Saturday, September 30, 2023


‘This ‘Woe is me, I can’t find a campsite’ stuff is getting old!’

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.

Forget the high-priced RV parks

Rob L. found an alternative to high-priced campgrounds. He says, “We have a Class A. We mainly dry camp and stop when I get to my destination or when I’m tired. Most campgrounds are way overpriced. I can run my generator for a long time on fuel for what most parks charge. I always feel safe, enjoy my trips and refuse to pay the high price at RV campgrounds. Plus, I plan my trips out, knowing where to dump gray and black water and get filled up on fresh water. Life’s an adventure, go explore.”

Almost gave up on RVing

Melvin B. almost gave up RVing but found a solution. He wrote, “I almost gave up RVing because of the cost. Instead, I have downsized to a 24-foot Class A, installed 400 watts of solar and will dry camp (boondock) from now on.”

Truck camper not welcome in Florida

Joanne B. found lots of spots out West but they’re not as friendly in the Sunshine State to truck campers. She told us, “We purchased a new slide-in truck camper a year ago. We traveled out West in October. There were lots of campsites available. We were welcome everywhere. I tried to find accommodations for Florida for the next winter and was told by every ‘resort’ I called that truck campers were not welcome and to go to the state parks. And the state parks are all booked! Not very happy with that rule. The camper is new, looks nice and was easily as expensive as a trailer.”

Reader asks, “Want some cheese with that whine?”

Steven P. must be tired of hearing about high prices and campers’ complaints. He wrote, “Want some cheese with that whine? This ‘woe is me, I cannot find a campsite, they cost too much’ is getting old! Everyone wants a pay raise, but no one thinks prices should go up. Time to grow up! We seldom (if ever) have issues with campsites. But we don’t use our RV as a mobile hotel room at major tourist attractions. We travel, spend nights at out-of-the-way campgrounds or dry camp at Cracker Barrel or casinos. We also workamp to cover the cost. Workamping may not be for everyone, but there are lots of options. Like coupon clipping, you must plan ahead (spur of the moment doesn’t work much anymore) and know where you’re going. Touristy destination? Plan accordingly! Travel ‘off’ weekends, drive less-traveled roads and search smaller towns. It is possible!”

Wished Love’s had more RV sites

Retired A. reserved their sites early and wished Love’s truck stops had more RV sites. “Just came back from a 30-day trip to Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. Every campground we stayed in was reserved in February because we knew that in each one there were only 8-10 sites for travelers who are not campers, i.e., we were traveling through and stayed in each for 2-3 days to see the sights. We wished that Love’s truck stop had sites near where we were going! It would have been cheaper and far more convenient.”

Campground owners find it hard to find sites themselves and share observations

Barb H. is a campground owner and has found it difficult to find a reasonably priced campsite in November for their vacation. She tells us, “We bought a campground 10 years ago that needed lots of repairs. We have worked hard trying to get it up to par. We are not always full but we have several campers regularly. Holiday weekends usually fill up. We are easily located off Interstate 70 in Illinois. We have not taken any time off in 10 years.

“According to our customers, we are the only campground between St. Louis and Indianapolis that they can actually get ahold of all year long. However, this year is our 10-year anniversary so we are wanting to take a two weeks’ vacation. We have searched all over trying to find reasonably priced campgrounds that are open in November.

None seem to compare to what we have

“Not to brag, but none of them seem to compare to what we have here. So yes, I feel it’s harder to find a good family-friendly campground at a reasonable price. I have also noticed as a campground owner that a lot of the motorhomes are not towing vehicles behind them this year. Which I assume is due to the gas prices. We are also seeing more car sleepers, and even more tent campers.

“Our tent sites start at $20 per night and that is without electricity and it is $6 more if you want electricity. I don’t know if that is a good price or a bad price. I do have people tell me they can stay at state parks for $10 a night and I tell them I’m sorry, but I can’t offer them that price. We are a smaller campground with fewer than 50 sites, but we do have 50 amp that can accommodate large rigs.

“We have one guy that travels a lot and comes here often. He has a 45-foot motorhome towing a 30-foot enclosed trailer. I definitely think the smaller campgrounds that are privately owned are where you find your best deals. We also have six seasonal campers, which means they leave their camper here all year but they usually only come out on the weekends. However, we do not allow full-time living.

“We have noticed that several campers do not like for you to have the seasonals. However, we enjoy our seasonals because we don’t have family in this area so to us they become our campground family. We have also seen a lot of full-time campers that work from their RVs and homeschool their children. So, therefore, I don’t see camping ending anytime soon. I know nice, reasonably priced campgrounds are out there. They are just hidden gems and may be a little harder to find.”

Stay in nice hotel, get breakfast and maid service.

T M. stayed in hotels for three months for less than an RV park. “The prices of RV parks are over the top. They’re as high as staying at a nice hotel, but at least there you get free breakfast and maid service and cable. I have traveled from the West Coast to the South this year and could not get into an RV park and ended up in motels for three months of travel. I love traveling but the price of RVing is really high, not to mention could not get in any. We’re lucky if we could get one night let alone a week.”

