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Campground Crowding: Some campgrounds becoming all about profit, less about care

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.

Campground didn’t care about “the dilemma they put us in”

Austin C., unfortunately, had the same mistake happen one too many times. The campground just didn’t care how long their rig was. Is this a lack of customer service? Of care? Why did this happen at multiple RV parks?

Austin explains, “We ‘normally’ make our reservations months in advance. I clearly realize we are not the ‘average’ RV folks but our schedule allows for that model of reservations.

“This past May probably did us in. Both RV parks again had our reservations for many months. We even called ahead weeks before arriving to verify the office had the correct length of our equipment. Upon arriving, our well-defined truck and RV length did not fit the spots assigned to us. The assigned spots were way too short. In one spot we required the assistance of two park employees just to park and three park employees to exit the spot due to crowding. The office was not the least concerned about the dilemma they put us in.
Yes, I could have and should have just returned to the entrance of the parks and left.

“No more. My beloved RV is up for sale. I’m sad because, like most, this had been my dream for decades before I retired.”

Don’t last-minute plan

Jerry P. sees the problem of getting sites and getting parts as poor planning. He writes, “Our experience over the last couple of trips is that, yes, campgrounds are fuller than usual, but getting a site isn’t much harder. You just need to stay flexible. If you have a single two-week vacation and you have to go to Yellowstone, you can’t just show up at the gate. Or maybe you can. Cancellations make even short-term planning possible if you can be flexible. Membership clubs like Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome take the pressure off last-minute stops when a campsite at a commercial park falls through. We started our last trip wait-listed on a couple of the more popular stops and got a site anyway.

“The problems occur when you leave the planning until the last minute and have a specific place you want to be. I work at an RV parts store and we get a lot of calls from campers looking for a part on Thursday for a trip starting Saturday. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Don’t give up because of campground crowding

Daphne R. suggests we just wait it out regarding campground crowding: “I think that if we seasoned campers just hang on for a year, the over-camping will mitigate to a degree. I’m already seeing articles saying new RVers are selling their rigs due to overcrowding. Let’s not hastily give up something we love. Let’s wait a while and see what happens.”

A benefit to paying in full

Rich K. would like to see more popup campers. “We try to book our summer campsites months in advance, whenever possible, simply because they fill up so fast. I have no problem paying the full price for reservations. Frankly, it should encourage people not to reserve campsites they never intend to use.”

The good ol’ camping days never existed!

David C. offers words of wisdom: The only constant is change. He says, “Need to be aware that ‘old days’ of camping never really existed and will never exist in the future. The trips to wherever are whatever you make them to be, regardless of the number of campsites used, the type of people at the site, and their respect for the land/laws. I can personally say that I can see examples of rude people, trashy sites, large rigs, etc., in just about every campground we have stayed in, but that is not what we focus on when thinking about our memories of a place. Your memories are based on what you want to remember. I recommend avoiding the bad memories. In any event, always remember that the only constant is change, so some of the campground overcrowding issues will change over time.

“My wife and I are full-time RVers in a large rig and have stayed at many different campsites, including state parks, RV parks, and boondocking locations. For us, it is about balancing cost and our needs. State parks are a good value when you can get a reservation, and as long as we can access the campsite, we will continue to use this as an option as we travel across the country.”

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.

Last week’s Campground Crowding:

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Dennis G.
28 days ago

In regards to David C’s. comments, The good ol’ camping days never existed!
I admit, time usually makes everything better. However, the good ol’ days of camping in the 1970, 80s and 90 did exist. We never made reservations, even in Yosemite, and always found RV overnight spots.
This is something that is far, far more difficult today if not impossible today, with reservations required to even enter Yosemite between 6AM and 4PM.

wanderer
28 days ago

Austin, I share your frustration with campground managers who just don’t care how much they inconvenience you or let you down.

That said, maybe we’ve reached ‘peak length’ for RVs, and we can’t absorb any more giants in our system. If you need to park a 65′ length of rig, you’re gonna have a bad time except in parks specifically designed for big rigs.

For others who are sticking with their big home on wheels; use Google Maps to look at the park. If it’s not a wide open parallel grid of pull throughs, take a pass. If you can’t see what’s going on because of trees, then it’s not big rig friendly. Actually, the hunt starts back on Allstays or whatever, set the filters for the kind of site you need. When you get a short list together, check the park out on Campground Reviews. Often there will be very specific info on how the sites are, left by kind campers.

It is time consuming, and better to downsize if you are planning to do a lot of traveling.

Mark R.
28 days ago

Speaking of greedy owners, our snowbird RV park in Lake Havasu City, AZ last year raised our site price from $625/mo. plus electric to $1025/mo. plus electric!! We also had free boat slips on a rotating schedule, now he’s charging $400/mo. with a minimum charge of 3 months ($1200)!
We always stayed for 5 or 6 months, but now are forced to only stay 4 months max because of limited income.
You must make a reservation a year in advance and pay 1 month as a non-refundable deposit.

