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Campground Crowding: Gone are the days of campgrounds being ‘rustic getaways’

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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.

The Ritz vs. the slums

Deborah M. was left without a home after a fire. She says, “We were displaced after the fire in 2018 in Paradise, CA, and have yet to find a comfortable place to exist. Constantly facing the ‘where to go next?’ syndrome. Nobody makes us feel welcome. The campgrounds we tried were either like living at the Ritz or in the slums. We fit neither venue. So where to next?”

“I will not buy another one”

Mary K. is having real difficulty finding a spot due to campground crowding, even months out. “Yes, we have noticed that we have real difficulty finding an RV spot days, weeks, and even months out from our scheduled trip. This keeps us from spontaneous travel. There are many other issues with every travel. Either a park is full of full-timers and junkies or too hoity-toity but both are expensive. Our class A is 20 years old but runs like a top and is well maintained. I will not buy another one.”

Need comes first

Chip C. is a campground owner and has been seeing a lot more requests for seasonal sites. He explains, “We have owned a small private RV park and campground for the last five years. As of this last 2022 season, we noticed an influx of requests for seasonal (May-Sept.) recreational camping. Also, we expanded our park with 16 more big-rig-friendly ‘buddy’ sites to accommodate those wanting to camp together or in groups. With that, seasonal campers see more space and think this would be an opportunity for them. Not necessarily. Because of our location, we cater to firefighters, traveling nurses, contract and construction workers, as well as property hunters and relocation stays. These individuals come first because they ‘need’ to be here. Seasonal campers do not. It’s a balance.

“In addition, we host one-night stays, weekenders, family reunions, and group events, thus needing most or all of our spaces. However, we have decided to designate a couple of spaces for the seasonal camper to test the theory and see if this type of camping pays off, or if we truly need more spaces for those that ‘need’ to be here.”

Campgrounds should keep the deposit

Gary J. believes serious RVers are not reserving recklessly. He writes, “No one likes to lose their deposit, myself included, but I believe campgrounds should keep all or most of the deposit to prevent people from making multiple reservations and not showing up for most of them. Serious RVers wouldn’t mind because cancellations make up a very small portion of our reservations. A legitimate medical emergency or death in the family is quite a different thing. And maybe campgrounds should follow state and national parks and limit stays to two weeks. This would help control people from taking up residence in campgrounds. Then again, traveling nurses, pipeline workers and linemen are the exceptions there.”

Hates to be forced to travel in bad weather

Jim J. says that having to reserve three months in advance due to campground crowding means traveling in bad weather. “We fit both situations: extended stay and weekender travel. In fact, we have two trailers. The big one stays at a southern park year-round for winter residence and our little one is a ‘rolling hotel room’ for the semi-annual migration and short fun trips. Indeed, I now have to reserve our migration stops at least three months in advance, which means we may have to drive in less than great weather due to reservation inflexibility. Hate it.

“In retrospect, at our winter RV park, the large group that returns every winter treats the park as our home. I hate to group all short-stay folk together, but there is a growing number who tend to trash our group’s ‘home’ and we don’t like it. Especially those who don’t pick up after their dogs. As a result, park pet rules become tighter for we who are responsible pet owners.”

Called every campground within 50 miles

Yikes. Ruth D. just can’t find a campground. “We have tried to find a spot and all the campgrounds are full. Nowhere to go but my husband has to work out of town. We have called every campground within 50 miles. Not to mention the price. It’s ridiculous!”

Private campgrounds are more accommodating

Stafford S. writes: “I’ve been on the road in an A class 38-foot diesel for 100 days straight, 13 states, 9,000 miles. The online reservation systems both the state and federal parks use are terrible. Private RV parks are more accommodating but cost more.”

Not our idea of camping

Donna T. is seeing a real change in campgrounds. She explains, “We’ve been camping 15+ years up and down the East Coast and we’ve definitely noticed a change at campgrounds—too many seasonal/long-term sites at many places often feeling more like a trailer park than a rustic getaway. And, those sites are often the premium sites, leaving us short-term campers with lesser, crowded spaces in not very pleasant locations—looking at trailer homes with permanent decks, sheds, and fencing surrounding the permanent ‘camper’ homes along with loud outdoor TV rooms. This is not our idea of camping. Quite the turnoff to traveling campers such as my husband and me.”

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: Do these things and you’ll be met with more kindness and gratitude from campground owners

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Diane Mc
2 months ago

Just booked trip from CA to FL, mid January. No problems getting reservations even at RV park (snowbird park) in New Braunfels,TX area, 3 nights over a weekend. We also found a newer park (resort type, looks good for kids) on the panhandle near Jacksonville. Lots of available sites in the pull thru’s in the back of the park…away from the lake/pond & other activities. Needed nights to get us to our DB park). The real shocker is a park that advertises as an overnight type of park. Only 5 pull throughs available. Last year they were 15+. Small total # of sites. Max stay is 30 days. Price is good. Also Panhandle. Will figure out return trip after we are close to leaving Daytona. We do have a week, after we leave, at a new park in Tampa area (got 10 days about a month ago. Woman who took my reservation was as shocked as me! They emailed minor damage from Ian.

Steve H
2 months ago

We are just returning from a 3 -week trip from Denver to British Columbia and the coast of WA and OR. We had 1 reservation, in Kelowna, BC, before we left home. None of the other nights were reserved more than one day before arrival and several the same day. We stayed in national and state parks, city parks, county fairgrounds, and private RV parks. We boondocked only one night on this trip. So, we had no problem finding campsites during our trip without reserving weeks or months in advance.

Ed Fogle
2 months ago

Regarding the state park reservations systems, Florida in particular. I tried for days on end to reserve a site in the state parks in the Florida Keys. Every morning I was at my computer at the designated time to try for one of the 3-5 sites that would be available. Hit the “Reserve” button at the designated second and the sites were already taken. Some of this may be due to the vagaries of the internet, latency and others. But mostly it’s due to the popularity of these sites.

I think they should consider going to a lottery system. You have a window to input your request for sites and each day they draw winners for them. Then the winners are notified and have a certain time frame to complete their reservation.

Uncle Swags
2 months ago

Not sure if this is a west coast or urban area camping problem but I’ve been on my annual cross country trip to Yellowstone and have had no problems getting campsites and have made some incredible discoveries which I will not share. I have seen nearly empty campgrounds from Sunday to Thursday and with a little bit of work the weekends have all been smooth. I am glad I never RVed in the “good ole days” so I don’t have anything to get depressed and nostalgic over. I’m having the time of my life now and no time for complaining.

Ron
2 months ago

Would you like some cheese with your “whine”

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