Thursday, September 21, 2023


‘We don’t use the campground amenities but have to pay for them anyway!’ Can you relate?

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.

Chance to let campground owner know what you would like!

David S. is asking readers for recommendations as he expands his park. This is the chance to let an owner know what you would want! He writes, “I’m thinking about expanding my park that would include RVs and vans. My location is just off Interstate 20 in Mississippi. I’d appreciate any recommendations before I build.”

Please leave your comments below for David.

Kids run wild and parents don’t care

Art S. has a lot to say about kids and their parents in the campground. He writes, “Campgrounds are unjustifiably expensive. Parents let the kids run wild. The noise is unbelievable. What has happened to camping and an appreciation of nature? Camping has become an overpriced dumping ground for parents that don’t care and their disrespectful kids that don’t know how to act in public.”

Don’t RV and never will

Frank W. laments that the first-come, first-served days are gone. He says, “I don’t RV and never will, not because of a cost thing. I just can’t stand bringing all that unnecessary stuff with me. We get way more out of the days by bringing the bare minimum so we can pack up our camp in as little as 15 minutes and be off to enjoy what we are actually out there to do, without the pain of dragging around a giant trailer that will limit you to where you can go.

“That being said, there has definitely been a shift. Campgrounds cater to RV people as, of course, they are the ones who spend the most money on the campsites. It’s a bit sad that the days of a percentage of the sites being first-come are gone. There are plenty of adventurous people like us that don’t always stick to a plan, especially when weather moves in. I find a lot of the time we end up paying for sites we don’t use just because of the reservation system and in turn that stops others from picking up those spots that we decided to leave.

“In my opinion, there should be a percentage of spots on first-come, first-served in all national campgrounds. The sites would always be filled and the option for the RV types to reserve would still be there too. There are two types of people that camp: ones that hang around campgrounds (RVs) and ones that just need a place to sleep when they come out of the mountains. Any government campgrounds should cater to both.”

Took contacting 63 campgrounds to reserve 31!

Gene S. had a big trip to plan and it was particularly hard to reserve in the north. He explains, “In February 2023, I made reservations for a trip from Southern CA to Minnesota and back by way of Glacier National Park then back south to CA, from July through August 2023. I had to book 31 campgrounds and it took me to 63 campgrounds to get the 31 I planned for. Every one of the campgrounds from Utah to Minn. to Idaho down to McDermitt, NV, were either full or had just one or two spots left. Below Utah and Nevada, there were no delays getting a campground. But oh, in the northern states, even five months early was a bugger getting a place for our 34-foot fifth-wheel trailer.”

Use campgrounds like a hotel

Conni C. books a campsite for a place to just stay and explore the area. She emailed, “We use campgrounds like a hotel/motel. We set up and head out early to see the things we’re in that area to see and don’t come back until late afternoon to eat and relax by the campfire. We don’t use the amenities, but we have to pay for them because, just like a hotel, we want a nice, clean spot for the two or three days we’re there. I make our main reservations as early in the year as I can, then add a weekend here and there through the year if my husband can get the time off. We try and go at least two, three-day weekends a month, maybe a four-day one thrown in here and there. I have no secrets except booking early and being willing to pay for what you want.”

Just want a safe, clean campground

Veronica M. doesn’t need all the amenities but still has to pay for them. She writes, “We live in California, in Sonoma County, and just bought a 5th wheel. We have been camping for years at places like KOAs mostly because we had a young daughter. We are noticing huge price increases. The more amenities, the more they charge. Even a river site with full-hook-ups is going up as well. It’s hard now because our daughter doesn’t camp with us anymore, so we don’t need all the added amenities. Sometimes we just want a safe, clean campground to rest our heads.”

Seasonal campers leave and the site stays empty

Jim J. commented on the empty but reserved sites, particularly the empty seasonal ones. “At what point is the next tier reservation more cost-effective? How many days before the weekly fee is equal to or less than the daily fee? How many weeks before the monthly fee is equal to or less than the weekly rate?

