Campground Crowding: The campground begged them to stay longer!

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crowded campgrounds

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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.

We were surprised to read the comments from readers that do not reserve campsites and are having no problems getting a site. Actually, it was a relief to read that they are not having problems! We don’t hear that much around here! Below are some of those comments. Hopefully they inspire you as much as they inspired us.

DO YOU REALLY NEED A RESERVATION?

Mary A. is not having an issue finding a last-minute reservation due to campground crowding, at least this winter/spring season. “We left Oregon on Jan 21 and traveled to Sacramento. Found a great spot in an RV Park without using a reservation. Got the special rate because we were returning guests. Plenty of sites open. A couple of days later we drove to Bakersfield without a reservation. Many spaces open. Sat for two days waiting for Tehachapi and the Grapevine to open due to snow. Arrived in Palm Springs. Very few Canadians. But we had friends secure our spot. Four days later pulled into Yuma, AZ. Plenty of empty sites. Very few Canadians. But some from Washington, Minnesota, Oregon and even Alaska. So far, so good. Keep the faith.”

Paul G. had a similar experience and almost always found a site, except one time. He noted that during COVID, some RV parks are actually having a hard time getting enough campers. “We travel in off-season times. We traveled East last May and found plenty of open camping on our route for one and two night stays. Often there was open space in the campground. West bound in November and December we never felt crowded, except in one park we are very familiar with that hasn’t changed in 20 years. We could not get into our favorite park in Marfa, TX – on US 90 – but we found plenty of room nearby. Several places begged (us) to stay longer. Clearly they were hurting in this time of COVID.

RARE PROBLEMS MAKING RESERVATIONS

Kilo B. didn’t find crowded campgrounds during their 8,000-mile coast-to-coast trip and wonders if they were just lucky. “We traveled from coast to coast over the past few months logging 8k+ miles. One night we used a Walmart during our travels and full hook up 99% of the time without reservation. We never experienced a problem with booking a site, even when calling less than 24 hrs. in advance. Furthermore, we had no problems obtaining pull-through sites for a majority of those bookings for our 40’ MH towing the Jeep. We haven’t experienced this hype of crowded campgrounds…yet. Maybe we are just that lucky!”

Paul R. has rarely been turned away from finding a site. “In 20 years of RVing, we have rarely made advance reservations (other than calling ahead on the same day), and have rarely been turned away on arrival at a park. We avoid “resorts,” destination parks, and KOAs. Mom & pop parks, city parks & county parks have worked well for us. COE parks are about the only reservations we make.”

Lastly, Beverly B. does things differently. She writes, “We don’t reserve ever. A campground is never our destination. We travel to see whatever is along our way. Our stops are often to visit family and friends, but other stops can be boondocking for a night, visit sites in that area then move on.”

PARKS ARE EMPTY – WHERE’S THE “CAMPGROUND CROWDING”?

Diane M. travels in the winter with reservations. “Just came 3,000 miles from CA to FL. Had reservations the entire way, including Florida, which we made when we left last year, as we have always done. Every park we stayed at, two in CA, one in AZ, three in TX, one in LA, and two in FL, were pretty much empty, many more empty than previous years. That is with the exception of the current one in Daytona Beach, which is not surprising. Has always been this way. However, there are still spots available and that is even with the Rolex 24 hrs. of Daytona going on thru the weekend. Again, except for Florida, my thoughts are kids in school & it’s winter.”

CANCELLATION FEES FROM THE VIEWPOINT OF A SITE OWNER

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been discussing cancellation fees in this space. Drew M. points something out that we don’t always consider: campground site owners take financial hits too. Drew writes, “There are good reasons for cancellation policies and non-refundable fees. As a site owner in a popular desert resort, you can lose lots of money with no guarantee of recovering it. People make reservations many months ahead. If they cancel and you have to return their money, and it’s already in snowbird season, good luck re-renting your lot(s) again.”

SECRETS TO FINDING A SITE WITH CAMPGROUND CROWDING

Michael G. shares a secret that may be helpful for a lot of other RVers who are concerned about campground crowding: “We have good luck with all the apps, but our secret is Elks Lodge RV parks: Over 600 in the U.S. with hookups and another 1,400 which often let you dry camp. Haven’t been turned away in 5 years. They are happy if you join just for the RV benefit.”

