Thursday, June 1, 2023


Weekenders are hogging the parks, making longer reservations impossible

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.

Weekenders making longer reservations impossible

Larry S. is finding that week-long vacations are very hard to book. He writes, “I am finding with the 6-month access to reserve window a week or longer, the vacation window is not available due to length of stay being taken by 2-day-stay weekenders. Their access is available sooner being in the stay windows. Leaving campsites unused Monday-Thursday when people from out of state or farther go without. The system needs repairing.”

Change is coming

Tony D. loves the nomadic lifestyle but senses a change is coming. He says, “We travel mostly in the ‘shoulder’ months. Actually, we ‘transition’ from one seasonal location to another. The distance between can be a couple of thousand to a few hundred miles. We plan our transitions so as to catch one or more areas of interest along the way and to reacquaint ourselves with family and friends. Our end-point destinations mostly are federal, e.g., USFS, COE, NWS, NPS, etc., as well as refuges, monuments, and, sometimes, campgrounds.

“We are ‘resident volunteers’ as in, we live in volunteer RV parks in exchange for three to four days a week of our time. We tend to avoid camp hosting as these too often are inaccurately advertised and poorly managed propositions. That said, on those few occasions where we have done private campground hosting, they have been interesting and rewarding experiences. But, and I stress this, these were non-corporate properties, although, and unfortunately, some have since become so.

“When we transition, we make reservations months in advance. We track and plan for weather trends. We have to and, even then, stuff happens, so we build in flexibility. It’s complicated and gets more so every year.

But, I sense a change coming

“But, I sense a change coming. Whether good or bad remains to be determined. There are increasing numbers of RVs appearing on the used market. Fewer new RVs are being purchased. More parks and campgrounds are owned and operated by LLCs, hedge funds, limited partnerships, etc., and fewer are owned by those with experience in park/campground management and the market they have bought into.

“And, while we very much enjoy what we do and the nomadic life we live, we are beginning to think about buying a couple of small properties—one for winter and one for summer—where we can develop five to eight comfortable RV sites for friends and family. We know others are thinking to do the same. Is this a new permutation of RV life as the more traditional becomes less and less attractive? I don’t know … but, it could be. Stay tuned.”

Find a land owner

Shay S. has a suggestion for getting a great, private camping spot. Here it is: “What you need to find is land owners that let you camp on their property for a more reasonable fee. That gives you privacy and extras not charged for sometimes.”

If campground rates don’t drop, this camper is gone

Larry S. is doing less camping and the campground rates are responsible. He explains, “We loved camping and find it hard to find a place to camp unless you book months in advance. That’s a problem doing it in advance so we do less camping. Also, rates have skyrocketed out of control. We are thinking about selling our camper. Thank God we purchased our camper in 2008 and we got the use, wear and tear out of it before we sell it or give it away. If rates do not drop, it’s gone.”

Even hard to find spots to hammock camp!

Carol B. hammock camps and she even has trouble finding spots. “I have a difficult time finding a campsite. I hammock camp, so I’m limited to campsites with trees. Even so, it’s difficult to find ANY availability in Texas.”

Speaking of hammock camping… have you seen the hammock tents these days? They are neat!

Making reservations the second they are released!

Geraldine B. is diligent in making reservations but is also finding it difficult. She says, “I too have found all the same issues. We’ve just recently completed a more than 3-month trip to the southeast. We prefer state parks and campgrounds to RV resorts. We do not use any of the amenities of a resort when we are traveling.

“Since we were winging it, we had to be tenacious about finding a site, often having to camp further from the location we were interested in or changing sites within the campground in order to stay the amount of time we wanted.

“It has been our experience that we have to make reservations for campgrounds the second they are released. I’m not joking about the “second” either. I am logged in, site picked out, and just waiting for the clock to tick so I can hit the reserve button. We find that many times sites remain vacant and I think it could be due to people having to make reservations so far in advance that their plans change and they can’t make it and the site goes unused.

