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.
Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column: ‘The concept of the great American outdoors is now miniature golf and water parks’