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Campground Crowding: ‘System is broken, causes great frustration, totally unfair and selfish’

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.

Cheating the system

Bruce B. lists some ways people are cheating the system and other campers. He explains, “Traveling full-time, most of the problems for me are weekends where at state and federal parks that are using reservation systems, people just book spots every weekend through the summer and if they don’t use, no big deal to pay the $30 or so a night.

“They should monitor and if see someone does that two or three times and if so they should be blocked for a time period. Heard some will use multiple emails and credit cards also to get to more sites. Also, see where it shows a site open one night but the spot next to it is open the next night, and see where multiple campers are swapping sites for a night. If the parks had humans they could manage some of that nonsense. It will be interesting to see the effects in Florida with so many homes destroyed. The need for temporary housing and workers coming in to help rebuild and the strain it will put on campgrounds with winter snowbirds coming in.”

Selling RV constant discussion

Howard C. is finding RVing harder and more expensive. “We’re finding it harder to travel in the RV. Unable to make reservations and high cost. Selling the RV has been a constant discussion.”

The system is broken

Jim G. shares the opinion of many RVtravel.com readers: “The reservation system Recreation.gov doesn’t work. I stay on the phone line for 45 minutes waiting to confirm my reservation then it hangs up. (“We are experiencing high call volume. Please stay on the line.”) Finally, I get to the campground and set up. Just for my own knowledge, I look online and the site says only three sites are available, but in-person I found 21 sites not occupied.

“The system is broken, causes great frustration, totally unfair and selfish. We are retired on a budget—why are rich people the favorite? if you do not show up for your reservation, charge the full price and a penalty. Campsites are at a premium so make it fair and equitable! The computer system should be able to see the same person has multiple reservations for the same day. I hate cheating that allows every family member to sign up for a campsite at a different location on the same day and not cancel, and then never show up.”

Victim of our own desires

Steve P. has a point. He says, “We are a victim of our own desires. Everyone wants more amenities, which cost more and means more people see it as a great lifestyle. We have seldom had issues getting a site. The crowded places are the popular tourist locations. This will not change our camping plans.”

Easiest parks to get into are not right off the expressway

Jame E. has a hint for getting a site. They share, “There’s always a place to stay somewhere. I’ve stayed in city parks, campgrounds, etc. I tried Boondockers Welcome but many were limited to size (I have a 35′ class A). The easiest parks to get into are NOT off the expressway. That’s good for me because I like the slower pace of secondary roads. We don’t often stop at tourist hot spots. We prefer out-of-the-way places where you find the occasional lake or stream. If I can plug in for the coffee pot, I’m good. Life’s too short to stress out.”

The hardest part is the planning

Julian P. has trouble finding open spots but notes that the hardest part is the planning. “We have had some trouble finding open sites even when planning 4-6 weeks ahead. We’ve lost a couple of deposits but my biggest problem is manually working a route accurately day by day so we aren’t over- or under-estimating travel distances. I plan manually using a US Wall Map, mileage ‘chain’, Google Maps and sourcebooks e.g. Good Sam, Up Ahead, COE, and BLM. We use mostly the 2-2-2 travel plans but go up to 3-3-3 occasionally. The major time investment is to plan the route manually. I need to learn TRIP PLANNER.”

Think outside the box

Stephanie S. is finding sites in hidden spots. “We book our stays at popular National Parks early. However, we have really enjoyed many state and county parks as they are well maintained and more affordable. There are 6,600 state parks nationwide and we find some real gems that are sometimes only half full during our stay.

“Overcrowding, in my opinion, is based on perspective. Looking at popular National Parks or popular areas only, yes there is crowding. However, State Parks, COE parks, historical parks, county and city parks that may not have been on our radar before are what we now seek out. We have been pleasantly surprised by them and rewarded by having a great time. Think outside the box, think outside the popular areas. There is so much out there to see and room for us all. Here is a picture of a county park (St. Martin Parish in Louisiana) taken mid-April at Uncle Dick Davis Park Campground in Butte La Rose, Louisiana, and mostly empty. Beautiful sites and only $15.00 a day, $10.00 for 55+.”

