Saturday, December 9, 2023


Campsites suddenly available. Are RV parks too expensive now?

Earlier this week, publisher Chuck Woodbury emailed me a video discussing the status of camping over Memorial Day weekend. It was a commentary about empty RV parks over this traditionally packed camping holiday. I have to agree. I watched the video and share a lot of the observations after traveling this last month. Campgrounds may be empty again… but what does that mean?

Empty campgrounds on Memorial Day

My RV park on Memorial Day had a lot of empty sites. I was so surprised. I hadn’t hesitated to pay $70 for one night to get a spot because it was Memorial Day weekend. But I was too late planning and figured that the high price was my just due. Little did I know that $70 has become the new $40!

A few of our staff members nodded their heads in agreement at a recent staff meeting where we discussed this. They had the same experience over Memorial Day weekend.

I have found the expensive parks are, at most, half full, and some are only 10 percent full. We stayed at a huge lower-cost “Mom and Pop” RV park across from the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park in June. School is out and while there was a row of full-timers, dozens of sites were empty.

Higher prices

In more than a month of traveling, we have only been turned down once and that was near a major city on a weekend. This is so different than our trip north last year. The state, regional and COEs are still hard to get into without advance planning, but it isn’t as hard as it has been over the last three years. We got in at a state park in Colorado on a weekday… but it was $46!

The prices at campgrounds are outrageous! I felt like I was getting a deal if I could find a private RV park under $60. I will plan our trip back to Arizona now so we can get into more state parks and COEs. A couple of the cheaper ones we found were the RV parks that catered to full-time workers. A few saved one or two sites for “transients” like us. The worker campgrounds were full.

I met a couple that are relatively new owners at a private campground and they said this is the first year that they are not booked solid every weekend in the summer. The last few years they had waiting lists. Every single private campground we stayed at was never anywhere near full. I also found that park stores were practically empty and not because they sold out, but because there were not enough customers.

I only saw one exception and it was a Holiday KOA near West Des Moines, Iowa. They recognized the need for activities for the kids, had remodeled facilities, a huge well-stocked store and had expanded to provide easy access and long sites for today’s RVs. There was a massive number of premium sites that had grills, huge concrete patios, gliders, tables and chairs. Even the premium sites were filling up on a weekday in preparation for the weekend.

Is camping dead? I don’t think so. Has camping slowed down? Most definitely, at least at RV parks. Perhaps new RV owners are bored with it, didn’t think it would be so expensive, and are ready to sleep in hotel rooms, fly the friendly skies or just stay home.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Read our readers’ experiences with crowded, or not so crowded, campgrounds in my weekly Campground Crowding Column


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.



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Chris L (@guest_246536)
4 months ago

I understand people, last year I drove from Virginia to Yellowstone and back (family of 4), and I thought prices where ridiculous! I managed to boondock most of the time instead of staying in campgrounds.
This year, I wanted to go to the west again, and I quickly realized that flying and spending 2 weeks in Europe would be about the same budget… Guess what, I’m in Europe!
Those greedy campgrounds are killing RVing.

Terry (@guest_246114)
4 months ago

Why are so many campers not camping? Ask them! Do a survey. My opinion: #1-Years of inflation resulted in families cutting discretionary expenses. #2-Campers experienced crowded conditions and inflated costs and reacted appropriately. We tour in a Winnebago Journey and cut back due to exorbitant site costs.

NW Girl (@guest_245744)
4 months ago

Outside of basic inflation I just assumed it was to try and detour the homeless wanderers from renting sites. Here in Seattle we have a huge problem. People come right up to your site begging for food or potentially steal your stuff when you’re gone for a hike, etc. And when anyone sets out (Even in an upper class RV) you are looked at and treated like a homeless person in the NW. I know we’ve stopped camping for awhile for these two reasons.

George (@guest_244385)
5 months ago

Of course campgrounds and RV storage lots are empty, since trailers and 5th wheel sales are down 45% from last year.Class A units are down 20%.

