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.
Advice to Elaine
Carol M. has some great advice for Elaine, who was having trouble when her RV neighbors complained about her children. She wondered if she should just move… Here’s what Carol said: “Advice for Elaine with children. You have the right approach to move spots. Some people are control freaks and do not like children. Others enjoy the joy of life that children bring. Go interview future neighbors before moving spots. Introduce your children, and ask what kind of person they are. They know themselves, do they miss their grandchildren, or are children to be seen and not heard? Choose the right neighbors.”
Stop calling it “crowded” when it is just fully booked
Billie P. has several things to bring to my attention from the name “crowding” to the lack of new information. They write, “I have several issues with this whole discussion.
1) Can we please stop using ‘crowded’ as the term for ‘fully booked’? We don’t call any other venue ‘crowded’ when it’s difficult to get reservations. We call it ‘busy’ or ‘in demand,’ which accurately describes the situation.
2) Those of us who have camped for decades aren’t any more entitled to our favorite spots than newbies unless it’s a private campground and you know the owner. Public parks are equally available to everyone and that’s the way it should be.
3) There is no right way to camp. Having a tent or minimalistic camper doesn’t make one more deserving of a campsite than someone with a 5th wheel toy hauler.
4) Virtually every public campground requires full payment when you make the reservations and only gives a refund if you cancel well in advance. It is unlikely that a lot of people are making multiple reservations and then just not showing up.
5) Yes, people are living in campgrounds. We have a nationwide problem with housing costs and employment opportunities. It is extremely unkind to complain that the evidence of someone else’s poverty messes up your vacation.
6) Commercial campgrounds usually have websites that describe their amenities. If it doesn’t meet your criteria as a ‘resort,’ don’t stay there.
7) This article is the epitome of lazy journalism. There isn’t anything informative about it. Campground ‘crowding’ isn’t anything new, and constantly harping on it isn’t constructive. There is no secret hack for finding reservations, and asking for input just gives people a forum to complain and blame. Nanci, next time do some actual research and reporting instead of just stirring the pot and waiting for the controversy to ensue.”
Writer’s note: Usually I don’t comment but seeing this is directed at me, I will. This column is intended to give voice to people’s experiences. It is not intended to be other than a forum to share. As far as “crowded,” the actual campgrounds are more crowded than I have ever experienced in decades of camping. Even some public ones have doubled the number of sites in the same amount of space. “Fully booked” or “crowded,” it is the same result: I sometimes can’t put out the awning without hitting another RV.
Again, this column is a gathering of people’s thoughts, frustrations, solutions and opinions. As you can see in the post to Elaine above, it is also to give kind and thoughtful advice to others. Sometimes, just sometimes as thoughtful journalism should, it forces us to examine our own beliefs and indeed stir the pot a bit.
*Editor’s note (from Emily): And if you don’t like this column, there are plenty of other articles to read instead. 🙂
“It just doesn’t make sense to camp anymore”
Joseph A. has a number of reasons why camping just doesn’t make sense. He writes, “We have lived in the DFW area most of our life in a brick-and-mortar home. We have been campers since the sixties. Camping was fun, economical, and wholesome. We looked forward to getting away for a weekend at a time. When we finally retired, we continued to camp for several weeks to months in Colorado and New Mexico. Our favorite campground was located near Mayhill, New Mexico. It was great and affordable until the owners sold the campground and prices doubled. The friendly family feel is gone, too. Fuel prices are much higher, as well, so we are unlikely to go back to Mayhill. At this time it just doesn’t make sense to us to go camping much anymore. Campground prices are high and crowded, and fuel prices are high and unpredictable and sometimes fuel has been unavailable.”
Gone are the days…
John P. knows the days are gone of pulling into a campground and finding an empty site. He shares, “It is practically impossible to book a state park campsite with amenities in the northeast during summer and the prices for private campgrounds have gone through the roof. Most now are filled with seasonal campers so there are only a few sites available to book. Gone are the days where you can just show up at a campground and get a site. Since the pandemic you have to plan a year in advance and usually have to pay half down or even pay the full amount up front if a site is even available a year before you go.”
Kids acting like animals, and parents no better
Stephen E. isn’t having a problem with getting a site, it is the kids that are bothering him: “Not having any problems with finding a place to camp, but the kids acting like animals and the parents not better.”
Emily H. tells us about this campground-turned-resort with two different “neighborhoods” with two very different prices. She writes, “For several years we enjoyed a popular campground in central Myrtle Beach. Now a ‘resort campground’ with newly upgraded sites, prices increased to +$100/night. Tiny house glamping cabins have been added. On our last visit, we chose a not-upgraded site at the price we had previously paid for the former upgraded sites. There is a noticeable difference between the newly upgraded side of the campground and the unimproved sites. Long-term residential trailers are prominent. Sites are not maintained with the same level of attention as the newly upgraded side of the campground. The amenities are the same as before the price increases. We regretfully will not return. Our choice to not pay the high prices for the nicer, more attractive side of the campground.”
RV parks are greedy beyond belief
Rich W. knows that RV resorts are just a name change. He says, ”We set up our motorhome for complete dry camping. RV parks are greedy beyond belief. The idiots that book two or more sites and then don’t show up are the “me me!” generation. They come to RV parks, turn their unruly kids loose and expect other people to babysit them. We dry camp in national parks 90 percent of the time. RV resorts is just a name change to gouge the public.”
