Will campgrounds be even more crowded in the months ahead?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Whether we like it or not, coronavirus is focusing a spotlight on the RV lifestyle. Widely read magazines are publishing stories about how RVs may just be the “dream machines” to carry the American public on safe journeys across the country. It’s no news to us. After all, RVers appreciate sleeping in their own beds, and showering in their own bathrooms. Instead of bumping elbows with strangers in the motel “dining room,” they’re perfectly happy to sit in their pajamas (or less) while breaking their fast – in their own traveling dining room.

But this week, more attention has been focused on RVers. This time you can thank CBS News’ own travel editor, Peter Greenberg. He’s been puffing all week about just what the future holds for the traveling public, and toward the end of the week, he hopped on the RV bandwagon, this time broadcast on Washington, DC’s top-rated news station, WTOP-FM. You can only imagine plenty of people heard him – and the station ran the print version on its website. Here are just a few excerpts:

“Families will want to travel together, and an RV gives them the opportunity to be in their own self-contained quarantine-mobile, if you will, to rediscover their own country. They’ll stuff the RV full of groceries and head down the road, skipping needless stops at restaurants or hotels, and avoid any danger of the bug they might have picked up, had they had to stop like an ‘ordinary’ traveler.

only in oregon on flickr.com

“Camping is going to be big, whether at the national or state park level. A lot of state parks will be rediscovered because the national parks are going to be full. You can count on that,” Greenberg said.

And where would these zealous traveling families go? Happily, Greenberg focused on his nearby audience, recommending, “Washington is a great hub, and it doesn’t mean that we all have to go to Rehoboth. It means we have options here. Take a look at the map. Take a look at a 3- to 400-mile radius from where you live right now, and you’ll be surprised at what’s available to you that won’t be crowded, that will be accessible and that will give you a wonderful travel experience at an affordable cost.”

He suggested avoiding tourist traps and big metro areas. Instead his advice was to hit Main Street USA towns. “Social distancing is almost … the definition of a small town anyway, and as long as it’s not inundated, they can handle you and you can handle them. You’ll learn about American history, you can go antiquing, the restaurants won’t be neck and neck, and you’ll have a better chance of having a better experience within the boundaries of what’s acceptable social distancing and good hygiene principles.”

Greenberg’s words may have hit a primarily Northeast audience, but similar ideas are being floated in publications and websites everywhere. It’s like somebody drove through neighborhoods all across the land with a booming loudspeaker on their roof: “Listen up everyone! Go rent an RV and see America! You can stay safe! You can have fun!” The statistics and stories from RV rental firms are showing that people are already taking the advice. And RV dealers are happy as clams as they take in plenty of clams, selling RVs, many to first-time buyers.

For us who consider ourselves “practiced RVers,” we may find ourselves practicing patience if we head out on the road. If you thought that spaces in RV parks were scarce last year, just imagine what it may be like. If some of the parks have folded, or perhaps haven’t yet reopened, the already tight space will be tighter. Combine that with a rolling wave of newbies competing for a space next to the swimming pool – this well could be the RV summer from hell.

It’s time to think seriously about boondocking!

##RVT949b

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TravelingMan
1 month ago

Ever thought that the reason RV sales may be going up (even though there is no distinguishment between new or used) is that the price of stick and brick homes in general have gone thru the roof?

** Lower interest rates lead to higher home prices. (Supply tight – at least currently, high demand. Many prefer to refinance to lower rates versus moving.)

** Higher interest rates lead to lower home prices. (Supply high, low demand)

Most never think about (until its too late) the utilities, insurance, taxes or maintenance or much less the horrific car payments on top of the house payment. Just get me into a home I can afford with all the credit available to me so when I loose my job, I loose everything else.

I would not be surprised at all that there will be a ton of foreclosures, bankruptcies and abandonment’s. People will be forced to seek alternative living. RV’s cannot loose (except in value). It’s just going to take a few months for all of this to shake out. Be patient.

Snayte
1 month ago

Does anyone think there will be an increase in the number of accidents involving RVs, travel trailers and 5th wheels?

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
1 month ago
Reply to  Snayte

Hmmm. Good point, Snayte. Take care out there. 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

Kathleen
1 month ago
Reply to  Snayte

That was the first thing I told my husband when we heard RV sales and rentals were up. It’s bad enough dealing with bad drivers in cars…should be more fun when they think they can drive an RV.

Sue
1 month ago

I’m surprised that with such a high unemployment rate . . . so many people are able to buy (finance!) RVs this year. Rentals I can understand better. We sold our 5th-wheel last year and thought — even before the pandemic struck — that many of the RVs sold in recent years would be up for sale soon because of the difficulty finding campsites and repair service.