“I suspect some of those empty-but-reserved sites fall into this category. Then there are seasonal campers who take short ‘vacations’ and leave the primary campground. Their paid-for site sits empty waiting for the seasonal guest to return. Most campgrounds prohibit ‘sub-leases’ (for good reason), but would it benefit both the longer-term camper and the RV park to buy back some of that empty site time and sell it to overnight campers as a non-reservable first-come, first-served site?”

Writers note: We just stayed at a very nice RV park in Minnesota that takes seasonal reservations and people pay by the week. If the seasonal decides to leave for a week or more, they are not charged and the park rents the site out.

5th wheel for sale

Friz F. is done. He tells us why here: “The days of ‘Honey, it’s 3:00. We had better start looking for a campground’ are gone. Long gone. A couple of years ago after being told ‘No, we are no longer with Passport America and are full,’ we spent the night in a parking lot. Our 5th wheel is for sale.”

Reserved KOA six months ago and parked next to a leaking sewer hose

Wayne B. is not camped at a top-of-the-line KOA! He writes, “At present, we are sitting in a KOA. I estimate that well over half of the occupied sites are long-term. Doesn’t seem to be many restrictions on RV types. A ragged old school bus is two sites down. A dilapidated Class A is right behind me with a leaking sewer connection. When I walked by on the adjacent walking path it smelled like the old-time outhouses. But, we do have a shaded spot that we reserved 6 months ago.”

Witnessed prices go up, up up

Rick S. started full-timing in 2019 and is feeling the price pinch, too. He writes, “My wife and I started full-time RVing in 2019. Having crossed the U.S. five times, we have witnessed prices go up from an average of $35 – $55 a night in 2019 to between $85 – $125 and higher per night in 2023. Due to the cost of fuel these days (2-3x’s higher), we find it more difficult to travel in our 40-foot DP motorhome. We find that price gouging is in play at 70% of the RV parks we have looked into in the last 2 years. Lord forbid you need service on your rig and if you do, avoid Camping World at all costs or prepare to be taken for a ride while you get the worst quality service and poor repairs that don’t last.”

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


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.


  1. If you have the room. Please separate the full timers (staying a year or more) from the seasonal, week long weekend crowd. Full timers tend to work and the constant changing of neighbors and those kids that are not being watched (running thru other people’s sites, taking things and screaming at all hours ) is a da*n pain in the rear! Also a fenced dog run please. But the main thing… ENFORCE THE RULES! EQUALLY.

  2. Thank you, Nanci! We are still enjoying our new (as of 7/12/2022) 36′ Newmar DP. We downsized to increase the number of campsites into which our RV can fit. Just watched an “Endless RVing” YouTube video showing them at a Vermont campground the weekend of Independence Day and they speculated that half the sites (out of a total of ~50 sites) were unoccupied. So, I guess the degree of crowding greatly depends on where one is trying to camp/travel.

  3. Buying a camper was almost at the top of my list when I retired. I researched, and spoke with many RV’ing friends. Because I didn’t have a vehicle that would tow, that was an additional purchase. After running the numbers, we determined it would be cheaper to stay in hotel rooms along our travel route. We have made a few coast to coast trips, and for us (wife and I ) it was a smart decision. We never had a problem getting a hotel room, and can stay or leave on our schedule, not because, we had a reservation at a campground somewhere. I don’t have a need to have a big tow vehicle( daily) nor store a camper, however the “glow” of RV’ing is still in us… Maybe one day.

  4. I find it interesting that planless and adventurous Frank W., who gallivants in the mountains while all of us RVers do nothing other than hang out at our campsites says he doesn’t RV and never will, yet he is reading and commenting on an RV website. ????

  5. Whaaaa! Kids make noise! Boo hiss!

    Man, some of you must be the same types that yell when someone steps on your lawn. Sheesh, take a pill. As long as everyone shuts down at the quiet hours, that’s what matters.

