Saturday, December 9, 2023


Guided RV group trips, full-timing families taking up campsites: ’10 school buses come into the park morning and night!’

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.

“Wealthy RVers pay a babysitter to guide them on trips”

Robert W. found that some RV parks from Oregon to Alaska were full and says that RV’s on guided trips are filling those parks up. He explains, “We did a 3-month RV trip from Oregon through Canada to Alaska. Most pay parks were very busy and we needed to boondock several times. It has become very expensive. The worst part is the wealthy RVers who pay a babysitter to guide them on trips. They take over the majority of the park and are the slowest group on the roads. After only 11 years we may quit RV travel.”

Army Corps of Engineers parks are the way to go

James C. booked sites in the south this summer and always found a spot. He writes, “This summer we’ve not found places booked, likely due to being in Southern states, where it’s been extremely hot and humid. Our Thousand Trails parks have been fine, as well as Army Corps of Engineers parks. We’ve been in one or two RPI (Resort Parks International) properties that needed updating. There are a lot of permanent/seasonal folks, especially at Encore properties. It’s weird being surrounded by empty RVs. Rising costs not affecting us yet, but I do get the senior discount at the Army Corps of Engineers parks. We’re full-timers, and fairly new to it, so I hope we’re not ultimately driven off the road by crowds, etc. As others have mentioned, there still seems to be plenty of space at state, county, and ACE parks.”

Saying bye-bye to RVing

Mark G. is saying bye-bye to RVing. He writes, “WALL STREET private equity firms discovered RV parks. They are using airline ticketing—triple prices during busy times. Hotels are cheaper, easier and in most cases competitive. They can’t pull favoritism, are consistent and traveling by car is monstrously easier, faster and 30 mpg vs. 7-9 mpg. And getting in and out of a filling station is a snap.

“Our family has zero desire to fatten the wallets of some greedy, uncaring Wall Street millionaires. We are selling. We’ll travel as much. No storage costs, no maintenance, no hookups, no mud, leveling, crummy internet or TV. They provide breakfast and they clean up with clean new sheets and towels daily. $100- $200 for a site??? It’s not even funny anymore. Bye-bye, RVing.”

Corporate buy-outs causing chaos—staff as confused as the guests!

Jim J. writes about new owners trying to reinvent what worked. He tells us, “Getting reservations (with lead time) isn’t as difficult anymore. The bigger issue for us these days is RV parks that were family-operated for well, a long time, have been sold, more often than not, to big or small corporate entities. The new owners may or may not have experience running an RV park, but in too many cases they are trying to ‘reinvent’ what worked for years to put their stamp on the property. There is chaos in the management of the park as emphasis on new playground equipment takes precedence over mundane things like keeping ant hills at bay, park rules change frequently, new software is installed and staff are as confused as guests.”

“Families full-timing taking our retirement spaces”

As a full-timer, Larry N. sees the increase in costs but sees more families full-timing too. He writes, “Been full-timing since 2013, campground prices have doubled or tripled since then, we now have to make reservations a year, sometimes even two years in advance. What I hate is most campgrounds make you pay when you make reservations. We have a 46-foot fifth wheel so we don’t fit in state and national parks. Now, since COVID, so many families are full-timing, taking our retirement spaces. Been in campgrounds that there were 10 school buses come into park morning and night.”

Can’t pay the increase in monthly rates and still buy food

Patricia C. can’t afford the increase in site prices. She writes, “All of the sites I have called about close to my location have gone up as much as $100 to $200 and now charge extra for electricity that was included last year. It’s just me and my dogs and there are more pet deposits and additional payments that are a lot more expensive than last year. I don’t need the pool or the extra stuff that’s supposedly included. I’m full-time and it’s getting worse. I’m 73 and want to pay month to month but they are asking for all the months you want to stay up front. I cannot afford to do that and still buy food.”

Exploring is gone but so is the stress.

John G. sold his RV and bought summer and winter places. He writes, “We lived full-time in our camper from 2016 until 2022. After COVID, finding sites became so difficult that we sold our Class C. Lining up sites in advance had become a nightmare. Now we own a summer place in Maine and a winter place in Florida. The exploring is gone but so is the stress.”