Backcountry164 (@guest_243863)
5 months ago

Literally everything is significantly more expensive than it was just a few years ago. But I guess we get what we ask for…

Brian Thomas (@guest_245688)
4 months ago
Reply to  Backcountry164

Supply and demand, everyone went crazy for RVs and campgrounds. They keep raising the prices and people still kept coming! Let the campgrounds sit empty for a couple of years and make sure you let them know why. It is supposed to be a affordable family activity and greed took over like it does with everything!

Edna (@guest_246570)
4 months ago
Reply to  Brian Thomas


Joe (@guest_243664)
5 months ago

Yes, prices have sky rocketed and when you include gasoline and amenities, it is much cheaper to book a hotel than an RV site.

Francie Mendes (@guest_243663)
5 months ago

We’re in Billings, Montana to visit our kids and grandkids. There’s only two RV parks. The cheaper one cost $3,500 a month. Yes, you read right! This isn’t a high end RV park either.

Coleen Wilder (@guest_245106)
4 months ago
Reply to  Francie Mendes

Wow even here in Florida directly on the ocean is 1500 to 2000 a month. It’s disgusting how in the last 3 to 4 yrs these campgrounds have raised their prices. Camping was about being fun and inexpensive…not any more… greedy people. I live in an RV park 7 min to the beach that the people that have owned for years keep the prices the same as in yrs past. Thank goodness for people like him !

Roger (@guest_243154)
5 months ago

I’m camping fourth of July weekend two other camper came with only one camper here . price wise $40. extra money for use of dump station. And pool . four camper in camp ground. In Wisconsin. I have been on season site last 8 year’s. And all ways full.

Ray D. (@guest_244178)
5 months ago
Reply to  Roger

Hello Roger,we stay at a mom and pop campground in Eureka Wi.near Oshkosh, 30 a night 10 to dump and 5 for a burning pot. Where is the campground you stayed at for 40 a night, still a good price. Please let me know where it is. Thanks and happy camping, Ray

Bob (@guest_242423)
5 months ago

With the higher costs for campgrounds, I have resorted (pun intended) to mostly Cracker Barrel, Walmart, free parking while traveling. Then, Thousand Trails for extended stays. I no longer care what these campgrounds charge, I will not return until rates get under $40 nightly. O, and did I mention Passport America, there are many ways to save. Their rates almost always under $40 with the discount.

Backcountry164 (@guest_243862)
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Runaway inflation over the last few years has increased the price of everything. Nothing will return to the prices we were paying just a few years ago.

Denny wagaman (@guest_242417)
5 months ago

Can we please move on from the high cost of campgrounds. 😂 How about Groceries PLUS NOW Washington State has the highest cost of fuel surpassing California! What doesn’t cost more nowadays? It cost money to play. It cost money to do just about everything. How about Insurance for an RV? Oh how about the hourly cost of an RV Mechanic… my last bill was $169/hr. Isn’t it time to stop our complaining and move on to what’s enjoyable about RVING, what’s fun, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but about everything that we buy cost more than it used to. But please I and others are tired of hearing about the high costs of camping.😂

Kit Carson (@guest_242527)
5 months ago
Reply to  Denny wagaman

Maybe time to opt out of ridiculous rip offs until the greed subsides and the true value of things are realized

Backcountry164 (@guest_243865)
5 months ago
Reply to  Kit Carson

The “true value” is determined by people like Denny here. If people are willing to pay the price, that’s what its value is.

Brian Thomas (@guest_245689)
4 months ago
Reply to  Denny wagaman

People like Denny are the reason for the high price of camping. If there are enough people that pay the price it will stay that way. I think with the pandemic people were willing, but maybe now people will start thinking about it more. Start leaving the campgrounds empty and things will change!