    I’d rather have some noisy kids than some of you who light up your campsites all night like you’re shooting a movie, or the idiots that set up speakers and movie screens.

    • Oh my gosh! Kids in a camp ground? Getting fresh air. Running off energy and developing their muscles and minds. Seeing birds and Bambi for the first time? Good gravy, what are we doing to our youth in dragging them out camping. I sure do not want a well developed kid taking care of me in my old age. Ohhh! – maybe some people don’t realize that adults come from kids.

    • Kids being kids is one thing. Kids being rude disrespectful jerks is something else. The world is NOT their playground, it also belongs to others and the little brats should be taught that, except for the fact their parents are even worse so there is really no one to teach them respect and manners

  6. David, there aren’t enough basic camping accommodations. Please focus on full hookups, level sites without the pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, etc. Most of us just want easy, no-frills camping. The only extra we look for is a decent laundromat.

  7. Back in around 1985 we traveled the west coast. In Oregon I remember drive thru overnight spots for $10 included electric and a dump station. I loved it, rest and get back on the highway. Made for the travelers. No pools toys etc.

  8. Sometimes when I stay at a hotel, they have a gym, pool, restaurant, business office, etc. I don’t use them, but still have to pay for them.

    • Amen. I don’t use the library, the grade school, the city park. At night it should be dark – I don’t need to pay for street lights. Four way stops are fine with me and I don’t need expensive traffic lights. On and on and on. I pay for more that I don’t use than for stuff I do use. It is kind of like I live in a society. Besides, other people use the stuff that I pay for, and the way I look at it, that keeps them out of my hair. Well worth it to me.

  9. To campground owner David S. – I’m sure you have done some kind of market analysis for your location. I’ll add my 2¢ worth about RV’ing in the Gulf States: There are not enough campgrounds for the travelers. We winter is south-central Texas near our daughter. Our son lives in north central Florida. While we would likely use roads south of I-20, there are not a whole lot of campgrounds for crossing Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama in which to overnight between our kids (and grandkids). We don’t need stay & play amenities. Power to run our A/C, good water, site sewer connections or at least a communal dump station and clean bath houses.

  10. Our local favorite pick-up-and-go state park used to have NO hookups, but did have a dumpsite on your way out. We could always just GO there and get our pick of sites. Then came the water and power ‘upgrade’. This added a $10/night fee. However, the contractors who did the upgrade work didn’t do such a good job. Many of the sites do not have water even though there are water hookups. They put plastic bags over the ones that don’t work. Power seems to work. So, if you pick a campsite without water you still have to pay for it. Also, the dumpsite has been closed for months now. There seems to be no rush to fix this either. Also, they converted many back-in sites to unusable pull-through sites.

  11. Oh, I am so tired of screaming, running kids and loose dogs. Kids should go to the playgrounds to scream and toss balls. As a kid, I never found a need to scream. I’m watching for four-legged and feathered wildlife. What are camp hosts for? I never see them, or if I do, they are zipping by in a golf cart. I don’t want amenities. I rarely unhook. It takes me five minutes to set up and five minutes to leave unless I put up something for shade. I throw out a chair and dog bed and tie my dog. I go where there are trails to walk with my dog (who does not bark except at home). I live in the woods. I’m at a campground for different scenery once in a while, not to hear screaming.

  12. As a campground owner YOU need to decide:

    Is my campground a “Destination” or a “We’ll Leave The Light On For You” overnight or couple of nights location while traveling or visiting the area?

    Pick one! Ya can’t be both.

    IF you are promoting your campground as a “Destination” then you must be located in a vacation oriented area and rest assured YOU ARE NOT the reason vacationers have travelled to your area. YOU are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by your location and RV travelers to your area. Good for you! Take advantage of this opportunity.

    If you are a travelers type of campground be that alone. Boot full timers. Offer a Clean Comfortable Campground.

  13. I would tell the owner to go visit a few provincial parks in Ontario, Canada. That is a start! I’m not interested in ‘parking lot style’ whether for just overnight or a multi-day stay.