Do you have any secrets you are willing to share with your fellow RVers?
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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

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Cecilia
2 months ago

This article and comments are eye-opening. Sounds wonderful. I spend hours and hours researching campgrounds and reserving for every trip. I would feel so uncomfortable winging it as we have never boondocked because we are not set up for it. There are many times I wish we could stay longer at a place but can’t because of the reservations. We are planning a big trip this summer to Michigan and we have heard it gets crazy up there and you have to reserve a year in advance. I think I’ll keep reserving just to keep the stress level down.

Thomas D
3 months ago

Since I’ve gotten my pick up camper I quit worrying about camping sites. I go into a place, ask if they have a site for the night and usually will say no. Then I tell them i have a truck camper and all of a sudden I have a site that was way too small for all the new trailers being purchased today. And if nothing available, I can always boondock. I take no more room than a large car. Invisible in walmarts lot. Just another car. When visiting Devils Tower i felt sorry for the owners of those 40ft fivers and class A motorhomes that had to hoof it because of no parking. I just pulled into a regular parking place. We can enjoy the outdoors and still be comfortable.😊

wanderer
3 months ago

I’m curious how many of the ’empty’ parks people are seeing right now are charging $40 a night and up, or are beside railroad tracks, or offer 14′ wide spaces.

And how the ‘there’s no problem’ crowd will fare come spring break thru Labor Day.

Diane Mc
2 months ago
Reply to  wanderer

We are 40 ft and towing and don’t want to deal with cramped spaces. Although sometimes unavoidable. Too many scratches, issues, stress over the years getting into narrow spots. Plus claustrophobic. On our 3000 mile journey from CA to FL the majority of our sites were $40 or less. But, we opt for the biggest sites, many that are premium. Non premium sites are much less, $25 to $35. Even in Florida, which is “in season” we had a huge site in a newer park for $40. Our MH is 19 years old today, so we’ve saved money not buying a new one or 2. BTW, we love being by railroad tracks :-). And, other than going to the Indy500 (book overnights in advance to get there) we don’t travel summer.

Sink Jaxon
3 months ago

With the current administration being unfriendly towards the fossil fuel industry, fuel prices will skyrocket in the coming years and make it prohibitive for many to travel, thus LOTS of open campgrounds. That is not being political, just a fact of life. We are traveling from CO to KS to MO to AR and back to CO for three weeks at the end of this month and have had no problems making reservations, whatsoever.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago

We just made a trip from Houston to northern Nevada and never made a reservation. We just drove until we were tired. Then we looked to see what was available. Never had a problem finding a site. This was a six night trip. All we wanted was a place to plug in, though all these parks had full hookups. This is generally how we travel all the time if we’re not boondocking, though we use the same tactic if we ARE boondocking.

Bob P
3 months ago

Two years ago we went to Rockport, TX for the winter, the resort we were in was booked solid. We were 30 miles from Corpus Christi, between the two we’d pass by many campgrounds that had plenty of open spaces, BUT… they only had one club house, one pool, and just a few outdoor amenities. And I’m sure they we’re probably much cheaper than what we were paying. In my opinion it’s a matter of preference if there is a campground shortage, if you insist on all the amenities of a resort that like my wife and daughter want but only use a few you’ll probably experience a shortage. If on the other hand you can “get by” with less you can find plenty of spots open. Just my opinion of course.

Really
3 months ago

Campground overcrowding can be expected if you are traveling to a HIGH Traffic or Major Tourist Attraction.

If you are willing to camp a little further away from the Major Tourist Traps, then you will find getting reservations or NO reservations required much easier.

Our last trip in 2020 we found a Great Campground in Kentucky that was about 35 miles from our Tourist Trap Location. Didn’t have a problem getting in there, (other than the narrow access road). We stayed for 5 nights and watched as the park continually had openings everyday. RV’s coming and going!

Most of the complaints people are making is because they Don’t research and Plan for their trips.

Our first trip of the season coming up next month in Texas. Made the reservations online last night, had plenty of spaces and it’s within 20 miles of Dallas. So, will be really looking forward to this first trip of the year.

PLANNING IS THE KEY!

Last edited 3 months ago by Really