RV sales have slowed 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.
Full-timers are the cause
Mariane B. sees full-time RVers at fault for crowding. She explains, “Camping used to be something you did on vacation or a long weekend, not year around with all the amenities of home. Full-timers are the cause of all the crowding. They just stay as long as allowed and then move to another park. Small county parks, BLM, and Forest Service have actual campgrounds, not trailer parks. They also have time limits.”
Promote inclusivity, not criminalization of poverty
Ana D. reflects on encampments of the poor and disenfranchised. She says, “Foreclosures and evictions are about to rise right off the charts. America is going mobile. Attempts to corral the marginalized would create yet another later-regretted system of concentration camps. We’d better prioritize legislation that promotes sane inclusivity rather than the hysterical criminalization of poverty. Requirements for quietness, cleanliness, tidiness, orderly and considerate behaviors, conformity with reasonable parking time limitations— these will do us all more good in the long run than neighborhood parking zones and encampments with no unsupervised exits.”
Crowded and dire in Canada, too
Natalie M. finds the Canadian rental market high and RV spots hard to find. “I know this article is about the USA, but here in western Canada we lost dozens of sites due to the floods over the last few years. Many are in RVs because the rental market is scarce and over-priced. We just got a new Sandpiper and it took us a month to find a spot with full hookups an hour farther away. Now our commute is two hours to work. The average monthly rent if you can get it is CA$1,400-$2,500. It’s definitely getting crowded and dire. I didn’t realize it was also getting bad in the USA!”
Build it yourself and leave the RV parks behind
Large M. is done with make-do camping and they built their own RV and definitely do not like RV parks! “2003, after a half-century of make-do camping in lesser rigs, we built our ‘Expedition Vehicle.’ Two decades full-time live-aboard, we boondock exclusively… summers up rough logger tracks to remote mountain lakes, winters on isolated Baja beaches. We have zero interest in an RV resort with folks ‘just stopping by to say ‘hi!’, shuffleboard tournaments and canasta marathons, a perky ‘Activities Director’, nor name badges. Our caravan chums are in a vast variety of home-made rigs, built on converted commercial trucks… and each of our rigs are chosen for zero computers, zero exhaust fluid, few gadgets and gizmos. Weird, eh?”
Don’t want to pay for water parks, concrete pads or patio furniture
J P. finds prices going up and an increase in unwanted amenities. “We live in the mid-Atlantic region. Cost and site availability impact our camping most. Ever-rising fuel costs to tow, and an average increase of 10-15% in site fees per year restrict our range of camping to a 200-mile radius from our home base. We camp with two other families. We’ve found that if you don’t plan and reserve by February, it’s difficult to reserve sights next to, or near, your camping buddies.
“We’ve also found the industry’s move towards an increase in campground amenities causes an even greater increase in cost. I don’t need or want to pay extra in my site fee for water parks, asphalt or concrete parking pads, patio furniture, and BBQ grills on every site. All that being said, I’ll still continue to go camping.”
Tent campers finding same issues as RVers
Jason N. sees costs rise and availability plummet for tent campers, too. “We are tent campers and it used to be a great way to get out of town on the cheap. However, in the past, say, 10 years but certainly now post-pandemic, the cost makes us second-guess if we should just hotel, Airbnb or go glamping with single sites. Unless you find a decent state campground with few amenities, these private camps are often charging $70–$120 a night.
“The higher is the resort-style camp. When it’s just the adults we don’t mind the $17 state camp with just a decent shower, but when trying to haul the kids for a weekend, they want the playgrounds and pools, etc., so it’s a catch-22. Lastly, we used to be able to roll up and get a site. Now if you don’t book and plan prior (which is hard with work), all you see is no vacancies….”
Had planned to sell house and travel full-time; no more
Carol M. changed plans after their long RV trip. “We traveled for five months this winter. We were planning to sell our house and travel full-time but have changed our minds. It is difficult to find spots even in the winter across the country but especially in Florida. We are members of Thousand Trails and thank goodness for that, but all parks are in disrepair and too tight. Boondocking is a better choice but you can only stay in one place for so long because of water storage issues. Corporations have priced people out of camping. When you factor in the cost of RV, gas, repairs and then sites costing $75 to $180 or more a night you might as well stay in a hotel.”
Full-time couple with children asking for our advice
Elaine J. is full-time with two children and has neighbor problems. She is asking for input from our RV readers. She writes, “My husband and I decided to go full-time living in an RV. We have two children that are not teens yet. How do children like the RV style of living? Do they want a change when they become teens?
