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.
This week our inbox was full of comments and notes from our readers. A number of people mentioned the reservation systems, particularly Reserve America, and had some suggestions for improvements.
Here are a few observations.
GIVE THE HOSTS AND RANGERS MORE OPTIONS
As it is, camp hosts don’t have much say in the reservation system. If they’re the ones running the campground, though, shouldn’t they have more of a say?
Jack P. has this idea for improving the reservation system and also opening unoccupied sites. He writes, “I have found that most state parks use Reserve America to handle their reservations. This is probably a cost-effective option. However, at least in some state parks, the individual state park does not have the ability to change or modify reservations if, for example, the rangers see an empty spot that has been reserved. Some, perhaps most, state parks require the site to be occupied at night so if someone parks their camper several days before the weekend unoccupied, there is little the ranger can do.
To correct this, the park rangers should have access to the reservation system for their park and cancel any spots unoccupied or without a person occupying the site. Also, perhaps a fix would be to prevent anyone from using the reservation system for a month or so if they reserve a spot and don’t cancel.”
Kathy B. also has some recommendations that could help with the crowding and reserved, but unoccupied, sites: “I’ve been camping for many years, mostly in California; rarely boon-docking.
1. I 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™ etc. need to have options to CANCEL reservations 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 after 48 hrs.
5. Reserved sites must be continuous and occupied to prevent the “holding” of sites for the weekend.”
EXORBITANT CANCELLATION FEES
One camper mentioned that it is not the hassle of canceling reservations that can keep someone from canceling, it is the high cancellation fee. James D. writes, “As Florida seniors, we get attractive rates, sometimes $20 for a couple of nights. The cancellation fee is $17.75. If I can’t use the site for whatever reason I’m not going to go through the trouble of canceling just to get $2.25 back. I don’t object to a cancellation fee but it shouldn’t be punitive. $17.75 is.”
Thom R. wrote in, telling us that he knows of some sites available, but he’s not telling where! “We are freshly retired (Aug. 31) and are on our dream trip that we’ve been planning for years. Currently ‘somewhere in AZ’ (not telling) and the large park we are in has many vacant spots. The staff tells me that most of the vacancies are from Canadians who are not here, or maybe folks are just not moving around this year. We have made reservations after this stop into mid-February, just to be sure we have a spot. Some are in CA, we’ll see if we are allowed in when those dates come.” Editors note: We’ve heard of sites in Arizona being open because Canadians are not coming down this year.
Michael G. has a few tips on the subject: “To almost always have somewhere to camp, join the Elks. 600+ lodges with RV sites and 1400+ which may let you dry camp. To find dry camping spots: Overnightrvparking.com. For regular sites and much more: AllStays.”
NO SPOTS AVAILABLE? BOOK AFTER A HOLIDAY!
Holidays booked solid? Morris W. lets you in on a secret: “It is especially easy to find vacancies after a major holiday. This past Thanksgiving in Bodega Bay, the weekend immediately after Thanksgiving we were surrounded by about 50-60% empty sites. We found the same thing in Sly Park after Memorial Day.”
THOUSAND TRAILS AND ESCAPEES CROWDED? A READER WANTS TO KNOW
How are these camping clubs and organizations managing their sites? Les C. would like to know. “Please see if members are having a hard time finding a spot in the Escapees and Thousand Trails parks before people spend money on memberships. Are they crowded too? What about Passport America?”
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.