Saturday, December 2, 2023


‘Campground neighbors so close they can comment on my sneeze inside my RV!’

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.

Campgrounds turning into parentless “Romper Room”

Graham G. has no love of campgrounds turned into Romper Rooms. He writes, “Being thrown into a free-for-all ‘Romper Room’ is exactly what some irresponsible parents are causing in some campgrounds. Some of these places are nothing more than parentless playgrounds… release your kids to the wilds as soon as you find your spot. The latest (they think it’s cute) fad is to attach some cut-open plastic pop bottle between the frame and rear tire of their bikes so hordes of them can sound like a screaming dentist drill all over the campground. That way they know they’re still alive somewhere as long as they can still hear them. Sure we were all kids once, but a clothes peg and a playing card stuck in the spokes is no comparison. It’s a thoughtless group to think maybe others came to unwind for a little peace and quiet. It’s the least to ask… control your kids please!”

Elbow room, please!

Elizabeth S. doesn’t want to be so close to another RV that she can hear them sneeze! She writes, “The smaller RV campgrounds are trying to compete with RV resorts. Swimming pools by a lake, high-end Internet, cement pads, entertainment, etc. All come with a price tag. And that means closer sites and higher costs to the customer. I really only like the campgrounds that offer a good level spot with elbow room. Only one dump station, one potable water spigot to fill the water tank, and basic Internet service because I use my hotspot. Some walking areas to a lake or playground, a fire ring for people to gather around, and a picnic area where people can have potlucks. The rest is not my style.

“If your neighbor can comment on your sneeze while you’re inside your own RV, that is way too close. That is why older people complain about a baby crying at 3 a.m., etc. If you want that, great, no problem, go to a resort-style campground. But if you want to wake up and make a pot of coffee and go outside the RV to hear the birds at a no-frills campsite, that is for me.”

Widow just trying to get by and keep RVing

Genette D. is continuing to RV after her husband’s death but is noticing that the prices have almost doubled. She writes, “Prices have become insane. The park in Laughlin, Nevada, went from $545 to over $800 a month, which was from last year to this year. I have been living this life for almost 10 years. It was all my late husband and I had for a home. When he passed away my choice was to continue on in our chosen RV life or move into low-income housing or with the kids. I’m still RVing but with prices the way they are at campgrounds on top of gas prices there is only one trip a year now—Minnesota in the summer to see family, and Nevada or Arizona in the winter. Yes, the campgrounds are fancier … but I don’t require fancy. Just an inexpensive place to park, hook up and relax. Not everyone wants or needs a 4- or 5-star resort. Some of us are just trying to get by.”

Many of those who opted for RVs after the devastating California wildfires have to work hard just to survive

Deborah M. was hard hit in the 2018 Campfire in California and her family and many others struggle living in RVs. She wrote, “My family of three, husband, son, and myself have been full-time RV living since we walked out of the heart of the Camp Fire in Paradise, CA, in 2018. Suddenly, hundreds of people of all ages were essentially homeless and opted for RVs to stay sheltered from the elements. We were old hands at this style, but not everyone was. Overuse of space and resources has burdened the systems we always counted on. Spaces doubled in price, and amenities were not always enough for all to share. Communities’ resources have been stretched too thin.

“My husband and I are retirement age and can’t relax and enjoy it because we have to work too hard just to survive every day. Younger people who face these challenges are ill-equipped to meet these requirements and maintain hope. Depression runs rampant too. We will be okay, but there are too many who won’t be okay. Camping used to be fun, but now it’s a full-time job and doesn’t pay worth a damn. It costs more than the return it provides. Affordable housing is a thing of the past; so is camping for fun.”

Just not worth the cost

Kimberly G. is selling their 5th wheel because it is just not worth it anymore. She wrote, “My family has always camped. We went from a tent to a travel trailer to a 5th wheel. We currently have our 5th wheel for sale and have had 0 interest. (It’s priced well below market.) I still love to camp; however, I don’t like making reservations a year in advance or paying more for site rentals than an economy hotel. It’s just not worth the cost to maintain the camper, insurance, space, and only be able to camp a few times per year.”