“Also, we live in KOA because it is a nicer park and has extras that attract people. Living in any park full-time you have to follow rules. We follow rules but the neighbor is always complaining about anything my children or we do. I am changing spaces ìn a month to keep the peace. I will pay more for the space and will have new neighbors as the park is big and I don’t know everyone on that side. How do you handle neighbors who have a problem with you? I don’t need a restraining order against me.” Do you have any advice for Elaine?
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 ‘nomadic lifestyle’ has finally come to an end
Can’t find a spot in Florida “even in winter”?? Probably because that’s where everyone goes in winter.
I live in the Midwest. Even in the summer, most campgrounds here might fill up over the weekend. But if you’re there during the week you’ve basically got the whole place to yourself. It seems ridiculous to cry about availability when you choose to go to the same places that everyone else goes to…
RVing isn’t for everyone. There are two types of RVing boondocking or being alone otherwise the RV community as a whole is a community that people either like or hate. People are very friendly and helpful and that has been the lifestyle of RVing for a long time. With the fluctuation in RV market there are people who just don’t like that type of community. But understand you are stepping into that world and lifestyle. If you are full time you are mixing with vacationers and vice versa. There are RV parks for full-timers but not enough.
Anything that’s fun eventually becomes popular and anything that becomes popular eventually gets ruined.
I find some of the never ending complaints about crowding very tiring. We almost NEVER have issues finding sites. But maybe that’s because we don’t want to camp at major vacation locations., like Fla. Also it’s time we separate types of camping. Full timers choose to live full time in their RV, where as those who live in a RV in a park as their primary residence are different than FT RV’ers. Some CGs like year rounders for the income. RV’ing is changing and it has been changing for years. We either roll with the changes or it’s time to sell the RV.
Some of us are forced to have to live in rvs and some choose the lifestyle that’s why some places do have time limits but don’t be upset at those of us trying to keep some kind of roof over our head and our family
Some of us full timers are one step away from being homeless. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in my rv but I’m retired and on a fixed income. Family are gone so no choice. Happy I have a home. RV parks will take advantage of you because park spaces are limited for full timers. End of the month I have 150.00 to 200.00 left for propane, gas and food!!!
I am with you I was just kicked off my own property for living in my rv and am now struggling worse because I had to rid of my own home on my own property
I’m confused. How were you kicked off your own property? Do you mean you bought property in a HOA and they don’t allow motorhomes/RVs?
There are some counties that unless you have run sewer to the property, you can’t live in an RV on it. There are also a bunch of other rules that aren’t HOA related. There was an article recently someplace about just this.
I am not throwing stones, but you technically are not an RV’er. You ‘live’ in a camper and apparently not by choice. Everyone reading your comment will be happy that you have a place. However, you fit the category of people who need our government to develop ‘parks’ where live-in campers can park with the needed requirements at a very reasonable cost. RV’ers want sites with amenities and are willing to pay for them. I wish you the best going forward.
Go cheap! State campgrounds $25 per night opposed to $65 for a pool.
$750 per month is hardly “going cheap” if you’re not wealthy.
Most have weekly rates. However state/federal campgrounds are intended for people to camp, not live.
750 a month is good, water, sewage, power and trash, wifi. That’s a good 400 itself. That would be like 350 a month. No home insurance, taxes etc. We just bought a RV and l may do this. But you have to do what works for you. No one knows but you what you can afford.
Elaine – I had to give up a house because the neighbors were insufferable. Law enforcement/legal community would do nothing. Society is controlled by the lunatic fringe. Move on. That’s what the wheels are for.
First, be a parent, not a friend, to your kids. Are they causing trouble? No, they are not “Just being kids”. Rein ’em in.
I didn’t know people could live full-time at a KOA. I thought they were supposed to be for family vacations.
They are. However some offer monthly rates. It’s not designed for long-term living, but for those like traveling nurses, contracted to work for 3 months in area and then move on. Basically not FT, But not vacation, somewhere in between
Thank you, Nanci! You must have the most thankless regular feature of RV Travel. Wading through numerous emails each week that enumerate all that’s wrong with “camping,” campgrounds, reservation processes, no-show policies, corporate ownership, other RVers, etc., must require a lot of moral support. I certainly don’t envy you, but I certainly do applaud your efforts; thank you!