Completely booked campground? 30% booked!

Lee A. found the completely booked campground at a state park was only 30% booked. “Here is my recent experience at a ‘crowded campground.’ About two months ago our friends booked three nights, June 21 thru 23, departing today, June 24, at the Buckskin Mountain Arizona State Park on the Colorado River. They invited us to go, but when I checked the AZ State Park reservation website it was completely booked.

“About 10 days ago I checked it again and there was one spot that became available for June 22 & 23, departing today the 24. I jumped on it and booked it.

“We arrived at the park on Thursday afternoon, June 22. The row we were booked into had 11 spaces… only three were occupied. Overall the ‘completely booked’ campground was only about 30% occupied! I checked the website again just to make sure, and for the time we were there it said ‘No Campsites Available’! We left this morning and it had gotten a lot busier Friday night, but the space next to ours was vacant when we arrived and vacant when we left this morning. I would estimate this morning it was about 85% full, with many prime spots still available!

“I think their reservation system obviously needs a complete overhaul. It’s difficult to use in the first place, compared to their old system, which was replaced by this ‘new and improved’ version about a year ago. Pretty disgusting to see so many empty spots in a ‘fully booked’ campground!”

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: ‘The concept of the great American outdoors is now miniature golf and water parks’


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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2 months ago

Yeah, more and more people are bringing thier 24′ home away from home into the backcountry. Forcing those of us who don’t want to listen to generators 24/7 even further off the road. It’s honestly ridiculous. The camper is a massive expense. The maintenance is a massive expense. The insurance is a massive expense. The fuel is a massive expense. But God forbid you pay to park that monstrosity somewhere it belongs…

Joe Mars
2 months ago

 Some Iowa county parks have a system that should be nationwide. If they have 50 sites 40 of them can be reserved by the weekenders and ten of them are FIRST COME IT YOURS. We full timers want to book a site for a week but the locals have reserved all the Friday and Saturday night months in advance for the entire summer; this locks us out and should stop. Campground owners are losing the money they could have for Sunday through Thursday night so it would be in their interest to do this. Lets all talk about this repeatedly and perhaps the message will get through and this system will spread to every campground public and private.

2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Mars

YES!! And not just for fulltimers, but everybody who can’t plan their trips months in advance, or have to hang around dealing wtih repairs, illnesses, etc. It’s especially sad when people who want or need to stay a week have to leave on Friday, only to have those ‘booked’ campgrounds stay 1/3 empty over the weekend.

2 months ago

To be perfectly blunt the majority of the rv parks in my area have nearly doubled nightly spots, quarter on week / month spots. But have offered very little to nothing in improvement. The excuse is higher cost on power, taxes, insurance. But if you listen long enough especially at a KOA the manager / owner will begin griping that work campers don’t want to work for a camp spot… Or a camp spot and minimum wage. Now that the work force has become smaller Campgrounds are offering better pay and opportunities forcing other Campgrounds who paid the minimum to raise prices. Local service center at camping world is usually two months booked… They have been a week booked all summer so far…

Vince S
2 months ago

This entire topic is a consequence of inadequate planning (physical, financial or mental).

You don’t expect every town to have vacant (but immaculate and well provisioned) motel rooms and just roll in without reservations and get a room, why would anyone think a park be different? And yes, boondocking takes planning too.

My 9000 Kw generator doesn’t run all day, unattended or into quiet time but it’ll still average roughly $32 per day (@ $4.00 per gallon) just for electricity. With that in mind, $40 – $50 for FHU and dodge generator wear doesn’t strike me as bad.

PS – Sleeping in a parking lot isn’t camping, it’s sleeping in a parking lot.

2 months ago

I like the person who said everything has increased in cost. The folks who own campgrounds are in the business of making money. As I have said before Owning an Rv and using it is inexpensive. It’s a way of life. Some RV’S are really expensive whatever that means to the buyer. Some are not. It’s time to quit complaining about the cost of campgrounds. It is what it is. If you want to complain, complain about Congress and their continued waste of taxpayer money!

Roger Marble
2 months ago

I don’t understand the campground problem. I just booked 4 different campgrounds along my planned route from Akron, OH to the FMCA Convention at Gillette WY where I am giving multiple seminars on Tires and on Genealogy. The campgrounds all have the facilities I want (30A) and two have swimming pools that my wife wants. I will book the return trip next and expect similar results of no problems

2 months ago

The parks aren’t at 100% capacity because they’re talking about how much human traffic nature can withstand, not how many parking spots exist. If the parks didn’t do this there wouldn’t be time for the park to heal itself.

2 months ago

Re: Lee A’s stay at Buckskin Mtn…. I’d like to know if he/she stopped in the campground office to ask why the park was so empty when the reservation system said booked.

2 months ago
Reply to  Jake

If reservations can only be made a limited time ahead of arrival, those empty sites are probably people reserving for two weeks and only showing up for the second week. It happens at provincial parks where I live. I guess not everyone has to think about the cost.

