Campground crowding. “I might as well stay home!” and other complaints

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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.

PLAN AHEAD? YUP, FIVE YEARS AHEAD…

For those of you who have a hard time making campground or RV park reservations a year in advance, perhaps you have a few things to learn from reader Bob Staples. Bob wrote, “We’ve only been RVing for eight years, but we learned early on that reservations are a must. It forces us to plan ahead, so we maintain a five-year calendar. We make our reservations 6 months to one year in advance. Staying at a full RV park doesn’t bother us much. What is troubling, however, are the prices. Corporations are buying up the most popular, revenue-generating RV parks. And they invest a lot to upgrade and enhance their RV parks so they are very nice places to stay. But, they charge a very high premium rate and do not offer discounts. When we started, we could stay near Yellowstone for $600/mo., but now many spots cost $75 – $100/night; they do not offer weekly or monthly rates. I’m concerned that when we want to visit Yellowstone again, we won’t be able to afford it.”

MAKE NIGHTLY MINIMUMS, AND RAISE PRICES!

Reader John Rakoci isn’t messing around. He says he’s willing to pay resort (higher) prices for campgrounds that are quieter and have more management control. Here’s what he has to say: “Retired and shut down June-August. I prefer over-55 campgrounds and I’m happy to pay resort prices even without using amenities as they are generally quieter and better run, with more management control. I no longer bother with public CGs. Empty sites reserved with no fee consequences for not cancelling. Open sites in private CGs during the week as weekends fill. Those that want to spend a week or more are not going to Walmart over the weekend and return… One day CG owners will wake up and have a 3-night weekend minimum and 4-day holiday minimum. They are losing a ton of revenue. Low nightly fees are another revenue loser! Wake up to supply and demand with the lowest CG at $50 a weeknight and $75 on weekends minimum!” You tell ’em, John!

RVS NEED TO BE AT LEAST 6-FEET APART TOO…

Reader Brenda Odom sent us this photo and wrote, “How close is too close? This was our view this morning. I don’t think this even qualifies as more than 6 feet under COVID guidelines! Lol! Seriously: Parking on the grass (spaces have very large gravel areas) this close to another rig? I can’t help but feel a little claustrophobic.” We’d feel claustrophobic too, Brenda!

SMALLER RIG, BIG RIG, SAME CAMPSITE

Reader Curt Coffee brings up a good point. Have you ever thought about the fact that no matter your rig size, most often you are in the same sized campsite as everyone else? Here’s what Curt says about that, and why it’s important to think about: “We have the experience of having a smaller rig (26 ft.) that we are placed in sites that no one else can fit in, you know, the ones next to the trash can, dumpsite, the small ones in the back, etc.
We pay the same amount as those 45-footers that have tankless water heaters, 2 bathrooms, dishwashers, etc. We have even encountered a fold-down deck that was next to our front door let alone a sewer hose next to our table. We have also encountered being sandwiched between two bigger rigs and, oh, here come the slide outs. Our lot has shrunk by a third on both sides. One park had awning-to-awning parking which is great if you love your neighbor, not so much if you don’t know them. If everyone would exercise respect for each other it would be so much nicer.

“THAT ISN’T CAMPING!”

Do you think the pandemic has changed RVing in other ways that you haven’t seen discussed here? Denise McNaughton does, and here’s the result of it for her and her family: “We were an RV family for 9 years and we loved it. Spur of the moment is what we needed to leave with the jobs we had. We were able to get beautiful sites and not crowded National Parks. A year before COVID we couldn’t get our usual places – they were booking a year in advance. No can do with our schedules. I figured first it was the tiny house movement, then COVID hit and everything went in the bucket. We sold our beautiful 5th wheel and F-350 dually 2 months ago. Just wasn’t going to fight the crowds of two movements. We are very sad but RVing isn’t meant to live in full time. It’s supposed to be a catalyst to get away and enjoy a new experience, and now the experience is sadly gone. Staying up late around the campfires and having fun, with people you meet from all over the world is the experience… Not having to be quiet by 9 pm ’cause the camp next to you has a Zoom meeting at 7 am. That isn’t camping! I might as well stay home. Good luck from the Pacific Northwest.”

RIDING THE RODEO…

Here’s a helpful tip from reader Robin Connell: “We have learned to look for local or county fairgrounds as a campsite location. In the Midwest and West, they are very common and usually have electricity and water at a very reasonable rate. We have often had the entire place to ourselves and have often had free evening entertainment as local rodeo enthusiasts use the grounds for practice sessions.”

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.

##RVT971

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Dennis G.
1 month ago

In the last three years, we have had to get creative with reservation bookings. It’s not like it was in the mid-90’s when you almost never needed a reservation traveling. 99% percent of the time we could grab an overnight stop with zero drama.
Today we are planning our trips carefully, and have had to become creative in where we go. Example: We wanted to camp in Death Valley this Christmas, but had to reserve Joshua Tree as Death Valley was already booked out months ago.

