getting the wider accessible sites. For me having a 16’ to 20’ wide site is not a convenience, it’s a necessity.
“Additionally, the $16 cancellation fee for Recreation.gov is outrageous. We had a one-night stay booked in Red Bluff, CA, but our RV repairs delayed our trip, so I went online to cancel so someone else might be able get our spot. I received $9 of my $25 fee back, which wasn’t really even worth the time. I don’t remember what it cost to book the site two months ago, but probably $8 or so. Yes, I get there are administrative costs to handling cancellations along with credit card fees (although I think the credit card refunds the merchant upon cancellation), but $16 is crazy.”
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 here: ‘Crowding? More like campsite hoarding!”