Tuesday, June 6, 2023


Campground Crowding: Are sites getting smaller?

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.

This week, readers sent some tips about finding a campsite. In a time when campsites are so hard to find, we’ll take all the tips we can get!

Go southeast

Here is a tip from one of our readers, Diane M., about trying a different region than where you had originally planned to go. “Generally speaking, campground sites in the southeast, where I live, aren’t nearly as hard to reserve as they seem to be out west. Campgrounds are definitely filling up sooner, especially on weekends, and especially near urban areas and in state parks that are showcase parks, but we haven’t had any problems finding spots to camp in smaller, more rural campgrounds. We are reserving earlier so we can be sure of getting our favorite sites, but there are still plenty of available spaces. You west coast campers should come down south for a try!

Ask the locals

Stuart S. has these great suggestions for finding a spot: “Smaller RVs like truck campers and such can sometimes use tent sites, so ask. Small towns have sites, fairgrounds, and parks not listed on most guides. Ask the locals. Ask someone with an RV in their driveway and they can tell you where to stay or maybe even let you hook up to their house. Some fire stations will let you boondock and get water.”

Use other resources

Clyde C. writes, “I’m finding that National Parks and Corps of Engineers parks are filling up really fast, six months out. I’m planning a 5,300-mile trip this summer and have found 16 Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome stays along my route. I’ve only booked one commercial RV park for a 5-day stay for a wedding.”

Smaller and smaller sites…

One of the things our readers have mentioned is not just campground crowding but how crowded the campgrounds feel with the sites so squashed together. Are campgrounds intentionally making sites closer together so they can squeeze more in?

Andrew K. mentioned this in the comment he left: “My problem with crowded campgrounds is not so much the individual camper, but the owners making the sites smaller in order to have more. Backing my camper into a site is very challenging.” He continues: “Perseverance and patience are the keys to a successful camping trip. The road you take is best traveled with your loved ones and not so much the speed bumps you encounter. Relaxing these days is very important and must not be wasted. See you down the road!”

A little more from last week about etiquette…

Several people responded concerning last week’s posts about campground etiquette. Campground host Jack C. says, “We have been campground hosts for many years. It seems to me that even before the influx of new campers there was still a lot of room for improvement. Guess what? Pop and beer cans do not burn. I have pulled out a ton over the years. And when you take your dog for a walk and he does his business, the little bag that you put it in does not belong on the side of the trail or under a log. Someone still has to pick it up. Just two of my pet peeves, so check out your own behavior before casting the first stone.”

Editors note: As a park host myself, I have also pulled tons of cans and bottles from fire pits. Nope, they do not burn. Neither do plastic bottles. I, too, am amazed by the number of used doggie bags along backwood trails. Who do they think is going to pick them up? There is no trail litter patrol in our 30,000-acre park.

Is the camping etiquette problem with newbies or does it have to do with age? Mary W. seems to think that age is the issue. “Rather than blaming newbie RVers for lack of courtesy and basic campground etiquette, I believe that the problems in most cases are the result of age. Younger campers (particularly millennials) don’t seem to have been taught basic manners. And their sense of entitlement makes them think they are ‘owed’ and can do what they want. Too bad if you don’t like it. Most older newbie RVers display the basic manners and common sense they have learned throughout life.”

What do you think about this?
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Cancellation hope!

There is some hope for opening up reserved and unused campsites. Black F. sent us this info: “Well, it looks like the great state of Wyoming has come up with a new policy coming into effect this year. Win-Win, both for the canceling party and the new reservation recipient: ‘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.'”

One of our Canadian friends, Sue F., reports on reservations in her province: “In my home province, if you don’t show up by 8 am the second day of your reservation, your reservation can be cancelled by the provincial park and opened for reservation. You will be charged a cancellation fee. Your refund will also have a percentage deducted from it depending on how long ago you reserved, up to 50%. They do advise you to call if you’re going to be delayed and there is the option of changing your arrival date, but you won’t be refunded for the missed arrival date.”

However, it is still difficult to get a site in the first place. Sue continues, “In my province, the provincial campgrounds no longer have first-come, first-served sites. If you don’t reserve early (5 months), getting a site in popular parks can be impossible. People will book the full 23 days allowed, in order to get a site they want for the time they want and then cancel the early dates as soon as allowed. This results in sites not being available for others to reserve.”

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.


