Campground Crowding: Thousand Trails? More like “Zero Trails”!

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crowded campgrounds

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.

TIPS, TIPS … AND MORE TIPS ABOUT CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS

While we have published a few of these tips regarding crowded campgrounds in the past, it is always helpful to have as much advice as possible, particularly now that we’re in prime reservation season.

Bob A. gives some good advice:
“1. Crowded camping isn’t a concern to me so much. I find if you like places that are farther away from popular attractions it’s easier to find room.

“2. Crowded campgrounds aren’t a deterrent, as I find I like places that are off the beaten path. My first choice is National Forest campgrounds that offer no hookups. This alone will deter most folks who need full hookups and those with 35-foot-plus RVs.

“3. I don’t have a lot of tips for finding campgrounds. In my downtime at home, I search online for campgrounds, read others’ comments where they’ve stayed, and use the Allstays website. Once I find something that looks interesting I use Google Earth to get a bird’s-eye view of the campground and of the street level view.

“In my 40+ years of camping, I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places. I also shy away from privately owned RV parks. I just can’t get comfortable looking out the window at the neighbors’ hookups. Give me trees, wildlife and stars any day. Good luck to all of you and Happy Trails.”

“PLANNING IS THE KEY” REGARDING CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS

A reader who calls themselves “Really” added this helpful information about crowded campgrounds in a comment last week: “Campground overcrowding can be expected if you are traveling to a HIGH traffic area 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 finding a place that doesn’t require reservations much easier.

“On our last trip in 2020, we found a great campground in Kentucky that was about 35 miles from a 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 every day. RVs coming and going! Most of the complaints people are making is because they don’t research and plan for their trips. PLANNING IS THE KEY!

“I’M A NEWBIE! HELP?”

Michael E. found that letting the RV campgrounds know he was a newbie helped get a pull-through site. He writes, “We are booked at a number of campgrounds for this spring and summer and did not have a problem getting 50-amp pull-through sites. Sometimes even being able to pick our spot. Tell the campground you are new to RVing and you have a big travel trailer. That helped us.”

LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS DUE TO CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS

Dennis G. noted that flexibility helps with finding places to stay: “Site availability can depend on many factors, e.g. reserving on a weekend is typically more difficult. Also, you may need to lower your sights a bit, from a full-service KOA, to county fairgrounds, National Forest Service campground, county park, casino, or one of the many private campgrounds across America… We’ve never had a problem finding a site to overnight.”

THOUSAND TRAILS? MORE LIKE “ZERO TRAILS”!

This is from one of our readers, Barb W., who had trouble getting a site even with an expensive club membership. “First time in Florida for the winter and came because the border is closed. As Thousand Trails members we are having a very hard time getting reservations at TT/Encore parks. We are traveling through the state and have had to pay for many nights because of no availability.”

IS IT THE TYPE OF CAMPGROUND THAT IS MAKING IT HARD TO BOOK?

We already know that the choicest, most popular sites are hard to get, particularly the National Park campgrounds, popular state campgrounds and resorts in prime locations. Do price and location affect the ability to find a site?

Wanderer thinks so: “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…”

IS IT A MATTER OF PREFERENCE ADDING TO CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS?

Bob P. commented that it is also a matter of preference in campsites or RV resorts that can make it easier or harder to find a place. “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… those places only had one clubhouse, one pool, and just a few outdoor amenities. I’m sure they were 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, 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.”

CAMP HOST SAYS, “IMPERATIVE TO MAKE RESERVATIONS”

If you haven’t made summer reservations yet, you need to heed this warning about crowded campgrounds from Carol H.: “I am a camp host outside of Yellowstone National Park during the summer and we are experiencing an overwhelming amount of reservations for 2021. We have about 85 sites and already we are sold out for July 3-4 and only have a few sites available for the rest of the summer. I think with the virus going stronger, if folks have plans to RV this summer it is imperative to make reservations. As long as I camp host, I don’t worry about a place to stay.”

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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Barry T
19 days ago

Until December, 31, 2020, we had been Thousand Trails members for 33 years. No more! The original TT parks are so run down that it is a miserable experience. 30 amp only, no sewer, many sites out of commission due to electrical issues, roads are a mess. The system has become a haven for what I call “squatters”. TT is allowing the best sites to be leased to individuals that place their rig on them permanently. In many parks, the staff have become surly and not willing to enforce the simplest of rules. Campers have become selfish, with zero campground etiquette…people and kids walking through campsites, noisy, disruptive campers with no regard to quiet times, etc. Reservations have become a major problem…you can’t get one. When we first joined, you were allowed a two-week stay, maximum and then you must leave the park. I’ll shut up now, I’m tired of talking about what was once a valued membership. It no longer affects my life.

Donald N Wright
21 days ago

My problem is reservations in New Mexico for the summer of 2021. Outsiders are not welcome at campgrounds. The covid plague has shut down the state.

Tommy Molnar
21 days ago

We just got home (northern NV) from Houston, TX. We made no reservations and just winged it. When we got to the point where we were ready to stop (trying for 3 to 4 pm – preferably 3 pm), my wife would break out her cell phone and look for RV parks nearby. Absolutely no problem finding places to stay. Mind you, we were not looking for ‘resort living’ (pools, golf courses, activity building, etc). Just someplace we could plug in. We stayed in one park that was so nice we will definitely be back when we can stay longer! Another was ‘inches’ from a RR track (and the $19/nite reflected that). We actually love trains so that wasn’t even an issue. Slept like babies. The point is, we found no problem finding places to stay.

wanderer
21 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Out west, in the winter. I have also found some lovely spots this winter. And God bless the BLM.

But I do not expect to easily find sites when the weather warms up, especially weekends, anywhere, especially near population centers, or desirable destinations.