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Are Campsites Really Getting Harder To Get?


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We've been campground hosts here at Stockton State Park for the month of April. We're pretty empty on weekdays, and about half on weekends now. During the summer months I understand that the park is pretty full most weekends.

Parks near major attractions OR cities will generally fill up sooner than parks that are 100 miles from nowhere. Holidays will find parks fuller than other times.

We generally are on the road by 9, and plan a lunch stop IF we are going to need it. Often we're arriving at the next place about lunch time. When we're needing to get somewhere by a certain date we'll make reservations or at least call ahead. For example, we need to be in Wyoming by mid-May and will be staying in the same park until 5 July. We know where we will be most nights between now and then. The reservation for the long stay (birth of a grandchild) was made as soon as we could do so.

BTW, there is a solar eclipse this summer, and places along the path of the eclipse have been booked solid for some time, and some are charging double their normal rate. Being old and cheap, we'll be well out of that area then.

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I don't know the answer, but a concern is that almost everyone I meet who finds out I am a full-timer, tells me they want to do that someday.

So, we have to do a better job of discouraging people so that future campgrounds don't fill up with all of these people!!

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35 minutes ago, JudyJB said:

I don't know the answer, but a concern is that almost everyone I meet who finds out I am a full-timer, tells me they want to do that someday.

So, we have to do a better job of discouraging people so that future campgrounds don't fill up with all of these people!!

I don't think that will be much of a problem . Those folks are dreamers and their kids don't know anything besides how to use their thumbs on a touch screen . ;) 

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Are Campsites Really Getting Harder To Get?

In our continuing recent experience, YES. Last week in Memphis a popular park on the Mississippi River was full every night (in past years there have always been empty spaces). We got one of the last spots available when I called a couple of days in advance of our planned arrival. It took calling five parks in Nashville before finding a spot at one of the most expensive places we have ever stayed. The Walmart parking lot is full of "No Overnight Parking" signs so I couldn't count on that as an option. In Taos, a park we have stayed in a number of times has been booked solid for September and October weeks in advance the past two years. The Cochiti Lake and Rhiana Corps of Engineers campgrounds in New Mexico, often recommended on this forum. have become very difficult to get an electric site.

Edited by trailertraveler
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7 years fulltime and only three times were we not able to find a site at the first campground we stopped at.  At two of the three there was a local event unbeknown to us so we just drove another 30 miles or so.  The other no go they had sites but none for a fifthwheel and tow and there again a 15 mile drive and we settled in for a couple days.  

Since we volunteer May-Sept we don't worry about summer holidays but have made reservations the last couple years Christmas thru New Years at Lazy Days near the DD in Tampa.

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10 hours ago, JudyJB said:

I don't know the answer, but a concern is that almost everyone I meet who finds out I am a full-timer, tells me they want to do that someday.

So, we have to do a better job of discouraging people so that future campgrounds don't fill up with all of these people!!

I recently read that record numbers of RVs are being sold and I imagine those new RV owners are going to be out here looking for nice places to camp.

Also, I'm seeing an increasing number of people choosing to live in a RV, paying monthly rates, rather than live in a more traditional building.

I was just thinking that 4 of the last 6 places we have been were at "no vacancy" either while we were there or when we left.  

 

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20 hours ago, JohnM said:

Re: Are campsites really getting harder to get?

Do you think that social media has created this perception?  

 

Not sure it is just a perception.  I think that social media like this and other RV forums, park rating systems, etc. have contributed to some campgrounds/parks becoming more popular and thus very hard to get into without a reservation well in advance. As mentioned in my previous post, the Cochiti Lake and Rhiana Corps of Engineers campgrounds in New Mexico, often recommended on this forum, have become very difficult to get an electric site. Our two preferred campgrounds in the Brunswick/St. Marys, GA area have been booked solid after numerous mentions in forums. Our favorite park in Taos has seen the same affect.

Another factor is campgrounds/parks closing. On the 190 mile drive from Nashville to Knoxville, TN there were five blue services signs that said camping, but the campground plaque had been removed. While it is possible the campground decided it was no longer necessary to advertise on the highway, I think it more likely that they closed. In our travels, we have encountered more campgrounds that have closed than new ones just opened. We have also encountered more public and private campgrounds that use to be open all year closing in the off season.

Edited by trailertraveler
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43 minutes ago, trailertraveler said:

Not sure it is just a perception.  I think that social media like this and other RV forums, park rating systems, etc. have contributed to some campgrounds/parks becoming more popular and thus very hard to get into without a reservation well in advance.........

Another factor is campgrounds/parks closing. On the 190 mile drive from Nashville to Knoxville, TN there were five blue services signs that said camping, but the campground plaque had been removed. 

 
 

I find this thread particularly interesting as we seldom dry camp nowadays but this post brings to mind a question. If these theories are both true, then why would parks be closing with demand is increasing? It would seem to me that increasing demand would push prices higher and that would bring more campgrounds into the market? Prices are definitely higher today than years ago.