We really loved staying here and have made many friends and memories, now most have left because of price…so sad. Obviously, we are looking at other options.

Terry
28 days ago

The campground where we are working is a smaller campground on Table Rock lake near Branson MO. We have over half long term rentals where people leave there RVs and just come on the weekends. New owners took over in May and were thinking about stopping the long term rentals and just renting short term. Only. The two holiday weekends we were sold out. The rest of the time we had empty sites. Some weekends thru the summer we only had the long term people. The owners have now changed their minds and are pushing to get more full time renters because just the weekend visitors don’t bring in the money needed to stay open. May make it harder for the weekenders but hard to turn down sure money for we will be there if the weather is ok.

Tommy Molnar
28 days ago

Sometimes I wonder how long some of these folks who are “hanging up their RV keys and selling” have actually been RV’ing. Sounds like they’re saying, “I give up. You win!”, rather than coming up with a new strategy.

We’ve been in this for 26 years and never once thought of quitting. But then, I think our needs are less than others. We quickly turned to boondocking years ago and have enjoyed a good long run of fun camping. We stop at RV parks that don’t require reservations, though you can make them if you like. As I always say, living out west probably plays a big part in our camping style.

Bob p
28 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Yes living out west does have its advantages. Anything east of MS, LA, KS, NE etc. you can forget about boondocking, state parks, Corps of Engineers is the closet you’ll find to boondocking in the eastern 2/3 of the nation. Everything else is owned privately or state, municipal, or county.

Tom A B
28 days ago

Lots of people speculating that RV owners will give up and sell their rig. While that may happen, it doesn’t solve any crowding issues. The new owner will be looking for spots just as the old owner did.

wanderer
28 days ago
Reply to  Tom A B

Yes, but there will also be a lot of rigs which simply get parked, no longer used because of high gas prices, lack of interest. Time will tell how it shakes out.

Donald Schneider
28 days ago

Why is it that most campground reservations systems do NOT have a selection for “motor home towing”? The maximum length is 45 feet when your rig and tow are 65 feet! KOA finally wised up and you can select a length up to 100 feet and SHOULD book your entire length not just the motor home! Then MAYBE your rig and tow would actually fit the site selected. We learned to try and show our 65 foot required length in the comments sections but it seems the park does not read those.

Bob p
28 days ago

The main problem you state may have to do with the age group of the people you’re talking to. I have found that if they’re under fifty they either don’t pay attention or don’t understand what you’re talking about. Lol

wanderer
28 days ago

You’re right, a lot of the public park reservation sites do have this failing, and it should be fixed. Apparently no one in charge can be bothered checking to see if their reservation software actually works well.

TexasScout
28 days ago

“Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” Nowhere do I see this play out worse than in the “Oil Field”. I work for a Oil & Gas Production Equipment business. Field guys call in and want $20K worth of specialized equipment and expect it in 12 hours or less. NOBODY plans more than 12 hours ahead anymore.

Bob p
28 days ago
Reply to  TexasScout

I saw that in the 30+ years working for GM as an industrial mechanic, I could tell if a machine was starting to give trouble and needed maintenance performed. I would inform management they needed to schedule maintenance time and they would ignore me. Then when it broke down they would be scrambling to get it fixed, my standard answer was remember when I said it needed to be scheduled for maintenance, now your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part, it’ll be fixed when the parts are here.

Donald N Wright
28 days ago

When everything available is thirty amp and no full hookups, this should be a warning to the big rigs. When the campground has playgrounds and not multiple doggie parks, this should be a warning. When someone in the office actually answers the phone, this is a warning that this is an old campground staffed with older adults.

TexasScout
28 days ago

I was thinking the same thing.

Terry
28 days ago

Sounds like the campground where we are working. LOL

Bob p
28 days ago

Yep, we currently live in a 55+ RV resort in central FL, but the 55+ only applies to the permanent residents. Since it also is a transit RV park we see young adults, children, playground etc. We don’t have anything against children or young adults as we were in those shoes many years ago, but at the same time rules are rules. Supposedly you can have your grandchildren visit you for 2 weeks a year. Earlier this year I had an 18 year old who had been here with his grandmother 4 months do a few jobs for me, he had been doing odd jobs in the park ever since he’d been here earning extra money. Actually according to what I heard from other residents he actually had been working almost full time. Lol

Paul
28 days ago

If it is in the northeast that is a sure sign it is an old campground. Need a shoehorn for your 45 footer – even for my 36 footer.

Sharon
28 days ago

Sounds like our kind of place. We don’t need much space, full hookups/ 50 amps or other amenities unless you count distance between sites and shade as amenities. Have enjoyed getting to know some awesome owners/ managers of older, small campgrounds.

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