Saturday, September 30, 2023


RVers say finding campsite for same day is easy, and cheap!

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.

“Don’t come back”

Robert J. built his own truck camper and this year the campground told him not to come back. He writes, “We had been staying at the same campground for 25 years in Sevierville, TN. It sold to a new bunch last fall. I stayed there with no problems in the fall. Then while checking in this spring they told me I could ‘stay this time but don’t come back.’

“I have a nice homemade truck camper. Not ugly. (People come to me bragging about it. They wish they had done the same thing.) We have full-coverage insurance on it so if anything happened it would pay just like on the road.

“They changed their name from ‘campground’ to ‘park.’ I have a homemade camper for a reason, because my former motorhomes and pull-behinds fell apart. Mostly roof problems. I’ve been camping since 1963. I’m not going to buy a $200,000 camper just to watch it fall apart. I’ll just get out of the business.”

Paid an average of $25 a night for a campsite!

Greg M. lets us in on his campground secret. He wrote, “We just got back from a 4,475-mile round trip from Idaho thru Illinois. We did not make reservations in advance and started looking for a campground when we were within about 100 miles of when we wanted to stop. We had no problem finding camping locations. Our secret, if you want to call it that, was to look for campgrounds >3 miles from the freeway that were Mom & Pop owned.

“On average, we paid around $25 after a cash discount or Military/Good Sam discount. These campgrounds were neat and clean. Some had full hookups, some were water and electricity only, and some had a dump station, but all had wonderful, friendly hosts and plenty of spots. The most expensive (and worst) campground was a commercial campground by Yellowstone just off the freeway with full hookups and all the amenities. We are backcountry campers at home; we travel with a large dog and resources for our personal safety so if no campground is available any large flat area can be our destination for the night, which is one of the joys of a self-contained rig.”

Doesn’t like to book online

Jill C. is planning her travel but doesn’t want to book online. She wants to know if booking a year ahead will work. She writes, “I plan to travel the States next year. I don’t like booking online, so hopefully I can book spots a year in advance. I’ve equipped my trailer to boondock as much as possible. I also have to learn to back up the single axle if I go to campgrounds… lol.”

Do our readers have any suggestions for her, both for no internet booking and backing in tips?

Used Passport America and found sites at 50% off

Corkey Y. didn’t make reservations and still saved a lot of money on his trip. He said, “We recently took a trip from Texas to North Carolina and back. We did not make any reservations before leaving. We had no problems finding campgrounds to stay in. We called the same day of our stay and only once had to call our second choice. We used the Passport America app to locate campgrounds along our route. This saved us 50% on our stay every night. We use Passport America for every trip we take and have not had any problems finding a place to stay in our 11 years of being ‘full timers’, even during COVID.”

Don’t want to sit and look at the woods

Francie C. is seeing prices double in popular vacation areas and writes to us, “We don’t necessarily ‘camp’ as much as use our motorhome as a means to travel with our pets. We live in a rural area, so we don’t want to sit in the woods and look at a lake. We travel to vacation areas and do want some amenities, but camping sites that were $120 a night two years ago are now $250 per night. Unfortunately, this will curtail our travel for this year.”

FMCA campground is a real deal!

Neal D. informed us that their stay at an FMCA campground was a real deal. He emailed, “After a week of service at Newmar, we headed home with an overnight stay at FMCA’s campground for $10/night (50-amp electric only). Originally were scheduled to arrive Saturday afternoon, but moved it to Friday night with no problem.”

Thousand Trails cut their campsite costs!

Lisa G. writes to us about joining Thousand Trails and what a good price it is, particularly compared to the cost for KOA. She says, “Last year we spent $151 a night at KOA. After that, we joined Thousand Trails and we pay that for a month and can go for a number of days a month, which is about that amount for a night. However, we get multiple nights’ stay.”

Campground owner says enlarging sites is a catch-22

Eldon P. is a campground owner and welcomes older rigs but tells us the difficulty in enlarging sites. “First, as a campground owner, we are not as fussy about the year of the camper that comes in. We feel the older ones are as interesting and ‘cool’ as the big ones that come in. Secondly, it’s kinda difficult to enlarge existing sites at an existing campground without losing income. So it’s a catch-22… To take out some sites to accommodate larger rigs without raising prices doesn’t really work. We have tried to buy land around us, but at $250,000 just for the land, then add all the ‘extras’, you’re easily at half a million or better.”

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

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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28 days ago

I joined Passport America once, but never went anyplace where it was accepted. Reserving online works for me, but I stay out of parks and resorts. I have no idea what I would do in those.

Joe Goomba
1 month ago

I no longer recommend Passport America to others. I’ve watched the number of campgrounds that accept it slowly dwindling, and a there’s a good number of sketchy campgrounds that do. When my last year is up, I won’t be renewing.

1 month ago

Purchase Camping with Corps of Engineers and other similar books. Just purchased the one covering county parks in 42 States. Great resource for trip planning. I’m old fashioned, I have printed books and paper maps. Internet is great, but paper works for us.

Bob P
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Most of the time a phone call to the campground will get you a site because everything done on line is messed up because the “kids” running it don’t have common sense enough to be able to make reservations without a computer. Remember, Computers don’t lie, but, liars operate computers!

1 month ago
Reply to  Bob P

Unfortunately, calling isn’t a guarantee either because in cases where there is an online system, those answering the phone are looking at the same reservation map that you are seeing online. And when you call, guess what the person on the other end of the line is doing? Putting your reservation into that same computer program!

I think the only way to avoid technology is to book mom-and-pop places that are small enough to personally know their campground and still book “by the book.”

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