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.
Offer discounts for not using amenities
Lawrence B. writes about corporations taking over campgrounds and adding amenities they don’t use. He says, “Greed has taken RV camping to the bottom. We travel from Texas to New Mexico to Arizona and to Florida. Corporate has purchased many good parks and run them into pits. Talked to many other RVers and most don’t use the swimming pools, tennis courts, or clubhouses that they have built. I refuse to stay where I have to pay for something I don’t use. I call it stealing from honest citizens. They should offer discounts for ones not using these things.”
Has paid more than $90,000 (in 7 years) to stay at RV parks and resorts
James V. tallied it up and has spent a lot of money at parks, but he likes the RV life. “We have been traveling/living in our RV ever since we retired, which was more than seven years ago, during which we traveled and stayed in 49 states and 8 provinces. We have been as far south as Key West and north of Fairbanks. During our travels, we have paid more than $90,000 at RV parks/resorts. We have not had any major issues finding campgrounds to stay at.
“During peak seasons and special events, we will reserve our sites well in advance, but usually we reserve only a few days or a week in advance. The most we have paid for a site has been at Stock Island (Key West, FL). Prices have gone up for RV sites, food, gas, restaurants and about everything else we buy. I have a spreadsheet that has almost everything I spent money on and every place I stayed at, including RV sites, COE, City/County/State/National Parks. My RV life is far less expensive than my sticks-and-brick life and I am enjoying this life more.”
If RVing is too expensive, find something else!
Sandie B. loves RVing and says it is not cheap housing. “RVing is recreational and those who planned on living in an RV as a cheap way of having housing are mistaken. Campgrounds are a business and can and will charge what the traffic will bear. If shoe companies sell shoes that are too expensive, you buy other brands. I suggest if RVing is too expensive, then find another recreation to partake in.
“Many campgrounds make their total income from April to mid-October, so they have to raise their prices as propane and electric and insurance pricing gets higher for them, among other things. THEY are not there to really provide cheap housing. THEY are there to provide a living for themselves if they are private, and if public, they are there to provide recreation for their constituents but not for free. It costs taxpayers $$ and therefore they MUST charge what it costs to run it with workers and insurance, water and electric, if provided, etc.
“IF a campground is charging too much and not providing much, they will go out of business. I LOVE MY RV and LOVE RVING and am willing to pay a reasonable amount to do it. IT is an extra. Those who live in an RV today are living in a cardboard box, really. It is NOT made to live in. I may go out for a year to travel but knowing if it all falls apart, I can find somewhere to live.”
Motels are the same price as camping; cheaper on fuel!
Tom G. says RVing has changed so much that he is going to “motel it” now. “Traveled with an RV since March 1981 on a trip to Disney World with a three-year-old son. Used to take trips to an area for 1-3 months. Two nights here; five there. Rarely had a problem. Now we need reservations a year in advance. Removed the spontaneity of travel. Decided to ‘motel it’ next spring as we do Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. Motels are $100, the same as camping with hookups. Much cheaper on fuel costs.”
Think about when you caught the RV bug. Were you welcomed?
Lee H. has some profound thoughts on helping the newbie, costs, and improving the joy of RVing. “Many seem resentful about the rising cost of RVing, which is confusing to me. We pay more today for our cars, fuel, real estate, food, clothing, and entertainment than at any time in history. Not only does it cost more to produce and manufacture the products, but price hikes also come from increased demand.
“But the underlying tone of resentment doesn’t end with cost alone. Many are complaining about the increase of newcomers entering the market. Rather than welcoming the newbies, some are angry that they have discovered the joy of RVing. Many lifestyle passions I’ve pursued have seen an increase in participation. Hunting and fishing, for example, have changed significantly over the decades: a growing number of participants, the challenges of accessibility, and the cost of the products used. But I find it’s not about me, anymore. My joy comes from helping the newcomers enhance their newfound passion!
“I ask longtime RVers who are angry about the changes in RVing to think back to when they caught the RV bug. Were you welcomed, encouraged, and helped along the way? Or did you encounter an angry neighbor who complained that ‘you’re not one of us—stay away?’ I’d hate to think you’re bitter about this new generation of RVers. The tone of entitlement and resentment is not attractive or welcoming.”
Harvest Hosts member? Ask for another day
Martha R. has some cost-cutting advice for Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome members. She writes, “I am a member and host of Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome. At Harvest Hosts, you can (with permission) add extra days to your stay. At Boondockers Welcome, many sites are already 3-5 days. Just ask if you can stay longer at these.”
Evicted and told to clear out
Charlotte B. is being evicted for having an RV over ten years old. She wrote, “I am in a park which is evicting all those over 10 years. Even though they gave us until 9/30 to clean our sites, they have been harassing us all. People even with newer RVs are leaving. This is a case where someone with money is taking over. The morale is horrible. Rumor is once they get rid of us and get new rigs in they are raising the rent $300 to match RV park rents on the west side of the state.”
No change in New Mexico State Park rates
Steve H. lets us in on great prices and campgrounds in New Mexico. He writes, “In all the years we have been RVing, the NM State Park campground prices have not changed. It is still $14/night for a W/E campsite, with the day pass, picnic table, fire pit, free hot showers and flush toilet restroom building, lake, fishing, boating, hiking and biking trails included. No resident, non-resident price difference, no long-term residents (14-day stay limit), and no problem finding sites up to 45′-50′ long. There are some parks that even have 90′- to 100′-long back-in sites, but most parks have few pull-thru sites. NM State Parks have been, and still are, our favorite state/provincial parks in the 39 states and 6 Canadian provinces where we have RV’d.”
Will never know how great it once was
Jim H. has been full-timing since 2015 and has given RVing up. He says, “It’s sad to say, but people going full-time today will never know how great it once was. Sold everything we owned in 2015 and hit the road in a 40’ fifth wheel and never looked back.
“In 2022, we parked our trailer for good and gave it all up. It’s not just the overcrowding at campgrounds and sky-high costs, but this new generation of campers is horrible. They are rude, loud, and have no idea how to even do simple things like building a campfire.
“We are traveling and staying in hotels now and it’s not as stressful, and we don’t even have to make breakfast, lol. We were adapting but camping will never be the same.”
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: RVer quits camping after 20 years – “too much entitlement.” Plus, the most RV-unfriendly state