  14. All these problems can be traced back to inflation in the 70’s, 80’s, when both parents had to work some times a full time job and a part time job and the children raised themselves on less than ideal programming and video games. There was little or no parental supervision so the children never got any instructions on proper ethics. I’m 80, I was raised to respect other peoples areas and property. I in turn raised my children the way I was raised. My late wife was 10+ years younger and she was on the edge of the younger generations, but at least we agreed on raising our children. Her younger siblings fell into the description I described. You reap what you sow.

    • I expect both parents working doesn’t help, but knowing my parents, if Mom had been working away from home, my upbringing would not have been neglected. Loud people usually want attention, and my guess is it’s learned from the parents behavior. We always respected other people’s property and rights. I think we learned by example. But in my day, teachers helped to reinforce that.

    • I was raised to respect my mother’s wooden spoon, my principal’s yard stick and my father’s strap or boot. I respected all of them then, and tho they’re all gone, I still do. 2 or 3 generations of a children running the show from the couch has…. whatever. I don’t remember kids screaming when I was a kid though and we had the run of the world around us. We were truly free range, open range children. In the woods, the trees, the prairies, the fields, the rivers and in the snow. Maybe it’s just my memory or maybe we just played so hard we were simply too exhausted to scream.

      • Hmmm. I guess I led a different childhood. Cowboys and Indians required pow! pow! pow! and a scream when you died. I thot all little boys chased little girls with screams that pierce the eardrums, Red Rover required hollering over the roof of the garage. Even Ring Around The Rosy elicited a scream or two when we all fell down. Even Church picnics had children running everywhere between picnic tables and around and I just can’t believe we did that with our mouths shut. Shoot – if nothin else our parents were screaming at us to “SLOW DOWN”.

        • Parents for sure Kelly and as indicated, it could just be failing memory on my part. I think your correct so ya, probably a memory issue.

          However, i remember we were noisy, just not much screaming. Lots of hollering, yelling, laughing but ear piercing screams in a fairly public setting, not so much. Maybe my definition of screaming sits nearer the shrill high pitched screams.

          I enjoy the laughter and noise of children. I better, they’re coming for dinner tomorrow.

          • No question that we had inside voices, appropriate venue voices, AND NEVER “talk back voices” to ANY adult. I just hope people allow kids to have fun when out camping …. UNTIL Bed Time. The worst, if there were even a bit of an infraction, was … “We will wait ’till we get home.” Have fun with the kids tomorrow.

      • Controlling a child with violence is bad, your parents abused you. No one should ever strike a child. If you can’t discipline your child without violence, then you shouldn’t be a parent. Cancelled.

        • No doubt, times have changed. However, I was not consulted for my opinion in the 60s whether or not I thought a principal should have a ruler or yardstick handy. However, better a yard stick than a gender studies degree with an agenda. Those were the days.

          While I can appreciate you have an opinion about my parents, (and thanks for offering it), my opinion of my childhood experiences shall remain my own. Do you often insult another person’s mother? Just curious? Narcissism disguised as virtue, or arrogance?

          • Thanks Conni. I had to pause and have a cup of coffee before replying to HostwtM, or surely I’d have said something equally offensive in a reply. Didn’t see that one coming when I got up today. ✌️🎈

  15. A few comments about the the articles.
    I agree with the one about kids running rampant without any supervision. We stayed at a Campground near Cape May, NJ. Two other ‘camping’ families showed up with youngsters. From day one, these families had no respect for the others near them. The kids were screaming at the top of their lungs while hitting a base baseball on the roadway. The ball was bouncing around vehicles and RV’s. I spoke to one of the boys an he ran to get his Dad. I was told by the parent that kids will be kids. There was an open field not more than 30 yards away, but he insisted he needed to be able to WATCH his kids.
    PS: a call to the campground office did no good!

  16. Chuck, What happened to the dream of “Just the night”? Tell the guy in Missouri to put in overnight parking. Preferably pull though. No unhooking.


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