Rich
1 month ago

we returned home from AZ last may, parked the MH and wrote off the rest of 2020. between reported crowds and silly govt restrictions it just wasn’t worth the effort. we canceled our snowbird trip…we had our AZ spot reserved but we take 3-4 weeks to get to AZ and, again, did not want to put up with crowds, restrictions and the whim of politicians who can’t see beyond their noses. so we’ll see what 2021 has to offer. we’d like to get down to SW FL to see my aunt but time will tell.

Goldie
1 month ago

It is really Interesting to see and hear the variety of our lifestyles and opinions. We do not consider ourselves “campers.” Our second home just happens to have wheels and we will spend 4+ months in it each year. We prefer the resorts with their larger spaces and amenities and plan 6 mos. to a year in advance. We love meeting new and old friends on the road but avoid the crowded private campgrounds except for overnight stays while traveling to the next resort. We have rarely stayed in a public campground. Although many of those are updating we usually will not fit. And we strongly prefer those campgrounds that do not allow wood campfires. We have literally been smoked out of campsites. When you have to pull out the inhaler to breathe inside your coach, it’s time to leave. Isn’t it wonderful that there is something for nearly everyone in this beautiful country?

Ellen L
1 month ago

When we started planning our full time adventure last winter Covid wasn’t part of the equation. Al is a homebody. I am the social butterfly. I was looking forward to friendly neighbors and RV park activities. We’ve had to settle for short conversations with neighbors and doing a lot of reading. My library card lets me borrow books for my Kindle. When I can find a church of my denomination I get some “distanced” interaction on Sundays. Although my expectations are not met in the social department, I am loving our new life.

Lance
1 month ago

Yes it is definitely more difficult to book a site,we now have to think months out instead of weeks.It seems the days that are available with short notice are Mon.- Wed. Unfair thing is you pay the same rate and for the most part you get none of the perks available on the weekends ex. entertainment and activities.
Still too early to think about giving it up but if things continue as they are it is making my decision easier!

Rock & Tina
1 month ago

In response to “This Isn’t Camping!,” we are not “camping.” We are a retired couple traveling and exploring the United States for six or more months a year. We choose to use a motorhome to accomplish this instead of airlines and hotels. Not everyone in a RV is camping. We see the those who are camping show up on Fridays, do their requisite camping things, some amusing, some annoying, then they pack up and leave on Sunday afternoon which returns the campground to a more serene environment.

Marie
1 month ago

I disagree with one thing Denise MacNaughton said about camping not meant for full time and getting away for new experiences. Many people DO RV full time. As far as new experiences, many have seasonal sites which guarantees you a spot in the place of your choice.

IMO, if you’re in a tent or any type of RV….you’re camping, whether you’re in one spot or traveling the country.

Arlene Helms
1 month ago

Are you kidding me Chuck? If I had a tip to find less crowded campgrounds, I sure wouldn’t share it! ; ) Then those campgrounds would be crowded too. I recall you saying you weren’t naming your favorite place in OR or WA because then it would become crowded!! \ (•◡•) /

Julie
1 month ago
Reply to  Arlene Helms

Agree! We’ve been fortunate to find a few real gems we’ll be returning to. They may not stay a gem if we broadcast it. 😊

outlaw
1 month ago
Reply to  Julie

Thankyou, the more we broadcast our spots the more these newbies will move in.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  Arlene Helms

Arlene, you took the words out of my, er, iPad. My wife and I have compiled our personal list of ‘secret’ places that are almost always camper free and waiting for us. Most of them are boondock sites but still . . . I don’t want to lose them to others. Selfish? Maybe, but I don’t care.

Bill T
1 month ago

For Denise McNaughton and “That Isn’t Camping”. Amen sister. I agree 100%.

Irv
1 month ago

What I find interesting about the published comments is how different the expectations. Some want quiet, some noisy late night campfires, some desire to make new friends, some to be left alone.

The reserved but empty spot problem is easily solved with tweaks to reservation policy and enhancing the reservation company websites.

Ed D.
1 month ago

We got really lucky and have found our own little piece of Heaven, on a Lake, in N. Carolina, surrounded by Mountains. We spend most of our Spring, Fall and Summer time here. We reside in Florida. We have a 5th. Wheel that we purchased just for this spot. It is an RV Park that only offers an annual lease, so there are no daily, weekly, or monthly renters. The weekends, during the warm months are pretty much full here but the week days, we have the place almost fully to ourselves. We also have a 2016 Class C that we bought new to travel elsewhere in between stays here. So we have the best of both worlds. One of the things we love about the RV’ing life style is that we have met people from all walks of life and have made many friends along the way. That’s what it is all about.
If you are of the mindset that you would rather be alone, there is always Boondocking for your preference. People build Campgrounds as a way to make money. That’s why this country is so great!

Ed D.