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Campground Crowding: Two campground owners speak out, offer their side

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 about campground crowding.

RV park owners speak out

Sherry S. tells us about the changes after COVID from “the other side.” She writes, “I am writing from ‘the other side’ of RVing as an RV Park owner of 13 years, and an RVer (with a motorhome) before that. We all know there are many RV parks that cater to various campers. Just summer recreational campers, fishing and hunting RV campground, music campgrounds, etc.

“I have noticed that my ‘for fun’ weekend campers this year were down considerably from the previous years. Gas? Income? When I noticed my weekenders were coming less and less but my bills and maintenance continued to need attention, I, and many other RV parks, began taking ‘extended’ stay RVers. These were folks who were selling their home and were moving to a new state to buy a new home. Or they were college students who need a place for a semester. There were also the ‘Worker Bees’ that work mowing/repairing highways and power lines, and construction workers putting up new Dollar Generals that need 6 weeks or so for a place to stay.

“New world after COVID”

“It has become a new world after COVID. There are also group RVers—say five in a group, that will each reserve five spots in several different RV parks because they don’t know where they want to camp and this gives them a choice. However, they will only get together at one RV park, leaving sites at the other RV park they reserved unused, which is extremely aggravating.

“So, yes, you might have noticed that more parks are filling their unfilled sites with extended stay campers, but typically they are in a different section than the weekenders, families, etc. Change is hard. . . for everyone. Adjustments have to be made and accommodations will change. My ‘regular’ campers know to book in advance with me so they can have their ‘fav’ site that they are used to using. Works well for me. RVing is so much fun, I hope not to see RVers stop camping. They just need to find the ‘right’ RV park campgrounds that do all they can to accommodate their weekend visitors to help make their stay enjoyable.”

Small RV park owner renting all spots monthly

Wayne P. has a small RV park that is now filled with monthly renters. He explains, “I own a small RV park. For a while, I was having trouble getting tenants. Currently, all are monthly. By October, I’ll have all six of my spots full. It’s been a long process, but a little over a year into running the business and I’ll be full and making really good money. I try to do the best I can for my tenants because I make more by renting out spots in my backyard than I do working a 40-hour week.”

Exhausted by the time she could find a park due to crowding

J B has been continuing to RV since her husband died but is finding it hard due to campground crowding: “My husband and I never used to have a problem finding a place to stop for the night, which allowed for spontaneous traveling. I’ve been full-time RVing by myself since he died last year and things are so different, I’ve had to completely change my original plan to just travel around the states full-time. I found (in the western states) last winter that often I couldn’t find a spot when ready to stop and had to keep calling ahead and was exhausted by the time I would find a park with a spot.

“I too found that most campgrounds were full because at least half the spaces were full-timers, not traveling RVers and yes, some of the rigs were junky. By the way, this is not just a U.S. problem. I’ve run into the same problem all this summer in British Columbia, Canada.

Gave up and purchased a spot

“I finally gave up this spring and purchased a spot in California for winter use from now on and will do the same in Canada for summer use, use those as my base and then travel out from there. A lot less stressful than not knowing whether or not you’re going to have a safe place to park for the night.

“I have also found the cancellation policy in many campgrounds to be draconian of late. I had to walk away from a few days prepaid in a park I was in because of a medical appointment change. That was one of the few parks that were nearly empty but had nearly 100 spots. It was run by the municipality. They refused to refund the remainder of the week, even with over a week’s notice of cancellation. Clearly demand outstripped supply during COVID and the park ‘owners’ have allowed greed to take over as prices have doubled and tripled in the past two years and cancellation policies have become ridiculous.”

No-show penalty to help campground crowding

Rica S. seconds the no-show penalty! “I LOVE Guy V.’s suggestion last week about the no-show penalty! Three strikes and you are OUT! And, if you can tack on a ‘no-show’ monetary penalty, that’s even BETTER!!”

Be proud of your home

Theodora B. has words for those with older campers and reminds us there is room for us all. “Full-time RVing is not the issue, many of us live in our RV full-time and go month-to-month seeing the country. The issue is even if you have an old camper, keep it clean, keep it up and repaired, painted if you have to, be proud of your home. I see folks who litter and trash the area and stuff all over never picked up and they give camping and the sites a bad reputation.

