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.
DEMAND PRICING FOR CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS? YIKES!
I was shocked to learn of this little-known secret that reader Donald S. shared with us. This explains why reservation prices can be sky high! This is certainly a reason to book early – real early! Donald writes, “It seems that some campgrounds are now using ‘demand pricing.’ This is when the flat rate no longer applies and as sites fill up the reservation system automatically increases the price! Having been a workamper, I have seen this ‘option’ in some of the reservation system software. When this is enabled the pricing option overrides the ‘flat rate’ and enables the ‘demand pricing’ schedule. So the longer you wait to book, the higher the rate may be as the percent of available sites decreases. I see this as a BAD thing since you can’t budget your camping experiences.”
WATCH FOR THE CANCELLATIONS
When a choice campground is all booked up and not available, watch for cancellations. I have used this technique myself, checking National Park campgrounds until I find a site open due to a cancellation and then will plan an upcoming trip or route around that.
Heidi B. follows this method when they want to get into their preferred campground. “The key for us is we know people cancel their reservations. We determine when we want to be in our preferred campground and then we keep checking availability until we find someone canceled and we can book our site. This can be unnerving for some people, but we land some pretty amazing campsites this way! We scored this site for a month using this method in St. Augustine Beach! We booked two weeks out.”
WHERE DO OUR CANCELLATION FEES GO?
Have you ever wondered where those annoying cancellation fees go? Katherine G. brings up an interesting point: “Having been on both sides of the cancellation fee issue – the RV park pays to process your credit card payment and pays to refund upon cancellation. That is where the fee goes.”
THE YEAR THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING…
Sadly, we are hearing more and more people say that they just are not going to deal with the lack of campsites, crowded campgrounds and the high costs of sites anymore. They’re hanging up their keys and selling their RVs.
Daniel S. said he and his wife are not even going to start. He wrote, “We were ready to purchase a new travel trailer spring of 2020 when COVID come along. So we delayed our purchase for a while to see how things played out.So now it’s spring of 2021 and after reading your and other articles/sources, we’ve decided not to purchase a travel trailer at this time for the following reasons:
1. Shortage of RVs at dealerships, which results in little to no negotiating power and in some cases dealers asking more than the MSRP.
2. Shortage of campground site availability and rate increases.
3. Not knowing which direction our economy is going.
4. Not knowing what our freedom of travel will be in the future.
5. Not knowing if the COVID agenda will go away.”
I so hope that you decide to give it a try, Daniel, if not now maybe in the future. It really is a wonderful life, despite some major inconveniences.
SHOULD RV MANUFACTURERS REALLY BE INVOLVED?
Last week, reader Kathleen S. mentioned that she thought RV manufacturers should be investing in creating more campgrounds to help alleviate campground crowding. But this week, reader GP O. left a head-slapping, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that comment. They wrote, “Should RV manufacturers build RV Parks? Do you want the quality of RV parks that manufacturers build into their RVs? Probably NOT for most of them?”
Brenda Odom left a similar comment: “If the quality of the campgrounds they created are anything like some of the units being rolled off the line, then please, NO! However, a recreation tax on each unit sold that would specifically support upgrades for public campgrounds could help.”
PLANNING AND RESERVATIONS – TO EACH THEIR OWN
Last week we asked if you would rather have a reservation for a campsite or if you’d prefer spots were first-come, first-served to deal with campground crowding. We read through a lot of your comments and find it interesting that so many people prefer differing reservation techniques. Here are a few of those comments:
Mo wrote, “I think reservations are the way to proceed, but would like to see improvements to the reservation websites making them easier to use and to allow more flexibility as far as reservation windows are concerned. For us seniors, specific dates are not as essential as the number of days and amenities provided…”
TW adds, “I think a mix of reservable and non-reservable is appropriate. You don’t want people to drive a couple of hundred miles and pull in after dark to find out there are no spots available. But last-minute trips and people who can’t plan time off far in advance also need options. You do see these types of mixes in some USACOE (United States Army Corps of Engineers) parks but commonly only about 10% are non-reservable. That is too low.”
Annie S. enjoys the freedom of traveling without reservations. “We try to travel without reservations. We like the flexibility to stay longer at places we love and move on from places we don’t. However, we did run into full campsites in Idaho last July and Utah last fall. We still found spots but it was a lot busier than past years.”
FINALLY, OUR THOUGHTS ARE WITH EVERYONE IN TEXAS AND ALL THE RVers IMPACTED BY THE RECENT STORMS AND COLD SNAP
Ed G wrote to us about his experience this winter with crowding, trying to find a place and the high cost of staying ahead of the storms last week. “Well, since we left, one storm after another has pushed us to move faster than we wanted. We started finding parks were harder to get into due to people on the move. A lot of our choices were made on just getting a safe place for the night. We just missed the Texas freeze because we had no idea where we were going in the first place but wanted to stay on the coast wherever we headed. We left Texas, headed for New Orleans in a site for $100 a night. After we paid for three days, in two days came the storms. We have been on the road for over a month now in central Florida and the RV parks are full and we are having a hard time booking and of course due to our lack of planning the costs are crazy.”
Now, some questions for you about campground crowding:
• 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.