Kourtney
1 month ago

We are fulltimers and this is our fear. My husband has to travel to be able to work and we are having such a hard time finding places to stay. It will just get harder if all of America starts RVing this summer. We just bought a toyhauler though in hopes of boondocking much more often. But we’re having a hard time finding places and have no plans to head west where that type of land is plentiful. Do you have any boondocking resources? We’re in the center of the country for the foreseeable future! Anyway, thanks for the good read. Discovered your website through Drivin and Vibin.👍🏼

Lori
1 month ago

What I don’t understand is with unemployment at an all time high and people who maybe are just being able to go back to work and having to play ‘catch up’ with their bills is this:
Who will be buying these RV’s, and with what? Their stimulus checks, unemployment checks, inheritance?
And, if they are just going back to work, how are they getting vacation time?

J.L.
1 month ago
Reply to  Lori

I believe there are plenty of people who sacrificed and did not spend all there hard earned money on useless things therefore, they can afford to pay cash or use a very tiny debt on a rig to enjoy their hard earned $$$ with their family. Also, in this economy, everyone has their “own economy”. Bad ecomy in the country is good economy for some. Just my opinion and I’m grateful that even though my family’s two to three meals a day became 1 a day, we haven’t miss any single meal since it all began. I am truly blessed and I hope everyone also is/are.

rollin
1 month ago

Boondocking is the life, if you’ve the rig for it, and it avoids my question:

How much are RV campgrounds going to be jumping their prices? Between increased demand and playing catchup after the last few months………..

Back to boondocking. Best out West. And I’m in South Carolina……..

Gary
1 month ago
Reply to  rollin

Yeah…and not only upping prices, but reducing capacity to 50% of normal.

mdstudey
1 month ago

One thing they did not take into consideration is that people are going to have to go back to work! So how are they going to get vacation? If you can work at home that may allow you out on the road, but if you have a face to face job, you are stuck back in the grind.

I thought gee right now would be a good time to find that used upgrade going dirt cheap because people will be liquidating excess expenses or Winter Texans deciding to sell and just staying home. I looked at Craigslist and very few for the picking. We are 27′ from tip to bumper and want to stay that way. It lets us stay in more desirable places than RV park, which we avoid like the plague.

As for boondocking, remember a lot of these people are ones who likes the nice hotels and fly everywhere. They rem expecting a lot of them are going to be yearning to get back to that after all the work that they have to do to set up camp and ride a couple hundred miles with restless kids in the car. Like Richard said, I think one or two times and they will be rethinking and wondering what to do with that RV.

Richard Hubert
1 month ago

I heard that RV sales are going gangbusters right now. It’s not only the time of year when RVs have always sold well, but as noted, with most people afraid to travel internationally, and especially to NOT go on a cruise, it makes sense that they look to domestic travels.

But as 2 year+ full timers, and having followed many Youtube RVers, internet blogs, etc for over 5 years, it is obvious that – like everything else- efficient and practical RVing is a learned skill. Not only are there many things to learn about your rig, but it can take a long time to learn how to use all the available tools for trip planning and knowing where to stay. New RVers will be surprised to learn how long dealer service appointments can be, or even more surprised to try and figure out where they will be storing their new rig. They will learn (often the hard way) how to actually drive their rig on the road, the challenges which steep mountain roadways present, how they will need to often preview campsites on Google earth to see if – and how – they can access a site. Or even how to access a gas station. So much to learn – which will be frustrating to many.

They will be frustrated to try and make reservations at many parks, while not yet knowing about Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Hosts. And I think most will be totally unprepared for boondocking. Not just mentally – but practically. Is their rig really equipped for it? Do they know how to manage their water supply? How to stay cool when not plugged into shore power? Or even just how to use and manage all the various systems on their new rig?

The point is – I think there are many RV newbies who think that RVing out in this great country will be a great adventure (and it certainly can be) as they ignorantly charge into this lifestyle totally unprepared. Some of it will be comical to watch (think of a newbie trying to back their 40′ 5th wheel into a tight spot – there’s hours of campground entertainment for us!).. Some will be sad, and I am sure we will here many horror stories to come of newbies not able to easily find a park to get into, or of trying to get their rig serviced and fixed at a dealer – before next November. For some of us this may also present new opportunities to buy almost new rigs for a fraction of new pricing from those who are just overwhelmed by RVing and just have to “dump” their rig to get out from under it.

But in the end – and it might take several years – there will be some of this new group who learn all about it, learn from their mistakes, and embrace it. Yes – parks will be more crowded but that will also encourage the building of new parks and expanding sites in many current parks (especially state & National parks) which have long been overdue for expansion. And we will gain a whole new group of friends we look forward to meeting out there.

