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Campground Crowding: “Boondocking is as full as the campsites!”

By Nanci Dixon
More people than ever are taking up RVing. These newbies have determined that RVing is the safest way to travel in our pandemic times. The result is campground crowding like never before. In this weekly blog, RV Travel readers discuss their experiences. Maybe we can make some sense of this and find ways to work around the problem.

Here are a few observations from our readers.

CRAMMING US IN

As I wrote about last week, we needed to change our travel plans and get to a family funeral in Illinois. My husband and I were so touched that so many readers responded with both condolences and offers to give up their sites for us. You are all too sweet! As the search continued, we found a place to book that is close to the funeral location, so for now we just have to keep driving and driving.

Photo Credit: Nanci Dixon

As we drove, we could no longer be picky about the campsite – we just needed to find one at the end of every day. Doing so pointed out how crowded some campgrounds were and others that were wide open. Those with the lowest ratings were obviously the ones easiest to get into. And some of the higher-rated ones were still very, very crowded. That is not a parking lot in the above photo – that is the campsite row! We were so grateful to get the last campsite in this campground in Oklahoma. I literally could have opened the door, leaned out and touched the motorhome next to us! No, we didn’t picnic at the table – it would have been difficult to get around our neighbor’s sewer connections!

Photo Credit: Nanci Dixon

Photo Credit: Nanci Dixon

SELLING OUT DUE TO CAMPGROUND CROWDING

Last week, we published an email from a reader who had decided to quit RVing due to campground crowding and sold his RV in less than 15 minutes after listing it for sale! This week we received several more comments about how quickly other readers’ RVs sold.

Leona wrote, “Sold ours last April in two days to a first-time RVer.”

Laurie also let us know how quickly their RV sold. “After over 35 years of RV’n, me and the hubby have also decided to give it up. I posted my 5th wheel for sale on the local FB selling group. I had many interested and sold it to the first people that looked at it. Farewell, RV’n!”

BOONDOCKING AS FULL AS THE CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS

Greg T. is also frustrated with the campground crowding. “Overcrowding has definitely affected and will continue to affect our camping. We aren’t RV park campers unless we have no other choice. We much prefer boondocking. I have added solar and other things to make boondocking possible.

“But now all of the boondocking sites are as full as the RV parks. And to make it worse, they are filled with RVs with ATVs and UTVs so we have to listen to the noise and breathe the dust from them. Sometimes it goes on after midnight.

“I really have no desire to put up with it all anymore. I’m seriously considering that it’s time to throw in the towel. This is definitely NOT how I planned on spending my retirement.”

FINDING A SITE … THE FAIR WAY!

Lynne L. has found a way to easily find sites in spite of campground crowding. “Living in California, without question, we enjoy county fairgrounds. Most have RV sites with full hookups, friendly managers, less hassles with reservations and often are first-come, first-served. We find site pricing is a fair price. I always check the website and phone the office to double-check any big event days, which we like to avoid.”

Merikay M. also finds fairgrounds the way to go. “One simple hint: State and County Fairgrounds. Not fancy, but usually large and have plenty of spaces. Be sure to call or reserve during the week. They do not always have someone on-site on weekends.”

ADAPT, ADAPT, ADAPT TO DEAL WITH CAMPGROUND CROWDING!

It’s all about adapting to the new normal, at least for Lisa W. She has learned to do the work ahead of time instead of scrambling for a site later. “Four-year-old full-timers here. I plan one year in advance using RV Trip Wizard. It certainly wasn’t my fantasy to have a rigid schedule, but I refuse to give up this lifestyle simply because I can’t go wherever the wind blows. Not adapting to whatever life dishes out is not terribly nomad-like. Learn to lean into it and live up to the challenge! I still get to be a free spirit in my day-to-day activities and rarely worry about finding a spot. Stressful last-minute hunting and late-night Walmart lots are not for me. Having plans well laid out and done in advance gives me plenty of time to wander where I want to wander.”

Boondocking tip: Schedule a night or two in advance near the area you plan to boondock and pick out two or three areas to scout out.

