Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Campground crowding. One reader thinks we don’t need more RV parks…

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.


Darn technology! Always messing things up! Reader Bill Forbes brings up an interesting point. Maybe everyone should try this…

He writes, “Most public campgrounds use ReserveAmerica or another similar program. The default seems to be that you must choose a specific site in order to make a reservation. To make this as simple to explain as possible, suppose you have 2 sites in a campground. Tom doesn’t care which site he gets, so he makes a reservation for Site 1 for May 1 through 5. Dick is a little more discriminating, he looks at both sites and sees there is no difference, but makes a reservation for Site 2 for May 6 through 10. Now Harry wants to come on May 3 and stay through May 8, but the system tells him no sites are available. The computer isn’t smart enough to tell him that sites are actually available, but he might have to move on the 5th (or get Tom or Dick to move). If Harry knows how to work the system, he can figure it out, but many people don’t know and not all of the staff does either. The whole point of the system is that the park doesn’t need to pay someone on-site to manage reservations. The result is that sites stay empty because the program is less flexible than a well-motivated human in assigning sites.”


What if newbie RVers don’t know about the backroads? What if modern GPS devices only direct those who don’t know any better on the major highways and interstates? Do those of us who know the backroads of America have a better chance of reserving a campsite off one of those lesser-known roads? Or does it not matter? What do you think about this? Here’s what reader Wayne Pierce had to say:

“We left Clarkston, WA, heading to the Phoenix area. We are full-timers so we gave ourselves a month for the trip. We find leaving the Interstate system and taking U.S. routes and state highways provides us more RV park options. Yes, it’s slower but we can see more of the country. And we can see the historical markers. They will tell you what the locals think is important.
We also set ourselves a quest. Last summer it was to find the best pie on Route 66 (Miz Zip’s in Flagstaff was our winner). This year, it’s the best craft beer. The jury is still out as we haven’t found too many bad ones. But the quest continues.”


Bruce Pomazal wrote in with an interesting idea. What if you were penalized for cancelling multiple reservations throughout the year? Here are his thoughts: “It’s getting tougher to find spaces in the NW/Oregon and not due to COVID. I’ve heard of many people who reserve several campgrounds throughout the year and then cancel the ones they don’t want as the time approaches. In Oregon, you can reserve 9 months in advance and it becomes frustrating when you’re trying to book a spot. The first-come campsites virtually all taken early in the week so we’re not going to risk trying to get one even on a Wednesday or Thursday night. I believe that most campsites should be reservable (not 100% but most) and that you’re only allowed 2 cancellations annually and after that, you lose your reserve payment. This might actually help with the fully reserved parks and no available sites.” What do you think about this?

Make sure you join our Crowded Campgrounds Group on Facebook.


In previous installments of this feature, many readers have mentioned that if things don’t change, they’ll stop RVing. Here’s another one of those people. Robin Connell says, “Have been on the road for three weeks from NW Missouri. Headed to Death Valley.

“Enormous crowds In Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Totally packed. Frazzled overworked Park Rangers and staff. Lots of illegal overnighting in pull outside, parking areas etc.

“Very full campgrounds, even in Forest Service or BLM boondocking spots in Eastern Montana and Flaming Gorge area. We have been forced to change route several times, even though more than half of our sites had been reserved 4-6 months in advance.

“Will this change our camping style? You bet it will. Three ways – replace our 30′ travel trailer with a much more nimble truck camper. Head to Alaska next year if we can get through the borders. Hopefully, get away from much of the crowd, and reserve a much bigger percentage of our sites.

“Last choice is to sell our RV and stay home. Sure don’t want to repeat this year’s experience. The FUN of road tripping with an RV is gone!”


Reader Dick Tobey has a different opinion. Maybe he’s right… Here’s what he thinks: “Chuck is incorrect about the need for more RV parks. Imagine 2 years from now with no COVID and gas prices up a $1 per gallon or more. RV use will dwindle as people no longer work or go to school remotely, and other travel options are attractive, like flying or cruising. Those with new RV parks could likely go bankrupt.

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.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.


Emily Woodbury
Emily Woodbury
Emily Woodbury is the editor here at She was lucky enough to grow up alongside two traveling parents, one domestically by RV (yep, Chuck Woodbury) and the other for international adventures, and has been lucky to see a great deal of our world (and counting!). She lives near Seattle with her dog and chickens. When she's not cranking out 365+ newsletters for she's hiking, cooking or, well, probably traveling.



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wanderer (@guest_133002)
2 years ago

Bill needs to actually use Reserve America. There are tables clearly illustrating which spots are available on each day, and one can certainly book whatever combination one likes. Perhaps a lakeside one for a few days then move to a less desirable site if the lakeside is already booked for the weekend. The problem described is nonexistent for most systems. The few parks which still use a random-assignment system also seem to have actual people to do the random assignment.

The problems we need solved are: people locking up too many weekends too far in advance, and the no-show behavior that deprives real campers of accommodations, or drives them to ripoff rate parks.

Pursuits712 (@guest_99180)
3 years ago

We frequently camp at military campgrounds. Unsure what type of reservation system they use, but one of the complaints at many of the larger famcamps is that folks are moved around like chess pieces in order to ensure that all spaces are occupied as much of the time as possible.

Bob p (@guest_132990)
2 years ago
Reply to  Pursuits712

Military campgrounds are great except they are only for active duty and retirees.

Richard (@guest_99160)
3 years ago

We “full time” for 6 months of the year ( mid April to mid October) and have been for the last 7 years and I agree that finding a camping spot is definitely getting harder, We like to travel off the interstates, they are all the same, if you’ve been on one you’ve been on them all. Using the state highways is much more interesting and it leaves the interstates free for those who need / want to get from A to B as quickly as possible. Small town America is a wonderful place with lots to see and if you are like us who want to stop and see things it’s a great way to travel. It’s not for everyone as one or two room small town museums full of the local history are not as much fun as an 18 hole golf course for some plus it puts money into the local community. The best thing about traveling the state roads is (for us) that there are lots of places to stay overnight or longer if you want to explore the area. The further you are from the interstate the more camping places you will find.

PennyPA (@guest_98868)
3 years ago

I’m not sure about the first comment… the one with the reservations from the first to the 10th. Why would the reservation system tell Harry that he might have to move since the previous reservations were made for 2 different campsites? I’m not understanding this at all.

Firefly (@guest_98923)
3 years ago
Reply to  PennyPA

It’s not telling him that he has to move. He looks at the system and sees that there is not ONE campsite available for the entire length of stay. However if he looked closely at the system he would see that he could spend half his time in one campsite and the remainder of his stay in another. A human reservation person like in many RV parks would know to look for these kinds of combinations. The computer does not.

Mike Robertson (@guest_99058)
3 years ago
Reply to  Firefly

My wife and I stayed in a campground in Kentucky that did not guarantee a specific site. The computer moved campers around to better utilize the sites. In the office was a huge computer screen that you could actually see the movement of campers as if it were a checker board. You did not know your site until the actual time you checked in.
In a campground in New York you could guarantee or lock-in a particular campsite for an additional $35 fee.

Bob p (@guest_132994)
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Robertson

That’s the key to the entire mess, it’s all an electronic scheme to increase revenue for the campground owner for which he pays a premium to increase his revenue. Let’s go back maybe not all the way back to1957(I don’t know $.25 a gallon sounds good) to a time when life was much simpler. Without the complications of computers who don’t know the meaning of maybe, if, or other words besides yes or no.

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