PS. Should your travels bring you well to the southeastern US, we host a Boondockers Welcome site — Davis Farm — in the southeast corner of Tennessee. We guarantee lots of quiet, peace, and solitude for the duration of your stay, in addition to power (30 amp) and water. 🙂 😎
Neal, I’ve noticed that your comments are always positive & affirming. I appreciate you!
We at RVtravel.com agree with you 100%, Rebecca. Neal’s comments are such a breath of fresh air, especially compared to a lot of the negativity, rudeness and political commentary posted in the comments. We (especially I, who read all of the comments) very much appreciate Neal! So, thank you for your nice comment about Neal, Rebecca. You both have a wonderful day. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
Neal, Rebecca : thank you for reminding us to keep up with all the positive reasons why we all really do enjoy camping, and not focusing on the downsides. Neal, we hope to meet you in Tennessee someday.
Bill and Shannon Byerly
Thank you Nanci and Diane for all you do and put up with ! 🙂
Thank you for your nice comments, Bill. We appreciate them, and you, very much! Have a good night. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
Elaine; do you need to look in the mirror and at your kids to see what it really is your neighbors are complaining about? People don’t normally complain about well behaved children.
Agreed. We live in a neighborhood full of “well behaved children”. They’re so “well behaved” mom sleeps while dad is at work and the kids are playing.
We don’t want or need a high dollar resort. We prefer mom and pop campgrounds or boondocking. Just need water, power, sewer, and laundry facilities while in the rv park.
Corporate Greed from the same business which received the largest tax giveaway ever in 2016. How is that working out?
Elaine didn’t give any details that would allow anyone to offer advice.
What, specifically, are the neighbor’s complaints? It’s one thing if the kids are riding bikes through the neighbor’s site, but something entirely different if he’s just a grump that doesn’t like to hear kids play over in their own site.
Overall, if the kids are well behaved then no issue for Elaine to solve. If her kids are obnoxious brats, be a parent and fix it.
Because we stay in a park that is NOT 55 plus there are families there. They try to put campers with families on one side of the park and others on the other side of the park. This helps tremendously. Have not had so much trouble with the children as with the parents who don’t keep track of wandering children and will literally tell them to lie to security about their age to be able to go in certain buildings or hot tub. The parents need to start setting a better example for their children. Oh, and heaven forbid you should tell a child something for their own safety, the parents will jump right down your throat.
I just finished a 7,000 mile north to south, coast to coast trip – there and back again. The only state I could not secure camping reservations at a state park was North Carolina. Not only was every weekend booked at every park I checked but there were no sites available on short notice. Other than that I was able to get sites as needed. While there was spring break activity all over the country, the fact that the spring is generally slower made this a great trip. Keep your expectations realistic and be happy you can go out and have fun. At Foss State Park in Oklahoma, I was the only camper in the lakeside camping area. What a contrast to camping between 4 families with unattended kids, barking dogs and the worst of all continuous corn hole tournaments. I bailed on that campground and got a refund from Recreation.gov.
The only things I want at a campground are a 30 amp hookup, a water spigot somewhere to fill my tank, a dump station, and space between sites.
We are all self-contained, for the most part, aren’t we?
This is for Elaine J.
What we have learned through life and raising 4 Children of our own, is that unless you have a direct line of site on your children, you have no idea if they have created the problem. A lot of parents go through life and don’t really have a clue as to their children’s behavior when outside. This may, or may not, be the case with your children but you really need to keep an open mind and find a way to keep closer tabs on your children when they are not in the house. Some times a little stealth observation goes a long way. And if you find that it is the neighbor antagonizing your children, then maybe a “restraining order” might be an option against your neighbor! Just food for thought Elaine. Good luck with your problem.
Ana D., try San Fransisco. Most crime has been decriminalized so trek on over and enjoy the free lunch.
Natalie M,, at least everyone is friendly. Pip pip and cheerio.
Large M., well done. Cheers to you on finding that sweet spot for living life.
J.P. ,Times are certainly changing. Good luck.
Jason N; Leave the kids with grandma and grandpa. Get some quiet time away with the wife…..
Carol M.; Were all sure gonna miss you.
Finally, Elaine J. I’ve got nothing. Happy your kids are camping with you and living the dream tho. Enjoy it now.
I need just FOUR things from an RV campground: 1) Water, 2) Sewer, 3) Electricity and 4) the ability to receive mail when we stop there. Everything else is just “extra”, at best and usually, unused by us. (The one exception is that the wife and I will use a pool if it’s clean, the weather is right and there aren’t 4,000 kids screaming and splashing. We’ve only gotten that twice in 4 years.)