Campground crowding. RVers would rather quit than fight!

15
crowded campgrounds

Updated weekly

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.

IF THIS IS THE NEW NORM, I QUIT!

“If parks stay as crowded as they are now, will you continue RVing? Here are Marty Koch’s thoughts on the matter: “Just got back from a two-month trip in the West. Driving north from West Yellowstone, Montana, I stopped at 6 Forest Service sites, all of which have gone to 100% advance reservations. Talked to the host in each spot and all said 30% of the sites went unused each night – all the while turning away upwards of 100 campers each night.

“I am a wanderer and cannot make plans 8 to 12 months in advance. It is my opinion that at least 40% of Forest Service spaces should be first-come first-served. There must be hundreds of thousands of us nomadic travelers that are being impacted by this.

“I was traveling in areas I am very familiar with and even dispersed camping areas 20-40 miles down rough gravel roads were full. I finally left the area and headed home because I could not deal with the lack of camping facilities, crowds and fire smoke. I stopped in the Moab, Utah area on the way home and once again areas down long rough desert roads were full. Trying to get out of Moab, which is not a very big town, I became caught in a 1-and-1/2-hour-long traffic jam.

“When I left my 400-plus site campground in Grand Teton, I counted 111 campers in line at 5:30 in the morning hoping to snag a site. If this is the new norm I doubt I will enjoy traveling for much longer.”

😦 😦 😦

Reader Montgomery Bonner might throw in the towel too. He wrote, “Have looked at campgrounds at Corps of Engineers (COE) parks, booked out till they close. Oh, a few 3 to 4 day openings, but for the distance I have to travel I want at least 5 days or more. We have several parks near home, but since the busy season is now, don’t want to pay $95 a night either. Think this is only going to get worse, not better. And with the economy in a mess, not sure it’s going to be feasible to afford to use the RV and camp next year. So we are talking about putting it up for sale. It’s the last one, if we do, we are done.”

HEY, RV MANUFACTURERS, GET OFF YOUR GREEDY REARS!

Of course, by now we all know that the solution to more RV sales is more RV parks and campgrounds. Easier said than done, of course, but perhaps it’s something the RV manufacturers should consider.

Here’s what Mark Generales wrote: “RVing is supposed to be relaxing and less stressful. Greedy RV manufacturers and their sales companies are too busy ringing up sales to care that they are destroying RV life. This WILL come home to roost. So Thor, Winnebago, and the rest – keep on cranking them out and know you are about to hit a wall – a very big one.

“If the RV manufacturers do not see the writing – the TOTAL LACK OF SITES – a crash is coming. If spending $20k on a travel trailer for a young couple can’t be used – or $399k for a DP – time will come the interest will die. Dozens upon dozens of used units at deep, deep discounts – and no buyers. Doubt me? Let’s go back to ’08 and ’09.

“Someone needs to capitalize, create a ‘Marriott’-type branded RV park and place it everywhere. Quality, predictable, and reasonable. I challenge the manufacturers to get off their greedy rears and wake up. Your demise is coming if you do not address this. Join together and create the RV Park brand. Give us someplace to go.”

This is a fairly typical view of the “neighbors” at an RV park. But even getting a less that ideal space like this can be coveted when little else is available.

😦 😦 😦

SO HERE’S WHAT YA GOTTA DO…

Alan Wolfe offers some advice on ways to find a campsite. He writes: “We have not been overwhelmed by crowded campgrounds or by not being able to get reservations yet. I suspect it is because of our current approach. We choose a couple of days, mid-week every other week or so. Our RV is equipped for almost any type of campsite, from hookups to boondocking (still adding new ways). The campgrounds have been fuller than the past, but our flexibility in date, type of site, and which campground have allowed us to find a way so far.”