There are areas of the country where regulations on RV parks have made it more difficult to build new ones and there are also areas where land prices are pushing the RV parks out and replacing them with new houses and other permanent buildings, so that may be part of the reason for people having difficulty in locating available sites. In thinking about how our travel style has changed over our years of RVing, the electronic media has greatly changed the way in which we find RV sites but it has also made it much easier to confirm that you have a site before you arrive. Thus far in our travels, we have very seldom made advance reservations, but we do so when looking for an extended stay in a specific area or for a site at some major event or attraction. We do call ahead far more often with our cell phone than we did before we had one, or even back with the old bag phone, but I don't think that we make reservations before we begin our trips much more often than we did 20 or 30 years ago. We do use the internet for RV park searches far more today, but we have also found that there are many small parks out there who have no internet presence. Some of those are still found in a paper directory but not online. 

Edited by Kirk Wood
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2 hours ago, SWharton said:

It could be the cgs stopped advertising. Years and years ago one cg owner told me it cos $800 for that ad. Now with our cell phones, Google and other cg finding pgms. the signs may no longe be needed. 

I acknowledged this, but looking at RV Park Reviews and Allstays, there are no campgrounds listed in the areas where the signs were removed. One of the listings in RV Park Reviews has a website link that is no longer active, sooo draw your own conclusions.

1 hour ago, Kirk Wood said:

...why would parks be closing with demand is increasing? It would seem to me that increasing demand would push prices higher and that would bring more campgrounds into the market? Prices are definitely higher today than years ago...

 Many of the parks that I have encountered that have closed were older parks that could not accommodate the now much more common larger RVs. Upgrades like rewiring for 50 Amp, sewer, and paved pads are not cheap. Increasing the lot sizes to accommodate large RVs likely means having fewer sites. When Mom and Pop owners die, heirs may not want to take on the business and the property may be more valuable for other uses. A business that is profitable for an owner that already owns the property may not be so if one has to pay a loan and also upgrade the infrastructure.  Starting a new business that requires acquisition of a fairly large property can be expensive. Not sure how big the profit margins are on campgrounds/RV parks, but several of the relatively new RV parks I have encountered seem to be corporate endeavors like the new RV Park at the Angel Fire Resort. They also seem to be at the high end of the price scale. A couple of privately started parks that I am aware of have changed ownership a number of times as the owners ran into financial difficulties.

While social media makes it easier to find parks and provides free advertising,  the reviews also in some cases appear to result in the shunning of parks that have the dreaded "permanents, long terms and workers" or other deplorables. I mentioned a park in Taos that is now always full. An older park in Taos that allows long term stays almost always has no one other than workers staying there and has always had space for us. When the current owner is no longer able to manage the property, I doubt it will remain an RV Park. Turning around a bad reputation can be difficult even for new management. Not my area of expertise, but I would think the past profitability (or lack thereof) of a business might affect the approval of any loans needed by a new owner.

1 hour ago, Kirk Wood said:

...we have also found that there are many small parks out there who have no internet presence. Some of those are still found in a paper directory but not online... 

We have found them also and those that we have stayed at are now listed in RV Park Reviews so that they can now be found online.

As I said before, everyone's experience is different and their conclusions/perceptions are based on their experience. What one experiences traveling from Texas to Tucson to California and back may be different than what another experiences travelling from Florida to Mississippi and Tennessee.  Perceptions based on several repeat visits over a number of years may be different than those based on one visit or just passing through.

Edited by trailertraveler
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With the internet it is much easier to find places to stay. I have talked to some of the more senior people and they talk about word of mouth and hauling stacks of books around and finding the books are out of date. Wondering if the sine along the road is for a place that is still open. Trying to find a pay phone so you can try to call a campground. Now it is much easier.

You are still going to need reservations to get a place to stay within reasonable distance of the major National Parks. 

Bill

 

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I still make sure I have a paper backup of everything or at least if, on a cell, the database is downloaded to cell or pc. Cell phone/internet service is mostly dicey, though getting better, in the west. Even in the east, there are problems, some spotty but when you now expect service everywhere. I rarely need to go to paper but I have it if needed.

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With the internet it is much easier to find places to stay.

I agree, however; it does not increase the actual number of campgrounds/parks, the length of the sites or the availability of services like 50 AMP. Not sure whether it makes it easier or harder for those that don't at least want to call ahead. I don't want to waste the time and miles driving from one park to another. I will also avoid an area if it seems that all the parks are full.

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Cell phone/internet service is mostly dicey, though getting better, in the west.

 Just as cell phone service is iffy in the West, there are also areas where the next park/campground is 100 miles away and there may not even be a Walmart or other big box store nearby.

