A positive spin on our Crowded Campgrounds feature

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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.

BENEFITING FROM THE LESSONS OF CAMPING

Not everything is doom and gloom with the abundance of newbie campers reserving so many of the campsites. While we’ve mainly focused on the negatives of these newbies overcrowding our beloved campgrounds, Mike B. posted this positive spin on the Crowded Campground Facebook site and we like what he has to say. In fact, it’s a bit refreshing! “I like that more people are currently being introduced to the camping lifestyle now. I don’t know what I learn from camping, but I do know it is an important lesson. I hope more people can benefit from it too, even if it is less convenient for me.”

CAMPGROUNDS SHOULD CHANGE THEIR RESERVATION POLICIES

Some campgrounds limit the number of days that can be booked, particularly in state, county and national parks to allow more people the opportunity to camp at these popular places. People have learned to sneak around that system by using a different name to book additional days or booking a different site when the day limit has been reached. That keeps a lot of people from reserving those sites and allows someone to essentially book sites seasonally or even full-time.

Leslie P. points out: “We are currently camp hosting in a popular county park that is booked most nights. One of the issues this park is having is people abusing the system by booking for 2 nights to 2 weeks, moving around inside the park or going to overflow camping until there’s another opening. They essentially never leave the park which also closes those spots for others. There are more and more people doing this. That makes it tough for others to get in. I don’t know why since it’s not cheaper, but I suspect they can’t get into a long-term site locally.”

SIZE DOES MATTER

As more people are dedicated to camping, whether full-time or as weekend warriors, they are finding that large size motorhomes, fifth wheels and trailers limit their options on finding and reserving sites. Downsizing to a smaller size RV can substantially increase the availability of reservable campsites.

Leslie P., quoted above, continued: “We’ve made the decision to go from our 40’ fifth wheel to a truck camper so we can go anywhere and not deal with the crowds. It’s sad though because we’ve greatly enjoyed the RV community for 6 years, 4 of them full-time traveling.”

J David P. says: “Learned a long time ago that small campers are better! My ’58 vintage popup weighs 400 pounds and can go anywhere. Tent sites are always available to me and boondocking in a 5×7 box is the next best thing in improvement over a tent.”

Ronald H. confirmed that the larger the RV the more important having a reservation is: “I have learned a couple of things during almost 6 years of full-timing. The bigger the rig, the more important it is to have a reservation.”

“My fiancee and I just converted a new Ram Promaster into a classy B-class with an awesome battery bank that allows us to boondock. We are newbies. In Florida where we just sold our home (in Ormond by the Sea) and are living full-time in the van it’s super easy to find campgrounds. Many are half full.” wrote Ronnie B.

RESERVED BUT EMPTY

We’ve touched on this in the past, but folks are still talking about it. One of the pet peeves of a number of people is the difficulty of reserving a spot, finally snagging one and finding that other sites that are reserved are empty. People have evidently reserved a spot but didn’t show and obviously did not call the park to cancel. Or if they did contact the park, the site was not opened up. Granted there are emergencies, particularly in this time of COVID, but probably not all those empty sites were emergencies.

Tammie G. was camping in Shenandoah National Park for a week and found that a number of sites were empty: “Big Meadows campground was ‘full’ for at least two days yet there were campsites all around us that had reserved signage on them but were vacant.”

Donna L. had the same experience: “We live in WV and as of last year the State Parks have gone to 100% reservations. Folks are reserving the sites, but then we are seeing quite a few sitting empty for most of the week.”

Glen D. thought that a “first-come, first-served” method instead of reservations would be better. “We just got back from Cape Hatteras, NC. The state-run parks were booked, but as we drove through there were several spots empty. I think first-come, first-served would be better for everyone.”

