Saturday, September 30, 2023


Campground Crowding: If you have to cancel, pay it forward…

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.


Let’s start today on a positive note, shall we? Sometimes the best way to cancel is to just gift or pay it forward to the next campers. These two readers try to do just that.

Terri R. lets others know through RVtravel’s Facebook groups that their site is available for others. “Due to DH job we often get reservations, but as soon as we realize we need to change (cut a few days) or cancel, we do it. Thanks to the FB groups you operate, I am able to notify others prior to canceling and watch those days get gobbled up.
Maybe the change/cancellation fee needs to be reasonable enough to encourage people to do just that all the time instead of not checking in at all and leaving sites unoccupied.”

Hannah H. has been trying to pay it forward after others gifted her their campsite. “Several years ago I had to leave a Florida park due to approaching bad weather. I drove to a Florida State Park and inquired about a site. They had one and when I went to pay was told, ‘The family that had this site had to leave. They asked that we give it to someone with no charge.’ I would have willingly paid for my site but was so impressed with this kindness. Since then, I have tried to pass this on several times when circumstances caused me to leave early. No one has allowed me to do this. Wish I could have paid it back.”

Perhaps if more people would do just that, particularly when no refunds are forthcoming, at least a little of the campsite crunch could be alleviated…


Reader Bob M. relates this information about how one family gets the campsite they want and a suggestion for complaining. “I had one camper that told me when he wants a campsite at a particular campground that he, his wife and daughter each get on the computer. They each try to book a site, then when one gets the reservation they stop. I presently have three campsites booked for this year. If there are issues with ReserveAmerica, everyone needs to complain to the responsible state agency or their local state politician. Enough complaints, maybe they’ll do something.”


Gary N. faced a dilemma, the costs of canceling was higher than not showing up! He wrote, “Two years ago, at the last minute, I needed to cancel a 2-month tour of mostly National Parks, but also included several state parks and private campgrounds. I accepted that I would incur significant cancellation costs. But what surprised me was that at numerous campgrounds of all three categories, my cancellation costs were actually HIGHER than what my costs would have been to just not show up. I was tempted to not cancel at those places. But the National Park campground host in me made me still cancel the ones I wouldn’t use. But it did irritate me.”

Another reader, Nanci D., had that same choice to make a few years ago when canceling all reservations for a two-month trip when her son was diagnosed with cancer. She was pleasantly surprised when the National Parks gave her a one-year voucher for the unused days. That could only be done when actually talking with someone by phone, rather than canceling online. So perhaps it’s worth calling?


Abe L. provides some perspective on cancellation fees, particularly in private campgrounds. “Many people are complaining about the cancellation fees, but those fees are less than not showing up at all and forfeit the entire amount paid for the site. Others say the fees are just a moneymaker for the campground/reservation contractor. There is paperwork/ administrative costs involved with processing a cancellation. In the case of private campgrounds, there is also the cost of someone physically checking the sites for occupation, sometimes an apparent ‘no show’ arrives after the office closes and doesn’t complete the late arrival paperwork. So the fees may appear to be pure profit but, as a seasoned workcamper, I can assure you that is not the case. Bottom line, if you aren’t going to make it at all, cancel. If you’re going to be delayed, call the campground and tell them your situation. Trust me, they will understand.”

Here are MrD’s thoughts on cancellation fees. “It’s unfortunate if you cancel a reservation you have to pay a cancellation fee. Both the State and Federal Parks reservation systems are run by private contractors. The reservation fee and cancellation fee are probably significant sources of income. State and Federal Parks are not the only groups that charge significant cancellation fees. Some private campgrounds charge the cancellation fee and you forfeit the first night’s cost to stay too. It is also a cost of doing business. If you don’t like the policy, don’t make a reservation. And for all of us… don’t make reservations for the same dates at several parks.”


There are additional campsite options out there and although they have been mentioned in the past, Richard H. reminds us of some of the amazing ones you can find. “As full-timers for 2 1/2+ years, we have learned of many other options for overnight stays than just full-hookup RV parks. While preferring to stay in National Park CGs, many are often booked, but we have learned there are so many other options – BLM, Nat. Forests, County & City parks, rest areas, Walmart, Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, Free Campsites, etc. While we love AllStays, we have noticed that there are many more RV parks around than even they had on their list. There also remain many FF campsites available. Just drive/call around and it is amazing what you can find.”


Many of the people commenting have been reserving their summer campsites and spending hours, sometimes days getting it done.

Are you planning and reserving now? How is it going? Anything you are noticing different from other years? Let us know!

Please tell us here. 
Please leave a feedback on thisx

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.

Read last week’s Crowded Campgrounds column here

Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
The Black Falcon
2 years ago

The Great State of Wyoming has recently revamped their cancellation policy and it actually appears to be an improvement for both the canceler and new lucky party coming in.

Refund Policy

  • NEW for 2021! Full refunds (minus the reservation fee) will be offered for cancellations made on or before the day of arrival. It is hoped that this change will encourage people to cancel their reservations if they can’t use them so another family might enjoy the site.

Gary H
2 years ago

We’re in FL for a few months at our usual RV park. In a normal year it’s completely full but this winter about a third of the campground is empty. We had no problem getting last minute sites on the way down and have already extended our stay and changed our return-trip reservations without any problems.

Ellen L
2 years ago

I am workamping at an RV Resort in Florida. Our policy is that the deposit (short stay $50) or long stay ($595/mo.) is not lost but not refunded, either. The money stays on the customer’s account for use on a future stay. When it’s tourist season we have to turn away people for sites, so tying up a site for a month only to have it cancelled can cost us. Most people are agreeable with this policy and we make sure that they know this up front.

Steve Sayer
2 years ago
Please tell us here. " Read more »

We are fairly new to RVing and not the type to head out and spend time, while traveling, looking for campgrounds. So, we book ahead of time — even if it’s a year out. We like to use RV Trip Wizard and Allstays, but find Google is a pretty good source for campground reviews as well. We’ve already completely booked our 2 month Spring trip to the East and are now working on our 2 month Winter 21/22 trip to the South. We are already finding some campgrounds nearly or even completely sold out. And, reserving 1 to 4 nights in Florida campgrounds during next December and January is turning out to be quite time consuming. Seems many private campgrounds want only Class A’s or seasonal snow birds and the public campgrounds fill up quickly. We want to head to Canada in the fall, but don’t know whether we should try booking some places now or wait until we know for sure the borders will open. For now, we are holding off on Canada pending COVID developments.

Last edited 2 years ago by Steve Sayer
Clyde Clevenger
2 years ago
Please tell us here. " Read more »

I’ve booked a half dozen COE and a couple of NP stops for a trip this summer. Kind of slim pickin’s for waterfront sites, but was able to find a spot at all of them.

2 years ago
Please tell us here. " Read more »

We have made 3 different reservations for the summer so far (can only book 6 months in advance). Even though I am on at midnight, there have been places I have been too late to get. Very frustrating – as a kid we used to leave Friday after Dad got home from work and go to these same campgrounds and have our pick of sites!

Rich S.
2 years ago
Please tell us here. " Read more »

We are planning a 24 day trip to the southeast during May and made reservations in Dec-Jan. Our stops at Army Corps campgrounds we made six months ahead ( the earliest they allow) to make sure we got a good site. But many of our overnights will be at boondockerswelcome. and we’ve had no problems there.

richard forlani
2 years ago
Please tell us here. " Read more »

during this pandemic i am unsure whether i will be ale to leave NY safely…i have booked sites in both CA and NY…both areas fill up during ” normal ” years…will cancel one or the other as soon as things change…

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.