CHANGING RULES

Therese S. said that the rules have changed in Minnesota. “We live in Minnesota. Camping is big up here so it has always been difficult to get a spot at a State Park. They have changed the system so you can only book 8 weeks ahead, not one year, to make it fairer to all. It has been difficult so we have opted for county parks and sometimes even private campgrounds if we are desperate. The private campgrounds are more like camping parking lots, and more expensive, so not our choice! Yeah, it is a problem, for sure. Not sure what the answer is. Let us know if you figure it out!”

FRUSTRATION FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CHECK-IN DESK

Park host Brenda C. gives us this perspective from the other side of the check-in desk: “RV Camping outlook from a Park Host. People call for a space explaining their mother is dying and they need to style her estate? False. Mother has cancer and needs to live by treatment center? False. Truck needs a new engine so they can continue to go home? False. And newbies who have traveled 1,000 miles already and never backed up their RV, now trying to do so for the past 40 minutes. RVer’s having never emptied their black tank, sewer holding tank, and now attempting to do so. RVers spilling raw sewage on the surface and commenting they will hose it off… Why am I upset? It is a bag of comedy and a bowl of tears managing an RV Park in these times……”

HAPPY ENDING TO THIS WEEK’S COLUMN

Marv A. shares a happy ending for this week’s crowded campgrounds column. “Our kid and her hubby sold everything they owned in North CA except a Jeep, truck and a boat. They bought a truck camper and headed to TN on April 15, down I-5 and across the Tehachapi’s. Connecting with 1-40, they are in OK City today and have had no trouble finding campsites. Outta debt – they love it.” We wish you the best, Marv’s kid and hubby!

Now, some questions for you:

• Are you finding more and more campgrounds booked up? Or are you having no problem finding places to stay?

• 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 here

##RVT999

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Vincee
5 months ago

Look, most campers who care already know about running into crowded campgrounds. How many more articles is this newsletter going to publish about crowded campgrounds? We get it, more people started camping because of Covid-19. And, after return to normal (when will that be?) many of those that jumped into the lifestyle will just as quickly jump out, and we long-term campers can have all the power pedestals and dump stations back for our own.

Deb
5 months ago

Decided to get out of camping, so we sold our 2 man tiny home built teardrop trailer. It was bought and gone within 4 hours.

Ray
5 months ago

Having an issue with writing a comment so I’ll make this short. Wisconsin is great state to visit,camp, and enjoy the seasons. Leaving for Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons a week from Thursday. Done with planning and research, I could write more but I’m going to be kicked out silk browser. Yours in camping and rving, Ray and Joy.

Carson Axtell
5 months ago

For the time being, it seems clear that easily accessed camping sites will be the stomping grounds of the majority of the RVing crowds, which forces those who want peace and quiet farther and farther down the roads less traveled… Smaller, lighter, and tougher rigs, especially those equipped with 4X4 drive trains, will become more necessary to find those idyllic spots most of us seek. Hopefully this current pandemic-induced RV craze will fade away like other fads once the all-clear is given by health authorities, and the crowds will return to less work intensive leisure activities. Then we’ll see a glut of used RVs hit the market and the return of more elbow room out among the trees and cacti.

Jan Drobiak
5 months ago
Reply to  Carson Axtell

Been rv-ing for 10 years with a travel trailer now, and has it changed since I began. As far as campgrounds are concerned, I never had much use for them. Not my idea of camping having to listen to the quarrels of others and screaming kids, or adults screaming at them. I’d rather bring in my own water and manage use of the portable black tank any day of the week. I’ve been lucky so far going between here and Tn. Pandemic has me held up and standing pat until the coast is clear, literally.
Traveling is much harder with and RV today, and highway driving with a trailer is dangerous as hell. Passing semi’s, being passed by semi’s on 81, isn’t fun unless you’re brain dead. I used to be able to find a place to rest when I got tired. Space is now scarce and the competition is brutal, and that can be said ‘literally’ also.
Prognosis is not good for RV’ers. The travel trailers are so overpriced it’s hilarious. $20 G for a smaller Rv TT, and there’re built on the cheap with material and the workmanship is much to be desired.
You’d better be handy with propane heaters, water pumps, electrics, and throw in some caulking and roof and penetration sealants to boot. You’ll need, or pay someone to do i,t before you pay off that trailer.
Campgrounds are a joke. See these people camping in a parking lot? You like that? I’ll stay where I am before moving on until this pandemic is over.

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