MORE NEIGHBORS, MORE COMPLAINTS

Crowded campgrounds, we’re guessing, go hand-in-hand with more complaints. Wouldn’t you agree? Here’s an example from reader Dosinda Linden. “Arrived in Paso Robles: much more crowded this trip (late September) than our previous trips. We intend to do a lot more off-season traveling: fall and winter, rather than our previous, spring and summer schedule.

“Crowded campgrounds lead to a more guarded attitude amongst the transient population: folks, whether staff or neighbors, are not as friendly or helpful as they were during our pre-COVID-19 days. Still, we are having a good time being “away,” despite the complaint received by the office staff that we were playing our indoor music too loud. Such an activity never bothered anyone else before, but with most narrow spaces filled, we must closely regulate our activities, so as not to disturb our stand-offish neighbors.”

SO, IS ALL THIS TEMPORARY?

As Mark mentioned up above, maybe this boom in RV sales and crowded RV parks is temporary. What will happen if everyone, like Marty and Montgomery, throw in the towel and sell their RVs? Reader Joseph Weinstein thinks it is temporary. Here’s what he wrote, “We are not finding it more difficult to book because we plan early. We do see more campgrounds full. I don’t think this will last. I think the boom in RV sales is going to provide a significant ‘used’ market in about 2 years as many of the people who are now purchasing RVs are going to find they need continual maintenance, they break down, and there is a continuing expense to own one.”

Read last week’s column on Crowded Campgrounds.

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.

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Danny Evans
7 days ago

We spent 13 days on the road in September and had no problem finding camping. We traveled from Texas through New Mexico and Colorado to Utah. I had researched the various possibilities along our possible routes. We had no specific agenda or time and usually called in the morning of or the evening before to check for sites. We stayed in campgrounds that were pretty full to campgrounds that had ample space. Three campgrounds we stayed 3 days each. Others were just overnighters. Sites are available in small towns and we don’t mind driving 25 miles to a national park to avoid traffic and crowds. Many cities have city parks or fairgrounds as well which we took advantage of. Of course it seems that most parks are 50% full of permanent residents.

wanderer
9 days ago

Thanks to all the helpful souls saying to book midweek. Yes, we know there are vacancies midweek. How far can you travel out and back in 4 days? RVs are for traveling, and that means you need somewhere to stay weekends. Booking midweek, or ‘off-season’ (i.e. in crummy weather for that locale) is not the answer.

Tim Pittman
8 days ago
Reply to  wanderer

I’ve found booking weekends in advance and taking my chances weekdays works for me.

Abe Loughin
9 days ago

I have a question for Mark Generals, I don’t know what you do for a living but let’s say you’re a furniture salesman. There’s a building boom in your area. Hundreds of new home buyers looking to furnish their new homes. Do you sell as much furniture as you can and reap the commission? If so, is that greed or taking due advantage of the current situation. Building and selling rvs is their business and livelihood, taking advantage of a situation they didn’t have a hand in creating is just good business and the base of our capitalistic economy.

want2racer
9 days ago
Reply to  Abe Loughin

you are 100% correct but you miss the big picture. It would be in everyone’s best interest to build many more RV parks nationwide. I for one am a road tripper and can’t make reservations 6 or 8 months in advance. One complaint I have heard over and over was that you couldn’t get into any of the parks. If people have a negative experience they will not be trading up they will be trading OUT. I myself have a very small 13′ Jayco and wouldn’t mind trading up to a bigger unit me and my wife have road tripped for many years and seen more than a handful of national parks. The experience we had this year suggested we would have been better off moteling it. In a year and a half I will be in a position to decide if a bigger unit is in my best interest or I would be better off staying in motels. It might not be THEIR problem but it would be in their interest to help find a solution. With an aging population and people liking to travel I would bet there would be a better upside to finding a fix.

