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.
MORE FROM LAST WEEK’S “DEMAND PRICING” DUE TO CAMPGROUND CROWDING …
In last week’s installment, we talked about demand pricing in campgrounds. Reader Donald explained it as, “This is when the flat rate no longer applies and as sites fill up the reservation system automatically increases the price!”
Here are a few comments regarding the subject:
Randy shared info he received from the Oklahoma State Parks: “Thank you for contacting us regarding camping rates for Oklahoma state parks. This year, as you may be aware, Oklahoma state parks began a new method of pricing for its cabins, lodge rooms and campsites. Based on the Yield Management model that is employed by the hospitality industry, rental prices vary based on the following: the price is lowered at times of low demand with high availability. Prices incrementally increase when availability shrinks and demand increases.” Ah-ha!
Gary compared the supply-and-demand policy to other hospitality industries: “We’ve seen this at a couple of chain RV parks. This is the business model used by hotels, airlines and car rental companies. Book early, pay a lower price. Sometimes, book at the last minute and also possible to get a lower price if cars or rooms available.”
Andy helped further explain the process of demand pricing with regards to campground crowding: “Actually, this description of demand pricing is too simplistic. Under a well-administered plan of this sort, prices go up as inventory shrinks but, because the inventory is time-dependent, the price will start to drop as the time of stay draws closer in order to fill up the vacant sites before it’s too late. So book early if you want certainty, or book late if you’re willing to risk not getting a spot in exchange for a lower price – it’s like flying standby.”
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK ABOUT CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS
Cheryl B. has a positive outlook on the future of campground crowding and the escalating prices. Is it wishful thinking or a positive spin? “No, we really haven’t seen much difference this year so far, especially compared to the majority of 2020. A lot of RVers have either put their RVs in storage, sold them, or decided to get a permanent place (lot or land) for their RV. Some are still traveling but, being more selective, some are staying closer to home, most even though traveling are taking a slower pace. I really doubt that even 35% of the new RVers that sprung out of 2020 will continue as 2021 goes on.
“People have to realize people like being outdoors, that is why they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for stadiums, neighborhood parks and trails, backyard pools, outdoor patios, kitchens, etc. People need to more flexible and be open to camp in other places besides National and State parks all the time. As far as costs going up, what isn’t going up in prices? Why shouldn’t the cost of camping cost more? North America is a big beautiful place with interesting and fun things around every corner. It is time for campers to get out of their comfortable ruts and really explore.”
MORE TIPS FROM OUR READERS FOR GETTING A CAMPSITE IN SPITE OF CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS
Andy B. shared this tip with us: “recreation.gov opens up 6 months out. As soon as they open a new week, we pick a new site. Right now we have three day weekends booked every other week from late March thru August.”
Merikay M. shares her reservation technique to avoid problems with campground crowding, again booking early in the season (do you see a trend here?). “Looking for summer campgrounds is my winter hobby. We RV about 6 months a year. I book my ‘Anchor’ points, usually one or two weeks in prime areas as early as December, or if they have an ‘open for reservations’ date, usually April, I make note of it so I can call the first day reservations are open. This is important for State and National parks. For travel between longer stays, I make note of preferred stops and make a list of several alternative RV parks, listing phone and location for easy reference. I firm these stops up a few weeks or days before we are there if possible. I also track down a boondocking spot for any night not reserved.”
Margret W. added this tip to our stockpile of finding a spot: “We use a book called ‘The Next Exit.’ It contains every exit from every interstate in the country – it shows all attractions and campgrounds in the country. By using this book we find every campground in every state. Sometimes we find a real gem along the way.”
Miya C. writes, “If your campground is full, consider staying at the local fairground in town. It has been our ‘plan B’ for many RV trips, especially on weekends and holidays. Had a great weenie roast on the 4th of July at the John Day fairgrounds a couple of years ago. Amenities are varied, but many fairgrounds have full hookups! Reasonable rates, too.”
NO PROBLEMS WITH CAMPGROUND CROWDING HERE!
We have had a number of our readers comment that they did not have any problems getting a site. We are sharing some of those comments here to give hope to all those befuddled and frustrated with the influx of new RVers and the high demand of campsites.
Kilo B wrote: “We have owned an RV for 25+ years. After a recent 2-month voyage across the country from VA to CA, we had no issues finding and reserving available sites. Many times booking within hours of arrival. If travel requires short stay reservations and we find no available sites there are other options: Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, rest areas, truck stops and multiple platforms for private land.”
The tricks and secrets are far and in between when navigating your voyage. One of the most frequent we use that is not open to most RV owners is utilizing military base campgrounds. Retired/Active Duty Military, DOD, Purple Heart and service-connected disabled Vets can utilize these facilities nationwide! Check out the Allstays C-RV Military app for this tip.
Paul G. asks, “What crowding? Generally, find weekends in destination areas to be booked in advance. My personal experience driving cross-country in November and December of 2020 taking four weeks I could not get into my preferred campground once calling a day or two ahead. For a stop in Las Cruces, NM, I called a small park we often stay at as soon as we knew when we would get there – about a week ahead – and got a preferred spot. Most parks along the southern route had plenty of empty space. WHAT CROWDING? We have not seen it.”
Even though Irv K. still makes reservations, he notes that he had no issues reserving spots for 30 nights. “I just booked 30 nights in campgrounds along the Mississippi River from Memphis to Lake Itasca in June/July without any problems. Largely state parks and Corps of Engineers. Most were only about 10% booked in late Feb. Even the weekend of the 4th was only 75% booked.”
WEATHER CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING REGARDING CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS
Like Irv, Linda G. had no problems either….until the Texas storm hit. Weather can make a dent in all the best-laid plans. Linda even included a photo for us to see just how bad it got.
“I had little to no problem finding sites when I left the Catskill Mountains of New York last fall as I began my trek south. I chose to go diagonally across the country to Texas from North Carolina. Skirting the Gulf Coast from Mississippi west, I had no problem finding sites on the western edge of Texas. I worked my way inland and found sites there also. Then the weather changed. I decided to head east, not realizing how bad the weather was going to get. Got caught in the ice storm and was unable to travel for a couple of days. Decided to head to Florida. I had no problem finding sites until I reached Florida. I’m not sure where I’m going to land within the next few weeks but I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Too much snow to return back to the Northeast yet. My experience tells me that the most popular areas are the places where one will run into the most problems booking sites. Here’s a pic of the campground road. Village Creek State Park in Lumberton, Texas. Solid ice.”
Stay safe out there! Please keep your emails and comments coming. They are so helpful!
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.