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.
Raise campground prices and lower demand?
Nathan K. says raising the prices even more will decrease the demand. He writes, “Over the last maybe 15 years, overcrowding has become a serious issue at or near almost every state or national park. Almost every RV owner seems to agree on this, and it has been my experience as well. The demand for these campsites far exceeds the supply. However, you could almost overnight fix the demand side of the problem by increasing prices.
“I would happily pay $800 a night to camp in a place like Yosemite or Yellowstone. Not only would this keep out the people who only have a casual interest in camping (who are responsible for most of the problems), but it also means more money to improve and expand the campgrounds. There are only two ways to allocate scarce resources: Rationing and pricing. The current method of rationing is not working.”
Why wouldn’t campgrounds raise prices?
Duane R. wonders why wouldn’t campgrounds raise prices? “‘Price gouging’? IF campgrounds are always full (not my experience in western states), or all sites are paid for every night, why would a campground owner NOT raise prices? Market forces normally encourage a seller to raise prices of scarce, or high-demand items. However, if many sites become empty and no revenue comes in, then site prices will come down (just as RV prices have done this year). If a new employer offers you 20% or 75% more than you are currently making, you would jump at the opportunity. Does that make you greedy, or are you gouging the market? No different than what campground owners are doing.”
Won’t stop camping, just cut back
Bobby S. likes to camp but costs are cutting their camping time in half. He writes, “I camp because I like to camp and I want my kids to enjoy camping. The only issue that increased costs affect is the frequency I camp. If I used to take four camping trips a year (when the kids are out of school) and the prices of gas and spots has increased, I just went down to twice a summer, and that’s okay with me. I just won’t stop altogether. Just cut back, like a grocery bill.”
Rethinking RVing due to increased costs
Butch J. is also feeling the pinch of increased costs. He writes, “We have traveled 4-5 months a year for many years. However, we are rethinking that due to the dramatic increase in costs. We are exploring the option of downsizing from our coach to a smaller travel trailer or selling the coach and using Airbnbs, only traveling two weeks at a time. We have not used a pool or playground in many years. Our only requirements are a fairly level, preferably paved, shaded, full-hookup, pull-thru site.”
Reader asks owners, “Are you a campground trailer park?”
Janet N. has a few pet peeves and shares them with us. “We pull our Cougar TT to see our country: National Parks, museums, car races, air shows and natural beauty. As 70-year-olds, the only thing we MUST have is electricity.
“Amenities? A hot tub for our aching bones!! I always take my suit and swear I’m going to swim, but haven’t in four years! We like quiet, treed, wide sites and friendly workers. No trouble booking sites. I book 2–12 months in advance.
“Prices are ridiculous. Pet peeve: calling yourself a ‘resort’ when you have nothing resort-like. My second pet peeve: Far too many seasonals! To owners: Are you a campground trailer park? You shouldn’t be both.
“Only five more states in the 48 to visit! Happy camping, everyone! Thanks for asking our opinions.”
New campers think they should have a five-star resort!
Jeffrey B. works at a COE campground and comments on the newbie campers. “I’ve worked at Corps of Engineers campgrounds for the last eight years. People have changed since Covid. New and first-time campers think they are at a 5-star resort. No respect for others and destruction of government property. To them, it’s just a party place to trash! Will miss it when it’s gone.”
Book early and be prepared to pay
Carol G. books early and as a full-timer knows that planning is essential. She writes, “We are full-time RVers. EVERY place we go we book reservations six months to a year in advance. COEs (Corps of Engineers) are almost empty midweek and always full every weekend. Private campgrounds always have seasonal spots and they are empty except for weekends. We rarely use state parks as they are usually full on weekends and, again, are empty midweek. Never have any problems with getting space. If you want lakes, rivers, and beach campgrounds, book early and expect to pay for it. Yes, saying campgrounds are always full is getting old. Popular destinations require pre-planning.”
Can’t book early, three weeks ahead is too late
Amber M.’s biggest challenge is booking ahead. She tells us, “Booking spots has been the biggest challenge for us. Not everyone is able to book months in advance. In Michigan, even three weeks out isn’t enough time to secure a spot. Also, most parks ask the size of your rig, if it has slide outs, etc., and then stick you on a site that is barely big enough. The prices are also ridiculous. I can book an Airbnb for less in some cases. We’ve found the State parks to be the most reasonable and, honestly, the most enjoyable.”
Last year the campground was almost full, this year only 1/3 full
Mike K. notes the difference between last year and this year at the same campground. “We leave the desert of Southern California in June for 3 1/2 months. Go to South Dakota, where my wife is from. Had reservations for two of the six campgrounds we stayed at. One KOA, one state park, one Coast to Coast, one fairground, and two small RV parks. None were close to being full.
“The state park we stayed at was maybe 1/3 full. Last year when we were there it was closer to 90% full. Prices have gone up at some but not all places. We have reservations at two other state parks in South Dakota in August. I made reservations for those three months out and they were getting full at that time. The big difference between this year and the last couple [of years] is RV dealers are packed with stock.”
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: RVers say finding campsite for same day is easy, and cheap!