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Campground Crowding: This type of campground should be rezoned as a ‘trailer park’

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.

It was fun while it lasted!

Susan C. is a relatively new RVer but has seen major changes in just five years. She writes, “We started going RV camping in 2017. We live in north Florida. We mainly bought an RV because we have dogs (Pugs) and were getting tired of hotels being such a hassle. Campgrounds were very reasonable. We would mainly go on the weekends in the summer and two, one-week trips per year. Since then, the pandemic prices in a lot of cases have doubled. The last two years we have rented a spot for four months and just drove back and forth Friday-Sunday because it was less costly. Now we are looking for a new summer spot. We have found a lot of the campgrounds we had been to in the past are really run down. Also, a lot more people are moving here and living full-time. We will probably give it another year or so, but if things don’t get better we will be done. It was fun while it lasted!”

Non-refundable … even in an emergency

Several of our readers mentioned price-gouging cancellation policies this week.

Carol S. found that even when disaster struck, the RV park would not even consider returning her money. She explained, “I’ve decided the RV parks are all for money and couldn’t care less about their customers. I had a 3-month work contract in Indiana for the summer. When I contacted the S & H RV Resort I was told, ‘If you want all three months, you have to pay all three months NOW because we fill up REALLY fast.’ The ‘non-refundable’ rule was ‘for the weekend or weeklong campers who cancel less than 24 hours.’

“I was in a car accident three days before my arrival date. I showed them pictures and videos of the RV that clearly could not be driven, let alone lived in. Not only did they not return ANY of my money, but they re-rented my site to other people. I have NO sympathy for RV park owners who say they are losing money with current rates due to the cost of maintenance and high demand. No wonder people are giving up RVing.”

In a similar story, Tom F. had knowingly booked a non-refundable campsite but when health issues arose, there was no mercy. He says, “Booked a stay at a popular park near a yearly event. Booking was non-refundable, and we had to cancel two months prior to the scheduled stay due to health reasons. We will never book when non-refundable again… never!! Albuquerque may never see us, and our money will be better used in other places!!”

No show? No camp!

Guy V. has a suggestion to penalize the no-shows. “As a winter Texan, it is getting more difficult to plan trips. Since we are now required to give so much information to camp, why not identify those who are no-shows and flag them? First offense gets a 3-month restriction. Second offense, 6 months. Third offense, one year. I know people will have other family members fill reservation info out, but for the local family getting away will wake up quickly. It might take a year or two or three, but I believe the average camping/RV family will think twice before they no-show. Just my thought.”

Our choice of sites even with campground crowding

All is not doom and gloom in crowded campgrounds. Several readers report that they have had no problems finding a site.

Gary M. had his choice of sites. He writes, “We typically avoid congested areas and have only visited one national park (Badlands) this year. We camped in six states this spring and had no trouble finding a suitable campground. We stayed at one Colorado State Park that was close to full and one private campground in Iowa (most folks stayed just one night) that was close to full. This past week, we had our choice of sites at a nearby state park a day before arrival, but it was full for Labor Day weekend. We have made reservations anywhere from six months to one day in advance for our 25-foot motorhome and have always stayed at the campground we wanted. We always search for beauty and places of interest off the beaten path to avoid crowding.”

Allen C. has found no problems in the East. “I have not noticed any campground crowding issues in the Eastern side of the country. You seem to focus on the Western problems and insinuate they exist all over the country.”

Rezone RV parks as trailer parks?

Mark B. thinks RV parks with full-time residents should be rezoned. He explains, “Have stayed at several campgrounds that have moved to full-time near construction projects. If a campground advertises that they are a campground and advertises a certain number of spaces, at least 50% should be for short-timers/travelers. Full-timers should be in the sites that are in the back. Communities where RV campgrounds are located need to tax full-time sites at a higher rate and rezone them as trailer parks. We are using the corporate campgrounds more than the private ones now because the private ones are the ones that are having more full-time residents. Travel plans won’t change much, just plan and reserve farther in advance.”

Worker camps

Dave T. has been seeing campers living just on the edge. “This is not transitory. Three RV parks near me are full or nearly full and another just added more spaces. As I drive by I see not seasonal campers, but campers one step away from being in the heap. It speaks of the state of the economy and the inability of these souls to prosper beyond these workers’ camps living conditions. Owners are happy as the spaces are full.”

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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Bill
16 days ago

I’m not a lawyer, but I believe most states follow the “doctrine of unjust enrichment.” That should mean that if a campground rents a site for which you have paid to another camper, you are due a refund equal to the lesser of what you paid or what the other camper paid, less the campground’s added cost. You might have to go to small claims court and be able prove the amounts, but some attorney might be able to start a database and go after any campgrounds or chains that double charge.