Bo Sargent (@guest_242349)
5 months ago

My husband and I are traveling cross country. We started from home state California to Verde Nv for an rv rally. After that we headed to Yellowstone NP via stops in Elko, Nv-Jackpot, Nv-Ft. Hall, Id.-W. Yellowstone. After staying a week in W. Yellowstone ($125/day prem. back in) we are on our way to Sioux Narrows On, Ca to do some fishing. Our 1st stop after Yellowstone was Billings, Mt where we had a difficult time finding a site. We finally got a water/electric only for $75 (KOA) on an unlevel gravel site. After Billings we luckily found a site in Medora, N. Dakota (Red Tail), water/electric only because they were full and have raised their prices. Yes, we are finding that prices have increased, but also we are finding it difficult to find a site in some places. We hate to give up rv traveling but if the prices keep going up we will have to travel by car or fly to a destination.

Bob P (@guest_242164)
5 months ago

I have been in camping since May 1978, 8 RV’s from popup to 38’ class A. Over the years camping has always been the cheaper way to travel. Now in the last 2 years it has become exorbitant due to gas prices, food, and inflation. We sold our last RV a 23’ TT and the mid-sized truck that pulled a Nissan Frontier that only got 9.5 mpg pulling it(13-14 empty) because we couldn’t afford them on our pensions. We are selling our home in FL because of the high cost of living their and moved back to TN. We have talked about getting a small class C just for occasional trips close to home but with inflation and interest rates where they are that’s a NO. So we’ll just sit here and see what happens in 2024 elections.

Conni (@guest_241846)
5 months ago

I had to cancel our reservations for the weekend before July 4. It turned out we would be able to go after all so I started looking for someplace, anyplace. A little over a week away and I’m finding campsites 100.00 plus per night booked solid, campgrounds full. So, no I don’t think high prices are scaring people away, at least not in the west/southwest.

William Dethrow (@guest_241766)
5 months ago

We try to make reservations at COE’s campgrounds. You can get a card for like $80.00 a year and take advantage of 50% off. They are much nicer, friendlier, cleaner and most of the time the bathrooms have A/C. They also have swimming and some have alot of fun activities. You can go to and find them all over.

david shipp (@guest_241764)
5 months ago

It’s not just the camp sites but also the cost of fuel. With Air B&B’s and Low MPG cars, Camping is becoming too expensive an alternative. It will cost me $400 dollars to pull a ffth wheel when my wife’s car can get there for a little over $100 My brother, an Eagle Scout, has tent camped all his life and loves not being tied to electric or sewer. Fortunatly my Fifth wheel is paid for. For me, boondocking and moochcamping is the only thing keeping us going. That and avoiding any thing north east of Pennsylvania or in Florida.

John (@guest_241743)
5 months ago

I have recently sold my RV & giving tent camping a try & staying at airBnBs. My 2006 Jayco Super C RV became more costly to keep up than it was worth in addition to inflation. I workamped for several yrs & seen that tent campers were just as happy as the people with RVs.

Charlie Clifton (@guest_241739)
5 months ago

Those who charge too much will not get my business. There are alternative places to camp.

Sam (@guest_241736)
5 months ago


Steven N (@guest_241734)
5 months ago

We have noticed that while you can’t get a reservation for our state parks, when you drive through to check things out there are unoccupied spots that have the reservation paperwork on the post. It is very frustrating when you want to go camping but can’t because someone has booked camping spots for every weekend with no intention of going but apparently don’t mind wasting their money. I would love to see someone come up with a way to stop the practice so that all can enjoy. I can understand that sometimes things come up and they just can’t make it but it happens way too often for it to be a coincidence.

John (@guest_241744)
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven N

Florida State is beginning to give state residents a 30 advantage making reservations of non state residents. Plus if a site is not occupied by the end of the next day of a reservation the site is supposed to be placed back on available list.

J Marshall (@guest_241731)
5 months ago

I am in Southern California. We have noticed that the private campgrounds that we regularly stay in with our membership have been noticeably less full. It has made our stays much nicer, but we don’t really know why? The thing is, they were hard to book, and I had to make multiple attempts before getting a reservation? Then we get there and the places were half empty.

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