Earlier this week, RVtravel.com 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.
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.