“I have been near huge Class A’s all fancy and the people in them are rude, they spread their stuff all over and never pick up and act like they own the place. Full-time is ok, just be polite, pick up after yourself, be kind, and try to keep your RV in the best clean condition you can. No one wants to be homeless, and there is room for all of us.”

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

##RVT1070b

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Q-Ball
10 days ago

Just an FYI about “long term use” camp sites. I’m a medical professional who “travels”. I didn’t want to stay in a hotel with my family so we bought a 5th wheel and lived in our own home, slept in our own bed! Basic contracts are 13 weeks. Many of mine were 10 or 11 months! We were needed in places hit hard by Covid. That’s only 1 reason for long term camp sites. Please consider that there are many variables. Thanks for reading!😃

AllenF
11 days ago

RV (heavy notation on ‘Recreational’) Park and ‘Long-term’ tenants seems an oxymoron to me. I agree that it is bumping up against a ‘Trailer Park’. To justify it by saying it is too difficult to get a trailer park license is simply ridiculous. Mobile homes built for long-term living are most likely built with higher safety and durability codes than an RV, so to use them interchangeably would seem wrong in many ways. I appreciate the income dilemma, but you will not be getting my dollar, and I suspect if we check back in a few years, you will be experiencing any number of unpleasant issues or be the proprietor of a dump that will cost a LOT to clean up so as to attract we truly Recreational- and conscientious campers!

bull
11 days ago
Reply to  AllenF

Call your local codes department and tell em you are considering developing a “Trailer Park” and you will see how difficult it is to git a permit to build!

Backcountry164
11 days ago

That’s what truck stops and rest areas are for…

bull
11 days ago

Long term renting of RV sites is a way for the campground owner to AVOID the rules, regulations and local zoning regulations required for the establishment of a TRADITIONAL MOBILE HOME TRAILER PARK!

As hard as it is for a developer to git approval for an RV park in today’s world go try and git approval for a Mobile Home Trailer Park. That is INFINTELY more difficult!

With the adoption of Zoning Laws and Building Codes by more and more RURAL cities/counties that prohibit the development of Trailer Parks, Tiny Home Communities and RV Parks more “RV Park Owners” will continue to change over to a “Long Term Rental Business Plan” to make the most monthly/yearly revenue possible on their properties.

That “Not In My Backyard Attitude” of local residents will continue to grow in their opposition to any type of new property development that is proposed against any type of short term or long term parking for RV’s, Mobile Homes or Tiny Home Community development.

Last edited 11 days ago by bull
Ron
11 days ago

Making a camping reservation is no different than making a hotel reservation. If you do so in advance, you will get a spot, if not you are SOL.
Get over it.

Bud
11 days ago
Reply to  Ron

Couldn’t of said it better! We never have a problem getting a campsite, anywhere we want to go. It’s called planning. We figure out when we want to go, where we want to go and then book it. Not difficult. Our favorite RV park is $45-50.00 a nite, full hookups, NO “extended stay” campers.

Virginia
11 days ago
Reply to  Ron

I definitely agree with the planning necessity. However, I have not found it to be nearly as easy making campground reservations as it is making hotel or even Airbnb reservations.

In spite of complaints about ReserveAmerica and Reservation.gov, they do save time and allow you to include your search in a comprehensive, widespread database. Slowly we are seeing some “one stop shopping” sites for private campgrounds, but none are very comprehensive at the moment except within their own brands or memberships, such as KOA, Good Sam, et al. Unfortunately, we have found no one brand that can fit all of our needs.

Given the number of new campgrounds that have cropped up — including sites in folks’ backyards & pastures — it can be very time consuming to get a handle on availability for long trips.

I have noticed that even the DOD lodging (military lodging) site has included some Famcamp locations, so we are headed in the right direction — just not quickly enough for some of us!

Donald N Wright
11 days ago

We in the warm & humid south tend to forget that campgrounds close for something called winter for several months. However, the campground owners still have to maintain and repair what broke and pay ever increasing taxes every month of the year.

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