“We love camping and will continue as long as we can, but it is definitely getting more difficult and more expensive.”

Lack of respect and child control

Neal T. is seeing a lot of the changes that others have been reporting on and a big one is the lack of parental control. He shares, “Winter Texan for five months. Go back to the same RV resort every year. It’s a limited Hill Country membership park with an ‘Open Camper use’ by others. It has two pools, neither heated, a clubhouse and store, laundry facilities, shower house, and a meeting hall, plus 54 acres on a large COE lake.

“I see rising costs of taxes to property and maintenance, which in turn raise my fees, as a major problem. The resort is full during the summer months while we’re gone, so we have little impact on the availability of sites.

“I do notice a lack of respect for facilities and personnel by transient campers along with less child control by parents. If they can destroy something, it’s fun. If they want to swipe something, that’s supposed to be accepted by others. And if they want to make loud noises after 11 PM, that’s their right! Didn’t used to be this way and I’ve been camping all my life!

“Costs will continue to rise for everyone because of the above. Boondock if you want, but I prefer amenities whether I elect to use them or not. Will I be able to afford them in the future, is the question.”

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


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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Neal Davis
15 days ago

Thank you, Nanci! We just finished 10 nights (Saturday-Monday), 1+ weekends, at the equivalence of a county park just outside Washington, DC. We certainly noticed a big reduction in the number of people/occupied campsites Sunday through Thursday relative to Friday and Saturday nights. I’ll guess about 25 percent of the sites were occupied during the week and about 90 percent were occupied during the weekend. We had a mechanical problem and asked about staying longer (we ultimately did not extend our reservation). We learned that our site was available through Thursday night.

Bill Hitchings
23 days ago

I was a “weekend warrior” once too it was the only time we had…now that I’m retired I’m not picky. I’ll take the midweek availablity…I seldom have issues unless I’m trying to string a multi-park trip together…

23 days ago

Sorry if the leadend comments attack weekenders it was ment to be at the algorithm that gives access to the sites.
Not giving any credit for someone wanting to spend some time at a park and realy enjoying being there and not in a haste to pack up and run.
Working class earn there vacation time and at traveling cost any distance weekend is a little short.
The 6 month access to camping sites should allow for weekly jumps in access and a choice but the way it is a week will never be available.

25 days ago

I do agree with other commenters that weekends is when most working folks have to camp. However, the weekend used to be Fri night – Sunday morning. However, as a camp host, I have noticed more folks arriving early (Th) and leaving later (M) now. That only leaves Tuesday and Wednesdays as “week days.” So perhaps that is where the greedy monicker is coming from?

25 days ago

Who moved my cheese?

26 days ago

We started camping 30 years ago. We both worked so we only camped on weekends. Campgrounds were practically a ghost town during the weekdays except for summer “vacation” months; even then I don’t recall site shortages.

I honestly don’t think those weekenders are greedy. They are doing exactly the same thing we used to do: camp on weekends because work/school takes up weekdays.

The difference today?
(1) The boomers have retired so we have many more folks looking for both weekday and weekend spots.
(2) More fulltimers (1 mil) and traveling workers (57mil) who need 24/7 coverage.
(3) More new RVers adding to the RVing population
(4) Few, if any, sites being addedd (and many sites being turned into cabins, long-term or glamping).

There is no sinister plot to fill the weekends. It’s simple math.

Check out the statistics here:

25 days ago
Reply to  Brendagail

Thank you for that website Brendagail!

Thomas D
26 days ago

I’m not supposed to camp on weekends? I work 8/5 five days a week. When may I camp your highness. Friday after noon I bust my butt go get home and drive away with the camper. Its ready go go, all i have to do is grab the dog, my wife and the keys. No hitching up. That is done Thursday evening. Sorry if I upset your plans but it seems to me we both want the same campsite but you want a few more days. Tell you what, you come on Mondays and take the WHOLE week

Joe Goomba
26 days ago

OH NO! People using campsites on the weekends? How dare they!!

