Saturday, June 3, 2023


‘Complaining about lack of availability [at campgrounds] is much ado about nothing’

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. 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.

Great ways to save on camping

W B. has some great ways they save money, lots of money, on campsites. They explain, “Camping costs are increasing. True, but with planning you can find affordable places to stay. We use Elks Lodges, Passport America, county and town parks, and Federal land (BLM, NF, COE). Some Veterans organizations (AL, VFW) offer space and electric. Go off-peak season. Avoid major holidays. Having written that, consider theme parks as on-site camping. No driving and lost time, ability to recoup mid-afternoon. Last year our most expensive stay was about $45/night.”

Don’t wait for “someday”

Ralph D. can still pack, go when they want, and don’t plan in advance. Here’s how: “If you want to go to the nicer parks with all the amenities, then you will pay more. But if you want to go to a regular campground that has electric, water, and sewer and just peaceful times, small playgrounds, creeks to play in for the children and trails to enjoy the wildlife, search out the smaller parks. That’s what we do and we don’t need all the hubbub, we just need a peaceful, relaxing time.

“We don’t make plans in advance; we just pack up the camper and go on a whim. If we don’t find a spot in a campground, we’ll find some place to camp for the night. We’ve been doing it for years and all the way to Arizona down into Big Bend National Park. Just traveling around the country up into Maine, Massachusetts, we hardly ever make any plans and it all works out. I’ll continue camping the way we enjoy going, and we meet so many great people. We own a small campground ourselves with big sites and full hookups. Just go out and travel. Don’t sit in the rocking chair waiting for ‘someday.'”

Don’t blame people who have no other way to live

Cassandra W. lives in the only thing she can afford: “‘I’m a 63-year-old single woman, a veteran and on disability. I can’t even afford a studio apartment. Living in a 30+ yr. old 5th wheel in an RV park as it’s the only thing I can afford. Corporations raised the rent $215 last year and the only amenities we have is the boat launch. So don’t blame the people who have no other choice but to live in an RV and space where they can afford the rent. The RVers will be the next on the street corners and freeway entrances.”

Much ado about nothing

Leonard R. is prepared and has next year’s reservations made! He writes, “Campground crowding is real, but complaining about lack of availability is much ado about nothing. I have already booked our entire 2023-24 Snowbird winter involving highly coveted areas and campgrounds/resorts. The keys are to know where you want to go at least a year out and book your spots on the day they become available. If you want to book a month near Zion, as we did, you can’t wait until the last minute. It just isn’t that difficult.”

Check for cancellations often

Earl B. shares his secret tip: “Finding campgrounds: The only problem I have booking a campground is with the state parks, but most of the other privately owned RV parks really haven’t been a problem.

“Campground changing: I prefer the new campgrounds over the old ones because the old ones are small and narrow, not allowing for opposing slides, making camping too close to your neighbors.

“Seasonal campers: I haven’t noticed too many permanent campers, but I do know they are in most private RV parks.

“Rising cost: I have noticed a rise in RV park prices. Sometimes I will look at my options and choose one that’s less expensive. I’m not interested in all the amenities; we don’t use pools, games, etc. We mostly look for RV parks close to shopping and restaurants.

“Crowded campgrounds: We make sure we go camping for 5-7 days every month. Sometimes if a certain favorite campground is full, I will try to get on a waitlist and/or call/check several times a day hoping someone else canceled.

“Secrets and tips: I guess my one secret is most policies require you to cancel within the last week before you’re scheduled to arrive to get most of your money refunded. I will check the online state parks reservation system like several times a day hoping to catch someone that just canceled. The state park we prefer in Arizona is totally full within a couple days of opening up for reservations. Most of the time you can find a day or two here and there, but if you like 5-14 days, your chances are almost none unless you do online searching for hours every day.”

I understand the frustration, but this is how it works

Sudsy M. is a work camper handling reservations in a campground in Florida and sees the frustration. She says, “My husband and I are work campers for the winter then travel the other six months. In the park we work at, 2/1 is the opening date for next season reservations. There are so many people calling. We put them all on a waitlist until the guests that are there for four months and more sign a contract for the next season.

“The waitlist is in order by the time they called and the length of stay they are interested in. Last season the list never went past the 6-month request. By the time we left on 4/15, all one-month spots (pull-thru sites) and guests wanting to stay for a year had been filled. If it was myself, I would not want to wait to find out if I have a spot!

“Our park is a beautiful park, well kept, most sites have green space between them, and a little over an hour to Orlando or Tampa is the reason why so many people want to stay here. So I understand the frustration people have when trying to make a reservation for the winter.

“We were fortunate to stay at this park because we decided to sell our home and travel in 2019 before Covid took over the world. Most Canadians were not allowed to leave their country, which left a lot of spots open. This park held the spots open for any Canadians that wanted to come the following year as a courtesy, which I thought was the reason why many of them came back when they could, and they were very happy to come back. I hope this helps to understand how some of the RV parks work.”

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: Why aren’t there more RV parks? Good luck getting a new one approved!


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


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Donald N Wright
1 month ago

I wish I could open a one night campground behind the Bucky’s

1 month ago

Re: Cassandra W.,
What I have witnessed at one of our favorite parks in S. Ca., is a new corporation trying to change a business model from 50% of the approx 600 sites that are full time (Cassandra residents) to 10% or none in an effort to become more of a destination resort, especially for snowbirds. In my conversations with mgmt., what they are finding is having 300 guaranteed spaces booked 12 months a year at $1,100.00/month is a big nut to crack with gypsy campers. Giving up that almost $4,000,000/year in GUARANTEED revenue is a little painful in the transition they seek to acheive.

I do understand the need/desire to have some of the full timers upgrade equipment from 30-40 year old units and unfortunately it is a cost to the Cassandra demo. If not, then the park should be able to force its Cassandra demo into 1 or 2 sections of the park to allow both business models to work. A win/win/win as follows, CORP, campers, fulltimers.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cancelproof
1 month ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

I say that with compassion and deep appreciation to Cassandra for her service.

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Thank you, Nanci!

1 month ago

Sites are always available. Most will be one or two nights, seldom on the weekend. Weekend sites are available, of course, but they cost more and are usually the least desirable locations.

What I despise the most are the new greedy policies enacted by campgrounds who are seeing more business than ever, yet use the opportunity to find new ways to get a few more bucks. Gone are the days when you called to cancel without penalty (gone also are the days when campers were polite enough to call!); nowadays you can book a site, but if you actually want THAT site, then ante up some more money for a “guaranteed” spot.

Hogwash! Greed is greed, whether it is a camper double-booking sites or a campground owner inventing new ways to get our money. It turns what used to be an enjoyable, relaxing pastime to a winner-takes-all competition. Just plain ugly.

1 month ago
Reply to  pursuits

You stated the problem for campground owners in your own rant, campers double booking. If campers want to spend the night where they want to, they should have some skin in the game. Other wise campground owners would have cancelations on reservations and no way to rebook that site.

Bob Walter
1 month ago

Try booking the Grand Canyon – even in the “shoulder” season. Notta!

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