Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Charges for site reservation AND entry fee into campground. ‘Inflated costs are making it nearly impossible to continue travel’

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.

Wow—They have their trip planned for next year!

Michelle T. is on top of things and has most of their next year’s trip planned. She writes, “Planning a 65-day trip from Michigan to the Pacific Northwest and back for next year beginning mid-May. We have 1/3 of our campsites reserved already. We plan to be almost completely done with reservations by mid-January. We’re using Harvest Hosts, state parks, national forests, national parks and a few smaller (non-resort) family-owned campgrounds, as well. No problem getting a reservation at the third we’ve already done.

“And, based on our experience with a trip to the Southwest for two months, we don’t expect to have any trouble. We don’t usually have full hookups and most sites have electric only, or nothing. We do not care about any amenities (pools, etc.). No problems! Plan ahead, people! And… no going to Florida for the winter… ick! There are more pleasant warm climates than Florida (get over it!).”

Avoids the “hoity-toity” RV resorts like the plague

Rich K. has found the kind of camping he likes and it is not RV resorts. He explains, “For myself, I would rather avoid ‘RV resorts’ like the plague and stick with actual campgrounds that have a mix of camping styles and sites (tent, trailer, motorhome). In my own experience, those tend to be less expensive, and also less ‘hoity-toity’ towards the older campers, and are all my wife and I can afford.”

Investor corporations adding to high cost of campsites

Tom D. points out why some of the campsite prices are going up: “High cost for campsites? In part it’s due to investor corporations buying up all of the campgrounds, eliminating the competition, then jacking up prices. For example, Google ‘Sun Resorts’. Also very quietly big business is now running the majority of our National Parks and Forests. Why do think it costs so much now just to drive into Yellowstone or Shenandoah?”

Corporate entities inflict pain for profit

Carl F. talks about rising campground costs. He says, “Most of these issues revolve around your financial capability to absorb rising campground, fuel, maintenance, insurance costs, etc. If on a tight budget, then the impact is considerably greater.

“Part of the rising costs of RVing is the corporate entities that not only passed on supply chain and other costs of operations but used the circumstances to further increase prices with another layer of price increases that went directly to improve net operating income making price increases seem worse on a percentage and inflationary basis. Witness record corporate profits and earnings. While the so-called ‘free markets’ have certain advantages, they, many times, first inflict pain in return for profits opportunistically leading to constructive destruction of the marketplace.”

Doing the math and buying an RV lot

Thom R. got tired of bouncing from RV park to RV park and bought a lot. He shares, “Been RVing for 10 years, retired three years. Snowbirds now. Things have definitely changed. Yes, some parks near cities are becoming low-income housing. Haven’t had any real bad horror story experiences with reservations, but some snafu’s along the way.

“Sometimes we got a bit weary of bouncing from park to park. Our solution was to buy a lot in an RV community in the area we like. Looking forward to no RV park fees or reservation headaches. Lucky for us, neighbors on either side are nice. Did some math, and if we use $35/night and ~180 days, we’ll break even in 7 years. And when we are done we can sell it.”

The cost has not affected them

Fred G. just finished a long trip and had no problems getting a campsite or paying high prices. He says, “We just finished a 90-day, 11k-mile trip to Newfoundland from New Mexico. We only made advanced reservations once at St. John’s, NL. Most all parks had plenty of open spaces every night. Campgrounds seem about the same to me. The average campground nightly price was $41 USD, so costs have not affected us.”

Inflated costs are affecting this couple

Gary K. tells us how costs are making it hard for them to continue traveling. “Yes, we are finding a lot more campground crowding and that campgrounds are way more expensive. On a recent trip, we stayed at two state parks in Colorado. The campground charged $38 for the space and $10 for an entry fee to get into the campground. This puts the cost around $50 a night for electric only. And for those saying to change your traveling schedule, how do you not travel or stay on weekends? We are on a fixed income and the inflated costs are making it nearly impossible to continue to travel. The ridiculous increase in the sale price of any new RV, regardless of type, will not allow us to upgrade, so the 10-year rule also comes into play.”

Playing “cat and mouse” in Florida

Tammie G. booked nine nights in the Florida Keys, but it was not easy. She writes, “I continue to use State parks primarily—my work schedule allows trips from Monday to Friday. I recently booked a popular park in the Florida Keys for nine nights, but the site was booked by me after months of playing ‘cat and mouse.’ I can see how frustrating it would be for some, but I will continue to play the game. I have stopped staying at those franchises where prices were raised 50% or more.”

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: Thought $245 a night was bad? How about $300 a night?!



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_256221)
1 month ago

Thank you, Nanci!

Cary Nickel (@guest_256034)
1 month ago

Thankfully, out here in the western US, boondocking is a very viable option. We set ourselves up with a generator and solar panels early on with that in mind, and rarely pay for a space in ANY campground, preferring to find a spot on the fly, or through apps or facebook pages. We never face overcrowding or overpricing (Although some “favorite” secret spots from years ago aren’t so secret anymore. “Van Life” people are everywhere!). Earlier this year, we left home on a 7-10 day trip to visit family 500 miles away. We ended up “out there” for one day shy of 8 weeks, and we paid exactly $8 for camping the entire time, for one night at a BLM campground on the way home. Try it!

Drew (@guest_255892)
1 month ago

Be very careful if you’re considering buying an rv lot. It can take many years to recoup the cost much less realizing any positive value (if that’s part of the goal).

Harry Assenback (@guest_255956)
1 month ago
Reply to  Drew

Sounds like the man has done his homework.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_255882)
1 month ago

I think the folks who travel from one “resort” to the next “resort” have more trouble booking spots. Those who look to stay in less accommodated parks have a bit less trouble booking sites when they want. And then those who don’t care about amenities of any kind (mainly boondocking types) have no problems at all, or very few. You pick your style of camping.

Virginia (@guest_255877)
1 month ago

Camping is not a necessity, therefore customers are actually in control. As long as we keep paying asking price, nothing will change.

  • Avoid the corporate parks and give the small CG owners, local/state parks your business.
  • Plan trips during less busy seasons.
  • Learn to boondock or at least to do without some amenities.
  • Let’s take a cue from the UAW and Writers’ Guild and assign one month to “strike!”

NOTE: Unfortunately that last one won’t work because some of today’s campers would only use opportunity to book as many sites as possible. The current camping culture is becoming as competitive as Taylor Swift tickets! Don’t blame CG owners…take a look in the mirror.

Elliot (@guest_255978)
1 month ago
Reply to  Virginia

Good advice, Virginia!
It is getting harder and harder to FIND the smaller, privately O/O, “mom & pop” parks, that we grew up with. The corporate entities are snatching them up right and left!

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