2 months ago
Reply to  Sue

I think you are right on. I have friends in California who will book a campground from Monday to Sunday, but not show up until Friday night. That is the only way they can get a site for the weekend in the California State Parks.

Dan F
2 months ago
Reply to  Suru

Wisconsin state parks implemented a change now reservation changes for 10 months .We have a 11 months window .Many people would do that and then make changes a few months later messing up the sites for others that want a week of camping .

Joe Goomba
2 months ago

Here’s one money grubbing thing, and it’s the already money grubbing KOA that’s doing it. Two adults are free, one kid is, but the second one is an extra charge. W**, KOA? In 2022, there was an average of 1.94 children under 18 per family in the United States.

That’s TWO KIDS, KOA. Your nickle/dime-ing us to death is getting old. I’ll now stay anywhere but with you.

2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

The KOAs I’ve seen allow kids 0-17 free. I even tested it at one that I was already considering and went up to 5 free kids 0-17 in age. I don’t know how many they would allow,I stopped at 5.

Tim H
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Goomba

It’s not just a KOA thing. In my area family-owned campgrounds charged for kids over 30 years ago. This is nothing new.

Jim Johnson
2 months ago

Comment for campground owner, Barb H.
You mentioned one of our issues – few campgrounds open in the ‘shoulder seasons’ within the northern tier. These are migratory times for many RVers more so than vacationers. The stays are shorter, and the needs are also simpler. Few guests are looking for a swimming pool or campground potlucks. They primarily need a safe place to park with electric and if not already mothballed, water & sewer. A weatherized communal station will work. We are such people.(continued)

Jim Johnson
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Johnson

It took us a couple years to finalize our northern tier routing. There are seemingly no sources to search for campgrounds open in the shoulder seasons – sure I can (sort of) search for places open ‘now’, but not so easy to find when planning a couple months ahead. We have found that sometimes online booking systems are closed for late/early season reservations because not all campground facilities are available – but if you call, you may find one taking reservations. That is a lot of dialing, and too frequently leaving voice mail. Is it any wonder that truck stops, big box retail and restaurants are seeing so many overnight RVs? I’m guessing most would happily pay for a better place to park.

2 months ago

Some people would complain no matter what. Quit bitichin about the cost of camping or get out.

2 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Here’s an idea for both you and Steven P. People who are SO tired of hearing about campground crowding, and are SO sure there is no problem; don’t click on the link titled “Crowded Campgrounds”. Problem solved.

2 months ago
Reply to  wanderer

But it’s so entertaining.

Bill Byerly
2 months ago
Reply to  Conni

I have to agree with you!!

Ed D.
2 months ago

We have a permanent, year round site, on a Lake, surrounded by Mountains, in NC. But we also own a Class C that we like to take out and explore different sites. Just yesterday, I called an RV Park that is located on a good sized river to see if he had any spots on the River that were available. He said he had a few. The great part was, he is only charging $69.00 per night, right on the river. Full hookups. We are on our way this coming week. I also called one of our favorite places on the Intercoastal Waterway in Florida and they have spots, right on the Intercoastal, available as well. So I fail to see where there is this vast shortage of spaces in Campgrounds.

Bob P
2 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Not having any facts to backup my post, and viewing many parks from the drivers seat. I would guesstimate most of the overcrowding is probably in high tourist areas. It has been my experience to find high tourist areas, or weekends during the summer vacation areas are crowded. But after the kiddies are back in school and mom and dad’s vacations are over with there is plenty of room. Also sometimes the local economy dictates overcrowding as housing prices have driven many into RVs. We experienced in St. Augustine, FL a campground of about 100 sites was almost full of full time residents, there was 7 sites they kept open for travelers. You can’t blame the park as they’re making a living.

Ed D.
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob P

That is true Bob. There are many parks that have full timers. We reside just outside of Daytona Beach. Pretty much all of Florida is a high tourist area. For us, we have not had any problems getting spots on the east coast, or the west coast! Maybe we are just getting lucky. Who knows. Enjoy the summer months and Happy Travels to you and yours!

j anne
2 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

f0r me. the word only never precedes $65 dollars.that is too expensive for me. I drive a class b and have done a lot of half price snowbird months but now they are disappearing and rates much higher in Jan Feb when fairly cool in Carolinas.the site I paid 550 for a month last feb will be 2100. I don’t know what I will do.most fed half prices already filled or soon will be.hard to plan so far ahead.

2 months ago
Reply to  j anne

$550 to $2,100 is insanely strong of an increase. I wish I had the answer for you. What did they do for that increase? I understand a 10%-30% bump in this economy with the total 16% combined inflation the past few years but your talking about an almost 300% increase or 4X (400% factor). Thats Crazy.

Sandi Pearson
2 months ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Perhaps the secret for your success is calling not relying on the website. Good work on finding your spots.

Ed D.
2 months ago
Reply to  Sandi Pearson

Sandi, you may be right on that.

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