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.
CAMPING ETIQUETTE: A MUST-READ
We’re sure you heard, but we just published the third edition of our book, The ABCs of RVing (shameless plug, sorry…), but reader Sue Burrows thinks there should be a book for newbie RVers on camping etiquette. Perhaps we’ll write that one next… Not a bad idea, Sue!
Here’s what she says: “As we are work campers in the summer the ‘Newbies’ need a quick course on camping etiquette. They have no idea how to camp and respect their neighbors or their facilities that are available to them. The way they look at it is that it’s not theirs so they can tear it up. Every weekend was a Holiday Weekend packed full – which is good for the owners but a nightmare for the work campers who have to clean up after them. It was a very long season this year. It’s over and relaxing now in Arizona, not cleaning up after anyone’s mess, no more clogged toilets… they don’t know how to call someone to fix them but are able to complain about it. Every new camper needs a book on camping etiquette but will they read it? Half the time they don’t even know when to check out. lol.”
“WE WERE LAUGHED AT IF WE DIDN’T HAVE RESERVATIONS TWO YEARS AHEAD”
We’ve been hearing from many of you who say you make your RV park or campground reservations months, even years in advance. Well, here’s Francois Snyder’s experience and, sadly, it didn’t end well (well, for the RV at least…): “We were on the road for a year with a brand-new motorhome and found most RV parks were always crowded and always booked – especially in Texas, Florida, Oregon, California, Arizona. We were laughed at when checking availability if we didn’t have reservations 2 years ahead, especially in Florida. Prices ranged from $1,100 to $1,400 and up per month, and for KOA it was up to $2,600 for private high-class resorts. We sold our RV and bought a house that has appreciated 150k since COVID hit. We made the right move at the right time. We did lose over 1/3 of the RV value when we sold it.”
DO FULL CAMPGROUNDS = MONTHLY RENTERS?
Something we haven’t really discussed yet in this space is monthly campers. Mike Robertson talks about this and says, “Here’s my opinion: Comparing 2020 RV traveling with previous years, I find there are fewer RV sites available. With the exception of state or national parks around the country, because we use mostly private owned RV campgrounds, I believe the shortage of RV sites are not only caused by all the above, but I’m finding more and more RV sites are being given over to permanent campers/renters by the month. I believe we must take this into account. It seems more and more people, including seniors, are parking/trading in, their RVs in lieu of the expense of a brick and mortar home. One RV park we use when we travel now has over 60% dedicated to monthly renters. I just wanted to add this to the mix.” That’s a good point, Mike!
YUP, CROWDED MEANS CROWDED
We’ll leave this space to Brenda Odom, who has a lot to say about her recent out-of-state experience: “We have RV’d for 30 years, been to 43 states, managed a campground, and camp hosted for several years. Two weeks ago we set off on a tri-state jaunt: first out-of-state trip this year. It was very different than our past experiences.
The first campground was nice but crowded on the weekend. Had to move cars when new campers came in so they could get into their site. Camper on one side parked truck on grass between our sites…all I could see from my dinette window was his truck hood!
The second campground was one we had used before, but boy, had it changed! People and campers everywhere…noise until midnight or after…and mud, mud, mud. (Photo is the site across from us). This time I had a nice view from the sofa window – neighbor’s slide literally 3 ft. away.
The third campground did not have our reservation, but fortunately had openings. It ended up being the best of the trip!
The fourth campground called a week before to tell us they had double-booked and would we take overflow? We literally were parked at the end of one of the loop roads. Essentially we were all parked on an unlevel field with E/W. Fortunately, the trees forced some space between each rig.
Thankfully, our last two stops were without issues.
We have decided weekend camping is no longer for us. We are fortunate to be retired so we can camp during the week. It does limit the range of our travel, but there is still plenty to see close to home. When there isn’t, we will do something else.”
“BACK TO BACK, BELLY TO BELLY”
Sure, it’s probably not true everywhere, but hopefully the campgrounds that are charging more are doing so because they’ve improved their sites or added more amenities to the park. Vernon Britton writes, “Booking does seem to be a little more problematic in the last 18 months. We have always tried to make a plan for our ninety-day trips as well as possible. We establish our general route and highlight the “must” spots to reserve. We don’t mind the effort. It is much like any vacation. People seldom go to tourist areas without reservations. We are paying more now for the better sites but we are seeing site improvements. More campgrounds have adequate internet, better electrical service and cleaner grounds. The medium-cost campgrounds seem to be getting a bit better. There is still a surplus of ratty full-timer sites that try to suck in overnighters, but for one night, we can take that. The only fairly consistent disappointment is KOA. We have found a few good ones but most are just passable. There was an old Kingston Trio song with the lyrics, ‘Back to back; belly to belly’ – that must have been inspired at a KOA.”
