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.
Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column: Reader says: “Campgrounds should be under investigation for price gouging”