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Campground Crowding: Reader says RV parks becoming ‘trash bins of humanity’

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.

Every time is “busy time” due to campground crowding

Mary E. didn’t travel much during COVID and is now finding all the best sites are booked. She explains, “We did only one short trip last year due to COVID. This year we were back to our 5- to 6-week camping trip where we visited family across the country in our motorhome. It was no fun. You had to make reservations in advance and often found that the good sites were all taken. We downsized four years ago and loved getting patio sites so we could be outside. None available. All campgrounds were at capacity and the non-patio sites are one on top of the other so no ability to enjoy your space. Think this is it for us. Had been traveling via motorhome since ’98. We waited to travel until the end of August to ‘avoid busy time’ but it didn’t work.”

“Don’t have $500 to shell out a year early”

Ken P. is getting up at midnight to book a site. He says, “Stop people from booking over one week. Let other people use the park. For Arizona state parks you have to get up at midnight to try and get a site a year in advance. You also have to pay in full a year ahead of time. A lot of people don’t have $500 to shell out a year early.”

Mississippi State Parks’ reasonable cancellation policy

Irv K. writes to us about Mississippi’s cancellation policy. “Mississippi State Parks has a reasonable cancellation policy:

  • Pay 100% upfront.
  • Cancel more than a week ahead and get a refund as a voucher good for two years minus a $10 cancellation fee.
  • Cancel within less than a week and get a 50% voucher good for one year.”

Stay upbeat!

Manya N. has some helpful tips to deal with campground crowding from their last trip: “Just returned from four days of spontaneous camping. Tips I followed:

  • Arriving earlier than other campers has worked for me.
  • Not second-guessing myself and taking the site vs. driving around and losing any site.
  • Be flexible.
  • Solo camp if you can. No one to disappoint…
  • STAY UPBEAT!”

Not giving up yet

Mike G. is camping in late September and manages to have found a site right on the coast. He explains, “It seems our favorite Oregon coast campground is not so crowded, but we camp in late September and about 1/3 of the kids are back to school.

“We did notice a steady in-and-out of one-nighters to the campground, and the park maintenance is lacking a little. It was still good to see some large families out enjoying nature and being able to camp next to each other.

“To book a park takes a little more planning with more people wanting sites too. But we are not giving it up yet.”

Enjoy the adventure while you can

Jerry S. gives kudos to his wife’s reservation skills. “My wife is a master at reservations! It takes time and determination; she always comes through. She uses several different apps in her quest. In my opinion, camping and full-time living are totally different. We sold our sticks and bricks and bought as big an RV as we could afford to live comfortably on the road. We started our adventure on June 26, 2021. The learning curve is steep and brutal at times! The full-time community is our extended family!!! We have many friends that will help us in any way they can! Full-timing is not for everyone. Take your family camping and enjoy the adventure while you can.”

Just roll with it

Sue F. always finds a site but has learned to roll with it when it is not the perfect site. “We rarely have an issue reserving a campsite. I am from Ontario and always camp in provincial parks. We may not get the site or even the park we prefer, but we always get something. We are not as picky as we used to be and if our site happens to be less than ideal we just roll with it.

“As for full payment in advance, I have no issue with this. The penalty for canceling increases in Ontario parks the longer you have it reserved. For example, canceling four months after reserving will cost you 50% plus a cancellation fee. This may discourage some from reserving more than they intend on using, thus freeing up sites for others.”

The early bird catches the worm

Ronald H. full-times with 70 feet of “house and garage” and needs to book early. “Not only do I take my house with me, but I also took the garage, too! 45-foot bus and 25-foot trailer. This is my full-time residence for six years. Camping is closely related to tenting. Not my cup of tea. I travel. I am booking my stays 6-8 months ahead. So far, so good. I also willingly pay extra for the ‘better’ sites. In order to get a site when you want it, you have to make the extra effort of planning ahead. With the additional hundreds of thousands of RVers added during the past several years, there is no other choice. The early bird catches the worm. For most people, spontaneous ‘camping’ is no longer an option.”

Trash bins of humanity?

Cindy S. has some pretty strong words about campgrounds allowing permanent full-timers. She writes, “There would be less crowding if campground owners stopped being semi-trailer parks while pretending they are campgrounds. Most of those allowing full-time live-in campers turn into trash bins of humanity and who then wants to use their facility?”

Now, some questions for you:

  • What are your thoughts on campgrounds allowing permanent full-time campers?
  • 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 extreme weather will alter course of reservations

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Korey
1 month ago

The RV industry is tanking, sales are down 60% and many who bought during covid have returned or sold their RV’s. We travel fulltime and have been for over 4yrs. We havent experienced anything this article talks about.

