Saturday, April 1, 2023


If you want accurate campsite reservation pricing, double…no, triple…the advertised rate!

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.

Campground crowding overblown: move trailer twice a season

Manny R. has absolutely no issues with booking: “Natalie and I have been pulling a travel trailer beginning in 1978 with a 23-foot trailer. Since then, we have purchased seven different trailers. I currently have a 323 34-foot Keystone Outback travel trailer with two slides!

“We firmly believe that the campground crowding discussions are well overblown. We book our travel plans, one year in advance, and have absolutely no problem with our booking! Unfortunately, not everybody has this option and we are very fortunate.

“For the past eight years, we have put our trailer in a five-star registered campground in Marshalls Creek area, Pennsylvania. We put it up there for the entire summer. We take it up once and pull it to our home in the backyard once. And it’s pleasurable. MUCH GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF THOSE WHO HAVE A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE THAN WE HAVE.”

Just requires more planning and more money

Barbara J. has seen changes in very popular parks, too. She explains, “We live in California so many of the coastal, desert and forest campgrounds have always been popular and hard to get reservations, so it’s not really anything new. But we have seen many in dire need of infrastructure improvements and general cleaning. We have also seen an increase in large camping groups (noisy) and inconsiderate campers. That said, we have no plans to give up our travel trailer adventures. It just requires a little more planning – and a little more money. (We are government-run campground campers. Rarely stay at private RV parks.)”

Mom-and-pop campgrounds retiring and selling out

Jim J. is seeing a trend in the campground business as they travel… and it’s a trend we don’t like! He writes, “What I am seeing is family business RV park owners seeing their opportunity to sell and retire. The group investors buying these RV parks may or may not have a clue how to run them. However, in many cases, the new owners are trying to ‘spruce up’ the parks and spending lots of money on ‘branding’ and not paying enough attention to the clientele that made the park profitable to begin with. Services important to those repeat customers suffer but that new coat of paint on the office and fancy signage sure looks nice.”

STOP adding those extra fees, please

Russ B. is finding good base camping fees with lots of extras piled on top. He writes, “Regarding rising costs… CAMPGROUNDS, PLEASE STOP! Hate hate hate to go to book a site that is advertised at a low/reasonable daily rate only to get stacked with additional fees: $6 reservation fee; $20 lock-in fee (to guarantee the spot you are actually booking for???); the rate is only for two people, each additional person (kids) is $10 per person per day; $10 per person per day resort fee; daily wi-fi fee, cable box fee, each additional vehicle fee/day; short-timers electricity now monitored and charged extra… ugh. The daily rate is now double/triple the advertised rate.”

Evicted after 30 days

Dan S. is frustrated with the system that evicts some folks after 30 days but not others. Here’s why: “Costs are definitely rising in many of the campgrounds we’ve used and, of course, spaces are very limited. In Florida from October until April, it’s ridiculous how hard it is to get a site for more than a day or two. It’s frustrating when you want to do over a month and receive an eviction notice only to drive by a month later and still see RVs that were there long before you arrived, still sitting in the same spots… dirty, old, and not well maintained.”

Fatigue increases the odds for making a mistake

Andrew R. shares his camp host experience and has a valuable tip on driving times: “We work as camp hosts at a Georgia state park. I can say that during November – March months, the 56-site campground is full about 98% of the time. Support for walk-ins is very rare. Our sites are generally well separated so it is not often we have noise problems. Regarding daily driving, as retired full-timers, we try to limit our drive to four hours max, regardless of distance. Fatigue starts to set in on longer trips, increasing the odds of making a driving mistake.”

“I camp for nature, not electricity”

Terry T. sent a photo of a beautiful campsite he was in. I just had to share for those of us dreaming of pulling out the RV again. He wrote, “I have always preferred camping in out-of-the-way ‘dispersed’ spots with just my own friends to make noise with. I bought a small teardrop to do just that. A Forest Service campground is about as fancy as I get. I camp for NATURE, not electricity or crowds. Do have to use more populated spots for National Parks though. More crowding means I go less often and use means to find out of-the-way places. This was a nice campground outside Kings Canyon technically closed for the season in October but okay to camp at with no services.”

Photo Credit Terry T
Photo Credit Terry T.

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.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column: Employees and owners overwhelmed and exhausted. ‘A major tragedy for camping’



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20 days ago

Mom & Pop campgrounds being bought up by corps – Just like Walmart ran the small town Mom & Pop stores out of business. Nothing new I guess.

19 days ago
Reply to  KellyR

However, Walmart has lower pricing than the displaced mom-and-pops, as they have volume buying and other leverage. Walmart has raised the standard of living for many lower-income people, and made more items available to more people.

Corporate campgrounds, however, are nothing like Walmart, other than they want more locations. Corporate campgrounds are trying to add bling so they can raise prices. Big difference. Mom-and-pop owners are selling to the corporations, as they are getting very good money for their (often) decades-long efforts to keep campers happy, and present a good product. Their sweat-equity is being paid for by the corporations, who are more interested in immediate cash flow. Different owners, different motivations. Sad situation, but be happy for the owners who are getting paid for their efforts.

20 days ago

We made reservations last year for two campgrounds this year. The cost of the same type sites has risen about 20% this year. We are locked in at the old price. Our reservation receipt is our contract. One of the campgrounds advertised an 10% early bird discount this year. I called to see if we were eligible. The nice person at the campground told us the discount was for this years rate but we could cancel and take 10% off the new rate. That would have still been 10% more than we reserved it for. NEVER MIND!

20 days ago

In January I made reservations for an 8 week cross-country trip in our MH from mid-April to mid-June. I use AllStays to locate campgrounds had no problem finding available sites. I did notice lots of “add on” fees, but not for 2 people. I refuse to pay lock in fees and, so far, have ended up in the site I reserved. Prices are up, though, and the most in-demand state parks were already full. But, from our experiences in the PNW, that’s been the case for at least 10+ years. Sadly, ONs at many Wally’s en route to a destination seem to be going away. This may be our last long trip.

Neal Davis
21 days ago

Always interesting information here; thank you for compiling, editing, and presenting it. We are all better informed because of your effort.

21 days ago

Manny R’s experience is mostly irrelevant to the discussion of finding good sites while traveling. If one is staying in one spot…the same spot…for a whole camping season, that is not the same as traveling and getting reservations in numerous places along one’s travel route.

21 days ago

RV sales slowing down still won’t free up campground sites. Seems as though it would simply level off the demand. I would think that the only things that would open up sites would be more campgrounds being built or an increase in those of us who have decided it is time to leave. Our experiences last year made that decision for us.

21 days ago

I stay primarily at state parks or USACE campgrounds and have not noticed any significant changes in availability or cost.

Bob M
21 days ago

I imagine when RV travel readers start camping this season. They’ll see sticker shock at the rates campgrounds charge. The price of everything has gone up dramatically. Especially Property taxes, electricity, propane and water. In the store items don’t go up a few cents, sometimes as much as a dollar.

20 days ago
Reply to  Bob M

While the politicians pay empathetic lip service to rampant inflation, their property assessors love it. Add to that the brutally increasing insurance cost and the difficulty in attracting competent labor even at today’s double and triple costs and you have reality that applies to all, not just campgrounds. Sorry to say, but current politics are not without some responsibility for the dilemma.

19 days ago
Reply to  MoJo

Yup. Politicians with red or blue stripes so deeply embedded in Washington paying little respect to the rest of us that put them there while they sign the backs of the paychecks we give them. Not checks they earn, checks they receive.

Last edited 19 days ago by Cancelproof

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