By Chuck Woodbury
For people like me, who have traveled by RV for decades, RVing today is not as much fun. I was reminded of this in a letter last week from a reader named Paul. There are so many RVs these days, it’s often a chore to find a campsite. Until about five years ago, I never made a campground reservation, never needed to. Now, I make them most often, typically after a lot of time and research.
Gail and I were driving south on California Route 99 the other day. We passed a huge RV dealer. There must have been 400, 500 or more RVs on the lot. Next door, Camping World was selling hundreds more. “Those RVs will be taking up campsites this summer,” I complained to Gail.
Now, the letter from Paul:
My wife and I have been RVing for 15 years and gone to many places we never would have been able to without the RV. But the fun is over. There are just too many people getting into it. Like you have written, the campgrounds are too crowded, loud trucks going and coming all the time, golf carts on the go, having to make reservations way ahead of time. After our last outing as I was unloading the camper I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore, and my wife agreed. So we sold our motorhome. I believe that sooner or later humans ruin everything they touch and now it’s happening to the RV industry.
I know how Paul feels. I’ll just add that the RV parks that do have room in peak season are often poorly maintained or crammed tight. The good ones book up fast.
I took the photo to the right of a KOA in Miles City, Montana, last summer. Not only was it crowded, the campfire smoke was worse than a bad Los Angeles smog. For this you pay $40-$45 (or more) a night!
Now, there is so much more to this story, including why, when commercial RV parks are filled, many primitive public campgrounds are mostly unoccupied (a subject for another time). But the fact is, with 400,000 new RVs being sold each year and very few new campsites being created, finding a good place to stay is harder than ever, and it takes away some of the fun of a trip.
Luckily we’re in a 4wd truck and camper now instead of a 36ft motor home so we can boon dock more than most. But it is getting tiring pulling in to find 500 more rigs in our special places than the year before. We still have our camping ‘secrets’ we’re not telling about but it’s getting harder and harder.
I agree that planning and reserving a year or more in advance is a drawback but consider the alternative. If you are retired, being at home is boring. When traveling you meet so many interesting people, many of whom become friends. You can choose new places to go, see new sites, visit historical areas, try out new regional food. I prefer to adapt to the changing system and go with the flow. Looking forward to meeting all of you in future campgrounds.
We Find That we have to Reserve up to a YEAR in advance AND on the FIRST day that they open the Reservations or you may not get a spot a week later ! THATS during the Summer in New England and Upstate New York ! We head to Fla. Nov. till May But we stay in central Fla. at ONE place and have had the same lot the past 7 years ! They Have 20 spots for Transits And never more than half used . Jan. Feb. March is Busiest !
They keep Raising the Price But are slow to Up grade !
We tried to Book places along the Pan Handle 6 months in advance , Before we headed to our permanent site But the only thing we could find were $90 bucks a Nite No WAY ! I Think $ $35 Is To Much ? Lets See Check in is After 2 , Check out is 11 ?
Most of the Time I don’t even hook up.
When where traveling long distances we either stay at big Truck stops , Have Supper and Breakfast , Or we Stop at a rest stop
But you have to stop early to get a spot , and we leave at sunrise !
If someone is limiting their RV’ing to KOA campgrounds, they’ve never really been camping anyway. I’m glad most of the new RV’s are apparently being sold to people that prefer staying in trailer parks. It will be a long time before my spots fill up at this rate.
In 2011 we took a newly (used) Class C rv across the country from CA up to Washington and then across to NJ and down to Florida before heading home. We purposely did not reserve any parks so we could be free from any obligations to be somewhere. We just wanted to go until we felt tired and needed to stop. We stayed mostly at KOAs’ and a few private places that were interesting to say the least. Never had a problem getting a spot. We have noticed of late the prices have gone up. Maybe we are more flexible but we have not had too much of a problem getting into parks. We have not gone on a big trip since but next year we retire and hope to do more extended trips…hope to be as lucky as in the past. https://www.billanddonnasadventures.com/
Maybe now is the time for some entrepreneurs to start a new type of campsite to extend the joy of camping and rv ing. What does it take to create an rv park and how can we lower the cost for all to enjoy?
