Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Campground Crowding: Longtime work camper says this year is ‘out of control’

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.

Getting out

David H. has RVed full-time 14 years but is finding it harder and harder. He says, “After 14 years of full-timing, it’s become harder and harder to find places and costs are going up. When we started traveling, we never needed to make reservations. Nowadays, it’s more of a challenge, and less freedom on the road. Plus the constant rig upkeep was getting tiring. It was great fun when we did it, but now not so much. We’re getting out.”

Ruby S. gave up, too. “I have always been a planner and booked our trips in advance, but booking has definitely become more and more difficult over the past 12-18 months. In addition to it being difficult to find reservations, many campgrounds are taking larger deposits and have changed their cancellation policies so there are monetary penalties even when you cancel more than 30 days in advance.

“After a very frustrating few months in 2020, we made the decision to leave the full-time RV life we loved so much and go back to a sticks and bricks home. We sold our 40’ 5th wheel and downsized to a 29’ travel trailer so we can still camp and travel whenever possible.

“Our TX state parks take reservations 6 months in advance, but finding a spot is nearly impossible … even during the week. Our favorite winter park in Port Aransas, TX, accepts reservations 18 months in advance and it’s still almost impossible to get in. In September 2020, we made a reservation for March 2022, and there were very few sites to choose from even just one day after they opened registration. Another issue we’ve run into is finding a place to store the RV. Storage lots are completely full due to the large number of people who now also need a place to store their units when they aren’t using them.”

Crazy, out of control!

Susan A. is a work camper and she has some insight for us: “{bleeped} campground crowding is out of control! As a work camper for the past six years, this is the busiest season we have experienced. And it’s not just busy, it’s crazy busy and people’s attitudes are just out of control!

“I am working 40+ hours a week in an RV park office and I can handle the reservations and phone calls, etc. But the attitudes and demands of the customers are very trying… and not to mention when they arrive and haven’t disclosed that they have EXTRA vehicles and trailers and expect a place to park for free for their entire stay!

“It has been a LONG, BUSY summer and all our workcampers this season are just plum worn out from being so busy!”

Might not like what they find

Brian I. is putting off purchasing a fifth wheel until after a test run. “We have RVed for 30 years, and if including youth years, RVing for almost 60 years. Retiring this year, the plan is/was to become a snowbird. We did a couple of 8-week practice snowbird trips in 2012 and 2018. We noticed a big difference in that 6-year span in campground crowding, private RV parks that should be called ‘Permanent Mobile Home Parks,’ and a large increase of ‘homeless’ people boondocking in old RVs. The intent is to spend four months this winter as a snowbird and see what further changes have occurred in the past four years. We would like to be optimistic, but from what we are reading it sounds discouraging. We are putting off our retirement purchase of a new fifth wheel and tow vehicle because there is a good chance that we will not like what we find.”

Help others by writing reviews

Lind L. says that reviews really do help. They explain, “We bought our Class A in March 2021. At first, we did not experience any crowding. But as we get closer to summer, we are seeing overcrowding. This means, for us, that we have to be more creative in finding places. And I’m trying to be better about writing reviews because those have really helped us.”

No reservations? Good, just don’t be picky!

Lisa A. has a system that works for them when traveling to avoid campground crowding. She says, “I never make reservations ahead when leaving a work camping position to either go visit family or to my next position. As we travel through the day, when we are 100 miles out from stopping for the day, I start looking for parks ahead. Sometimes it’s one night and sometimes we may want two nights. In one area I had to call a couple of parks to get a spot. That was Waco, TX. One park had several spots but they wanted way too much money for the site. I am willing to stop a bit early or a bit later if it means finding what I want. Never had an issue finding a site. The main thing is not being so picky if just a place to settle down for the night. We have found some parks that we have stayed at more than once that we enjoyed. They have been parks not heavily advertised but were a great find. You never know what you will find out there.”

Camping has always required planning; just roll with it

Timothy S’s favorite campground is near two million other people! He explains, “As a recent retiree, I have not yet approached this campground crowding issue the way many readers have. Camping has always required planning. Living near DFW Airport, our favorite nearby park is The Grapevine Vineyards RV resort. The popularity of our favorite park and the fact we live near two million other inhabitants of planet Earth suggests an inherent planning issue. Be it a tent, popup, fifth wheel, and now motorhome, we roll with it and go where we can in the allotted time. If it changes in retirement, we will figure it out. We love the lifestyle.”

Here is a bright spot in Tennessee!