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2 years ago

Here is a good one I saw posted about a year ago. “It’s hard for me to bend over and pick up my dog’s poop, so I just have to leave it” And who should then pick it up if not you? If you that bad off, do the world a favor and stay home or board your dog. Got no time for such BS from people that feel this way.

Andrea M Elkins
2 years ago
What do you think about this?" Read more »

Nope. Courtesy – or lack of it – spans generations and income levels. We’ve full-timed for 4 years and I see mostly mature individuals doing the poop-and-run maneuver. Grrr!

2 years ago
What do you think about this?" Read more »

Our campsite backs up to trees and we have a women who is far from a millennial walking thru our site to take her dog back to the trees. Of course our dogs go crazy. Then we had a gentlemen, also far from a millennial walk through our campsite with his barbecue and dump his ashes. It isn’t just the millennials who don’t know campground etiquette.

2 years ago

One problem we have found is multiple vehicles at camp sites. It can be tight to begin with but the added vehicles make it harder.
We’ve only been full timing for 1.5 years and have noticed campgrounds come in many shapes and sizes. We rely on fellow campers for good campgrounds with space.

2 years ago

Just some thoughts on the size of the campground spaces getting smaller. I agree with Donald about the sites not getting smaller but the units getting bigger. I am in charge of maintenance at a campground in Canada (we are only open 6 months of the year due to weather) but if I ever suggested to the owners that they make the sites smaller they would wonder what I was thinking. The cost of moving electrical, and water (as well as sewers at full service sites) do not make any sense when you consider the extra number of sites you would add (maybe 2 or 3 at the most in the campground) and the additional income you would bring in is not just practical unless you are looking at a payback that would probably take many years. It’s very possible that new campgrounds may have smaller sites, but it makes no sense for existing campgrounds to be re-designed to add a few sites.

Sue F
2 years ago
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I hesitate to lump all newbies or millennials together. Young, old, experienced or novice, selfish and inconsiderate people exist in all shapes and forms.

Tommy Molnar
2 years ago

We’ve been traveling from Houston to northern NV for the past week. Just “winging it”, making no reservations anywhere. We just decide when we’re almost done driving for the day, start looking for RV parks in our path – and show up. Haven’t had any trouble getting a site. Of course, we’re not looking for 5-star resorts with golf courses, heated pools, hot tubs, or site delivered meals. We’re just looking for a place to plug in. Period. One place in TX was SO nice we wish we had time to stay longer. We WILL be back!

Debbie Hansen
2 years ago
What do you think about this?" Read more »

Camping etiquette starts with the parent down to children. Teaching at a young age what the “dos” &”do not’s” are for camping these lessons go well beyond camping. Teaching kids to respect others, nature in all it’s beauty. I have picked up poo bags hiking & the beach. My motto leave no imprint & be respectful of other campers. Biggest pet peeves, kids cutting thru campsite, finding stuff firepit that does NOT burn and leaving litter at beautiful spots. It is not unusual for me to hike out from wherever I am with garbage to be disposed of properly. Oh and lastly I was taught that in the evening after 8pm quiet voices were to be used. It amazes me to hear kids screaming & carrying on late at night or very early in the AM. I remember my dad telling us kids how talking loudly or shouting would carry a long way from the campsite. He was right 😉 I have been a camper for almost 60 years and still love and enjoy it no matter the challenge of rude campers.

2 years ago
Reply to  Debbie Hansen

We agree with everything above … nice comment!

Donald N Wright
2 years ago

Are the campsites getting smaller, or closer together ? Have you checked out the size of your rig ? Forty years ago, when you camped here with your popup trailer, the same site was huge. Remember when your little battery powered radio was all the entertainment you needed, now you have 65″ televisions, computers, sound systems and an outdoor light display. Remember when you could see the stars, hold hands while looking at the moon, listen to the birds or watch squirrels playing in the leaves. So, what changed ?

2 years ago

Excellent reality -Thank You.

2 years ago

I was born in the 60’s and had a fell camper more than a decade older than I, insist that I could not have a nice camping spot all to my self. This was in a very well known boondocking location with at least 10 open spots left. I was out of the way in a location that my dogs could be off leash without wondering into other sites. This person just pull right up next to us and started setting up.
It’s not just age related, I have seen plenty of age groups without a clue.

2 years ago
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I agree that it seems to be age related and not newbie related. Very astute observation!

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