RV sales have slowed (finally) and fewer people are buying RVs than has been the recent trend. Has that changed campground crowding? Is it easier to find a campsite now, particularly in state and national parks? Campgrounds are changing and evolving, some for the better and some for the worse. RVtravel.com readers discuss their experiences and offer a few tips to help other campers find that perfect spot.
Here are a few observations from our readers.
Six great tips for finding sites
Susan E. is graciously sharing six wonderful tips with us. Thank you, Susan!
Tips for finding places to stay, crowded or not:
1) Find out if a national park has first-come, first-served sites. Almost all of them do, and if you come midweek you are more likely to find a spot. We move on a Monday or Tuesday.
2) Keep your options open and don’t be afraid to overnight at a Walmart or other places to restock your pantry while you check out what is locally available. Then move! Ask if you can stay. Some stores or shops don’t have a problem with an overnighter or a 2-3 day stay even if they have a posted sign of no overnight parking as long as you ask.
3) Download camping apps to give yourselves as many options as possible.
4) Ask for fewer days or be willing to move about the campground so you can get multiple nights in an area. Every site in an RV park likely has a gap of a day or more before a longer-term booking.
5) Reconnaissance: In almost every place we travel, we scope out what is available while there and along the way. Check out campgrounds, note rest areas, etc. Many cities, counties and states have campgrounds that are not well advertised, so a bit of internet research while on the road has reaped many camping benefits.
6) Get to know your RV park or campground host. Be nice to them, as their jobs are not always full of joy and can be hard work. They will often try their best to accommodate your needs, make recommendations, call sister campgrounds, and they know what will be open in the coming days. Even allow camping for a night or more in some special spots not open to the public.
The states we found empty campgrounds were Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
Always a site in Quartzsite
April C. writes about boondocking in Quartzsite, Arizona. She says, “Quartzsite, Arizona, winter (Sept. 15 – April 15) camping 7 months for $180. It’s in La Paz County. 20 miles east of the California border and 128 miles west of Phoenix. Interstate 10. There’s a dump station, fresh water and the market is busy. There’s a long-term and short-term visitor area. Or it costs $40 for 14 days charge for the amenities. They also have full-time areas.”
Still impossible to get a campsite
Carol B. is still finding it impossible to find a campsite in Savannah, Georgia. She writes, “My daughter lives in Savannah, and it doesn’t matter the time of year we go, getting an RV spot is impossible. The last two times we have gone to visit we have opted to stay in a hotel. Very frustrating!”
Last few years have put a strain on reserving sites
Richard K. finds sites but notes that it is sometimes difficult. He explains, “We have been camping for a lot of years and the last few have put a strain on reserving sites. You have to be on top of the six-month window to get into a state park. Sure you can get lucky and look when there has been a cancellation. Other articles talk of people reserving multiple sites and at multiple locations and cancel what they don’t want to use.
“We have had success finding mom-and-pop campgrounds as well as some of the flat, no-tree double loops that are mainly very large rigs. We have had pretty good success getting into KOA in different areas. Sometimes it is tough to find something we like in a new area due to no availability. It is tougher when it is a desirable location, like areas near a beach or nice lake or if the hiking is gorgeous. We end up finding something near or moving dates to get there.”
Travel off-season and never a problem
Layne W. makes reservations in the morning for that night. He explains how: “We travel across the country twice a year (from NY to AZ and back). We take a different route each time and play tourist as we go along. So far, the only time we’ve been unable to get a site (first choice) was Memorial Day weekend or, when we showed up in Paducah, KY, last year and it was hosting the International Quilt Show. (My mother was thrilled! And, we were lucky to get a call back due to a cancellation.)
“We travel the off-seasons—campgrounds are less crowded. We travel about 300 miles a day—we’re not in a hurry. I look for campgrounds the day before when we’ve settled for the evening. As soon as they open the next day, I call and make a reservation for that night. If we’re going to a popular venue for several days, I try to make reservations well ahead of time. But, since we travel during the off-season, we’ve had no problems getting a place to stay. It’s worked 20 years.”
Downsize to find a site
Pat H. thinks that if big rigs downsized they would find sites. “The massive Class A and 5th wheels are a blight on the landscape. They blast generators for hours on end, and they ruin the camping experience. They complain when they cannot find campsites. Maybe if they downsized they would have more luck.”
Lots of empty sites and never turned away
Jim C. is finding lots of empty sites. “Right now we are in the Seattle area staying at many parks, all of which have lots of empty sites. We are at Birch Bay and a fourth of the park is roped off because of no RVers. We are headed to Monroe (Thunderbird RV & Camping Resort), WA, next and still many empty sites even with lots of sites down for repairs. Fall City also has a lot of empty sites. Last year we traveled down through California, across the southwest to Texas and up the Great Plains, through lots of National parks and back to Washington without finding one park that was full or being turned away.”
Now, some questions for you:
- Are you finding campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem?
- Are campgrounds changing for the better or for the worse?
- Are you seeing more permanent and seasonal RV parks?
- Are rising costs affecting your camping style?
- 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: “If camping looks the same in 2023, we quit!”