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.
Campgrounds and RVs are far superior to the “good ol’ days”
Bob L. has been RVing for a long time and sees a lot of improvements in RVs and campgrounds. He writes, “I’ve been an RVer most of my adult life, over 50 years. I find campgrounds to be far superior to what they used to be. When I started, ‘big rig’ was defined as anything more than 32′ long. Today, Class C motorhomes are longer and fifth wheels are like small houses. The rigs themselves now include equipment to make living day to day easier, and I never remember such luxury as an inverter even available until the 1990s.
“While it is much more expensive, I find this lifestyle very possible now in my 70s. Even at this advanced age, I find the RV lifestyle exciting and adventurous. I look forward to my next adventure, even though it may include laundry service, concrete parking, full hookups… all things not even available when I started. So, while boondocking is still very pleasing, having these rigs and comforting amenities at campgrounds keep us older folks out there.”
Campground sold and everyone was kicked out
Beverly S. tells us what the change in ownership did to the RV park she was at. She says, “It’s getting worse in our area. Randolph, Cleburne counties, Alabama. Most private owned
RV campgrounds are crowded. Ours wasn’t, but the price would go up every year when we tried to pay. Now, it has been sold. We all have been kicked out. Renovation for two years. Concrete pads, paved roads, playground, laundry, restrooms, etc. Lots will start at $5K. Most renters are older. Can’t afford. So sad.”
Campground owner and RVer sees both sides of the story
Katie D. is a campground owner and sees her utilities and insurance prices soaring as well as campground rates. She says, “I am not only an RVer, but I also own a campground. I see both sides to this story. As far as cost and raising prices; our utilities and insurance have doubled in the last six years. Our sites are all $50 and under. We do not like raising prices, but with the huge RVs with two air conditioners and washer/dryer units, our electric bills are killing us. We have 20 seasonal sites and 46 daily, along with five cabins. Our park is very busy but not packed-in like other parks. I think that people should try to understand that owning a park is hard work. It’s stressful and expensive—give the owners a break.”
Investigate public and private campgrounds for price gouging
Katherine R. has seen monthly RV lot rents double and is asking someone to investigate. Here are her thoughts: “I honestly think that the public and private campgrounds should be under investigation for price gouging. All of this high demand for camping space and lot rent has jumped up since C-19. When I first bought a travel trailer, rent was at $415 before Covid-19 and as of 2023 rent has jumped up to $899. And mind you, it is just 30 amps. It’s over $1,000 a month if it’s 50 amps.
“People bought RVs due to the fact Covid-19 had people losing their homes and, in most cases, jobs. Where was the government assistance for the campers to survive? I live in a year-round campground for seven years and just found out that Virginia will not let you buy land and then live on it in your RV. WTH? You’re paying TAXES on land you own but the state tells you you can’t live in an RV and you’re still paying TAXES to the city. Everyone winning except the ones that need to survive.”
Editor’s note: When checking laws in Virginia, I found a number of different views. Some were no problem, others said okay but only with septic installed, and others were more along the lines of yes, you can park but don’t you dare live in it! Always check local laws and ordinances before buying land and planning to live on it.
Dream of retiring and traveling now only a dream
Leslie E. is seeing their dream of travel being eroded by rising prices. It used to be affordable. She says, “We are retired, meaning I want to travel. I don’t want to be tied down to having to make reservations months ahead of time. I want the freedom to be able to stay somewhere if we find something of interest or move on down the road. Camping used to be an affordable family experience. Now with the high cost of campgrounds, most families can only afford a couple of days compared to the week it used to cost. $40 a night adds up to $1,200 a month. Most places now are $60 and higher. State and county parks that were affordable are no longer. The dream we had of retiring and traveling our beautiful country is becoming only a dream now.”
Reader says, “Want to camp, not be thrown into Romper Room”
Joe C. is disappointed in the parents, kids, and campgrounds. He writes, “I’m a first-year RV camper. I’ve tent camped as a child and young adult and have envied the RVers for having a comfortable basecamp to relax and escape inclement weather and we jumped into the RV family in 2023. I have been fairly disappointed.
“Campgrounds have become playgrounds for parents to release their children into the public and unattended. Where are the dads teaching the kids how to set up camp and learn to grill and CAMP? Now it’s a chance for parents to tell the kids to leave them alone. Meanwhile, the campground roads are racetracks for kids on e-bikes in extremely large groups. We want to camp to get away, not be tossed into a romper room. Campgrounds in my opinion could look to have more seclusion and privacy. Isn’t that the point?”
Planning ahead is vital
Cindy T. is used to making reservations and says to plan ahead. “We’ve been in the habit of making reservations for desired camping trips for decades. Early on it was with our camping club. Then as the popularity of camping grew for most of our trips, now weekend reservations are hard to get these days. Planning ahead is vital. You have to be online the day it opens up. Last minute (say a month before Labor Day for the holiday) becomes challenging. (Not impossible and not at a preferred park but a decent place.) As retirees, most of our camping is done during the week, Sunday through Friday. Reservations are still needed (but last minute are easy to get) as it seems State Park campgrounds cannot sell empty sites because of the reservation system. One-night stays on cross-country trips have still been relatively easy to get.”
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: Campgrounds price out the average RVer – ‘see what happens’!