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.
BOOMERS VS. NEWBIES REGARDING CAMPGROUND CROWDING…
We hear a lot about newbies and how they are taking our campsites. Those newbies and younger people camping are well aware of the attitude.
Steve A. puts his feelings about the attitude this way: “Gotta love the boomers who think they are the only ones allowed to camp!”
Others are happy about the influx of new RVers and have some wise advice. Greg G. writes, “3rd yr full-timing, spent entire winter in Central TX. Didn’t seem much different this year reservations-wise. State parks and COE. Have noticed more young people working remotely. Good for them. Lots of interesting folks. Go meet the young people. It might rub off. I’m glad when the negative people quit camping, more sites for the rest of us and a better time. Folks need to stop being so judgy.”
“GET OFF THE GRID”
In order to beat the crowded campgrounds and frustrating reservation systems, people are finding alternatives. Randall J. is one of those people, and offers this advice: “We boondock, and have no trouble finding a spot. We do not do campgrounds, too much of a hassle. Get off the main roads. Try BLM land. Get off the grid.”
If you’re not dependent on campgrounds and RV parks, you’ll have a better time finding a spot, as Roger B. points out: “We do find we have to be more flexible. Got a 21′ Class B camper van loaded with lithium batteries and solar to help with that. We’re travelers, not long-stay campers. I get stir crazy after 3 nights. Can travel and overnight easily with no hookups needed. We still reserve nice campgrounds (mainly state parks and COE plus the rare private campground) when we can, but we’re not dependent on that. Prefer remote USFS sites. We can always find something.”
ANOTHER OPTION TO AVOID CAMPGROUND CROWDING
Rick L. told us about another website to find spaces to stay overnight and avoid crowded campgrounds. “I have a 22-ft. Chinook and a short Ford van. I’m looking forward to remote camping in the short van. Less accommodations, but I like urban stealth mode when I try to blend in. I’ve parked behind McDonald’s and out in fields. Hipcamp is a new site where people rent their dirt for the night and there are places everywhere.”
Richard H. has decided to downsize his RV for more camping options. “Although I have sat out the last year in an RV park, due to COVID, I am very concerned about campground crowding in the future. I am full-time, and own a 36-foot Class A and tow a Jeep Wrangler. I can see this is going to limit my site availability a lot. So I have decided to sell both and purchase a 20-foot Winnebago Revel. Yes, this is painful as I must get rid of most of my current possessions. But if I am unable to book sites, at least I’ll have better chances of finding a boondocking location or parking lot for overnight sleeping. So I will stay put in my current spot until July, August, or September when the Revel is available.” Good luck, Richard!
ARE THE HOMELESS TAKING OVER RV PARKS?
Some RV parks are becoming home to a number of older stay-in-place RVs with full-time or nightly renters, giving people a place to stay who otherwise might be homeless.
Sherry Z. brings up something we haven’t heard much of before, but we’d like to learn more. She writes, “Not only are you the average RVer competing with more and more campers, you are also competing with a new breed of slumlords who buy up dilapidated RVs and rent them out to the homeless for a night’s shelter in state parks and on city streets.” [Editor: We wrote about something similar to this awhile back: The new American RVer – not a pretty sight.]
ON A MORE POSITIVE NOTE…
I am finding a lot of encouragement among the discouraging notes about campground crowding from our readers. Here are a few comments:
Christine G. says, “My boyfriend does all the reservations. He typically makes them 6 months out and we have been able to find places, usually high quality, without too much trouble. We started full-timing a few years ago. We never knew a time when you could travel as you please and find a campground with no trouble at the end of the day. So since this is all we’ve ever known, it hasn’t been as difficult for us as some have found it.”
Bob S., while acknowledging the crowding issues, has these encouraging words: “Yes, it is a challenge to find a spot, but we always do. Yes, we plan 6-12 months in advance. Yes, costs are rising. The other lead story today [Planning way ahead is the new normal for RVing in 2021] made two very good points: “Over time, everything changes … even RVing” and “Camping is still a wonderful thing if you plan ahead.” We choose to be optimistic and appreciate the benefits of living in the most beautiful places this country has to offer. It is not that difficult to overcome the challenges. And it’s well worth it!”
ADVANTAGES OF BOONDOCKERS WELCOME TO AVOID CROWDED CAMPGROUNDS
Bruce W. has opened his land to Boondockers Welcome and encourages others to consider this option. “On July 17th, 2020, I hosted my first Boondockers Welcome guest. In the short time since, I have hosted over 40 campers. Some have been for a night, many for a week. Some are families homeschooling, some retired and just traveling this great and beautiful country of ours. One was even a traveling musician. All have been very respectful of us and our property. We are still in touch with a few. My kids still play online games with many of our guest kids.
“I am still working full time and thus have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories of my guests’ own travels. By the same token, several of my guests have been new to camping and I have loved sharing my 40 years of camping experience and lessons learned. Having just returned from a week of camping in a state park, I can attest that, yes, things have changed. Especially on the weekends. Loud music, bright lights, dogs barking. But, if you enjoy camping, don’t give up hope. Instead, adapt. Find alternatives. Think outside of your normal experience. Try Boondockers Welcome, try Harvest Hosts, try city or county parks and campgrounds. My family still talks about the fun we had at an alpaca farm outside of Indianapolis. Bottom line is that camping is what you make of it. Don’t give up on using your RV if it is something you enjoy.”
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.