By Nanci Dixon
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.
ARE CAMPGROUND FEES GOING HIGHER AND HIGHER?
We are hearing about campgrounds and RV parks raising their camping fees this season. Is it fair to raise fees when campgrounds are the most crowded? Aren’t campgrounds making enough money? Is this a case of supply and demand – or is it just plain greed?
I just finished a three-day ordeal of booking campsites for our meandering trip back to the north woods and was shocked – yes, shocked – at current campground costs. I was also surprised that so many private RV parks are already booked up for April and May. Unfortunately, we are too big for most of the state and national parks, and those sites were gone months ago anyway. At a certain point I just said okay, I’ll book it and try to justify that it is still less than a motel…barely. Has camping become a luxury just for the rich? We certainly aren’t rich, and will be less so after three months of travel!
READERS’ RESERVATION EXPERIENCES
Teresa B. writes: “Getting ready for our summer season here in the NE. I always book in early January and avoid the May rush. Most places were booking at a 3x rate than last year. I even had a hard time getting a spot for Columbus Day 2021.”
Joseph B. also found the rates higher: “As far as what I can currently see, the campgrounds are counting on being fully booked and up-charging a night’s rent. Some of the places we stayed at last year are up by 10-15%. Although, I’m not sure if last summer’s loss of revenue has much to do with it or supply and demand is driving it.”
YOU HAVE TO SPEND MORE MONEY IN ADVANCE
Having to make reservations so far in advance because of campground crowding means you’re spending money so far in advance too. Brenda O. comments, “When we do plan a trip to a tourist destination, we plan a year in advance, often more. Several years ago, three to six months ahead would have been sufficient. The one issue I have with having to plan so far ahead is tying up my $$ for a year. Many campgrounds are requiring larger and larger deposits, some even requiring the entire reservation to be paid in advance. If you are a frequent camper, that can add up quickly!”
RV PARKS OR TRAILER PARKS? THERE’S NO DIFFERENCE!
Gail D. wrote: “More and more of what used to be economical family campgrounds like KOAs are catering to the long-term and permanent resident ‘campers.’ We made reservations last summer at an RV park outside of Salt Lake City. When we got there we found ‘Tiny Homes’, park models and some old rigs with skirts and porches that had been there for 10 years or more, leaving fewer sites for the casual 1-, 2- or 3-night stay people. We’ve seen some whose websites say they have 85 sites but only 20 are available to book. The rest are full-timers or 6-month seasonals. Used to be a difference between campgrounds and trailer parks. No more.”
Steven B. mentioned the same thing regarding the West Coast: “Don’t you people realize RV parks are people’s new full-time home? Most parks on the West Coast don’t answer their phone anymore! They are full with monthly renters!”
RV MANUFACTURERS SHOULD INVEST IN RV PARKS
RV manufacturers that are so happy to meet the enormous increased demand of people buying RVs during the pandemic should help address the scarcity of campsites for them to go to with all of the current campground crowding. Shouldn’t they?
Kathleen S. thinks the manufacturers should step up: “ I think RV manufacturers should be invested and investing in creating campgrounds and improving existing campgrounds, public and private.”
HIDDEN KOA BENEFIT
One of our readers let us know about a hidden KOA benefit. I didn’t know this and am glad to hear about it, though I wonder if it could differ from campground to campground.
Chris L. says, “I’m a KOA value cardholder. A little over a year ago I had no trouble getting a spot (usually just overnight). Not so last year. However, as a member, I could still get in to use their dump station & fresh water refill! That worked great because I use Harvest Hosts a lot and they usually have no hookups. A lot of the hosts are more than willing to have you stay an extra night!”
LIKE RESERVATIONS OR NOT? SOME PEOPLE DO!
There seems to always be a dispute about reservation systems. I have always been a proponent of all the reservation systems until this week. I consider myself an expert in navigating websites. After all, I had gotten my husband and me COVID vaccine appointments online after 4 full hours of refreshing and entering in all the information multiple times. But ReserveAmerica stumped me. It showed no spots available at a certain campground for an entire year… not even for a single night. After a half-hour of back and forth, I finally found the campground’s phone number through Google search and they kindly took the reservation over the phone.
Terry L. likes the reservation system too, especially with the current campground crowding: “I’m a firm believer in the reservation process. Nothing worse than pulling into a campground and being told there’s no room at the inn. At least you will be guaranteed a spot.”
PRAISE FOR RECREATION.GOV SITE
Andy B. has success with the Recreation.gov site. “We live in Oklahoma and try to go out every other week and a couple of full weeks each year. Through November most places were full. We stick to Corps of Engineers parks as they seem to, overall, be better than any other. Very happy with the Recreation.gov site. You can book 6 months out and as soon as the dates open, we reserve. We already have our schedule from April thru June filled.”
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.