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18 minutes ago, trailertraveler said:

I agree, however; it does not increase the actual number of campgrounds/parks,

I'm not sure that I understand this comment? RV park and campground availability is, and has always been market-driven. In modern times the local regulations have also become a major contributor to the problem as some areas have made it extremely difficult for anyone to build new parks. Rising real estate prices have also driven RV parks out of many areas but some of that has been problematic also for a long time. 

Cell service isn't always available but we find that in most areas if the copilot monitors the phone signal you can locate a place that it is strong enough to make a quick call or two. It has been a year since we were in New England but we found that area to be worse for dead spots than most of the west unless you get out into the really remote areas. One thing about cell coverage, it isn't likely to be found in areas that have very few customers to use it. 

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I have volunteered at Custer State Park for the last three summers. Three years ago you could get a campsite in May no problem. June was possible if you were lucky July and Aug were sold out and if you did not have an advance reservation you probably could not get in. The second year June was as busy as July and Aug. The third year May was booked full as was the whole summer season. Unless you got lucky due to a cancelation you would not get a site without an advance reservation. The State and National Parks are reaching a saturation point and it is getting more difficult to get a site any time from May thru Sept unless you have an advance reservation. 

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Cell service is dicey no matter where you live. In my development of 2000 homes where you live depends on what you get, your neighbor may be different. It seems Verizon and ATT are the best coverage here, Sprint dicey and T-Mobile useless. That is only if you are not in a dead zone with no service.

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1 hour ago, Twotoes said:

I have volunteered at Custer State Park for the last three summers. Three years ago you could get a campsite in May no problem. June was possible if you were lucky July and Aug were sold out and if you did not have an advance reservation you probably could not get in. The second year June was as busy as July and Aug. The third year May was booked full as was the whole summer season. Unless you got lucky due to a cancelation you would not get a site without an advance reservation. The State and National Parks are reaching a saturation point and it is getting more difficult to get a site any time from May thru Sept unless you have an advance reservation. 

This is why I advocate for staying at a campground outside a park. We visited 14 National parks last year with no problems. I have pictures of a couple of the signage at park entrances with a list of campgrounds and all are marked FULL. Yet I didn't have a problem finding a place to stay outside the park.

Bill

 

 

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5 hours ago, Kirk Wood said:

I'm not sure that I understand this comment? RV park and campground availability is, and has always been market-driven. In modern times the local regulations have also become a major contributor to the problem as some areas have made it extremely difficult for anyone to build new parks. Rising real estate prices have also driven RV parks out of many areas but some of that has been problematic also for a long time. 

Cell service isn't always available but we find that in most areas if the copilot monitors the phone signal you can locate a place that it is strong enough to make a quick call or two. It has been a year since we were in New England but we found that area to be worse for dead spots than most of the west unless you get out into the really remote areas. One thing about cell coverage, it isn't likely to be found in areas that have very few customers to use it. 

I think he's saying that having cell and internet to check on campsite availability isn't worth much if the answer is more often than not "no."

Edited by GR "Scott" Cundiff
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2 hours ago, GR "Scott" Cundiff said:

I think he's saying that having cell and internet to check on campsite availability isn't worth much if the answer is more often than not "no."

That's part of it. The original question was "Are campsites really getting harder to get?" Simply finding/locating a campground does not necessarily equate to actually "getting" a site when you need or want one. Cell phones and the internet have made it easier to find/locate the parks/campgrounds and contact them. That ease of access does not change the number of parks, the number of sites or their features or the number of folks looking for sites at a given time. Whether using those tools gives those that do an advantage over those that do not is another question. Whether the number of RVers and competition for campsites has reached a point where there are not enough sites to meet demand seems to depend on location and in some areas time of year. 

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16 hours ago, trailertraveler said:

Whether the number of RVers and competition for campsites has reached a point where there are not enough sites to meet demand seems to depend on location and in some areas time of year. 

 

Absolutely true, but it has always been that way and I suspect it will always be that way. The tools we have available to use in locating an RV site play a major role in our ability to locate a place to stay. When an RVing couple arrives in an area, only the RV parks and campgrounds that they know exist can be considered. A new campground with wonderful amenities is of no value to RV owners who do not know where it is or that it exists. And if we RVers don't locate that new campground and use it, then the park soon will not be there. 

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We are planning to purchase our new motorhome in a few months when I retire. I'm hearing podcasts stating that it's getting extremely hard just to travel and find campsites without advanced reservations at the end of the day. 

 

If you don't know a park is out there, then is it really available to you? 

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Sometimes it takes a bit of work to find an RV park. We wanted one last July near Philadelphia to visit with friends. I searched and searched nothing was popping up anyplace close by(30  minutes or so). There are dozens of sites to look for cgs. I don't know which one it was but I finally found 2 cgs, near each other that met our requirements. the one we selected was  a mobile home park that had a section for RVs, very nice facilities and there were laundry and showers by the RV section. I must have looked at 15 different sites before I found the park. Perseverance pays off.

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