Thursday, September 21, 2023


Reader suggests campgrounds should be split: one part for ‘campers’ using amenities, another part for ‘travelers’

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.

Reader asks about no-shows, “Do you actually think the campground does that on purpose?”

Bryan H. has a comment on open sites. He writes, “It’s a full campground when you call, but sites open when you arrive? Do you really think the ownership/management does that on purpose? It is amazing how many reservations don’t show up… We don’t charge for reservations, but next year it will be different.”

What a turn-off!

Tina C. has been reading about the poor quality of trailers and they have decided to keep their pop-up. She says, “We have a pop-up camper and often talk about upgrading to an under-30-foot trailer… but after reading about all the poorly built trailers, then the cost of the trailer itself on top of the high prices at the parks?? What a turn-off… Probably just going to keep the pop-up for local trips and go into hotels for the rest. Also, we live in Houston, and trying to book a state park campsite at places like Galveston is impossible…”

“Compromise on your expectations”

Chris L. traveled 3,616 miles using a variety of camping and overnight spots. He reports, “Made a winter run south (from Delaware) using Harvest Hosts, state parks, friends’ sites   (they are also Boondockers Welcome), KOAs and Cracker Barrel. Went all the way to KOA in Sugarloaf Key (2-week stay reserved a year in advance) and back. 3,616 miles in our truck camper with a toad. Plan ahead and compromise on your expectations!”

Traveler uses their RV like a motel room

Mike M. thinks campgrounds should have two areas: one for travelers and one for vacationers. He writes, “We are travelers and not campers! Our average length of stay is four days at the most and, as another person said, we use the campground like a motel: Arrive, set up (unpack), sleep, awaken, leave for the area attractions, return, eat, watch TV, sleep, repeat. Love’s RV-like sites are what is needed in the resorts. One part for vacationers and campers, another for travelers that don’t plan to use all the amenities.”

Do day trips

Janet N. has a system for seeing the USA. She writes, “We are the ones who travel to see the USA. We locate a centralized campground, and stay 3-7 nights and do day trips. We pull a Cougar TT. We’ve been in the southwest twice on over-5-week trips. Now we’re in New England for two weeks. No problem whatsoever booking FHU sites.”

What’s the problem?

Roger M. writes that he finds sites and doesn’t understand the crowding problem. “I don’t understand the problem. I just booked four different campgrounds for my trip to FMCA Convention from Akron, OH, to Gillette WY. Each was my first choice and had the 30A hook-up I wanted and two have swimming pools the wife wants. Had a number of different sites to choose from for each night. Next week I will be booking for the return and fully expect the same results.”

Often had to stay in a hotel

Granolah H. reports that it has really changed since Covid. They explain, “I have camped since I was born (got my parents kicked out of a campground before I was 1). Before Covid, I could take trips anywhere with no reservations. Just stop and find a spot when I got tired, usually somewhere beautiful, even in California in the summer.

“I went out on my first trip after Covid and was shocked at both the prices and the inability to find a space. I am tiny, on solar and tankless, but it didn’t matter. And no campground would reserve a site for more than a day.

“RV parks were full and cost more than a hotel room. So I often stayed in a hotel instead as it was late, and ended up in a dry base camp on top of a mountain in Oregon. The drive to meet family was long. I am not a fan. Most of these people seem to be clueless as to what it truly means to camp. I have found most to be rude, sloppy and trampling all over the wilderness.”

Impose a fee on no-shows

Bill S. talked with county park staff about no-shows at the park. He writes, “Florida campsites are famous for this. at Fort DeSoto county park, many campsites were empty on multiple visits. Park staff said that due to their reservation system, they don’t know if someone’s coming or not so the site gets unused. Possible solution: Impose a fee on no-shows.”

Booked reservations whenever they needed them

Paul M. guesses he is just lucky! He says, “We picked up our new 25′ motorhome on May 5th in Las Vegas. Since then we have driven 4,300+ miles. First from Nevada to North Carolina (where we live), and then from North Carolina to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and back. For both trips, we were able to book campground reservations for whenever we needed them.

“In September we’re heading to a rally in Manitoba, Canada, and then on to Massachusetts for a wedding and then back to North Carolina. Already have everything booked. We even managed to get a one-night stay for the Friday night of Labor Day weekend. We try to be flexible; if we can’t find a campground we’ll look for a Harvest Host location. We’ve also done a three-night, mid-week, trip to Falls Lake Recreation Area, a local North Carolina state park. When we made the reservation we had a choice of sites to choose from. I guess we’re just lucky.”

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: Reader writes: “I would happily pay $800 a night to camp to keep the ‘casual interest’ campers out!”