Shocked at the increase in price and needs to rant
Corrían T. is shocked at the increase in price and is boondocking instead. They write, “Two things: 1) We recently went online to book a campsite at our favorite lakeside campground in Page, AZ, for a weekend in October. We have gone pretty much every year at that time for the past 4-5 years and it has been very affordable. Not anymore! We were shocked at the increase in price. We did not book it for this year. We will be boondocking instead. 2) Every single time we stay at a state or federal campground, which is rarely over a holiday weekend, almost half of the reserved spots are empty. People never show up, but because they are paid for, they sit empty! I’m always amazed. Then the poor last-minute folks drive around a half-empty campground and can’t get a spot. I don’t understand why there can’t be something worked out to open up these sites after 24 hours or something. Thanks for listening to me rant.”
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: RV parks changing their names to ‘RV resorts’ so they can charge more, but no ‘resort’ amenities to be found
I need about 10 pages to add all my comments. 1st, campgrounds ARE a business. Don’t like prices, don’t camp or build your own. 2nd, where I would not appreciate people booking and not showing up, they were wise enough to book ahead and pay, so it’s their spot, you should have booked ahead! 3rd, Over-booked and crowding are 2 different things. If campground are making sites smaller it is to increase revenue but also hold the individual site cost down, It’s a business! Are you paying more for gas, food and electricity? Come on man – time to get real! I agree with some comments below, that to many people bring the family and must think the cg is a daycare for the kiddos while they sit and drink, not cool! Lastly, How many of you really want to primitive camp? Really, it’s just how many amenities you want and feel you should pay for! Camping is still a great way to travel, so suck it up buttercup, or put the “For Sale” sign out!
im sorry people. the times are changing. i still enjoy camping because its camping and will pay the price and get online when im supposed to if i like a certain spot. set your budget but not at a per night basis. if you camped six times a year, cut back to 4 times to your favorite 4 places. live with what you get because in the end, the pictures and the memories are what you remember, not how much each night costs. and if it is all you remember, then post on here so we can all have a chuckle. life is too short
Bummer. I keep being reminded why maybe our recent extensive trailer renovations might have been a bad idea. Thankfully we purchased a property in the Catskills of NY, to travel in our RV from Florida in the summer. I just booked state park campsites for the trip north — 2-3 weeks before we will be traveling. I only had one problem on a Saturday night with a campground being booked. No problem — we decided to travel slower and arrive at that park on Sunday. However, our plan was to travel in our RV around the NE during the summer, with NY as a base camp. I’m beginning to wonder whether that will be possible, esp on weekends. 😒 I think buying your own separate property is starting to make more and more sense.
I always enjoy this article. It brings the observed realities of others for us to compare to our own. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. Not every park or camper is the same. Some people view parks as a business others view them as a right. How dare you do this, how dare I do that. We’re all different. “Who Moved My Cheese?”.
PS. Nanci is one if my favorite contributors. She writes beautifully.
Thanks, Cancelproof. Not only does Nanci write beautifully, she is a beautiful person, inside and out (not to mention very smart). Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
Way to go Nanci !!
Amen Emily !!!
It’s actually tricky to push campsites closer together WITH their hookups, paved pad, etc. — it is not that hard to build camping cabins, yurts and add tent sites with NO hookups. Camp sites same size but more people using same amenities = perceived “crowding.” One camper plus 20 invited day guests = perceived “crowding.”
Campsites with more accessories. Entire kitchens are set up outside (anyone remember their little Habachi grill – it alone was the kitchen!) Everyone has a screen tent…and they are getting larger. Others add the outdoor privy tent. Then they bring the extra car or boat, jet skis, etc. Yeah, that site just got a bit more crowded (i.e. closer to my hammock).
The biggest problem is the same one that has existed for years: more campers are being sold than campgrounds being built or expanded. With the COVID rush, it has just reached its peak more quickly than anticipated.
And yet we keep buying campers. Duh.
Nanci stay on course. Billie P needs to go back and review definitions. Crowding, cramped are exactly the correct words describing the issue. Booked has to do with reservations only whether used or unused. And some camp ground it appears to have shrunk the sites to get 10 or more sites in causing slide outs to a foot from each other. It’s all about the dollars not people’s enjoyment in camping. It’s the same way boondocking. Find a spot it’s all about elbow room and by late afternoon early evening you have people on your door step so much for space.ok
I agree with Nanci’s explanation to Billie P. on crowded. Especially since there’s a private campground 1/2 hour from me. I often wonder how they get so many RV’s so close together. Since I camp on my own property and Pa State parks. I also understand state park campgrounds are not crowded, but booked. Especially on holiday weekends. As for the high price of private campgrounds. Some are ripping people off, but the high price of everything needed to maintain the campground. Plus cost of utilities, taxes and insurances campground owners need to recoup more money somehow. Our politicians are not helping us with the situation and Fed chairman Powell is hurting Americans with high interest rates.
Another great article Nanci! Unfortunately for Billie P., while raising some great points about crowded or booked campground her (or his) personal attack (#7) on you made them look weak and mean.
Keep up the great work!
The overarching problem is greed. It leads to campground owners deciding to increase campsite density and raise fees to what they think the market will bear. Yes, that may very well cause some to look elsewhere, but that is how capitalism works. I prefer less-dense campgrounds like in most state parks, which are also usually less costly.
Billie P thinks there is an “employment opportunity” problem??? And here I thought we have very low single digit unemployment, which economists consider “full employment,” and every business I go in has hiring/help wanted signs at the entrance. Hmmm.
You’re exaggerating quite a lot by stating “every business you go in has a hiring/help wanted sign”. Doubt very much that Tesla, Ford, Amazon, even Walmart have signs at the front door, lol.
You’re wrong about Walmart, signs outside every Walmart here in the southeast says “we’re hiring”. Yes the auto manufacturers are not hiring, that’s because their prices are so stupidly high they’re not selling and having to temporarily stop production.
You need to get your news from a another source beside fox Entertainment.
Spike – contrary to the other comments, there are many jobs available. Businesses are closing because they cannot get help. Maybe not everyone, but many!