RV sales have slowed (finally) and fewer people are buying RVs than has been the recent trend. Has that changed campground crowding? Is it easier to find a campsite now, particularly in state and national parks? Campgrounds are changing and evolving, some for the better and some for the worse. RV Travel readers discuss their experiences and offer a few tips to help other campers find that perfect spot.
Here are a few observations from our readers.
What we must do for popular places; get over it
Leonard R. books early, really early! “My one-day stops are almost exclusively with Harvest Hosts, which were planned 2-3 months in advance. No problem with this system.
“My month-long and longer stays in and around Mesa, Arizona, have been booked for nearly a year. In fact, my reservation at Lost Dutchman State Park was booked one year (less a couple of hours) out! Barely got the two weeks that I wanted and had to pay 100% upfront. No worries. This is what you MUST do for popular places at peak times. Get over it.
“I am already planning my 2023-24 Snowbird winter in the Palm Springs area and the best spots have asked me to book as soon as I know the dates. For my lifestyle, this just isn’t a problem. If you are a ‘spur of the moment’ RVer, you WILL run into issues.
“I don’t care for these ‘site lock fees’ though. Even though I meticulously choose the site I want and book that particular site, I still end up paying ‘to ensure’ that site? Yes, this is a BS money grab, but it is just a cost of doing business. Same reason that I have to pay upwards of $75 dollars to bring luggage on a flight. Because they can!
“One last beef with some of the commenters on this thread. If campground sites are empty, but fully paid for, what right do you have to this site or the campground operator to release this site for another sale? The site is paid for, it is no longer available to be resold. The optics of an empty site may be bad; however, you do not know the whole story.”
Much easier than the past two years
Bob L. is having an easier time booking winter reservations than he has in the last two years. Whew! He writes, “I have traveled about five months this year, starting out in Florida last January. Through the summer months, we went to the northeast and Midwest, Elkhart in July for new furniture in the RV. August was back south, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for a couple of weeks. Now I plan to pull out of the North Carolina mountains for another winter in Florida.
“I full time in a 40-foot Monaco from my home base in North Carolina, where I live in the coach, covered by a 24×40 Port.
“I have made a few reservations more than a week ahead with no disappointment. The upcoming winter reservations were made in one call, much easier than the past two years when it took calling to catch a cancellation. It appears to me that the craziness of the Pandemic is finally starting to normalize and hopefully things will get back to pre-pandemic times.
“I turn 73 this year, so that relates to a very temporary time I can continue this lifestyle. I will not be staying home regardless of gas prices, campground fees, or any reason other than health. I’ve done this RV thing for 50 years now and still want to go to see more of this beautiful country.”
We’re happy to hear it, Bob. Happy and safe travels!
Prices are high, so sacrifice in other areas
Tom O. owns two permanent sites. He writes, “Full-timing in 30 ft. Airstream. We have two ‘permanent’ lots that we own—one for summer, one for winter. We travel in between as we wish.
“Always plan ahead; make plans well in advance. Never has been an issue finding a spot. Have a diesel tow vehicle.
“Prices are high but as long as fuel is available we make sacrifices in other areas to compensate. The parks we stay at are well-maintained for the most part. Some have closed restrooms due to being short-staffed. No travel secrets other than plan well, plan ahead, call ahead to verify reservations, have redundancies with travel route and in equipment, be safe and have fun.”
If I get desperate to camp, I will driveway camp!
Mitzi and Ed G. have never had a problem with campground staff. “So far we have NEVER had an unpleasant experience with camp staff. Indeed, most have gone above and beyond to help us when pets escape, passports disappear, need help registering, help arranging meals from the camp restaurants, etc.
“Need help finding campgrounds? ASK! Many places will allow you to stay if you just ask and don’t dump your trash or holding tanks in their parking lots. I have read of people joining fraternal organizations or buying gym memberships to access campgrounds and showers. You never will know until you ask.
“As for rising costs, it DEFINITIVELY does affect our camping. Gas, food, and clothing, all affect our finances. If I get desperate to camp I’ll just have to driveway camp.”
Competition with snowbirds
G S had no issues finding spots until Arizona. “We spent the month of September and the first week of October (2022) making a loop from western Washington. We went east to Kansas, then south to Texas, then west to Nevada before heading north to home.
“We stayed at a few private parks but mainly free overnight spots. The only time we got concerned about a place to stay was when we planned to stop in Arizona for laundry and tank dump/fill. We started checking the day before we wanted to arrive and realized that we were in competition with southbound snowbirders and lodging was scarce. We ended up paying what I thought was too much for a park that wasn’t that great, but we got our jobs done.”
Now, some questions for you:
- Are you finding campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem?
- Are campgrounds changing for the better or for the worse?
- Are you seeing more permanent and seasonal RV parks?
- Are rising costs affecting your camping style?
- 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.
Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column: The worst part of camping? ATVs, rich people and cows