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. Price increases have been an eye opener, especially around popular vacation destinations and large cities. We usually go as much as 30 miles out. We find most have a mix of residents: working in the area/travelers. We don’t care for those owned by large companies but sometimes have no choice. Even to change a reservation can require a $25 fee, and there are usually penalties for canceling too close to the date. All understandable. Some refund ZERO but tell you up front. It’s a changing world. I do not find campgrounds more expensive than hotels. I’ve not paid $150/night for a campground but at Mackinac Island, paid a tad over $100/night. KOA can soak you, but usually there are other alternatives. BUT KOA is usually consistent, so it depends on what you are looking for. We want safety #1, and the rest we can contend with. We don’t use bath houses and we have W/D. That wasn’t always the case, but we are blessed now with this mode of travel and will keep doing it as long as God allows. We don’t plan way ahead as we don’t always know where we will be. So we try to keep reservations at least 2 weeks out. If it’s a holiday, plan better. Several years ago, I planned the entire 5 months. Then a death happened, and we had to modify. It was a domino affect, and many fees were charged. I don’t do that anymore. There are pros/cons to all types of travel. I like not lugging a suitcase around, opening/digging for clothes. My own dirt/germs in my motorhome, and the dogs are with me. We love this style of travel and seeing this great majestic country we are blessed to live in.

  2. About splitting campgrounds, part for people passing through, that would be fine if it isn’t a parking lot situation. I don’t think it will happen, but it’s a good idea.

    • It’s a good idea for who?? They’re obviously implying that “travelers” who don’t use any of the amenities should be able to pay less. How is it good for the park owner to have lower fees on half of his park?? And in order to accommodate people who could just stay at Walmart.

  3. Not always but I’m guessing folks see “full” campgrounds but empty spots because some use campgrounds as “travelers” and show up late/leave early en route to their destination. Not everyone wants to use harvest host, etc . I know personally, I’ve paid for a site on a Thursday evening but with full intentions of arriving at 9am Friday morning and staying until Sunday evening (and I’ve paid to stay Sunday nite although I do not). I don’t pretend to know or care about other folks’ plans, just my observations from personal experience. I can’t imagine spending so much time thinking about empty sites at campgrounds. Life’s too short to concern yourself with ridiculous worry.

    • I agree! If you’re noticing all these empty sites, in campgrounds or RV parks, that must mean you got your site… you know, so you could notice the empty ones.

    • It really sucks that you can’t find a place to stay when you just want a weekend away. Because life is short! You just need some time away but has become to hard to find and too expensive. It use to be a family fun weekend that didn’t break the bank. Now you can’t afford it because you have to worry about paying for the gas to pull it and the food you need to eat, nevermind the cost of the site if you can get one!

  4. I’m all about simple and affordable sites. A little privacy is nice, but I don’t need laundry/cable tv hookups/a pool/a clubhouse/a playground, etc…. Heck, I don’t even have a pet that I need to walk. Just give me a no-frills, reasonably priced site and I’m happy.

  5. Campgrounds don’t care if no one shows up. Why would they?? The site has been paid for and no electricity is being used, no garbage is collected and the site doesn’t need to be cleaned. They’ll actually make a little bit more if you don’t show up.

    • In some campgrounds, they want you to cancel because they keep most or some of your money plus someone else can pay to get that space.

  6. Another issue we came across canceling a campsite due to a medical appointment was GM changed banks that issued my wife’s credit card. So far we haven’t received the credit. Pa State Parks recommends we contact the bank to see if they will issue us a refund. If not than we have to contact the state park again to try and get them to issue us a check. Even my bank came out of the blue and changed my credit card with new numbers so you can just wave it over the scanner. Another hassle to discourage people from canceling sites. Due to medical issues I may have to cancel another reservation for Oct.

  7. Just this past week, I arrived at my reserved spot at 6:30 a.m. Campground had 40 spaces, sign said it was full. Eleven spaces had no one in them. I could not ask the camp host anything because I never saw him or her and the “off duty” sign was always up. One thing I do appreciate greatly is that my last three times out, there were no dogs running loose. That does not mean I don’t watch very carefully because I won’t have mine attacked. My dog and I walked around the loops numerous times and much of the campground always had open spaces. I give up trying to figure it out.

  8. We made our reservations for this year in November of last year. Two of the campgrounds have been taken over by large corporations earlier this year. One was Lake Laurie campground. Rave reviews. It is now owned by Sun Resorts. When we arrived we found our site nothing like the pictures on the website. The site was muddy, very little gravel or grass. The facilities were terrible. Two out of the three bath houses were closed, and the other was dirty and two of the toilets were constantly plugged. No hot water in the showers. There were two dead trees on the site very close to my trailer. Calls to the office only got us excuses of ‘we are working on it’. After calling the corporate office we finally did get a partial refund
    Our next trip is in September to Niagara Falls in NY. Hopefully this will be a better experience.

    • If you’re going to Niagara falls, I’d recommend Four Mile Creek State Park. The bigger campsites are down the road to the right of the checkin office. The campground gives you a mirror parking permit that gets you free parking at Goat Island or Niagara Falls state park. Niagara Falls is an easy twenty minute drive

    • These were obviously problems before the large corporation took over so I’m not sure why you’re implying that had anything to do with it.

      • I talked to some of the seasonal campers. Most of the problems, bath house dis-repair and site conditions were not near as bad as they are now. There were some maintenance issues, but Sun did nothing to address any of the prior problems. The campground manager blamed everything the bath house condition on the youngsters in the campground and told us to use the one bath house near the office. It took two days for someone to fix the hot water problem and clear the toilets.
        The district manager who agreed to the refund said he has fielded many complaints recently.


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