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.
SHOULD RV MANUFACTURERS BUILD CAMPGROUNDS?
A couple of weeks ago a reader suggested that RV manufacturers should step up and help build RV parks since they are creating a lot of the campground crowding problem. More RVs, fewer campground spots – it would make sense, wouldn’t it? Someone then mentioned that RVs are being built so poorly that perhaps we wouldn’t want RV manufacturers to build campgrounds too.
This week Tony V. writes: “From what I’ve seen of the quality of many existing CGs, those built by the RV manufacturers would be an upgrade!”
THINKING OF SELLING DUE TO CAMPGROUND CROWDING?
Melissa K. was one of the many folks that bought an RV on the cusp of on the pandemic and is finding that campground crowding may alter their future plans. “We bought right when COVID hit… managed to make do with ‘what’s available this week’ for the summer, but it’s so hard to get a reservation at any woodsy outdoor camping spots (state parks). The resorts are nice but get super pricey and lack the whole nature experience. We have debated on selling our camper.”
Char S. blames campground crowding for thoughts of selling too: “I am finding more campgrounds booked, and therefore I am thinking of selling my RV. Plus, places are charging more and not really keeping the sites clean and maintained. I have looked for the least-popular sites in hopes I can find a place that isn’t too far from where I really want to go.”
READER APPRECIATED “WHERE DO THE CANCELLATION FEES GO”
Norman K lost a lot of money when COVID hit and he was forced to cancel upcoming reservations (and we’re sure many of you experienced the same). He wrote, “I had 38 reservations at NP, ST Parks. I left on April 12, 2020, drove 352 miles to Montgomery Bell State Park in West Tennessee for a week. While there, COVID struck the country with a vengeance and everything started closing.
“A week later, rather than going west, I had to head back home. I personally canceled some and some were canceled by the parks themselves. For every cancellation, I was charged $5. I was charged $185 in cancellation fees. To say I was upset is not very honest. I was MAD, HURT, and very disappointed that all my planning, budgeting, saving for this trip of a lifetime fell thru – let alone costing almost $200 for what I felt was a waste of money.
“As a widowed 74-year-old disabled veteran living on a fixed income, this hurt. I was relieved to find out that the Government wasn’t sticking it to me but the reservation is run by a non-government agency and it was actually covering the transaction fees from the credit card processor. At this point in life, now 75, and gas prices rising faster than the floodwaters from Katrina, I don’t know if my dream will come to fruition.”
Norman, we hope you don’t give up on your dream.
Readers often comment about Florida campsites being full, full, full. It looks like Florida is opening up. Are the snowbirds going home? Are people overbooking and not showing up? Or did COVID stick a wrench in everyone’s plans?
Dick K. wrote in about his experience: “We winter in Florida. For the past 10 years we have stayed at the Lazydays RV Resort in Seffner, FL, just east of Tampa. Normally this resort is full during any local or special events. This year, during the Tampa RV Show, the Super Bowl and now during the Florida Strawberry Festival, there are sites here to be had. Yes, this resort can be pricey, but with my Military discount it becomes reasonable based on the many amenities provided. If you can travel, do it. If you can afford it, do it. Stay safe, stay well, safe travels.”
Diane M. also found Florida campsites open. “Currently in FL, where we have/will stay at four different parks. Made reservations for two when we were at them in 2020. Other two a few months ago. None have been full, when normally they have been. Current park with many snowbirds has more sites open than we’ve ever seen. Coming out from CA, we had reservations. Parks were pretty empty, so didn’t even need reservation. Will see what it’s like going home next week. Only made 1 other reservation so far.” Diane, please let us know what it’s like when you head back west to CA. Thanks!
James F. found openings in Florida too. “We started for Florida last November and we had no trouble finding campsites coming down from central New York. We already had our site reserved in Florida. They only have 12 sites but when we got here we were the only campers. At this time there are 4 sites still open. We are thinking about selling our trailer just because of everything we have read and heard from other people. We will know more after the trip home.”
MISSING THE SPONTANEITY OF IT ALL BECAUSE OF CAMPGROUND CROWDING
While reservations have become such a necessity, Cheri M. misses the days of spontaneously camping. “Reserve-only spots have sure dampened our spontaneity. Plus there are fees to reserve, usually $10, so if we go one night here, one night there, it doubles the National Park fees. For instance, if we want to go to different campgrounds within one NP to hike different areas, listen to different ranger talks, and so forth, that costs us now. Also, we can’t just find these treasures as much on the fly. We miss that. We haven’t stopped RVing and we still have a ball doing so, but it’s very different now and we miss those carefree days.”
Dirk S. is camping less due to a number of things. “I would definitely say it’s harder to find a campsite these days – more people looking, and more reservation-only sites, with bookings happening months in advance. It’s definitely affecting our camping habits and plans. We find that we’re looking for more boondocking sites away from regular campgrounds, as it’s all we can find. Being able to just hop on the road at the last minute and head out for a trip seems to be a thing of the past. It’s leading to us to go camping less, which is sad.”
Kevin C. echoes that sentiment. “We used to travel in our motorhome freely and camp spontaneously. We would start out in the morning in a particular direction and by noon or early afternoon we’d decide where we wanted to land. We’d call ahead to book a site or just check on availability with nary a problem. Once we arrived, we would decide if we wanted to stay a while or move on. Not any more. We can still do that in the ‘off season,’ if there is such a thing anymore, with most RV parks but not public campgrounds. We are finding that we have to book months, and in some cases a year, in advance. No more spontaneity. No more freedom to move around the country.”
Carol L. had the perfect life for 23 years. “We were full-time RVers for 23 years and very much enjoyed it. We’ve seen the cost and availability of sites go a bit crazy over the last few years. We decided it was time to see the rest of the world so bought a home just in time for COVID. So glad we do have a house now. Would not have liked to spend the winter in an RV. Great timing on our part, it turns out. If it is really as bad as it sounds, then I am very happy that we were able to do it when it was easy. Stayed as long as we wanted in one spot, never made reservations. Perfect life.”
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.