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 says: “Campgrounds should be under investigation for price gouging”

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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Neal Davis (@guest_254342)
2 months ago

Thank you, Nanci!

Bill (@guest_254302)
2 months ago

I had a friend who traveled for a couple years. He said several times a school bus came to a RV park only to be turned away.

Tina W (@guest_254282)
2 months ago

We live in Florida. But we are currently sitting in our RV, parked in the driveway of the house we purchased (and are renovating) for summers in NY. I want to go out West, too. But I’m checking air bnbs and hotels as much as state parks for RVing (private parks have always been inferior in my experience). Hilton hotels started allowing pets so we don’t have to worry about having an advance reservation to travel with them across the country to get to our Air BnB. I’m sure we’ll still camp but, for sure, there are other good options. And we are comparing them carefully, when we wouldn’t have before. And we wouldn’t have purchased this small house but for the BS we keep reading about RV parks, especially so far in advance reservations (and prices that are higher than hotels — although that’s slightly less of an issue than the advanced reservations). With floods, fires, tornadoes, seemingly every where, we cannot reasonably make reservations a long time in advance. Air bnb or any Hilton… You can usually find a spot within a few days or even the same day. That’s much more our style. With RVing, the price needs to be cheap enough to be able to cancel due to bad weather (which is completely unsafe) without worrying about losing hundreds of dollars for a few days. The Hilton change for pets was very, very welcome news to us, bottom line.

Donny (@guest_254238)
2 months ago

We have a rule of thumb that we won’t pay more than $50 a night and we find numerous nice places to camp for that price or much less in eastern WA, Idaho, and Montana. State parks are around $40 a night and a couple of the private parks on small lakes that we like are $42 a night. We haven’t found them to be full or crowded although we pretty much camp on weekdays and leave the weekends open for people that are still working. We definitely will keep rving in our area of the country.

Bill Byerly (@guest_254208)
2 months ago

Thanks again for this weeks report Nanci ! Love the individual responses, although I sometimes get a bigger kick out of the comments

Cancelproof (@guest_254204)
2 months ago

Holy whining…. I still love RVing. Things have changed but wow, all things change. It’s what happens to a species with opposing thumbs. We change stuff, some better some worse. I like having an ACs on my roof. I get to drag my JEEP around this beautiful country and laugh at the foolishness of the newer generation while taking pride in the sweat equity of my own. I know my parents laughed at my generation’s foolishness but I also know the GenZ crowd will one day be the old fogees that are giggled at by whomever follows them.

bull (@guest_254289)
2 months ago
Reply to  Cancelproof


Change is inevitable!

You can choose to benefit from change OR be a victim of change.

The CHOICE is yours!

Far too many people just sit around and complain about changes in society, the economy, politics and their own sad situation which they themselves created all the while blaming somebody else for their own actions!

James E (@guest_254171)
2 months ago

Wow! Do you not recognize the effects of inflation? (Elections have consequences.) Yes there have been many acquisitions of campgrounds by investment firms and large corporations. But the law of supply and demand do not change. The cure for high prices are high prices. Many new campgrounds will open and a price competitive environment will occur. In the meantime, vote with your pocketbook.
The large groups that travel together have been planned for over a year. That guaranteed business is good for campground owners. I say good for them. Sounds like many need to plan a little better.

Tina W (@guest_254281)
2 months ago
Reply to  James E

It’s really too bad this site doesn’t delete even comments that hint at politics. I’d say vote for your health and safety. And the economy has improved and the Senate prevents further improvements in all areas of our lives.

Mike Willoughby (@guest_254291)
2 months ago
Reply to  Tina W

How exactly has the economy improved?

Gary W. (@guest_254296)
2 months ago
Reply to  Tina W

You complain about political comments and then you make a political comment. Smh.

Elliot (@guest_254303)
2 months ago
Reply to  Tina W

“The Economy has improved”????? Have you gone grocery shopping lately, Tina? Tried to buy a car or get a mortgage? Sorry my dear, but despite your rose colored glasses, the Emperor is stark naked!!

