Friday, March 24, 2023


Campground Crowding: More extreme weather will alter course of reservations

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 regarding campground crowding.

“Isn’t it better than dealing with hotels?”

Tammie G. just finished a 1,200-mile road trip in a car and knows no matter what, her travel trailer would have been better, even with campground crowding. She explains, “Before being frustrated about crowded campgrounds, there are a few things to consider. I recently traveled by car on a 1,200-mile trip with two small pups and a spouse.

“Wow, it did not have any of the comforts of my Coachmen travel trailer. I had to pack clothing, cooler of ice to keep drinks and food cold during the trip and drag it into and out of hotels, stop and endure rest area bathrooms and people panhandling at many rest areas, and having to take food out of cooler for picnic area not encroaching where pets are not allowed, find a pet-friendly hotel early enough in the day and paying a pet fee in most, dealing with pet-smelling hotel room (many of which have carpeting), then of course dragging clothing, food, and pets all into and out of the hotel, dealing with hotel food, a room too hot or cold with never the right feel mattress or pillows or having to wear shoes because you wouldn’t dare walk barefoot.

“Also, remember the cost—it’s at least $150 for just a decent room. Yes, a bit rambling, but really think about it! I would have enjoyed my Coachmen so much more. And even if your neighbor is a bit close, isn’t it still better than dealing with hotels, etc.?”

Learn as much as you can about RVing BEFORE you buy

Frank D. has seen major changes in campers and numbers and has some advice regarding dealing with campground crowding. “As a full-timer for the past six years and a work camper for a major campground chain, I have seen a significant change in the number and demeanor of the newer RVers. No doubt this is at least partially due to overcrowding and lack of experience with the realities of full-time RVing. There is the fellow who comes in with a 45-foot motorhome towing a 30-foot stacker and then complains that the park has no site suitable for him. Or the one who wants all of the amenities and then is shocked by the price per night (a thing called supply and demand). Best tip? Learn as much as you can about RVing before you buy.”

Gouge us for being tourists

Dan D. found higher prices for out-of-state campers. He says, “We started RVing a few years ago before Covid hit. Each year we do a two- or three-month extended trip with our 26′ Micro Lite. We have not had trouble finding sites in most cases, but we do often plan our route and the overall trip. We make a lot of reservations in advance. One thing I’m beginning to notice is states (like Idaho) that are now charging ‘out of state’ visitors an added surcharge to the normal camping fee. Recently stayed in a campground near McCall, ID, and had to pay over $40 per night for a site with no hookups. We had planned to stay a week but left after one night. We will not be visiting states that gouge us for being tourists.”

“You do not need hookups every night”

Ray F. doesn’t need all the frills. “Too many people want campgrounds with all the frills. Hey folks, you have water tanks, battery lights, and propane fridges. You do not need hookups every night. Try out state, forest, city, and township campgrounds. Try out other things. We have three state forest campgrounds about 50 miles from us. Beautiful setting. Yes, pit toilets and a pitcher pump, but who cares?”

Parks are shorthanded. Work camp!

Phyllis M. has a solution for crowded campgrounds: work camp! “We have been full-time RVers for 7 years before all the madness started. We decided to work camp. Parks are always shorthanded, especially now. Decide where you want to go and call the parks in that area. Commit to three to six months working for your site. This is usually a 10- to 12-hours-a-week commitment for two people, but could be more in a tourist area. You can see the area and relax during this time. Obviously, this advice is for those who are retired and trying to travel. You meet a world of nice people and make great new friends along the way. We love work camping!”

“Camping just sucks now”

Tina W. needs more flexibility and fewer reservations in advance. “Camping just sucks now. I agree that making reservations far in advance, if you even can, makes no sense especially as bad as the weather has been these last few years. We have fires, droughts, flash floods, much more intense rainstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. I don’t think campers or campground owners have come to terms with the new limited windows of good weather opportunity. If you add the requirement to book many months in advance, for a trip across the country, that’s just not possible to do safely, really ever. Right now campers need flexibility in scheduling more than ever. Campgrounds can’t just ignore that reality. Eventually, fewer people will camp or own RVs just to be sitting in an RV with tornado warnings, which we did three nights this year, or driving through forecasts of flash floods, which we did several times this year. It is scary.”