…some people are so entitled. (…to complain about such a thing.)

25 days ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

LOL. 👍

25 days ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

I’m trying to figure that out too. Mom, Dad and the kids are not supposed to camp on the weekends because it screws up full-timers plans? I thot maybe it was full timers that took up weekend spots that messed with the family plans for the weekend. Oh, that’s right, we don’t like kids in the campgrounds. Kids spend too much time on their phones, but we don’t want them outdoors. Let’s get real, people. Do you really want Congress or the Supreme Court to sort this out for you? Maybe they can do something about slow people in the check-out line too.

Bob P
26 days ago

Apparently we are in the minority or the ones that complain are the ones that only go to the tourist attractions. Yes the tourist attraction ares are crowded, they were back in 1978 when I started camping with my young family, they always will be. Be willing to drive your private vehicle up to 40-50 miles to get to the attraction and you’ll find plenty of sites, much cheaper sites and friendlier. For example, World of Disney campground was at capacity 50 years ago. Go 40-50 miles away there is plenty of open sites, flexibility is the answer, but that requires common sense which seems to be a rarity in todays world. Lol

Steve Brooks
26 days ago

It’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that most, if not all of us, got our start as RVrs by packing up and heading out on Friday after work or Saturday morning for those two glorious days in the outdoors with the family. We’d stretch move-out time to the max or, if we were feeling flush, book Sunday night as well so we could stay all day. We may have been no more than 20 miles from home but it was what we looked forward to. Eventually came the one or two-week vacations, farther from home. Sometimes there were the dreaded “wait lists” to get into a park on Saturday – even Sunday during peak season- but we’d happily do one-nighters at less attractive campgrounds as we waited for our name to make it to the top of the list. That’s just what we did. Far be it for me to gripe about the newcomers to our pastime who live for the weekend out of doors for, once upon a time, that would have been my family.

Charlie Sullivan
26 days ago
Reply to  Steve Brooks

I agree Steve. When I first started camping in the ’60’s we primarily camped on weekends. But, as you know, times were a lot different then. You could take off Friday night and pretty much camp anywhere you choose. Didn’t worry about, or need to have, reservations. I think the big issue now is the fact that the population has increased tremendously and there is a lot more people vying for the same space…that and the issue’s with the campground reservation system: it definitely needs to be overhauled.

I also think people were more respectful of each other and the area’s they camped in. It seems so many people today are angry. There’s an attitude of: I can do what I want, when I want, and to whom I want, and your feelings don’t matter. It’s a shame but the world has definitely changed, and not always for the better.

We go somewhere, for a week, every month and I hate having to plan a year in advance where I want to camp. But that’s the way it is now and I have adapted.

26 days ago

There seems to be an awful lot of whining in these posts.

Last edited 25 days ago by Diane McGovern
26 days ago

Larry’s point is good. There should be enough first-come sites available so that people trying to travel around the country or without extensive pre-planning can do so. Campgrounds think it’s good to be empty 5 days and week and jammed up with 100% reservations on weekends, even if there are tons of no-shows who change their plans.

You may agree, until the time you try to take a long trip that isn’t pre-planned and pre-paid-for a long time in advance.

26 days ago

Larry S you have the unfortunate attitude that so many of our fellow citizens have embraced over the last 10 years.

It’s All About Me!

26 days ago

In response to Larry S.’s comment that weekenders are making longer reservations impossible, one always needs to remember that camping is not solely for those of us retired or on a week’s vacation. Getting out on the weekend is the main way most of us have camped during our working years. And usually, those folks are relatively local, meaning that it is their tax dollars likely providing a goodly part of the budget that supports that park. We, too, have had to make work-arounds for lack of availability on weekends when traveling but I do not fault weekend campers. They, too, have made reservations and have every right to be there.

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