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.
Loud music, RV lights and smoldering campfires
Sherry L. has definitely seen a difference in campers and not for the better! She explains, “We find loud music, RV lights left on all night, smoldering campfires at night filling our travel trailer forcing us to keep windows closed and curtains drawn. Empty campers left at campsites with campers showing up on the weekend. Dog poop. Golf carts. Sunday through Friday is good for camping but becoming popular and is now hard to book. People walking in your campsite. Don’t even get me started on the bathrooms and showers!”
County doesn’t care
Calvin W. saw a big change during COVID: “We live 25 miles from a small county lake that has a small but excellent RV camping area (50 sites w/30-amp pedestals.). It was never even 1/2 full until COVID.
“Now tents are taking RV spots so they can ‘plug in’ and stick their noses in their laptops or phones. Yep, it gets them out of the house, but their TVs and stereos are blaring 24/7 and no one’s doing anything about it. The park rangers are only on duty during the day and the camp hosts are there mainly to clean the restrooms. The county doesn’t seem to care because suddenly they have an asset that is paying its way instead of being a burden for the county.”
Booking multiple campsites
Dan B. has a suggestion to reduce the number of empty campsites left by people who book multiple campsites. Here it is: “I’ve got a suggestion to deal with people who book multiple campsites and then use only one. Make them pay for each reservation in full, in advance, with refunds allowed up to 72 hours before check-in otherwise they lose their entire fee for each ‘no-show.’ Emergencies are expected but will require appropriate documentation of the emergency to get a refund. No calling in to say, ‘The dog ate the reservation, so can I have a refund?'”
Read the reviews
Sherry C. reads campground reviews and doesn’t rely just on the number of stars. Here’s why: “When booking reservations, I always read the reviews. Just because a campground has a 4- or 5-star rating doesn’t mean it is right for you. It goes the same way for 2- and 3-star ratings, which could have the privacy and solitude you crave. Things change, too, so pay attention to the dates of the reviews and exactly what it is the reviewer did or didn’t like. One bad review can deter many people when it could have simply been too quiet for the one-star reviewer.”
Easy transfer from seasonal to travel trailer
Jim J. has a system for easy transition from his big RV to their smaller travel trailer. He writes, “We leave our bigger RV in the south for use as a seasonal residence and tour with a much smaller travel trailer.
“We book two sites for two nights a year. The day we arrive and the day we leave. It allows for a more organized transfer between the little unit and our seasonal unit, and with full hook-ups, an opportunity to prep the little unit for storage.
“The dry storage spot is also with the same campground and the campground has no problem with our onboarding some water from any open site on our way out. After all, we aren’t using water at our seasonal unit for the time we are away.”
Nowhere to park in California
Anita T. travels without a toad and finds it hard to find a place to park the RV to visit sites. “Being newly thrust into full-time RV living, I was rather shocked at how unspontaneous each county in California is about accepting travelers.
“There is literally nowhere to park during the day, so attending historic sites or visiting museums and other tourist attractions is almost impossible. The state parks are nice, but usually far away from the attractions that I would like to see. I don’t have a ‘chase vehicle’ to drive around, which makes things very limited. Plus the one beach in LA that allowed dogs does not allow my RV, so WTH?”
Separate campground areas by adult and family?
Ron N. is so done with screaming kids! He writes, “I’ve been a long-time camper. Now at 76 years old, when I’m in a campground site, the LAST thing I want to hear are screaming kids, barking/yapping dogs, and music coming from my neighbors. They may be having a great time but I am not. I’d like to see campgrounds with an ‘adults-only’ area and a separate ‘family’ area.”
Reader needs advice: Is driving 650-700 miles a day realistic?
Doug J. is asking about drive times in an RV. What is realistic? What do our readers schedule? “Traveling from Charleston, SC, to Chandler, AZ, in June in a motorhome to visit family. Made reservations at campgrounds based on traveling 650-700 miles a day. Am I being reasonable on calculating 10-12 hour drive times averaging 60 mph?”