C Botner
1 month ago

Yes, like it or not times have changed, you either change with them, adapting as needed, or you stop, and watch life pass you by, leaving you only with your memories. You recognize the worst, but look forward to the best. In the end, it’s all about attitude.

doug
1 month ago

Last backpack site visited had two frog togg rain wear boxes sitting in a rock fire ring. So much for leave no trace, scum all around!

Ray
1 month ago

Surprisingly, we have found just the opposite. Since July 5th, we have seen large amounts of empty spaces at both the Thousand Trails and KOA at Yemenee, SC; the Holiday KOA west of Augusta, GA, the Thousand Trails northwest of Birmingham, AL and in the North at O’Connell’s Yogi Bear Park west of Chicago. The Thousand Trails east of Memphis has literally hundreds of empty spaces, forcing them to close a whole large section.

Brian S
1 month ago

Most of your issues is because you are being cheap and staying in state parks. State parks are garbage support small businesses. They literally use our tax money to create state parks to compete against us then don’t even charge a competitive price for a site.

Tina W
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian S

Welcome to democracy, where everyone gets an opportunity to enjoy the land. 🙄

Bob Palin
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian S

Ridiculous.

Mark Mack
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian S

State parks seldom allow long-term stays, except the hosts, who often have trashy sites. Private parks with long-termers often don’t enforce (or don’t even have) rules because they like the stable revenue source.

They provide more space per site too.

Private parks often have amenities we don’t use, so not good value for us.

I agree that state parks are not competitively priced. Although I prefer them, I sometimes wish they were more expensive so I could find a site more easily.

KellyR
1 month ago

I’ve been Up and I’ve been Down, and I have been All Around, but I have not come across a Trash Bin of Society. Some have money to travel around, some do not. ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.’ I read something like that once somewhere.

Clu
1 month ago
Reply to  KellyR

Amen!

Cecy
1 month ago
Reply to  KellyR

Well said

Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  KellyR

Amen!

Bud
1 month ago

Just left a private campground that allows “permanent” camping for 30 days max. Then you have to vacate. The place is immaculate, restrooms are all working and very clean. No problems. They are removing the last of the grass and replacing it with low maintenance landscaping due to the drought! Oh, upon checking in, there were numerous campsites available. All 50 amp, many end units and massive space between sites. All sites are the same price, no weekend/holiday markup, no extra fees to “lock a campsite in”. That’s why we continue to go back.

C Kit
1 month ago
Reply to  Bud

How nice.🙂 But Id kp it scrt. Wont tke lng 4 smone 2 ruin! Srry bt tht’s the trth.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  C Kit

Hi, C Kit. Please don’t write your comments in “shorthand.” I can figure out what you’re saying, but it may be more difficult for some others. Thanks! Have a great day. 😀 –Diane

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

Trash ? In a Kansas State Park I went out for my morning walk with a picker and trash bag, picked up after the slobs, and found two frying pans tossed in the weeds. Burnt on crud too hard to clean off. One is stainless steel costing over $100.00, the other a Lodge frying Pan sort of like the once used by Samwise Gangee in Lord of the Rings. So, pick up after your neighbors.

Ellen L
1 month ago

Re: “trash bins of humanity” — get a grip. Many of those permanents either have contract jobs, or this is where they can afford to live. I personally view it as a sad comment on our society when people sometimes have no option other than an old RV as their home. Too many families are just one or two paychecks away from having to forgo paying utilities, or groceries, or rent. If you feel intimidated or alienated when you see a lot of permanents, try coming out of your own trash bin and talking to one or two of these residents — we try to and have always been greeted warmly and kindly. They’re just as human as you and me.

Liz W
1 month ago
Reply to  Ellen L

Well said, Ellen.

Clu
1 month ago
Reply to  Ellen L

1000% true! There but for the grace of different circumstances go I or anyone else.

Sherry B.
1 month ago
Reply to  Ellen L

We are full-timers and travel slower than many, minimum stays are 7 days, prefer 14-30 to really explore an area. I love talking to permanent residents, they usually know all the hidden gems in an area, great restaurants, best fishing spots and best wildlife areas. There is a lot of knowledge in these folks if you stop and sit awhile.

Carissa
1 month ago
Reply to  Ellen L

Good comment! Those looking for concrete pads and lots of space around their rv are looking to vacation. Where some of us are doing the best to survive in this economy.