Exciting times!

Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Hubert

True optimist. With 500,000 RVs being sold year after year, how many new parks and expanding sites have you seen? Any? If our government had their wishes, National Lands would be leased to mining and lumber companies and the public access de-funded even more. You can thank the depression (no, the really old one) for the CCC getting the lands ready (roads) and buildings in place 85 years ago. That was done with 3 millions workers. We’ve probably got 3 million who’d be ready and willing to take a rotation clearing/building on remote and city parkland, but you’d need a government that could design and execute that program. We are still stuck at swabs

David Totten
1 month ago

My wife and I travel four to six months a year (we jokingly call our selfs part time full timers). This week, while packing up our trailer, a neighbor came over and said “this stupid quarantine has been keeping us locked up for to long, keeping us from camping!” The funny thing is, the tires on his RV are completely dry rotted. The last time that trailer moved, that we can remember, was about five years ago for a weekend. I think people just have to do it now, because someone said they couldn’t. My wife and I have had a few discussions about what it would be like this year as far as crowds were concerned, and we agree a lot more people will be out. But there will be little or no foreign travelers this year that will help counter balance it some. We are now at our first stop in a campground that is usually nearly empty, and they could have filled it twice with the number of people who tried to get in. But it is a holiday weekend.

Rob Kelly
1 month ago

My wife and I are not fans of heat or crowds (not anything unusual there!). Since we’re both retired, and can travel when we want, we treat the summer as our stay-at-home season. For us, it’s just not worth the hassle. So I will be waiting until the fall. Late September – April…is sweet spot.

Marcus
17 days ago
Reply to  Rob Kelly

Struck me as very funny when you said “not anything unusual there” referring to the summer heat. I live in Las Vegas and don’t go out of town during the summer in order to enjoy our dry desert heat. When September and October arrive I head out of town looking for someplace warm such as Southern Arizona. I agree about the crowds but bring on the heat!

HESN
1 month ago

British Columbia, Canada tourism has announced that only permanent BC residents will be allowed in BC campgrounds this summer. Anyone outside of BC, who had reservations, have had reservations cancelled and money refunded. Anyone who makes reservations at a BC campground, private, provincial, Federal, and is found not to be a BC resident (must provide proof of BC residency upon check in), will have reservation cancelled, fees will not be refunded and the party may face legal charges. May find that other provinces follow BCs lead. Canadians protecting Canadians. We want this to be over with as soon as possible, BUT with as few deaths as possible.

Hesn
1 month ago
Reply to  HESN

In Ontario, private campgrounds only open to Seasonal Campers. No public facilities open … ie washrooms, recreation areas, pools/beaches etc. Provincial campgrounds are open for day use only.

Winnebagoman
1 month ago
Reply to  HESN

I had planned to visit BC this summer for a convention that was being held in Richmond. The convention was cancelled due to virus. It has been rescheduled for next year, hopefully the virus will be controlled by then.
While your claiming Canadians protecting Canadians, it seems like most of Canada comes to the Southern States during winter. I don’t think they would like to feel “the shoe on the other foot”!

Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  HESN

Hopefully next Winter Florida, Texas and Georgia campgrounds will only be accepting full time USA residents . Other states may follow their lead. Americans protecting Americans!

Gene
1 month ago

We’ve been camping every weekend for the past three weekends. Until this week, commercial CGs were all that were open, and they have ALL been full. There are a lot of rigs that look like they haven’t seen the road in a few years, and some look like Craigslist sales with folks towing trailers with their crossover SUVs that really shouldn’t be. But folks are having a good time and the CG owners are not complaining.

Mike
1 month ago

Add to the big jump in RV sales the 650% increase in RV Rental reservations made for this summer.

John T
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike

There cannot possibly be a 650% increase in rental reservations this year. That would mean that they rented no more than 15% of their capacity last year. It must mean a 650% increase in web site traffic or attempted bookings.

bull
1 month ago

TRY getting out of your “RV Comfort Zone” and really see what the world has out there for you to see and enjoy!

Go “Boondocking” for the first time. Make the destination, the scenery, the historical learning and the travel the the purpose of the trip as it is for those of us who prefer “Overlanding” versus “RVing”!

For ONCE try and forget about getting up at midnight to make that reservation at a RV campground 6 months from now, forget about having to dump the stinky slinky, forget about your all important TV, forget about decorating your SMALL piece of paradise (Ya Right) in the RV campground and go try real overnight camping out on the trail with nobody next to ya. There is a whole different world out there to EXPLORE when you git out of your “Ball and Chain Comfort Zone” which is your BIG RV!