Editors note: We rarely go over 300 to 350 miles a day, and that is only in good weather with no wind and no mountain grades. You always want to get to a new site long before dark. When we started out in our first RV it was usually 150-200 miles! What drive time do others plan? Please leave a comment below and help Doug out!
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: For some, RV parks a last chance at housing; ‘We are homeless, not seasonal campers’
So many are so judgmental regarding long driving days so I won’t say the most miles I’ve done in one day. I have more than 2,000,000 miles under my butt and I drive at 62 mph max with my dually and 5th wheel. By the time I stop for fuel, to eat, and do my regular walk arounds, I’m averaging 50 mph. I like to do the “3 & 3” which is stop by 3 PM or after 300 miles. If I need to push it to get out of the cold when heading south I’ll do 550 miles. You need to get out of the mindset that when you stop at 3 PM and look at your watch at 4 PM, thinking you could be another 50 or 60 miles down the highway, also realize you missed happy hour and could be in the ditch with a wrecked rig.
I agree it depends on your age and other factors. When we were younger, my wife and I drove 3 hour shifts each for 24 hours, stopped for 12, and drove another 24, which would get us from Norfolk, Virginia to Los Angeles. We were in a Class B, and drove the speed limit or maybe a little more. Now that we have a diesel pusher and she no longer drives, so 6 to 8 hours is our maximum and we don’t do that often.
We plan for 5-7 hours driving. Most places we visit at this time are for 3-4 day weekends and within the 5-7 hours drive time so we can actually use the trailer and see things close to where we live.
Doug J. – It depends upon your type of rig, your age, if you like to drive or not, if you have a driver to rotate with. Our longest was when we were young and dumb and we rotated drivers. We drove 1200 miles straight on thru. As we got older, we would do 600 miles a day. Now we are down to about 400 miles a day max. We easily do 300 miles even if we stop in a small town to stretch and walk thru an antique store and have lunch.
Don’t do it, I drove that many miles as a truck driver in an air ride truck, all the axles and seat. No RV rides that good. After 5-6 hrs at the wheel your senses become numb and you become a hazard to you your family and everyone else on the road.
400 miles is a long day in the truck towing the trailer. We can easily go 600 miles in my car but not towing.
Doug j. Do not plan on driving that far in an RV for several days on end. It is much different than driving a sedan. I usually do 250 */- and that is enough if I want to be relaxed.
“Doug” is crazy to want to do that many miles in a day. Besides, 10+ hrs of driving will dull the senses, something you can’t afford driving an RV. Just cut those days in half and *enjoy* the drive safely. If you’re in that much of a hurry, fly to your family event instead.
And I think Ron is ageist. I’ve had MANY more troubles with noisy *adults* playing outdoor TVs (I hate those) and music, or drinking and whooping it up or playing cornhole (whap! whap! whap!) into the night. At least (most) kids are in bed by a park’s quiet time.
Our policy is a simple one. If we plan a day driving over 350 miles, we stay 2 nights. It forces to slow our pace, see places we have never seen and recuperate more days than in the past driving 450 miles day after day. Forces us to shorten drive days or park for some RnR more often. It’s been a good policy. Now we have 180 mile days and go 360 in 2 days. 2 days is 2 days whether it is 360 in one day with a day off or 2 days at 180 miles.
I suggest that Doug joins one of the many RV forums, such as RVForum.Net where he can ask questions pertaining to his RVing needs. Using the comment section of a newsletter probably isn’t the best place.
However, to help Doug out I would suggest he limit his “long” driving days to no more than 400-500 miles, with his average driving more in the mid-300 range. Driving a class A motorhome, or any kind of RV combination is not like driving a daily driver long distances. Things like traffic, strong cross winds, heavy truck traffic, and poor directions can really stress out the normally good driver. Fatigue and wariness set in much more easily under these circumstances.