Tina W
15 days ago
Reply to  Bill

I am a lawyer. There are zero dollars in that effort for the lawyer. So basically that’s not happening unless someone comes prepared to pay a lawyer’s hourly rate for what would probably be extensive work.

Virginia
16 days ago

I would think that campgrounds would be ecstatic that usage is up and more $$ are pouring in! But instead of feeling thankful, they are adding on every imaginable fee and charge to get even more $$.

I agree that non-refundable may be a necessary evil. However, two months out seems an unreasonable time frame to me…even 30 days out in prime season is unreasonable. 99% of the time, that spot is filled and the campground is raking in DOUBLE!

Several years ago, many campgrounds were first come, first served. Now when I make a reservation, and am ASKED to choose a site, I can only be assured of that site if I add on $25 to guarantee/lock. What the heck!?! Already paying $70 a night (double what it was 3-4 yeas ago) and you tell me that your word isn’t any good and that the site I booked and paid for UP FRONT is “iffy” unless I bribe you with more money?

Phooey! Capitalism and greed at its worse.

Andrew R.
16 days ago

I do not understand people who gripe when the non-refundable payment is not refunded, for whatever reason. You should know the terms when making the booking. If you did not realize there is a penalty for cancellation, well maybe check on this next time…
Our campground does not take a deposit, but we do require a credit card on file to confirm site. You can cancel up to 24hrs before check-in with no penalty.

Bob M
16 days ago

I can understand campground owners not refunding someone’s money who cancels a couple day before their arrival date. It might be difficult to get someone else to take the campsite. When I camp in Pa state parks I see many empty campsites. I’ve also noticed some sites that may have a RV, but no campers. Than a day or two later they’re there. Probably because if you want it on a weekend you might have difficulty getting the site. But it might be open a couple days before. So you can reserve it for a couple extra days early to get the days you want.

Bob p
9 days ago
Reply to  Bob M

45 years ago when I first started camping I did my weekend camping at a state park. It didn’t have reservations, many times if we were going camping over a holiday I would take the trailer to the park(26 miles from home) on Tuesday evening, pay the fee for the entire week, set up the trailer, and drive back home until the weekend when we came back, camped and left for home with the trailer. That was the only way to be sure you would have a camping spot. Many people did the same thing, if you waited until Thursday you weren’t going to find a spot. So really the circumstances may have changed, but all things considered it really is the same, I spent extra money to ensure my family could go camping over the weekend, otherwise we stayed home and watched the grass grow. If I couldn’t go because something came up, the park all ready had my money and it wasn’t their fault I couldn’t show up. I wonder how many have made multiple reservations and try to get refunds on the ones they didn’t use.

Kit Vargas
16 days ago

We travel to see the sites and sometimes stay for weeks at a time in one area. We winter in the south making our reservations for our trip down and for the winter months well in advance. All trips are planned and plotted in advance. Not as carefree as we would like at times, but being full time we have to have a place to land. Have run into “no room at the inn” a few times, but not many. We like to stay in city, county, state and COE parks, so make our reservations well in advance. No secrets, just advance planning. We needed a long term spot for medical reasons and found a few parks in our home area that were “full” months out. We figured it out and moved on. In a COE right now for the week and there are a few empty spots. Just takes some time and effort, but for the most part we have been able to go where we want, when we want.

Ann
16 days ago
Reply to  Kit Vargas

What is a COE park?

Bob
16 days ago
Reply to  Ann

Corps of engineers

Tina W
15 days ago
Reply to  Kit Vargas

Advance planning wouldn’t be a problem if we had no weather. But personally I don’t want to stay in a park if tornadoes or even severe thunderstorms are forecasted. Nor do I want to be driving down the highway with semi trucks on either side of us going highway speeds in that kind of weather. Therefore, in our view, flexibility when traveling is key to safety.

bull
16 days ago

I’ll take a stab at the issue of re-zoning.

In many jurisdictions in including where I live re-zoning of a RV park to a Trailer Park is impossible due to zoning laws currently in place. As more and more “Rural” counties continue to institute zoning laws it is becoming more and more difficult for RV parks and in particular Trailer Parks to be built.

An example is what is considered a rural county located 2 counties away from Nashville/Davidson county TN now has 1 trailer park left and when it closes that’s it. No more trailer parks. The zoning laws the county has adopted also make it impossible for any Tiny Home Community to be built also. How do I know? I asked about developing a Tiny Home community on land I own in the county.

You have to go at least 3 counties away from Nashville Davidson county to find a “Rural” county will zoning laws that will allow a Tiny Home community development yet those counties still say NO to any trailer park development.

Tom
16 days ago

Gary M. is correct. Our RV is 28’8″, bumper to bumper. There are plenty of older State Parks with smaller sites we fit in.
Go big and go elsewhere.

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