Saturday, September 30, 2023


Campground Crowding: RVers cheat the system, use different names to book prime sites

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.

40-foot rigs may have a problem

Janes D. had no problem with campground crowding when booking a trip to Nebraska and Florida! They explained, “For some time we’ve been planning an August trip to Nebraska to see kids and grandkids. Last month I finally got around to the detailed planning. I had no problem booking the places we want to stay. They include a commercial park, state forests and backyards. Just last week I booked an October stay at one of our favorite state parks here in Florida. I had my choice of a variety of sites. There are lots of places to camp. We’re happy if we have electric, water is nice, and a dump station is a bonus. If you have a 40-foot rig and want a pull-through site with full hookups on the waterfront I suspect that is a problem.”

Destinations are important

Jim P. mentions how important the destination is in the ability to get a campsite. He writes, “Destinations are important. We find that campgrounds (we almost exclusively go for state parks) associated with water sports (lakes, beaches) are almost always crowded, especially in summer. They book up early, especially over the weekends. Historical parks are another matter. Planning the return leg of a trip out west I found weekend vacancies at a historical park in Missouri. We made reservations. Still, we saw several vacant sites during our stay for anyone to have just shown up on a Friday or Saturday night.”

Screaming kids and barking dogs

If it’s not one thing, it’s another! Cheryl R. hasn’t had a problem finding a site but does have a problem with screaming kids and barking dogs… “We are hoping to get to Wyoming next summer and maybe even the Northwest: Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. We don’t mind boondocking. The only thing that really bothers us is screaming kids and barking dogs. When we grew up if you screamed there better be blood gushing out of you. We have a dog that barks when someone comes to the door, but when we say okay, he stops. Have noticed smaller dogs seem to be the barkers. Maybe because of their size? We are in the early stages of planning our trip. But I had no issues in the last couple of years of finding spots for overnight or a couple of days.”

Need a site? Become a work camper!

Mary D. never has an issue finding a site. She explains, “We work camp so we don’t have a problem finding a site, it’s provided! And by the way, there seems to be a shortage of work campers this summer. Lots of ads are still posted to start ASAP and finish out the season.”

It all depends where you go…

Eric G. finds spots outside of the popular areas. “We ran into full campgrounds over the summer at popular areas, but there were plenty of spots open if you go elsewhere. The attached photo is from Northwestern Michigan Fair RV Park, just outside of Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes. It was only 10% full when we were there. And we are currently at an Ohio State Park over a weekend and it is only about 25% full. So it all depends where you go, but there are plenty of open sites out there.”

Northwestern Michigan Fair RV Park. Photo credit: Eric Grove

Cheating on reservations and beating the system

Karen V. sees sites booked all season under different names. “Mostly booked up on the weekends for state parks. Sun. night – Thurs. night, usually can find a spot. It is more locals than travelers. Some use a different name each time frame with the same camper to keep the waterfront/full hookup sites all season. Makes it impossible to get these sites.”

Editors note: As camp hosts at a regional park with a 14-day limit we see this too. When we recognize the same RVs for too long, we report it and the camp office asks them to leave.

It’s not as dire

David G. reports that with a little planning he found it not as bad as people say out there. “Recently returned from a 7,600-mile Florida to Oregon and return trip. With a little planning, we were able to stay in our choice of state park campgrounds and private RV parks. We even had several dates that were booked on the same day. Most of the time there were additional open sites in the parks. I’m not a fan of ‘sardine camping’ so I look for more open spaces and find them. However, Florida State Parks are pretty much impossible to find if you don’t book 11 months out. They are filled with snowbirds all season long. All in all, it’s not as dire as some would make you believe.”

“Love this life and hope to let nothing stop this love”

Theresa K. is now a solo RVer and needs to book well in advance. She writes, “I have been full-time for three years after a lifetime of vacation camping. I’ve been solo for four months. I have a 32’ Class C towing a car. As a member of Thousand Trails, I have seen more and more parks have more permanent residents than transient campers. I haven’t had any problems so far, but I do book out as far in advance as I can. I never fly by the seat of my pants because I want to know I have a spot, and I no longer boondock as a female solo traveler.

“I use both the membership campgrounds and private parks. I do like to go to the major attractions, but I will drive an hour to them if possible, to avoid the higher prices they command at closer parks. I am traveling to see the country, so I keep plugging on. If a campground is ‘tight’ I really don’t let it bother me. At night I’m still ‘home’ in my own space. When I can’t drive anymore I fully intend to become a permanent resident of an RV park. It will be the most affordable option for me. I love this life and hope to let nothing stop this love.”

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


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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Diane Rydzewski
1 year ago

I read the comment by the person who disliked crying kids and barking dogs. That is a personal opinion. My opinion is that I dislike big RVs running AC or a generator and having their inside or outside lights on.

Bob M
1 year ago

If you plan on visiting Niagara Falls, Four Mile Creek State Park is a nice campground. It’s a easy twenty minute drive to Niagara Falls. Your campground pass allows free parking at Goat Island or Niagara Falls State Park. Both connected by a walking bridge. If you have 50 amps, take a 50 amp to 30 amp dogbone adapter. Most sites are 30 amp. Some sites are 50’ sq, but one section is smaller.

Bob M
1 year ago
Reply to  Bob M

If you want to visit Erie, Pa. or travel to upstate New York. Some campers were on their way to Maine. Lampre Campground is a nice clean well taken care of campground. It even has a washer & dryer. Showers are on the cold side. It’s a short walk to a small park and pier. It even has a boat ramp next to the campground. Some campers even had the RV and boat on the same campsite. A few sites have a view of Erie Lake. It’s a 15 minute drive to a large shopping mall area

Ron T.
1 year ago

If someone is booking under different names, wouldn’t you think they’d have to pay in cash or risk being suspected of using stolen credit cards with other people’s names? Also if they never physically checked out, when would the site be mowed?

1 year ago

Maybe site reservations should be associated with the RV license plate rather than a name?

1 year ago
Reply to  Jay

That’s an interesting idea😊

1 year ago
Reply to  Jay

I’ve been suggesting this for a couple years now. Just common sense.

Leonard Rempel
1 year ago
Reply to  Jay

Unfortunately campers will just make up license plate numbers. I don’t have a good solution other than camp hosts/employees monitor the length of stay.

1 year ago
Reply to  Leonard Rempel

It needs to be put in the reservation instructions. If the plate number given and the camper plate do not match, the reservation is void and no refund.

1 year ago
Reply to  Jay

An engaged host is going to be best solution.

Following that up with a general comment that if campers as a whole were respectful of the host, and generally with their neighbors, it would be much easier to keep good hosts.

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