Thursday, August 11, 2022

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Campground Crowding: ‘We camp during the week, stay in motels on the weekends’

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.

Need to be computer savvy

Karen S. writes about being computer savvy and needing an easier way to cancel. She writes, “Yes, campsites are hard to get into. You have to plan, be organized and be computer savvy. My biggest complaint right now is that rec.gov. does not make it easy and simple to cancel. Couple that with the amount charged for canceling and it is easy to see why people just don’t cancel. Every public campground I have been in recently, including three months on the road last winter, has had many sites that didn’t get used because of no-shows. I have been in that category a time or two because I was simply unable to reach the entity I needed to make the cancellation. There should be a way to make a simple text or phone message to cancel or tell them you are going to be late and will show up. It is very frustrating.”

Stays at a motel on the weekend due to campground crowding

Kayellen C. has found a way to “camp” even on the weekends. She explains, “Most Florida State Park campgrounds are booked, no matter when you start searching. We usually can find something Monday thru Thursday, then have to stay at a motel some of the weekend days. If it continues, we’ll sell the camper trailer.”

“Humongous motorhomes with northern plates”

Mike B. finds that if he can snag a site, the campground is full of humongous motorhomes. “I agree that there is disappointment in the booking sites like Recreation.gov and ReserveAmerica. We have experienced the same frustration. Neither site is user-friendly. It would be better if there were a filter limiting the number that a user could lock up and assess a monetary penalty or denial of service for repeat abusers. As a Florida taxpayer, I help fund our state parks and can rarely get a reservation in a popular park, even if I start trying the day that reservations open. When we are lucky enough to snag a site there is a high percentage of open sites in a fully booked park. Most occupied sites are taken by humongous motorhomes with northern plates.”



Forced to cancel reservation and charged!

Don N. was forced to cancel his reservation by Rec.gov and lost the reservation fee and a cancellation fee. He says, “Reserved a USFS campsite four weeks ahead of time at recreation.gov. Campground manager emailed us three weeks later and told us the entire campground seasonal opening was delayed and if we wanted to get refund of any of the $80-plus we already had paid, our only recourse of action was to go back to recreation.gov and cancel, which cost another $10 even though the cancellation was forced on us. So we’re out $18 ($10 cancellation fee plus $8 reservation fee) for a promised spot in a federal campsite that wasn’t yet open for the season. Had to be lots more folks in the same situation, because when we reserved, recreation.gov was showing the campground already 3/4 booked during the month before our planned arrival date.”

No luck in Savannah

Pamela B. describes what it’s like in Savannah right now. She says, “One campground manager told me that Savannah, GA, is ‘GREATLY UNDER-SERVED for RV campers.’ We had a reservation but needed to extend one day due to a 3-month-old great-grandson in the hospital. No luck and everywhere I called had NOTHING. We stayed in a truck stop. Not terrible. P.S. Walmart doesn’t allow RVs to park.”

Rest stops and large gas stations work!

In other news… Pat K. doesn’t make reservations and always finds a place to stay. “I don’t make reservations very often unless it’s a family-planned weekend or week. Reservations mean having to be in a certain place by a certain date. That takes away from fun, spontaneous route changes. Plus, you may find a place you like and want to stay in an area longer than you planned or perhaps dislike and want to keep moving on. I have made four round trips from the West Coast to the East Coast and back and I have no problem staying overnight at rest stops and large gas stations.”

Half hour before stopping they look for campgrounds!

Pam W. seems to have good luck with a technique that to some may seem risky! She writes, “Sometimes we can’t call ahead as we don’t know how long we may be on the road…especially the first night. One-half hour before we want to stop we pull into a grocery store lot and Google parks near us. We look at mom-and-pop kind of places. They may not be fancy (like they don’t offer TV or a pool), but it’s for one night. If most of the reviews are positive we go there. And while at the store pick up things like books or games. No TV… no problem. We relax before hitting the road again.”

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 here: ‘Costs are getting prohibitive’

##RVT1059b

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Big Bill
1 month ago

Just traveled from Florida to Maine while visiting family and friends along the way. Had no problem finding full hook up sites along the way. Our trip took us through Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana first while visiting friends and family. Then on to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Had zero problems making reservations one day ahead of arrival. BUT, we avoided the major toll roads and major cities. Lots of smaller campgrounds with nice sites but not a lot of extra amenities were our preference. Zero problems getting a nice level pull thru for our motorhome. Sometimes less is more!