Robert P. writes to us about being able to get a site for a full week over a weekend and on short notice! “On 7/24/2021, our daughter came over to discuss our appointment calendar as we all wanted to get out of the house for a while. After polling each of us we decided on the dates 8/5/21 – 8/12/21 were open and where we would like to go for the week.

“Reading all these articles about campgrounds overcrowding, I said we’ll never get an opening in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. She called the first campground she looked up, Rivers Edge, gave them our info, and made reservations with no problems at all. This is a popular resort-type campground with all the amenities my wife and daughter require. My initial thoughts were with schools not fully restarting the new year that many people would be vacationing the closing weeks of the summer, but NO. Back in June, we went to Chattanooga for a week for our fifth anniversary and the campground was probably at 80% capacity but still had plenty of spaces available. Maybe other parts of the country are overcrowded, but not Tennessee. Now don’t all of you suddenly come to Tennessee because I said that!”

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


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.



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Thomas Suess (@guest_195434)
1 year ago

Just finished my 1st time camp hosting, in CO…I met a lot of interesting people, learned a lot, liked almost all of the campers, travelers, and RV workers…worked 86 days straight through and could easily have worked the full 120 days…many days required only 4-6 hours per day…but I left a month early because of a safety issue…mostly cool people…lots of room in the campground…only one night sold out on 02 Jul…

Wayne (@guest_195071)
1 year ago

I am perplexed by all of the angst and animosity toward “newbies” by the seasoned RV’ers. You were fortunate to have gotten into the system, be glad about it. Sure the parks are crowded and some folks are still learning etiquette. Did you know everything when you started? Do you have children you are teaching about life, and getting along with others? In the past two years more and more people have had to re-evaluate what is important in their lives and even tighten budgets and create new experiences for our children. Nothing is cheap, and as we all know there isn’t any such thing as a free ride. I would suggest you go back and read TODAY’S THOUGHT and as so many are advocating these days. learn patience and tolerance.

Spike (@guest_194888)
1 year ago

Ahhhhhh. Sunday evening and the campground/regional park I’m in is nearly emptied out again. Some will come in and leave again during the week for one night stays, but looking forward to being back to peace and quiet for the next 5 days!

Last edited 1 year ago by Spike
Donald N Wright (@guest_194874)
1 year ago

Funny, I used to read of the same complaints by folks that do backpacking and rock climbing, they have to make reservations. Trails get worn out, toilets have to be installed as “catholes” unsanitary and taking over campsites. Trash is a problem too. Some hikers are strong enough to carry stuff going in, but too weak to carry stuff out when it is empty.

Tom R (@guest_194853)
1 year ago

I downsized from a Class C motorhome to a Class B motorhome in 2019. I don’t need hookups except when I need to dump and get water. Just returned from two month trip from WA to OR, CO, MI, WI, SD, MT and only made one reservation in advance for Custer, SD. Visited and camped in Glacier NP, Mt Rushmore, Custer State Park, National Monument, and several others. I can park almost anywhere. If you can downsize your footprint a whole other world is out there!

pursuits (@guest_194842)
1 year ago

Strongly suspect that the openings referenced at popular locations may be impacted by the current gas prices. The past 3 years cannot be called normal in any sense of the word and continued inflation of site fees won’t help. For those who can afford it, this may be a nice “eye of the storm” time to make reservations.

Ron (@guest_194749)
1 year ago

3rd world problems, Karen’s.

Rosalie Magistro (@guest_194795)
1 year ago
Reply to  Ron

Bingo.. as a camphost it’s been horrible the last 3 yrs.
We camphost coined them “covid campers”
In my state park here in Arizona, I’m glad the Canadian RV’S can enter the USA.
The locals and California people are THE WORST.

Ruben (@guest_194803)
1 year ago

You don’t know this Californian.
What a shortsighted comment!!!

Rosalie Magistro (@guest_194812)
1 year ago
Reply to  Ruben

I never mentioned you…
Just what we saw as camphost.
They were the ones that left messes,never left at the the checkout times and had the worst attitudes in the ranger station.

Ruben (@guest_194930)
1 year ago

But you mentioned California…
NOT ALL are the WORST!!!

Rosalie Magistro (@guest_195002)
1 year ago

An observation from a seasoned camphost. I didn’t say. “All Californians”

Ran (@guest_194734)
1 year ago

And……..The foreigners are asking for priority bookings? Don’t they understand that it is getting tough even here, to get anywhere? Too many RVr’s and not enough places to go. IMHO. Hopefully someone will start opening more campgrounds, but I won’t hold my breath! We’re all frustrated!…

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