Photo credit Stephanie S
Photo credit: Stephanie S.

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 here.

##RVT1074b

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Donald N Wright
3 months ago

I have visited the “Reserve America” office in Dallas twice. No one is there. Everyone went home to work from there during the plague, and never came back.

Jerry
3 months ago

Another click bait. BOT written article. Nice

Admin
RV Staff
3 months ago
Reply to  Jerry

Hi, Jerry. Nanci Dixon and our readers are NOT bots. And if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Just sayin’. –Diane P.S. Silly me. I “assumed” you had read the post, but you didn’t, did you, Jerry? Otherwise you would have known it wasn’t written by a bot.

Joe h
3 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

And another Holier Than Thou reply to another The Sky Is Falling article. Why I unsubscribed from the weekly news letter.
10 months on the road this year and only 1 (one) campground we could not get into. No issues finding a spot. And when we left last December, your Sky Is Falling articles were about no RV inventory, but EVERY RV sales lot we’ve passed has always been full.

Spike
3 months ago

“RV sales have skyrocketed and more people than ever are taking up RVing.”

Perhaps, based on the new sales data for 2022, it’s time to retire this outdated statement!

Steve H
3 months ago

We have made two 3-4 week RV trips since June 1 and have had no problem finding campsites with partial to full hookups. The June trip to the SE US was all COE campgrounds with the exception of one state park. On our September Pacific NW trip, we had only one RV park reservation before we left home and that was in British Columbia. The other national, state, county, city, and private RV park campgrounds we stayed in were reserved one day in advance or even as walk-ins on the day we were staying. These included two terrific county fairgrounds (wide paved roads, long FHU campsites with newly cut grass between sites, clean shower-laundry buildings, and great WiFi) and a FREE paved, dry campsite in beautiful North Cascades National Park. The only full campgrounds we encountered were the private BC RV park and a 400-site, beachfront, Oregon state park over a weekend.

Backcountry164
3 months ago

Campground fees are already out of control. Driven by people who want all of the amenities of home while they’re away from thier home. Implementing these “fixes” will just drive up those costs even more. Not much of an issue for someone who can afford to buy a camper that costs as much as some peoples house. What about the people who camp because that’s the only way they can afford to go on vacation?? If you need a hot shower every night and a plug in coffee maker how about you just stay in a hotel. If all of those people did that there’d be no overcrowding at campgrounds…

Lonewolf
3 months ago

Some folks don’t know what to do but complain! I find most of the gripes come from RV’ers looking to get into government-run parks, i.e. state, COE, national etc. and don’t want to pay the higher commercial park fees.

Don H
3 months ago

This is nowhere near the problem it’s made out to be. True: you can’t just show up at an RV Park at 5 PM and expect a site, which you COULD do a few years ago. The Military’s 7P rule applies here: Proper Prior Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance. Do your trip planning, reserve ahead and enjoy the trip…

STEVE
3 months ago

I bet a cookie that if RV owners looked at the fine print on their purchase agreement, they would not find anything in writing guaranteeing them a place to camp.

Ron
3 months ago

Whine, whine, whine. Just get over it and move on.

Dan
3 months ago

I’ll say it again. Tie the reservation system to a vehicle tag number. If it shows up for multiple campsites, bzzzz bzzz, game over, thanks for playing. Same result if a different tag shows up in the reserved site.

M D-B
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Great idea!

Belinda Phillips
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan

You have a BIN-GO! Great idea!

Backcountry164
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Most campgrounds allow at least two vehicles and often more for an additional charge. In addition, there’d be no coordination between state, federal, and private campgrounds. So it wouldn’t be much harder to game this system either. And of course if your plan involves renting a vehicle you’re not going to know the tag number when you make the reservation. So those folks are just SOOL??
The reason we don’t see these “fixes” being implemented is because they cost money and are easily circumvented. Do you really want to spend an extra 5 bucks a night just to make it slightly more difficult for the cheaters?

Sophie
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan

That is an excellent suggestion.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago

It’s heartening to see that many folks have discovered how to overcome the overcrowded campground syndrome.

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