Now here’s a twist! The RV showed up but not the people! Robert P. says, “People have been taking their campers out and paying for the whole week since I started camping in 1978. We used to camp at Kankakee State Park in IL, and when we got there on Friday evening the place would almost be packed. All the good spots were already taken by people who brought their RV out on Monday, paid for the week then went back home and showed back up on Saturday morning for 2 days of camping. When complaining to the rangers the answer was as long as they paid for each day they were parked that was the only concern. They didn’t have the rule about occupying the site continuously. One ranger told me I could do the same thing if I wanted too.” Who knew?

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.

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tim palmer
1 month ago

What is so hard about somebody who has a reservation and if they don’t show up you call them and tell them if they aren’t there the very next day their reservation is cancelled and they lose their money.

Gordy
1 month ago

Just set a trip to Texas for end of Dec first week of Jan. Made reservations yesterday with no issues.
I have always booked in advance and depending on where I am going have done so up to a year in advance. What to go to FL keys at Xmas time its best to make those reservations almost a year out depending how where you want to stay.

Brent H.
1 month ago

We boondock more than state or national parks. We don’t reserve spots to often. There are many of state and federal lands within an hour from us We have a 31 foot class A. Having a 5000w generator is golden. Its typically only used 2 hrs. a day or less. Mid summer or winter are the only time I want to plug in due to the weather extremes.

eastbaygal123
1 month ago

I’ve been camping for many years, mostly in California; rarely boon-docking.

1. am grateful for reservations; it helps with peace of mind.
2. Visits should be limited to 2 weeks PER CAMPGROUND; no moving around.
3. Reservecalifornia, reservations.org, etc. need to CANCEL on the website, so others can use the site.
4. Camp hosts should be able to open unoccupied sites to first come for no-shows after48hrs
5. Reserved sites must be continuous and occupied to prevent the “holding” of sites for the weekend

Irv
1 month ago

Reservations aren’t the problem. It’s stupid reservation policies. If you don’t show up or call by checkout time the next day, your reservation should be canceled.  

Employees at government parks love empty but paid-for sites. Their job is safe because of revenue coming in but they have a less work to do.

Glen Cowgill
1 month ago

I have been camping almost 60 years. Our current RV is a Fleetwood 36′ Diesel Pusher which we really like. It appears as though we may have to get rid of it and go to a B or B+ to travel. Finding spots to camp has become a tremendous problem.
We have always traveled on a no reservation basis except when going to popular destinations. We have found many RV parks that have become trashy full time trailer parks. These are the perfect examples of why citizens don’t want RV Parks. Granted there are many really nice RV Parks which forbid full time living or limit the number of days. These parks are generally well organized, very clean and present a nice view to the community they serve.
If the RV industry wants to continue to sell RV’s, they are going to have to have more RV parks available to serve the rapidly growing RV community.
The reservation system is broken and needs to be fixed. This booking of sites a year in advance is killing my desire to continue to travel.

Roger
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

I’ll bet you’ll love the B or B+. We bought one, our first RV, 4 years ago when we retired and have travelled the country twice in it now. Alaska’s next when Canada reopens! Industry sales data shows Class A’s tanking while Class B’s soar. Still a small percentage of the market, but definitely a growing one. Many of the newbies in our FB groups are like you having moved from Class A’s. It’s a lot of fun to travel with less worry. We look at stays in a campground as a big luxury now. One that we usually enjoy, but certainly not a necessary choice.

Mike Albert
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

Glen,
We bought a new B+ last July. So far only used it in FL and we love it. Just the right amount of room.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mike Albert
Judy S
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

Glen, We love our class B. If you like to spend a ton of time inside your rig it might feel too cramped, but you gain the flexibility to camp anywhere and fit in a regular parking space when you shop.

I don’t enjoy being packed in like a sardine in an expensive rv park. It took a while to learn how to find good boondocking spots but even the non hookup sites at rv parks are easier to get and often nicer.

I’m at a state park right now and the eight electric sites are packed together with no privacy. I’m on the other side of the loop with tons of room and no neighbors.