Dave
1 month ago

Have overnighted in a few of those so called “RV parks” that are nothing but full time residents with a limited number of actual campsites and very little upkeep. Each time felt like an outsider encroaching on someone’s territory. Thoughts of “ Breaking Bad” came to mind. Too many of these types of parks becoming the norm unfortunately. Not sure if the RV lifestyle will continue for us. Sad.

Gary
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

They should be forced to pull out for 24hrs every 30-45 days. That way the sites can be cleaned up, graded, repaired, etc. No telling what lives under some of those “permanent” RVs.

McTroy
1 month ago

We have a full time site all summer and do not consider ourselves Human Trash bins. Our summer site is part of a boating community. If anyone needs help or just wants good conversation around a campfire there is always someone around.
We plan our trips in January and avoid state parks usually. No problems going where we want to.

MattD
1 month ago

RE; Trash bins of humanity?
A campground is a campground, an RV park is an RV park until they allow permanent residents, then it turns into a ‘trailer park’ and all the problems that come with it. And I’ve overnighted in a couple of those and have been looked at like I’m the trash…having the nerve of being a transient at their home! So it’s all relative.

Heather
1 month ago
Reply to  MattD

Lol! Good(?) other way of looking at it…

Bob Palin
1 month ago

Why shouldn’t campgrounds take full time occupants? It’s guaranteed income with no fuss. However, if people are full time in one place local housing codes need to be applied and enforced, if the owner lets the campground go downhill they will lose business presumably.

Daniel
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob Palin

It’s a bit unamerican to have a government run your business for you. I completely understand health code regulations but to say housing codes should be applicable to RV’ers is a bit insane.

Bob Palin
1 month ago
Reply to  Daniel

I said “full time in one place”, that’s not RV’ing, it’s living in a type of permanent home and thus housing codes are appropriate.

wanderer
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob Palin

Private campgrounds can do whatever they want. I think it’s foolish to take on a permanent resident for $300 a month instead of keeping the site available for much higher daily rents, but lots of them do find it easier to be a landlord than a host.

Public campgrounds are another ball of wax, and they do need to let as many people as possible use the park. Monthly and seasonal residents have no place in state or local parks, unless one or two of them are co-hosts and there to maintain a safe location and ‘presence’ when the park is near empty.

Renee
1 month ago
Reply to  wanderer

I’m a travel nurse and we have to stay wherever possible. Just so you know we pay a lot more than $300.00 a month. I may be there 3 – 12 months depending on my contract.

wanderer
1 month ago
Reply to  Renee

I have friends who pay under $300 in snowbird locales, it’s all about location.

Perhaps I should say it another way; as a traveler I pay anywhere from 3 to 6 times the daily rent that the permanents and seasonals are paying, so it’s challenging math for a place to be more profitable if everyone is there on a 6 or 12 month bargain rate.

Deborah Johnson
1 month ago
Reply to  Renee

Renee, I worked as a travel nurse in Southern California back in the 70s when it was still a new thing. We could park our rv in the hospital parking lot or on the street for 72 hours then had to move for 24 hours. Your tires were marked so they could tell you moved. I showered at the hospital and wore scrubs so had little need to move. Had a bike to get to the beach but everything else was walking distance. I’m in my 70s now and retired from nursing and have fond memories of those days.

Tim
1 month ago
Reply to  wanderer

Stayed for 2 1/2 months at one RV park while I was doing some work on a house I just bought. It was a lot more than $300 month for “full time” spot.
Also, it was easy to tell who was temp working and who was living there.
The odd thing is at $700 month in the area you can rent an apartment for that price. So why stay in a tiny cramped RV when you can live in a regular apartment?

B J
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim

Where do you find an apt for $700/mo. ? My apt that was smaller than my RV, in rural GA, was upped to $900/mo + utilities on top of that. The median price for an apt in the US is now $1500-2000/mo. The waiting list for Senior & Income Contingent apts is 2-3 yrs.
Would you prefer we live on the streets or shelters on YOUR tax $$$’s or let us have a home we can afford? So sorry if you are inconvenienced by us full-timers that don’t vacate to your schedule.

suzanne Ferris
1 month ago
Reply to  B J

Amen. There is little charity in this string of comments. Except for this one above

Diane Tricomi
1 month ago

One correction on Arizona State parks, You still can book a year in advance but reservations cannot be made until 8AM AZ time! No one getting up at Midnight. Also, be sure to check out cancellation fee’s, as they have changed for all AZ Parks…..