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.
Reader asked for advice and you helped!
Last week Doug J. asked if driving 650-700 miles a day was realistic and our readers responded. Doug wrote:
“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?”
And here’s what some of you had to say:
“We travel no more than 350 miles a day. We like to get to our campsite and set up and relax for the next day’s travel. Also, RVing is getting expensive with the cost of fuel.” —Alan W.
Robert P. has driven those long 650-mile days. He writes, “To Doug, as a retired truck driver I drove 600-700 miles per day, 11 hrs., in an air ride truck (front axle, rear axles, and seat); it was rough. In a non air ride it would really be rough, and you would be totally exhausted. 300 is about all you need to do, the longer you drive more dangerous you become to yourself and everyone else on the road. It’s nothing compared to driving a car that many hours.”
Hard to drive RV at 60 mph average
Michael S. drives at 60 mph but averages 50: “For Doug J.: It would be pretty hard to average 60 mph in an RV. I have found a more realistic average is 50 mph. This takes into account your stopping for short breaks, fuel, and stretching your legs. I did this in a semi and running 62 mph, averaged close to 50. I drive approx. 62 with my truck camper and can be really close to the 50 mph at the end of the day.”
Leonard R. has a 3-3-3 system going. “My driving preference starting from Toronto, Ontario, to a Southwest USA destination is “3-3-3.” Drive approximately 300 miles, stop for the day by 3 pm., and on the 3rd day of traveling, stay for 2-3 days. I use Harvest Hosts for my overnights, and then a campground for the 2-3 day stay. This allows me to empty/refill my tanks, and take a much-needed breather. Finding places to stay has not been an issue with me as I routinely book as much as a year out. As a Canadian snowbird, I have my entire five-month stay booked before I leave in early December. State parks require 100% payment upfront, and most RV resorts need a small to 50% deposit. Crowding and costs will not affect my RVing, as this is what I worked my tail off to achieve in retirement!”
Measure drive by hours, not miles
Frank S.’s system measures his drive by hours and not miles. Here’s how: “My wife and I, last year for six months with only three reservations, traveled the whole mountain west without any problem getting places to stay. We only travel at most four hrs. drive time from place to place. We try to stay off Interstates. Also, we look at our maps, Apple, Google, and MapQuest. We look at the drive time, not mileage. If the map says 3.5 hrs. we just automatically add 1 hour to the drive time.
“Then we look up BLM, U.S. Forest lands and if that fails we look for Good Sams, KOAs, etc. Now I have driven up to seven hrs. but after setting up I was whopped.
“Here’s a tip: I know checks are not used as much these days but carry some checks because most first-come in U.S. Forest campgrounds only take checks, because they are usually out of phone reception so they cannot process CCs and Venmo.”
Jessie P. goes far beyond 300 miles a day and at night—wow! “When I travel I normally leave right after work at 4:30 on the road. My wife would drive the first six hrs. while I sleep those six hrs. Then I drive the next 10 hrs. to our destination. I might pull over to sleep two hrs. at Love’s trucking gas station. My goal is to arrive at the campground by 8 a.m. and set up to start sightseeing. So mileage doesn’t concern me, just getting there does. Drive safely and live life camping.”
Reservation window opens and sites are gone!
Linda C. finds it hard to get state park reservations in Washington state. She writes, “It’s impossible to make reservations in State Parks in Washington state (which is almost always required). They book up within seconds of coming online for reservations. I’ve been having better luck at private RV parks, which cost a little more to stay in. I need to check out more public lands to boondock on.”
Tim B. sees all the best sites going quickly: “I have found some highly desired sites at campgrounds get booked as soon as the reservation window opens. Any special activity days also see sites get reserved quickly. One of our favorite campgrounds raised prices two years ago so we stopped going there as often. Most of our camping is in state parks where we know which sites are better. If we are going to camp in an unfamiliar park, I use the internet to find pictures. We camp in a 1994 Dutchmen pop-up we bought new.”
Employees and owners are exhausted and overwhelmed
Laura G. sees a huge difference in camping lately. She explains, “Things are far worse since Covid. I’m 63 and I’ve been camping literally my entire life. Everything from tents to pop-ups to TT to 5th wheels (no motorized yet). Never have I seen as much rudeness, loudness and booked camping as I’ve seen in the last two or so years. It’s horrible.
“Our state parks are always booked, yet you drive through the parks and there are plenty of empty spots. Georgia has zero plans of fixing this. Rude campers are at an all-time high; they flip you off or yell at you if you say anything to them, and I’ve NEVER seen that while camping before.
“It is extremely difficult to find a nice quiet campground now and if you do, you find out that the owners and employees of the campground are overwhelmed and exhausted from trying to keep it nice and quiet. This is a major tragedy for camping. I keep praying the sanctity of camping will return as they slowly go back to their hotels and resorts. One can only hope that’s what will happen.”
Randy C. saw how bad camping got during Covid: “During COVID, camping was horrendous. It has improved, though. We are seasonal campers. The once-quiet 55+ campground became full of noisy, obnoxious people who knew nothing of camping etiquette. The RV resort owner kicked several people off the grounds for noise violations. The kicker was at 10 p.m. when an 8-year-old fell off his bike, skinning his hands and knees. He screamed like he was going to die. As an RN, I went to check on him. We found his parents asleep in their camper with no regard to the fact that their kid was still outside.”
A rhetorical question?
Mathew N. answered every one of our questions listed below. What a star! His answers are capitalized.
“Are you finding campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem? MORE AND MORE DIFFICULT.
Are campgrounds changing for the better or for the worse? WORSE. HIGHER FEES AND LESS MAINTENANCE.
Are you seeing more permanent and seasonal RV parks? NOT REALLY.
Are rising costs affecting your camping style? YES. MORE BOONDOCKING COMING.
If campgrounds continue to be crowded and RVing continues to become more popular, will it affect how or when you RV? OF COURSE. HOPE THAT WAS A RHETORICAL QUESTION.
Do you have any tips or secrets you’d like to share about finding campgrounds that aren’t as crowded? NO. ALL TRICKS SEEM TO BE KNOWN.”
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: Screaming kids, dogs, smoke, music, crowds… ‘Campgrounds weren’t like this before COVID’