Thursday, September 21, 2023


‘RVers reserving 2 or 3 spots because they don’t want others next to them’; plus a campsite discount tip

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. 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.

Reserved day of stay!

Carl J. lucked out and got a campsite every day. He writes, “We just took a trip from Washington to Ohio and back, in total 30 days, and we were able to find a spot in an RV park each night (one park for 10 days). We reserved every park the day of the stay with the exception of the 10-day stay.”

Reserving (and paying) for sites to have more room

Kathy N. has noticed people reserving sites for their toys and to have more room. She emailed, “I am finding many people are reserving two or three spots because they don’t want others next to them. They also have a lot of ‘toys’, i.e., 4-wheelers, boats, teenager’s cars, etc. The spot may be empty next to you but there is a good chance it belongs to the people two over from you.”

Changes are in play

Jim J. tells us about full and surprisingly empty sites. He writes, “I am thinking all the complaints about RV quality and campground crowding and prices have had a dramatic negative effect on people’s summer plans. Yes, some places are still crowded, but some places are seemingly empty.

“We live in northwestern Michigan’s Upper Peninsula next to Lake Superior. This part of Michigan is more easily reached by folks from Wisconsin, Minnesota, northern Illinois and perhaps northeast Iowa than the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. The two nearest State Park campgrounds were 85%–100% booked for this early July weekend.

“Meanwhile, our daughter and her family opted to camp in Arches National Park. This popular park was nearly empty. They had their choice of campsite. A selfie in a park restaurant showed multiple empty tables for lunch. And they said prices, unlike some tourist destinations, had not risen more than general inflation would account for. I can’t account for the difference, but obviously, changes are in play.”

More on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, even the private campgrounds full

Gary G. is also finding the Upper Peninsula of Michigan full. He wrote, “It used to be that just state parks were almost impossible to get into on weekends, but I’m also finding private parks that way too. Here in Michigan, I have two weeks of camping at two different parks, but need to fill Thursday to Sunday on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Can’t find a site. Not even in county/city parks. With my kids, boondocking in state/federal forest land for three nights isn’t an option. We just keep searching and hoping there’s something out there.

Offer cash for discount

Greg M. tells us that some campgrounds give a discount for cash while others add credit card charges. He wrote, “On our last trip, 4,475 miles, we had no problem finding campsites. With that said, though, we only looked for campgrounds away (5-mile limit) from the major highways. We found most mom-and-pop campgrounds offered discounts for cash and were neat, clean, very friendly and cost around $25. Cardwell, Montana, was the most expensive. $60 required CC and then charged $6 to use the card along with $7 for a 20 lb. bag of ice, and fuel (diesel) was $5.07 there (never again, only stopped because I was worn out). I mostly backcountry camp here in Idaho.”

Why don’t people cancel? It’s common courtesy.

Betty D. shares her experience with having to cancel a reservation. She says, “About 10 years ago, I had to cancel a camping reservation two days before arrival time due to hurricane damage to my home. I was devastated to cancel but had no choice as we couldn’t get out of the driveway. The campground was stunned that I called at all, much less that I expected to lose my deposit. I told them to please let someone else have my site for the event. They not only released my deposit and thanked me profusely, but they even renewed my reservation for the next year. I still don’t know why people don’t cancel when they know they can’t get there. It’s common courtesy.”

Planning is key

Kit V. is a planner and it pays off in having beautiful sites. She advises, “We are full-time and have always been able to find a campsite. I plan, plan, plan. We always have a site booked before moving on to the next one. Yes, lots of RV parks seem to have more full-time spots. We normally look for smaller, mom-and-pop campgrounds. Prices are going up, but we can always find a site for less than $50 a night, sometimes cheaper. If we are making a one-night stop, we try to find something cheap and with easy access. We are in Door County right now for 10 days. Were here for the 4th of July holiday. Had our site booked for several months and there are empty sites in this beautiful campground we are at. When we leave, we have a reservation at a local county park. So far, so good. Remember: Planning is the key.”

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: “Campground rates are so high we put our RV into storage.” More RVers throw in the towel


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. I reserved a spot at a county park in the upper peninsula of MI and unfortunately had to cancel my trip. I was able to cancel all but the county park. I tried to contact them by phone, was told to email an address that didn’t work, emailed an address on their website with no response, and gave up. I’m unhappy that I couldn’t get a refund, but I also feel bad that it was an empty site when others could have used it. It’s not always the fault of the camper.

  2. Barking dogs. 2/3/4/5 barking dogs owned by PPPO’ers , yes rent at least 2 spots each side of you for a little peace and quiet, totally agree. These are my “FUR BABIES, my FUR CHIILDREN my FUR GRAND CHILDREN,” etc, is getting ridiculous.

    • Yes, for sure. No one loves their dog/s more than I do, but the fur baby stuff is beyond me. I got next to a group with seven dogs, all barking. It was a state campground, and they said there was no limit for dogs. My dog is quiet, ignores people and dogs and is on leash per the rules. I must be a dinosaur.

  3. We have stayed in a couple campgrounds where the spots were way too small; barely wide enough for a picnic table beside the camper. Actually most sites had the picnic table at the back of the site. We wont stay there again, but if we had to we would rent 3 sites just to have room to stretch outside the RV!

  4. If some campers come with their “toys”, I see no problem with them actually renting space for them to put this stuff. What is the alternative? Storing the stuff in any empty space – until someone who has rented that spot arrives and complains about their spot being occupied?

    • At our nearby COE campground, either they rent space or they park their boats along the roadside, which can get crowded.


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