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.
Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column: Thought $245 a night was bad? How about $300 a night?!