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.
MORE BUSINESSES = MORE OVERNIGHT SPACES
What if there was a list, perhaps on an app or website, where businesses that RVers know and love, such as museums and tourist attractions, could list available overnight parking spaces. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Tony B. had this suggestion to combat the lack of campsites, particularly for overnight stops. “It would be helpful for businesses to step up and have a few sites for overnight RVs in their parking lots, preferably with power.”
ALLOW SAME-DAY RESERVATIONS
When people are trying to reserve a site and they know it is empty it really wastes what has become a precious resource. Richard H. notes. “Another problem with many reservable campgrounds (likely State, Local or Federal) is they do not allow same-day reservations – even if they have space. Why?!? I cannot imagine why they do that as it means the only option I have left is to travel to that campground and take my chances for a spot being open. Have seen some sites which only take reservations 2 or 3 days out even. What sense does that make?”
Editor’s note: The campground we hosted at this summer changed its system due to COVID and their office being closed. They started allowing same-day site reservations up to 3:30 in the afternoon. It helped everyone: the campground, the campers and the camp hosts!
SURCHARGE FOR OUT-OF-STATE CAMPERS
T. Will O. told us about Oregon’s policy: “Oregon State Parks recently started adding a surcharge to out-of-state campers. This has resulted in greater income for our state park system, better availability for us that live in the state/region, and a much-needed reduction in COVID-19 risk due to a drop in numbers of out-of-state campers.”
Chris A. also reported that his home state raised non-resident rates. “Massachusetts, my home state, raised the rates for non-residents very high, which seems to have discouraged some folks, leaving a bit more capacity for residents.”
Jeff P. likes that idea too but says, “I like the idea, and here in Ohio, ‘some’ of the state parks have a percentage of ‘Non-Reservable Sites.’ But, I must point out the obvious (as others have), that States, regardless of which one, are chasing the all-mighty (tourism) dollar: A full campground is better than a partially filled campground. They don’t care if you live in that state or you’re from out-of-state.”
We asked readers last week to comment on campground reservation systems and we got many responses. Lots of people had a lot to say, particularly about ReserveAmerica – some good and some bad. The reservation fees are high and the cancellation refunds are sometimes just not worth it.
Don H. shared his experience with us: “We had reservations for 5 different state parks in New Mexico for almost two months total. Because of the virus, New Mexico closed their campgrounds and issued refunds – sort of. ReserveAmerica did not refund the initial reservation fees, which totaled over $100. They also initially charged us a cancellation fee, but New Mexico was able to get that back to us. The National parks that cancelled due to the virus refunded us every cent. ReserveAmerica is the worst to deal with.”
Lisa B. knows that there is a learning curve with ReserveAmerica but does like one of the features. She has some suggestions for getting a campsite too. “Book early, be flexible and travel during the off-season. My favorite Ohio parks have had this problem for over 20 years, so this is really nothing new. When I book state parks in Florida, I book early and choose one of the less popular campgrounds. I’m just there to be in warmer weather. ReserveAmerica has a learning curve; however, a good feature shows the campgrounds that fit your specifications that are nearby. This will be OK!” Lisa, we appreciate your positivity!
Shelley O. has this positive statement about navigating ReserveAmerica. “ReserveAmerica does let you change and modify your reservation dates as your plans change and the system works pretty well. We do make our reservations six months to a year in advance!”
Here is a suggestion from Roger B. “The problem isn’t always the campground being full. Many people make reservations and never cancel when plans change. This leaves sites unused when other people are looking for a site. The reservation system needs to change. Whether it’s time limits to show up or your site is given away, or restrictions on further reservations for people that don’t show or don’t cancel. Something needs to be done. We see unused sites at almost every campground we go to.”
Jane F. has an answer for the no-shows and the “full/reserved” campgrounds. She writes: “It’s very difficult to get a spot because sites are booked months in advance. Recently we found a spot in an AZ regional park BUT we had to move twice in a 10-day span because the site was reserved. Both times no one showed up for the sites. To make it worse, the entire park was only 30% occupied the entire time of our stay and we were told it was completely “full/reserved”! The problem is people don’t cancel because the cancellation fee is too high. Solution: Have a policy that if you are a 24-hour no-show, your site will be rebooked with no refund. Win-win for parks (site rented twice) and another camper can get in!”
DEDICATED TO FINDING A SPOT
Everyone that is looking for a campsite and having trouble knows that it pays to be dedicated, despite dedication being so time-consuming! This comment from “newbie” Daniel J. writes, “My family and I are part of this ‘newbie’ RV crowd sweeping the scene. We were, and still are, avid tent campers, backpackers, and general outdoors fanatics. I’ve had years of experience with local state parks here in Texas that are typically hot spots for tourists. In college, we would dirtbag – err … boondock – Friday nights, and then take advantage of any no-show sites on Saturday morning to stay in the parks where we rock climb. Now with online reservation systems and a dose of adult morality (and reality with two small kids), I simply hound a campground for weeks before my trip date, looking for last-minute cancellations. We’ve been able to find reservations at two parks this summer that are typically booked solid for the entire year. All it takes is a bit of patience and a fast trigger finger when a site opens up. Happy hunting everyone!”
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.
Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column here.