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.
I AM FRUSTRATED!
I have to start this week with my own frustrating experience making reservations for a county campground in Minnesota. The reservations opened at 9 a.m. CST last week for the summer season. As usual, I am ready with a computer and my iPad logged in, my dates ready and my eye on the site. I have a calendar available and I’ve written the dates and sites down just in case in the campsite-feeding-frenzy I forget what I am doing.
9 a.m. comes and the not-so-much fun begins. The website crashes. The dreaded swirling wheel appears and I move to the iPad. No luck. Re-enter credentials. OK, the site is still there! I click “Add to cart” and then the dreaded message appears, “You must change some dates to reserve.” What dates?
Bad word, bad word. Change dates. No 40-foot sites are available. I return to the previous screen. Only some of the days are available. At this point, I’ll take what I can get and figure out the rest later.
I book the site, check out, and go back. Someone else must have held sites and they automatically released after 20 minutes. I found two more days at a different campsite. I booked it, paid the campsite fee and the additional $10 reservation fee. Ugh.
Time to move on to the next campground with different dates
The same thing happens. I get locked out and the site crashes. Having recently made COVID vaccination appointments, I feel like an expert in website crashes, so I just refresh the site, go back and enter all the info including name, address, pets, number of people, size of rig, number of slides, and billing info… AGAIN!
Whew! I have sites and the county has graciously sent four or five duplicate confirmation emails for every booking. Looks like I have the entire summer booked – but no, only two-and-a-half scattered weeks and five different campsites…
Reader Donna P. shares her husband’s frustration with campground crowding, too. We’re all in this together, aren’t we? Donna writes, “My husband does the reservations but watching and listening to him, I can tell he’s frustrated. Campgrounds don’t take reservations until late April. Campgrounds don’t return calls. Many are becoming over-priced for what they offer. Discounts are becoming rarer. And then there are the gas prices. We will continue to RV full-time but travel less. We’d be lucky to find a nice campground with a view.”
Now here are a few observations from our readers.
CAMPING? NO, THANKS
Geof T. is waiting things out to see what happens. “We have 46 years RVing and until this year we’ve never not wanted to go camping. The ‘Covid Campers’ that have scooped up every available RV and jammed campgrounds have changed all that for us. Post-lockdowns we have zero interest in camping in 2021 and possibly 2022 if the crush on RV parks and campground persists. We’ll just park our 2020 Cedar Creek and get back to it if the other means of recreating get back to pre-COVID levels. The cost of RV campsites has gone through the roof, having to book reservations 9 months or more in advance is ridiculous, then be jammed into a campground with rude 30-or-40-something-year-old newbies with their screaming children and barking dogs is what we’ve experienced and just not what we want to pay for. We’ll take a pass for the time being.”
SAYING GOODBYE… BECAUSE OF CAMPGROUND CROWDING
Jerilyn L. has had enough of campground crowding. “We have camped at our favorite USFS campground for years. Beautiful lake, birds, peace and quiet Sunday through Friday. Weekends were louder, but people followed the rules. Now, there are only quiet late evenings. Dogs running free, day-trippers going through our campground… We are getting older. Our 5th wheel is old. We camped for pleasure. Now there is none. I think we’re done. Breaks my heart.”
MET THEIR GOAL, NOW THEY’RE DONE?
Richard S. has thoroughly enjoying RVing but this may be the end. “Our goal in RVing has been to see the country and visit all the state capitol buildings. Therefore, we rarely stay in one place for more than one night. I’ve made most of the reservations at Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds as they are very adequate, inexpensive and mostly available (if you make the reservation in advance). The other option we use frequently is the boondockerswelcome.com site and have enjoyed it. The downside of those two options? Their locations are limited but we have made them work for us. This summer we should make it to Capitol #46 and may decide to then sell the motorhome due to the projected increase of ‘campers’ and lack of space.”
SILVER LINING… MAYBE?
One good thing (well, it’s not that good for us still driving…) that Joe D. points out is that gasoline prices may limit the number of people camping this year. “In relation to future projections of campground crowding, has anyone factored in the impact the future increase in gasoline/diesel fuel prices will have on RV travel? Gasoline pipelines shut down, OPEC+ freezing output levels, limited new oil drilling all will have an impact. Remember 2008/09? This may eliminate the campground crowding.”
Joe could very well be right. We bought a Class A in 2008 at rock bottom prices due to gas prices. Perhaps that is a silver lining, but for whom?
LASTLY, A NICE “THANK YOU” FROM A READER
Neal D. wrote us about his experience. He writes, “While reading the above article I attempted to book an extended stay (10 nights) at a regional park south of Washington, D.C., for mid-October. We have stayed there numerous times and could only book one particular site each time. (Only 4 sites have full hookups that can accommodate our length of 43 feet.) Your article motivated me to book so early that we actually got into our preferred site for the first time ever. Thank you!” Yay, Neal!
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.
Free RV Camping: the West edition and the Heartland edition.
We took no chances this year and made reservations at the parks that we typically stay at while on our 4 day trip to the Oregon coast on the day the parks started taking reservations. Last year on our way home, we did encounter one of the parks was full and we had to make a 450 mile one day trip.
We are fortunate to live in the western US where there is plenty of public land. We haven’t been in a “campground” since the New Mexico governor kicked us out of state parks last March..with 2 hours notice. Well, I take that back. We did spend a couple nights in a free forest service campground that’s within 100 miles of us, but it’s a pretty rustic, little-used one. And old wooden outhouse with pit toilets and old wooden picnic tables and a rock and concrete fire ring per space was about it, and we were the only ones there, so it was like not being in a campground. We’ve done a lot of backcountry tent camping, so parking our 24 foot Passport in the boonies is no issue to us. Pulling with a Grand Cherokee 4×4 we put that trailer in places a lot of folks wouldn’t, and love it! My thinking is that if folks are up in arms over no campsites in campgrounds being available, folks weren’t really “camping” at all, they were “RV’ing”, and that’s really a whole different thing.
Yes, I have made my reservations for June-July, because I am going to the other side of America. folks who live in the next state can just drive home, folks from far away are lost.
I have had a campground close, I have gotten advice from AAA which park was open. I will investigate a campground which I have not found listed. (I will drive there, not camp there)
Now I have to wait for a replacement water heater. waiting waiting waiting. Oh well I still have my backpacking tent.
The wife and I were wringing our hands on where to stay during the hot summer days ahead when some friends of ours who own a pack station near Yosemite asked us to come up and be site hosts to watch over things from June til Oct. we graciously said yes and now each summer we will be parked near Yosemite during the hot summer days.
Happy RVing and hope to see you down the road!