Charlie Harrigan (@guest_254168)
2 months ago

If history is any indication, the forces that have resulted in a change in the RV landscape will eventually have an opposite effect on the industry. We’re already hearing about the decision to ramp up production of products coming back to bite manufacturers in the rear. The corporate ‘takeover’ of campgrounds will also backfire, if not already, it will happen soon. The booming economy that prompted the business decisions is now faced with the bust of ‘Bidenomics’ and the poor legislative actions of politicians of all stripes. As much as the ‘experts’ debate the issue, ‘Supply and Demand’ has and always will drive the marketplace. I suspect that many of the RV Community will adapt to the changing conditions and find their own way to enjoy the lifestyle.

I say that as I’m still waiting for that bank loan to put a deposit down on a tank of gas…

GrumpyVet (@guest_254144)
2 months ago

Isn’t America great? We can DECIDE to quit the RV lifestyle anytime we want. We can decide to stay at ANY park (where we fit). We can DECIDE if we want to stay at a corporately owned campground, and we can complain about everything that is not how we think things should be! Sadly, in some responses, I see some evidence of what is was once considered some of the deadly sins.

Billinois (@guest_254117)
2 months ago

I don’t know, sure seems like a big bunch of entitlement in the complaints above. Families taking over “your” retirement spaces? What is RVing and camping about, anyway? Your mongo-sized 5th wheel won’t fit? That’s a choice you made when you bought it.
Honestly, we have little problem finding a spot in public parks with a little foresight and planning. I realize not everyone RV’s the same way but jeez, maybe try doing without all the creature comforts for once and enjoy the outdoors. Plenty of places available that don’t cost $100-$200 a night.

friz (@guest_254126)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billinois

Spot on! “so many families are full-timing, taking our retirement spaces.” That was rich.

Irv (@guest_254221)
2 months ago
Reply to  friz


Bob P (@guest_254152)
2 months ago
Reply to  Billinois

I have to agree with you on the “entitled” who think because they are retired they’re entitled to low cost camping in their giant RVs with 3 A/Cs and everything else electrical and having to pay for electricity. I started camping with my family of 5 in1978, it was much simpler and less expensive, my parents full timed from the mid ‘80s to the late ‘90s, they since have passed away, but I never heard them complain about younger people taking their retirement camping spaces. Just because you are lucky enough to make it to retirement does not give you the right to criticize younger people. We are octogenarians and have given up the RV lifestyle now we travel in our hybrid Toyota getting 47 mpg and stopping in motels, they are as cheap as campgrounds from what I read, DW has no cooking, cleaning and I buy gas once a month whether it needs it or not. Lol

Bill T (@guest_254090)
2 months ago

More and more I am in agreement with “Mark G” above. After 16 years of RV’ing my wife and I are thinking about hanging up the keys and find adventure elsewhere. There is just too many new “progressive” owners taking over what used to be a straight forward business of providing a campsite with hookups for traveling across the country or simple family get a way weekends. I really miss the mom and pop campgrounds where their operations seemed simple. Clean campsite, firewood and a small store in case you needed something. What else do folks need. If folks want “Disneyland” then go there and leave the camping/RV’ing to those who want to have a fun time with family and friends where it won’t cost an arm and a leg.

Bob (@guest_254088)
2 months ago

We made reservations at a privately owned campground in Cape May NJ last October for June of this year. In the meantime, this campground was bought by Sun Resorts. Though our cost did not increase, the new owners have let the place turn into a shambles. Two of the three bath houses were semi-operative, sites were not taken care of, dead trees, muddy sites, total lack of maintenance and staff that had no idea what they were doing. New prices increased dramatically. The pictures on the website are totally misleading only showing a few sites near the office.

Bill T (@guest_254092)
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob

It seems we are seeing more and more of that. Same thing happened to us in Maine. I can easily see how some of these corporate owned campgrounds will bail as soon as the market shifts again. I believe the days of the well run, friendly, family owned campgrounds are numbered and it is too bad that the next generations will not fully appreciate the relaxation a simpler camping holiday and take time away from the hustle and bustle of the daily electronic controlled grind.

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