Now, some questions for you:

• Are you finding more and more campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem?

  • Has bad weather kept you from camping?

• 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: Readers say, ‘Nope, not crowded’


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Donald N Wright
7 months ago

I grumbled about my Nebraska camping sticker till I camped next to a couple from Nebraska who paid even more than I did. A lot of states are starved for money, and their campgrounds close for winter, which starts in September. They are usually amazed that campgrounds stay open all year long in the southern half of the USA.

7 months ago

RE hotels vs. camper

We found that travelling with children or pets does make hotel life less appealing. I find it offensive that this reader travels with multiple pets, but complains about pet-smelling rooms?

We travel light when hoteling…having one bag that holds toiletries and into which will fit clean underwear. We take the next days’ clothing in one day at a time. We pack dry snacks and water…none of which HAVE to be refrigerated. Since the hotels have refrigerators, we can pick up a few things at the nearest convenience store on our way.

We figured RV payments, insurance, increased gas consumption, rising campground rates plus slower travel time, etc. and don’t find hotels to be that much more expensive or inconvenient (plus free breakfast, wifi and cable always). And no setup/breakdown.

We also find hotel reservations much easier to find than campgrounds and guess what, folks? Cancellation fees are usually only charged if under 24-hours notice!

C Kit
6 months ago
Reply to  Virginia

I trvl w/pets, rare tho 4 me to sty in hotel but if it stnks hotel not doin their job. Also tho, pet owners need to take rspnsiblity 4 their own pets while staying! As far as yur othr statemnts, to each their own. And if u dont alredy own RV, then yea, wuld prob be insne to buy one blieving it wuld be cheaper. Well, depending on size prchsed, and dont 4get xperience in towng. Please prctice b4 htting the hwys w/me!! 😊

RV Staff
6 months ago
Reply to  C Kit

Thank you for your comment, C Kit. It would be easier for people to read if you didn’t write in “shorthand.” Thanks! 😀 –Diane

7 months ago

Agree about the out-of-state tax. If you want to discourage me from visiting your state, hike up your camping fees to the going rate for private campgrounds with amenities (while still offering junky campgrounds, now unattended by staff), then add a reservation fee, then add a day-vehicle fee, then add an out of state penalty fee. This week I was asked if I didn’t want to pay an additional few bucks for an annual Kansas pass, since I was paying a good bit for a few days’ entry pass. I declined, now glad I did. What passes for a shower in this park I would not use to rinse off livestock. We all get that gut feeling when we know we are just being taken advantage of, and often that out-of-state fee is just the last straw that brings it on.

Some of these states I will still visit, but I don’t go near their state parks.

Bob M
7 months ago

While Dan D. feels states are price gouging him for being a tourist camping. Pa Counties charge a hotel tax for staying in hotels. Using the money to promote tourism. Which increases the price of hotels. I have no problem with states charging more to out of staters to camp. Residents of the states pay taxes which help support the state campgrounds and facilities. I also feel states should give veterans discounts to all veterans. Not just the veterans who reside in the state. As veterans we served the entire US, not just the state we reside in.

7 months ago

3rd world problems.

7 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Is there a lot of RVing being done in 3rd World countries.
Or did you mean 1st World problems?

Tommy Molnar
7 months ago

I have said this before. If I lived east of the Rockies there’s no way I would even think of owning an RV. All the dispersed camping on BLM land, wide open areas to camp in with no reservations, and even the usually affordable state park systems out west have totally spoiled me. I’m not one who can sit down and decide where and when I’m going to be every day of the week. Drive, stop, camp. That’s how I’m used to doing this.

7 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Tommy, Maybe east of the Mississippi. 😉

The central plains are full of camping opportunities. Just spent two weeks in the Glacial Lakes area of NE South Dakota. Stayed at a lake side county park and during the week it had many empty sites…even a few on the weekends. Same for a trip we made in central Iowa.

Tommy Molnar
7 months ago
Reply to  Spike

You’re probably right, Spike. I’ve not been east of the Rockies in decades so you’re in a better spot to comment on that. I haven’t been to the Dakotas and want to visit someday. I think my geography might be lacking in some of these areas. Thanks for the update.

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