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Campground Crowding: More people buying land to ‘camp.’ Would you?

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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.

Now, this is nice camping

Bill B. writes to us about an idyllic spot he bought in Maine. He says, “Camping, and I do use the word in its true meaning, was a time and a place where you went with your family or friends for fun in peaceful surroundings. A place to get out of the city life for a week or a weekend. Do some fishing, sit around the campfire in the evenings and tell lies and just have fun.

“With the crowding I have seen in my area in Maine, camping is not fun anymore. I bought a piece of land on one of the bigger rivers in Maine, surrounded by lakes with native brook trout, and go there and enjoy ‘camping’ in a way most of you can’t even imagine. It came with two older travel trailers and a lovely screen house with 367 feet of river frontage. Best smallmouth bass fishing in the river, lots of wildlife, flowers, berries, and a great swimming spot for the kids.

“I did finally put my 2018 Cougar 38-foot fifth wheel there. If I want, I can hook up and go where I want. It does have a septic system but no electricity or water. I bring in my own water and can set up a system from the river. I am installing a 1200 kW solar system this summer. Now, this is nice camping.”

Bit the bullet and bought 80 acres

Just like Bill, above, D V bought their own camp spot, too. “Campgrounds were getting so crowded and sites so difficult to reserve that we bit the bullet and bought 80 acres last year. There’s an existing well, and the contractors are almost done with the driveway/camper pads, septic, and electric. It’s extreme to buy a place to camp and not economically feasible for a lot of people, but we always wanted our own piece of land. Now we’re guaranteed a camping spot with absolutely no one else around.”

Going seasonal to avoid crowding

Eric Y. got tired of campground crowding and decided to become a seasonal RVer instead. Eric explains, “Because of campground crowding, we decided to go seasonal. We chose a park that is central to the ocean and the mountains. We just pack up our bags and go. No more chasing sites or getting lousy sites at lousy campgrounds. The best part, no more setting up or taking down the RV after each trip. It’s great!”

Harvest Hosts filled, too

Ron B. has found that Harvest Hosts locations are full, too. “We have stayed at two Harvest Hosts wineries this spring as we traveled across the country. One in Texas and the other in Illinois. We reserved both of these mid-week stays a month in advance. A mid-week stay at a Harvest Host used to be just us or maybe one other rig, but this year the wineries were completely full both nights we stayed.”

An advantage of being retired

Bill K. compares pre- and post-COVID and expects things to get better. He writes, “Pre-pandemic I could get reservations 3-4 months ahead of time in the most popular campgrounds and in the busy (summer) season. Now, I am forced to book a year ahead of time to get a spot. I also notice that there are always vacant spaces when I get to the campground, so it does seem like a lot of people are canceling.

“I also always check the cancellation policy because if booking a year in advance there’s the possibility we cannot keep the reservation. But I expect things to get better in another year as things get back to normal. I have friends that rented RVs or bought an RV during the pandemic but are not fully committed to camping. In terms of finding sites, I have the advantage of being retired so I can spend the time doing the research online to find good campgrounds.”

Done before I hurt someone!

“I’m done!” Well, reader Tom C. is done. “6.5 years full-timing. Different class of people out here who party all night drinking beer and not watching their kids. You ask them to quiet down and turn off their lights and the drunks want to fight. They say the lights have to stay on to keep the mice away! I’m done before I hurt someone. And mice come out during daylight.”

$1,800-$2,500 a month when we are bringing our own house?

Paula E. is finding it difficult to book sites over weekends and in good winter locations. She says, “It is getting extremely difficult to book sites over weekends, but also in good winter locations. After many hours of researching, we tried booking for January and February 2023 near Tampa at the end of February. After calling seven different RV parks, we were told either no sites were available or that they were only accepting reservations for 6-month stays. For crying out loud, we have wheels on our RV! And, $1,800-$2,500/month when we are bringing our own house? I don’t think so!!”

Is summer over yet?

Candelario M. “gave up summer camping this year. No campgrounds are available within 200 miles from home. Everything is booked up. There were sites available for one day, but who is going to drive 150 miles for one night? Especially with high fuel prices. I don’t camp at private, overpriced ‘RESORT’ campgrounds. Will hit the road when summer is over.”

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: ‘Every nook and cranny of the woods are full!’

##RVT1061b

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Donald N Wright
4 months ago

I really want to explore some local Texas state Parks, but not at 107 degrees.

Spike
4 months ago

After a week off at home post our last trip to one neighboring state, my wife and I are out again for 3 weeks in another neighboring state. We are in a really nice county park/campground on a lake. While most of the campsites on the lake were occupied (seasonals), I noted that around 2/3rds of the non-seasonal long pull-thru FHU sites right on the lake were empty last night. I’m sure that’s not the case on Fri/Sat nights.

We are in an “upper campground” a few hundred yards from the lake on a small hill in a completely shaded area with deep back-in sites. Of around 30 sites up here there are just two campers (ours included). I made reservations about three weeks ago and those include weekends.

bwo
4 months ago

TO RV OR NOT TO RV?

Recently we took a trip without our RV and had an epiphany of sorts.

First, we never found lodging that was 100% booked.
Second, we had no setup and a huge shower!
Third, an easily available laundry was steps away; sheets and towels were laundered for us.
Fourth, free breakfast.
Fifth, no dirt roads, hairpin curves, ridiculously short parking spaces, overhanging limbs.

Calculating the cost of payments & insurance (whether we travel or not), maintenance, and gas (12 mpg rig vs. 30 mpg car), we decided while sitting outdoors in the very nice patio area WITH fireplace that the only thing missing was the hassle, insects, dog poop, and folks walking through our “room.” The pool was great BTW.

Hotels employ more workers than campgrounds and they also need our business. VRBOs are often a way for families to have some additional income. If we decide not to travel for a while, we also have $0 sitting in the driveway.

Don Schneider
4 months ago

We bought an RV lot at a campground in 2016 that has a 45′ cover over a concrete pad with full hookups. Now we have a place to “land” if we need to and no daily fees. We had no idea about Covid-19, high gas prices, or booked up campgrounds…just lucky I guess. Some other RVers have retired to the same campground and had activities before Covid. So we are around people who have or still do enjoy the lifestyle.

Steve H
4 months ago

Even before Covid, we rarely RV’d between June 1 and August 15. We live in Colorado, where out-of-state campers deluge the state parks, USFS campgrounds, and private RV parks in the mountains every summer when their states get too hot to comfortably camp. We prefer camping in the fall, when kids are back in school and the aspen are changing in the Rockies. In spring, we go to lower elevations in other states to enjoy warmer weather, spring flowers, and empty lakeside campgrounds with great fishing. We also snowbirded south of I-10 for many years, but not since Covid began. So, most summers, our RVs have been parked in a storage lot or next to the house.

wanderer
4 months ago

Turns out ‘Eric Y’s solution happens to be ‘Paula E’s’ problem. Florida is full of empty rigs parked on a site year round, sitting vacant half the year. Most of the campsite capacity is locked up and unusable by others.

Pushing people to book 6 or 12 months at a time by giving bargain rates is apparently one that the parks and long-timers like, but it locks so many people out of even a short stay in Florida.

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