D Haley
8 days ago
Reply to  Abe Loughin

Big difference in homes as they are stationery RVs aren’t and need a place to park. The issue is being made the spaces aren’t readable available for parking for all the Rvs being made for RVers to go to big difference. Furniture is going into something not going out somewhere. RV parks, sites, camp grounds are not growing at the same rate, with that said after this pandemic comes to a close and air travel and cruises again gain ground what we know of RVing in the present will not be 5 years from now. RV companies such as Thor will be gone or a 10th of the size. Quality is already gone to hell with new RVs so standards have head to the buy and throw like microwaves and I think RV companies should be the financial loan leaders and not other financial institutions as the general populace shouldn’t have to pay the consequences of reposessions on RVs. So Mark has a valid point.

Ron T
9 days ago

Blaming RV manufacturers for crowded campgrounds is like blaming auto manufacturers for traffic jams. It’s not their problem. As for “Marriott-style” branded parks, KOA is a prime example. Quality, predicable and reasonable have many definitions but unless profit is achieved it can’t happen. Yet glamping resorts seem to be flourishing and KOA is dabbling there as well. Those selling their RVs will ease their pain, but whoever buys them just has to learn to deal with it. It’s the free market place in action.

Tim Pittman
8 days ago
Reply to  Ron T

Comparing RV manufactures and car manufactures and introducing traffic jams is a poor comparison on many levels. It is not the RV manufactures responsibility to lessen campground crowding but it sure is in their best interest to.
Many new RV buyers have no clue what they are getting into from RV manufactures poor quality control to unethical dealers to long warranty repair waits to crowded campgrounds. Some of these new RV buyers will throw their hands up in frustration and quit. Many will be vocal about their experiences and that will come back to bite the RV manufactures.

Brenda
8 days ago
Reply to  Ron T

Perhaps a better comparison would be more vehicles vs. substandard roads. Don’t see anyone holding automakers responsible for road conditions or lack of new roads.

Tim Pittman
9 days ago

Good campgrounds are crowded especially weekends. We tend to stay in public CG’s even when traveling to our destination CG. Popular CG’s on the Gulf coast and FL are booked well in advance but I’ve found CG in less popular areas more available especially on weekdays.
Most state parks use Reserve America and federal parks use Recreation.gov to handle their reservations. I’ve noticed in more than one public park, open spaces early in the morning when their web sites has shown the park full the previous night. The reason for this of course is some folks don’t cancel their reservation and the reservations system in some cases charges almost as much to cancel as the cost of the reservation. Perhaps more sites should be open to walk ins to solve this. Or even better, a hefty charge added to a camper’s credit card if they are a no show and didn’t cancel.
To make matters worse, in some state park CG, the ranger can’t make or change a reservation even if they know a site will be unoccupied.

Bill
9 days ago
Reply to  Tim Pittman

In my experience both websites will tell you nothing is available if there is not a campsite available for the entire time for the dates you specify. If you go looking for availability by date, you will often find sites available during that time.

Philip Sponable
9 days ago

Reservations are for sissies, embrace the quest.

Ron T
9 days ago

I agree. I’m not a camper, I’m a traveling adventurer. Nothing ventured-Nothing gained! A few times I’ve had to drive an hour or so hunting a spot, but I haven’t ended up at Walmart yet – though I’d be fine there.

BadWolfe
9 days ago

Love it! “.. embrace the quest.”

Tommy Molnar
9 days ago

Some of this crowding is not new. Back in 1979 I rode my bicycle from Chicago to San Francisco. I remember camping in the “Bike & Hike” areas of Yellowstone and Teton NP’s. I think it was 50 cents back then . . . I was in that area for four days. When I would take off in the morning to go to the next Bike & Hike site, I was confronted with bumper to bumper RV’s and campers (and I mean BUMPER TO BUMPER!) on every road. They were going from campground to campground. I was able to whiz by most of them as they were either totally stopped or barely moving. I looked at that and told myself I would NEVER do that. My wife and I have been RV’ing for almost 25 years, and have never found ourselves in that predicament. But to be fair, we pretty much stay out west. We live in northern NV.