Money! And lots of it for one.
2 nd the town or county to approve the zoning and most do not want camp grounds or RV resorts.
Those are just 2 starters.
We have also noticed more campgrounds converting sites to long-term rentals — essentially becoming a mobile home park with some overnight spots. One local park with a 6-month limit simply allows the residents to switch sites every 6 months to get around the rules.
For us, there are two other factors pushing our decision: (1) the lack of quality/dependability we are finding in newer RVs, and (2) the lack and accessibility of reliable repair facilities. The upkeep of our RV has become a serious factor in our decision…costs have gone up every year due to increasing labor rates, lack of competent technicians, and poor product quality. Wait times to even get an appointment can be months!
Surely the $$ that the RV industry is bringing in could be used to provide training and scholarships to put more qualified RV techs into the workplace; and to provide startup assistance for new campground owners or even campground expansions? Or perhaps all of those taxes being taken in for these new RVs being sold could be dedicated to expanding state/local parks?
The last 3-4 years in Florida has been difficult to find a space to camp. In speaking with several friends we feel that since our taxes and homeowners insurance are so high for us there should be 10 % held out for true Florida full time residents in state parks. Sites can be released maybe a day before the end of the month.
I completely understand the concern with over-crowding, and maybe because I’ve only been RVing for a couple of years I haven’t become too jaded as yet. For my part, I take great pleasure in planning a trip. I created a scheduling tool in Excel (with macros to prevent gaps and overlaps plus links to area info) that I use to lay out our trips mostly using Google maps. Using Earth view can be handy in determining how close to the rail yard and the sewer plant you will be. I have a lot of fun with this and it helps me visualize the entire trip in my mind. We just returned from a seven week trip during which we stayed in 21 RV parks. Having a good plan meant traveling with confidence. As to the crowding…I’m with chuck. Once I go inside and close the door, I’m perfectly at ease. Safe TRAVELS
Would love to know your scheduling tool. Going to fulltime next year and a tool like that would help. Thank you.
We live in Florida on a waterfront lot with a great view. Alligators, bald eagles, pelicans, otters and various other creatures entertain us daily. It has gotten to the point that we wonder why we go in our camper at all anymore. We used to be able to find quiet picturesque places to camp but they are getting scarce. We love the west as we often can find such places but they are filling up too so our camping days may be coming to an end. We aren’t sightseers as much as seekers of the outdoors, quiet and wildlife. If I were younger, I’d buy a tent and good hiking shoes cause that’s about the only way to find the experience we love these days.
The more I read about the lack of ‘camping’ spots back in the eastern section of the country, the less I’m inclined to head out there. We’re kinda spoiled living in Nevada where you can camp just about anywhere, and numerous state parks almost always have room available. Utah is great too. And like John above says, it helps being retired so we make sure we’re settled in before the weekend arrives, and move during the week.
Sometimes we stay in “pay parks” for the necessity of washing clothes or cleaning out the black tank. If the park is in or near a small town. we always walk the town and take in the local flavor. Small mom and pop stores, a museum of local history, or a restaurant known for some specialty item on the menu. It’s still fun for us, but we too are noticing more and more folks out on the road (and in camp grounds). I don’t want to sound like one of those “I got mine, now lock the door” guys, but in a way, that’s how I feel, selfish as that sounds.
Correct, not as much fun, more expensive, much more crowded. Since we live at the beach in NC being on water is not as important as it is to many and that helps. Being retired is the biggest help of all. We stay home during summer months and I fish the Atlantic. Once school starts again in September we are on the road a lot! Florida, where we spend at least 2 months is very crowded and expensive. We have a CG that we will always reserve a spot for the next year before we leave as we have looked and will continue to but have not found anywhere we like better. We have even more plans for GA, TN, and LA. We are still open for VA, AL and maybe MS this year before schools let out. However, I’m like Paul to a point, when all I can find are tight spots I’ll quit too.