When we were young, our driving time target was 6 hours ideal, 8 hours max. Be aware that does not equate directly to distance/mph. With children, we took breaks for meals (energy release) and potty breaks.
As seniors and with the increase in road traffic and decrease in road conditions, we have cut those targets in half! And every 3-4 days of all day driving, we build in a short day for some rest.
Bottom line: If you wear yourself out to make the trip, you won’t enoy the visit!
I use good “planning” to apply the “Rule of 230”; 230 miles or 2:30 in the afternoon, which ever comes first! This way, there is time to take in an afternoon POI, dinner, and still have plenty of time to relax.
For Anita T., Yes Anita, there is a beach in LA that allows both dogs and RV’s – Dockwieler State Park. Very nice park on the beach. Be aware that it is directly in the take off path of LAX. And for Doug J., the only way I would attempt that is with multiple drivers doing shifts with frequent changes. Even that would be exhausting and all involved would probably be short tempered.
My 2 cents.
I drive 60-65 mph (less when the road becomes rough) on interstates. At most I drive 7-8 hours in a day. I cannot safely maintain that pace for more than a couple of days. More often, 5-6 hours is my max. For example, a 600-mile trip we routinely made in a single day in our car takes two days in our motorhome.
I suggest that Dave halve his planned time driving each day. Five to six hours daily is much safer, far less exhausting than ten to twelve hours. If stopping frequently is the reason the daily drive stretches to seven or eight hours, then that probably is better than driving straight through for five or six hours.
Y’know…I really hate hearing guys bragging about driving 600 to 700 miles in a day…you guys are the ones who are a hazard to the rest of us.
I drive around 62 mph on good roads. With breaks our “average” speed is consistently close to 50 mph on any given day, so I use that to estimate my daily range.
When we were younger and had tight vacation schedules trying to pack a lot of activity into a week or two, I would travel ten to twelve hours or 500 to 600 miles a day. On a few occasions we pushed over 1000 miles and it was brutal!!!
Now that we are retired I plan on six hours of travel…eight max…and 300 to 400 miles. The lower end of that is preferable! 🙂
We also drive around 60-62 mph and our travel time consistently works out to be around 50 mph. You do need to factor in the variables…fuel stops, rest stops, traffic. Also, when traveling distances our rule-of-thumb is: 300 miles or 3:00pm, which ever comes first. When circumstances dictate, there are times when we exceed the 300mi/3pm stops.
650 to 700 miles is really pushing it. It may or may not be advisable. Seems you want to make the trip in 3 days and not 4. If you are not under a time constraint (only so many days off for vacation) I would take 4 days each way. 3 days is doable if you are in good physical condition, I’m talking stamina. Also the younger you are the better. Traveling in June you should have plenty of daylight but still start out as early as you can. Almost all your journey will be interstate so that is good. You did not say what kind of campsites you reserved. The best would be pull through at a campground close to your interstate exit. And it would be better if you were driving a motorhome. After driving 10 hours you will not want to do much in back up parking, unhitching and dealing with hookups. Good luck!
Doug, based on your calculation, 12 hrs of driving time will stretch out to 14-15 hrs for the day. you have not factored in pull overs to use restroom, get food, fill up with fuel. We have done this and I would suggest keeping your daily mileage to 500 per day, if you are just traveling.
We learned early on that most online planning tools assume you’re traveling speed limits with ideal conditions (even when adjusting them). So we usually like to buffer the estimates by a couple of hours. We usually shut down at 5-6 hours max depending on conditions, but have done longer in better conditions.
Also like to arrive before dark. Especially after watching my wife trip and fall down a steep slope at the back of our campsite in the back up camera arriving late one night. (She was fine, ego bruised, but hilarious to watch on the camera).
In my experience, all of the post covid issues were around long before covid was defined. However, dogs, kids, smoke, music ,tv, bicycles, golf carts, etc don’t irritate me enough to effect my world.