Costs go up and quality goes down

Nancy A. has noticed that campsites have almost doubled while quality has plummeted. She wrote, “We have been full-time RVers for the last two years. We love this life, but unfortunately getting a campsite is not always the easiest thing to do. We try to plan ahead as much as possible. Since we are retirees and on a limited budget, some campsites are out of our price range. We are members of several camping clubs like Boondockers Welcome and use all kinds of apps for locating campgrounds, but even then they want to limit the time you can camp or stick you off in an undesirable site.

“We have seen camping costs go up to almost double this last year. What gets me is when the cost goes up, but there isn’t any improvement in the campground. The pads are NOT level or are broken up, the shower/bathroom are run down and almost unusable.”

Go to a day park and sleep at home

Sandra S. is a tent camper and prices are astronomical for tent sites too. She writes about her solution, “I would like to go to a state park to tent camp for a few days during the week. I am a low-frills type of camper, so the idea of paying $42 a day to park on a small piece of ground and use the park bathroom is ridiculous. I can go to a day park for free and sleep at home. The private parks have high-end amenities like pools, activities, etc. They are very expensive and that isn’t camping.”

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:

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_261813)
13 days ago

Thank you, Nanci! Boy! This was one tough, depressing set of comments. Hopefully you get some stories for next week’s column that are more encouraging (less discouraging?). We seem to have a much easier time here in East Tennessee than elsewhere (wherever elsewhere is). Have a great week and happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

Elliot (@guest_261787)
13 days ago

Having owned a campground for 15 years in the 80s & 90s, I can tell you that the lack of parental supervision of their progeny is nothing new. It was so prevalent, that we often commented that “parents” saw our park as the world’s biggest babysitting service! Let the kids run wild so Mom and Dad can relax!! Sounds like this has not changed today.

Bill Byerly (@guest_261750)
13 days ago

Thank you for this week’s column Nanci! It’s still one of my favorites.

Steve H (@guest_261720)
14 days ago

All the complaints seem to focus on private RV parks. There are thousands of national, state, county, and city park campgrounds where prices haven’t changed in years. We just returned from a trip where we stayed in the city park cg. in Sayre, OK, where our long pull-thru W/E (30/50A!) site cost the same $12/night that we paid 8 years ago. Then we stayed at a NM state park in a W/E site for the same $14/night we paid in 2012! Last year, we stayed in a city park in central Kansas with W/E hookups and a stone picnic shelter for FREE! Sure, you may not be able to stay the entire summer or snowbird from November to April in these cgs, but they were designed for camping, not for second homes!

Susan (@guest_261773)
13 days ago
Reply to  Steve H

Wow, we need to go east. In my state of Utah, the state parks are $45.00 a night for W/E. It’s getting cold so the bathrooms are now closed, the water is turned off, and the trash cans are turned upside down. Yet, it’s still $45.00 a night.

Roger V. (@guest_261715)
14 days ago

So many whiners. And yet, campgrounds are still packed.

Bob M (@guest_261701)
14 days ago

Everyone complains about the cost of campsites, But no one complains about the cost of everything else.

Mikal H (@guest_261734)
13 days ago
Reply to  Bob M

I don’t know, Bob. There’s been lots of complaints on RVTravel about cost of RVs and fuel. I suspect that since this particular “article” is about campground crowding, the majority do complain about campgrounds here.

Bill Byerly (@guest_261748)
13 days ago
Reply to  Mikal H


Craig Seitz (@guest_261698)
14 days ago

I get the complaints about noise and kids running amok. But I also find myself missing the days when my kids were young, camping was an adventure for them. Being older now, I do enjoy the quiet campgrounds. But I wouldn’t mind going back and visiting those days.

Tom (@guest_261693)
14 days ago

Pricing is a reaction to the massive RV sales during the COVID scare. Sales have significantly dropped this year. I’ll bet next year is no better. RV parks are going to have to adapt or die.

Lorelei (@guest_261690)
14 days ago

It’s a shame, but greed seems to make the world go around. I guess I’m lucky not to live in an RV, because keeping it small and simple is still enjoyable. I never was one to tolerate close neighbors and screaming kids or hollering grownups. I chuckled at people in a tent trailer because I walk the dog early and heard them snoring through the canvas. I don’t do RV parks or resorts. I’m still finding small campgrounds off the beaten path, but it takes more planning, and yes, a bit more money. And I never go on weekends. I’m a Boondockers Welcome host, but don’t get many people, and even then, it’s a nuisance and probably will drop it.

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