If you’re heading to Utah, reader Tom Lund has a suggestion for you: “Castle Gate RV Park in Helper, UT, is about 1 1/2 years old and, though getting fuller, seems to have space available regularly for walk-in customers. It is a great stop between Salt Lake City and Moab, with lots to do in the immediate area without the crowds.” Tom, you are brave for sharing. Don’t everyone rush there at once!
Reader Michael Galvin also offers some advice. He writes, “Join the Elks and camp at lodges. Over 600 in the U.S. are listed as permitting camping and many not listed will let you dry camp if you ask. Elks are happy if you join just for the RV benefits as many do and then become active members.
Camp at Cracker Barrel. Over 600 in the U.S. Camp free and buy dinner and/or breakfast. Our last one had six long RV pull-thru parking spots. Put out slides, but nothing else.”
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.
Yes! The RV parks we have wanted to stay at are easily 75-80% monthly renters.
It’s a great idea, but at the same time, a shame that you’d have to write a book on etiquette; it’s mostly common sense and courtesy
We weekend camp, but two of the last four times we stayed at our usual State Park we had new campers waiting on us to check out.
Now, the first time we were 45 minutes late (battery in the clock were going flat and didn’t realize what time it actually was) but they were waiting for our spot 10 minutes after check out, and 80 minutes BEFORE check in. The following weekend, a senior couple rolled into the park at noon and parked in the overflow area while we were packing out. Thirty minutes later (half an hour before check out), the drivers window of their Chevy truck rolls down and I hear a shouted, “You leavin’ anytime soon?”
(In my head….) Uh, excuse me?? Dude, I’ve still got about half an hour…… Instead I reply, “Wrapping up now,” as the gentleman rolls up his window. This guy had obviously been RVing for decades, but you’d think he’d have known the basics about when you show up early for your reservation. Camping this year has just been crazy….
We started full time in April. We rent for a month at a time so we can enjoy the area. Our reservations go out 6 months.
It honestly shouldn’t be necessary as all the key elements should be driven by simple common sense and courtesy. The fact a book even needs to be suggested speaks very sad volumes about the general status of the society we’ve become.
People just need to be taught etiquette, manners and responsibility.
There are a lot of full time RVers out there. Some of us like to stay in one place for a month, or the whole winter. I guess that makes us monthly renters and makes us guilty of taking up spaces that over night campers could use. Are one night stays more important than long term campers? If so, why?
The campground staff spends time checking in a one night stay. They spend the same amount of time checking in a one month stay. I am pretty sure they would rather not have one night stands every day of the week.
If you want to camp where everyone else camps, you may find the campgrounds crowded. It is not too hard to find an almost empty campground an hour away from these popular spots. For example, if you want to camp on the beach in southern California in the summer, try driving inland an hour and camp in the desert. Then do a day trip to the beach.
Just this past week I spoke with the owner of a campground in Clyde, Ohio. He refused to allow anyone other than seasonal renters in. He says he’s had enough of the damage and trouble that transient campers caused him.
Yes! We’re outside of Boise, Idaho, of all places and just found out they’re taking fewer monthly rentals in 2021 so they can move in more yearly rentals!
YES. YES. AND AGAIN YES.
I love the reference to “Back to back and belly to belly”. The title of the song is “Zombie Jamboree.” It’s how some of these places feel these days.
We’ve found this true almost anywhere in Arizona and in the Grand Rapids Michigan area. Arizona because it is one of the snowbird capitals. When we visited Michigan, we got the impression that there was a state law requiring every household to own an RV. The Michigan locals are diehard, year round campers. I think it’s a matter of economics; it is more profitable for the RV parks to offer attractive annual rates to their best customers. Each annual spot offers the RV Park a guaranteed income for the least cost.
The monthly renters do lock up a lot of spaces. The parks encourage it by setting monthly rates at 1/3 or less of daily or weekly rates. That would seem to be a losing strategy financially especially in high season, but that’s the way everybody likes it, except the travelers who either pay more or find a ‘no vacancy’ sign.
I asked an owner of a campground up in the mountains why he leased sites , many of them for parkside trailers. He does most of his business in the summer, but still needs to pay taxes all winter long. Folks are willing to pay for a site they aren’t using to have a site available in the spring, summer and autumn.
Agree 100% with “Back to back and belly to belly” about the state of KOA’s. The organization needs to get it’s act together with them and their franchisees. KOA’s are going down hill fast. The overall expectation of standardized quality and service has been steadily diminishing, especially since their re-branding. Mud pit parking, poorly graded roads and your neighbors sewer outlets practically underneath your picnic table, makes for an undesirable stay. I couldn’t imagine putting up with that for a night, much less a weekend or a week.