MrDisaster
1 month ago

We are spending two weeks at the Thousand Trails park near Bend Or. They have 317 sites and each night we have found over 20 empty. Even on the Friday and Saturday before the 4th of July there are 6 sites near us that are empty.

bwodom
1 month ago

I believe rest stops are for resting…not overnighting. I am particularly concerned that RVers may be taking up space needed for truckers who not only are required to rest every so many hours by law (thereby ensuring both their safety and ours), but these are on the road (1) to earn a living, and (2) to ensure everyone else has food, clothing, and yes — even RV parts!

Taking an hour nap after driving several hours is fine. Stopping to fix lunch and rest your legs is fine. Using the rest areas as a campground is just another sign of a privileged mindset…or a total cheapskate. Take your pick.

I doubt it will be too long before this, too, will become overused and abused.

Liz B
1 month ago
Reply to  bwodom

Some Rest Areas have RV parking that is separate from the truck parking. I don’t see how spending the night in a spot that trucks aren’t even allowed in means I have a privileged mindset. -Proud to be a Cheapskate

pursuits
1 month ago

Rest stops and large gas stations may work for a while, but as the campground crowding increases so will crowding at other locations.  The same reason Walmart has put an end to overnighting in many of its locations will likely cross over to other “alternative” sites

BTW, in some states, staying in rest stops is not allowed; others may have time limits. Almost all have a definition of “camping” vs. overnighting. If you so much as put out a lawn chair you are camping. With all of the trucks on the road, even rest area and truck stops are getting crowded. Realize you may not be able to get your slide out do if the bedroom is on a slide you may need to be creative.

Which States Allow Overnight Parking in Rest Areas? – Boondocker’s Bible (boondockersbible.com)

captain gort
1 month ago

Are we having FUN yet??? Heck yes…no matter how hard I have to work and how much inconvenience, stress, cost, and frustration it takes!! I bought and paid for this here RV and nobody is going to stop me from enjoying it! ….Just look at those happy campers in the brochure! That’s FREEDOM, man!

Billinois
1 month ago

I don’t find Recreation.gov difficult to use. In fact, I much prefer it over Reserve America.
But we recently had to cancel a 5 night trip at a CoE park and got charged the $10 cancellation fee. It was an easy click of a button.
However, I can see where people who are staying only a night or two may not bother to cancel, especially if they’re getting the site at half-price ($9/night at this CoE) with their Senior or Annual passes. Then, those sites don’t go back into the queue and remain empty.

Fred Deffinbaugh
1 month ago

We were lucky enough to secure a spot at a Florida state campground prior to the 4th of July. I was surprised to see well over half of the spots were empty even though the web site showed limited openings. Only a few more sites were filled on Friday before the 4th before we left, while the web site showed the park was fully occupied. The Florida reservation system seems dysfunctional.

Billinois
1 month ago

We actually scored a 10 night reservation at Rocky Bayou SP in Niceville for early November. Not the best site but one we’ve stayed in before so we know what to expect. I was amazed we were able to because for the last few years it’s been impossible. I’m thinking I was in the right place at the right time, luck of the draw.

Cere
1 month ago

My husband and I used to own a small campground. I can say for sure that the online ‘computerized’ reservation systems still need a human to monitor and manage them. I was very involved in our reservations, moving people to more appropriate sites (and sending them an email notification about the change) as well moving people around in order to open sites up for others to book… it’s no good to have a Friday night booked on site 5 and Saturday night on site 6. I would move 5 to 6 and now 5 is open for 2 nights. We made a lot more money that way. (Even though we never charged a dime for a cancellation.) The new owners have ‘no idea’ how I managed to make more money than they do. They even insinuated to a full-timer that we somehow cooked our books. Well, they just let the online system go unattended. And it’s a mess. I drove through the campground recently after hours and saw about 15 open sites. As an owner or manager, you have to manage the reservations (revenue). You have to care.

Bill Braniff
1 month ago

From all I have been reading lately on campground crowding, I am so happy I have my own private campground to relax in. If I wanted to get away from it all, it seems the best place to go is your own home. If campgrounds are indeed as crowded as people say you would be better off going to LA or NYC or possibly Chicago. Same difference in my eyes.

With gas a nd diesel prices as high as they are now, are people really traveling all over America to find a campground? I would think a lot of the campgrounds must be pretty empty?

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