Go ahead and give it a go after all you made the jump into RVing. Why not expand your horizons once again and enjoy a completely different world of travel right here at home in the USA without all the people 5 feet from you right next door at your local campground? I’ll bet most of ya do not live that close to your neighbors at home yet you do it for fun when your travel?!

When it comes to RV’S, Campers, Tents and the like BIGGER IS NOT BETTER! All BIGGER means is Mo Work, Mo Hassle, Mo Planning and Mo Time needed just to have whatever it is you call FUN!

There is a HUGE world to explore far beyond the confines of your RV Campground! All it takes is a little bit of effort on your part that is outside your personal comfort zone to go and find it!

Charlie
1 month ago

I own a Park in San Antonio Texas and we do stay pretty full in the full hook-ups but we have 70 sites down in the forest by the river that has water bur no elect or sewer. Boondocking has a very negative stigma but for one or two nights, with a dump station at the exit it is much like going to a Texas State Park (which are nice) so consider a MUCH LOWER RATE and sit under the trees for a couple of nights. You can even run a generator if you need to and with 100 acres, lots of room to spread out.

A big plus is that we even offer a 20% discount if you have served in any of our militaries.

Robbie
1 month ago
Reply to  Charlie

“”Boondocking has a very negative stigma””. HUH? What stigmas are you referring to? We just went 145 days of boondocking in one place, and never noticed those stigmas.

Dale
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie

ever hear of over grazing? there is a reason that forest service and blm try to limit stays to 14 -16 days max. just saying

Glenn
1 month ago
Reply to  Dale

BLM for six months in the desert for $180. No 14 day limit.

John
1 month ago

“There is a thing my father and his colleagues do which has always baffled me: whenever they find a good place to fish they return as soon as can be with a truckload of friends, take a hundred pictures, concoct descriptions intended to render it as alluring as possible, tell exactly how to fish it, and sell this veritable tourist brochure to the biggest publication they can find. Looking at the evidence we can only conclude that they seek the prompt annihilation of their fishing grounds.”

— Gus Hale-Orviston in The River Why, by David James Duncan, 1983.

Robbie
1 month ago
Reply to  John

We boondock on average about 340 days a year.  We’re starting our 14th year of full timing/boondocking.  

We’ve seen huge changes in the availability of our favorite boondocking places because of the advent of social media….and we’re not happy about the current trends, they’re disappointing for the future of our lifestyle for so many reasons too numerous to discuss here. 

Please be careful about sharing on social media, it’s a plague; from our experience, our favorite spots that we usually haven’t seen anyone in for many years (we love our solitude and privacy), overnight, have become just like any RV park, anywhere, from just one posting that gets duplicated many times and is out there forever…..

Jeff
1 month ago

The city I live in here in Wisconsin we have 3 campgrounds on airport road. One campground is seasonal only. This campground is full. The other two campgrounds have both seasonal and over nighter. These two campgrounds are full too.

Gary
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

*too. : <)

Eric Ramey
1 month ago

A Note To All Seasoned RV’ers—Be Patient and Be Kind.
1-To the newbies. We were all newbies at one time and someone with patience and wisdom helped us out so let’s don’t be so quick to scoff at someone who doesn’t know the proper way to level an RV.

2-To all of the campground owners and workers. They will be busier than ever with an increase in guests and new guests with lots of questions.

3-To each other! Imagine how much fun it is chit chatting with your neighbor about something fun and positive than something negative (ie Jim on site 3 who is connected to the wrong water connection)

4-RV Service Tech’s-More RV’s in the Road means more RV’s in the service shop. They also will be busier than ever fixing the mistakes made by the new RV’ers or the mistakes made by the manufacturer.

Long Story Short…Be Patient and Be Kind

Robert Freuler
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric Ramey

Thank you for sharing this

Melody Hillebrand
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Freuler

Bless you.

richard ackroyd
1 month ago

Russ, Tina ( sorry Tina I don’t have a Tilde on my keyboard). PLEASE stop spreading the word about how great boon docking is. Last year the State parks, BLM land and CoE parks were busy, next year it could be impossible to get anywhere that doesn’t have someone camped within 10 feet of you !
On a more serious note, where are all the people who are buying ( with 20 year mortgage’s) new RV’s that need full hook ups and 50 electric going to park ? I purposely didn’t use the word “camp”.

Thanks for article.
Yours, Mr Grumpy AKA I got here first / stay outa my back yard.

He He He .
Richard.

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

Let’s hope the newbies ask us for advice before they use the wrong hose to fill their water tanks. Also, let’s guide them into their spaces to protect the trees and be friendly.