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How much harder and/or stressful is it finding campsites now?


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Thinking about going fulltime, but wonder if this is the right time because of all of the Newbies now.  How much harder and/or stressful is it finding campsites now?

I have heard of people reserving a year or more in advance.  This is not something I want to do.  I don't want to be on a schedule to be at a certain place on a certain date.  That does not sound like fun to me.

I am sure some will recommend boondocking, which I might do a little here and there, but I would prefer to have full hookups or at least electric.

Like to hear from those fulltiming now.

Thanks

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We have found getting campsites much more challenging in the past few years compared to our first eight.  With most state parks going to online reservation systems, it has become much more difficult to just "drop in" than in the past. Friday and Saturday nights are almost always booked weeks in advance, and even weekdays have become a challenge for popular parks.

Private campgrounds in popular areas are also more difficult to find. We traveled from Texas to Maine in Spring 2011, returning in the fall, never made a reservation, and never needed one.  We have repeated that trip (over somewhat different routes) in both 2018 and 2019 and absolutely found the need to make reservations.  Quick one-night stops could often be made the day before or even day of, but if we wanted to stay in an area for a few nights, or especially over the weekend, reservations were needed. 

Unless you want to spend a month or more in a popular area, or specifically want to be in a certain park on a certain date, you shouldn't need to make reservations a year in advance. We too would rather travel without reservations, but doing so requires you to be flexible with locations and timing. Even then, we have started looking a few days ahead as we travel and making reservations if it looks like there is a shortage of sites in the area that we are travelling toward. 

This also depends on where you want to go. We generally find it easier to locate site west of the Mississippi then east, and as you get into New England things can get very tough indeed. That being said, the Pacific NW can be very tough to find sites in during the summer. 

But, in spite of all of this, I wouldn't let it deter me from hitting the road. I think that the current campsite availability issue is the "new normal" and is unlikely to change anytime soon.  Just be flexible and learn how you like to travel.  It will only be stressful if you allow it to be!

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We aren't fulltime any more but do still travel for several months each year, except for 2020. We never made reservations other than long weekends and holidays, except in heavy tourist areas in the busy season. Our trips for 2017, 18, & 19, we did always call ahead several hours before arriving and sometimes had to make more than 1 call and occasionally even travel a bit farther than planned, but not a great deal. One thing that does help is to stop early when traveling without advance reservations. The catch is that we have not been out traveling since October, 2019 and so some things are likely to be different with the big surge in RV sales. I have spoken to people in several east TX RV dealerships and all of them have been experiencing record sales and at least some say that they could have sold more RVs if they had been able to get them. That may mean that it will be more difficult in the coming year. It looks like we will be finding out pretty soon as we are planning our next trip to start in mid May.

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I am a fulltimer. A lot depends on location, time of year, and length of your RV. As stated above State Parks and National Parks are getting booked in 6 months to a year in advance. Many local County and City Parks can also be a challenge. If you have a Big Rig there are even fewer sites available. Private Parks will be a little easier but if in a big tourist area they book up in advance as well.  Weekends and holidays will be difficult everywhere in you don’t reserve in advance. I just called this morning to get info for a park in Sarasota FL for Jan-March 2022 and they are already all booked. They put me on the waiting list. It is easier to find a spot for one or a couple of nights but when you want a week or month it is harder. With weekends booked it difficult getting a monthly reservation. A park I usually stay at in Idaho in the summer won’t even take a monthly rental now because of the weekend reservations. Don’t be discouraged. You will find a site. You just may have to look harder and get a little off your planned route occasionally. 

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We as a rule do not make reservations, with the exception of major parks or major holidays. And we generally boondock outside major parks when possible. Mt theory is that the major problems with camp spots occurs in the locked-down states which have limited the available camping spots.

We traveled thru 21 of the free states and had no difficulty in our summer loop of 11,000 miles. So NE and left coast are potential problems, major parks maybe but they were severely limiting camp spots. YNP closed almost all cg.

Free states are probably OK but be aware spots are always harder to get on weekends: Friday and Saturday. The locals are out camping.

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We've been full-time since 2007, and have definitely experienced more difficulty securing campsites on a whim, but that started before the pandemic. You'll find it harder to spontaneously pick a spot anywhere east of the Mississippi and as others have said, at popular destinations anywhere, especially during the holidays. 

As a writer for the RV industry, I've spoken with quite a few campground owners during the last year, and they have all experienced a surge in visitation. They've also pointed out that although thousands of new RVers are on the road now, only a miniscule amount of campsites have actually been built over the last decade. As a consequence, the competition for sites is tougher than ever.

The good news is that with advanced planning, you should be able to have plenty of fun trips wherever you want to go--it might not be exactly when you want to go there.

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We have been RVers since 1984 and full time the past 8 years.  In the past 8 years we have had to change our travel style to a more regimented and scheduled style in order to have a campsite near holidays and near destination cities.  It take the fun out of spontaneous travel.  If you want a week in a state or Federal park you head better schedule months out.  The weekends are booked minute they are open.

Being full time, we like to stay in an area for a couple of weeks to a month or more.  Monthly sites are also difficult to get in many areas as the parks are full of permeant tenants and construction workers. 

Ken

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OP, I'm like you and don't like schedules. I urban boondock. Got a truck camper, so can park almost anywhere.

I seldom stay at a park except when forced to in FLA and when going to NYC. Even then I prefer paying less and parking in their gravel parking lot and save $40 -$45 a day for no hookups.

It is $120 a day with hookups and if you can't fit everything in 45' length then it is $155 a day. Plus they require a 50% non refundable deposit. 

NYC (Jersey City) is terrible for my budget. Sure, most anyone could swing it for a day or two. It is just I did volunteer work a week at a time and had pay my own way. But once the virus hit all that was shut down.  

Good luck...and learn to enjoy being a boondocker!

Edited by slackercruster
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  • 2 weeks later...

The Northeast, I am including every state from Virginia through northern Maine, has always been tough to find campground spots on short notice. As has been written, no new campgrounds have been built. And they are getting old. So size is critical. If you have a big rig you are in trouble without reservations. Until we converted to full timing we had house in central Maine.  Talking with neighbors we heard the stories of expensive campsites and low availability.

When we go to Northeast, we will makes reservations in key plas.  Then we can travel our way without reservations.  Look into Fraternal organizations as an option. Elks, Moose, Eagles are known to be accommodating. Some even have hookups/campgrounds.  We have stayed in American Legion, VFW parking lots plugged into an outside receptacle. 

Campgrounds will be expensive and tightly spaced in the tourist areas. Think Bar Harbor.  On the other hand take the Mt Washington Cog Railroad, spectacular trip, and camp in the parking lot overnight. The lot has a view of the trains as they go up and down. 

Do a lot of reading and planning and a few reservations and you will have a great time.

Bill

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We have just experienced the reality of finding state park sites in Texas first hand.  We are off of the road full-time, but decided to line up some shorter (2-4 night), mid-week trips in April and May. And, it was virtually impossible to do so in the parks we desired to visit. 

Most parks were showing a few sites with a single night available, or rarely two nights.  Looking ahead 2 - 4 weeks, and looking at other parks, we were finally able to line up two trips, but the parks are essentially full and the glory days of visiting a state park mid-week and finding it 2/3 empty seem to be behind us.  We did line up a couple of nights in the Kerrville-Schreiner Park, which was formerly a state park but is now run by the city.

The entire state park system is definitely getting a lot of love, but hopefully not loved to death!! We are going to have to get much more flexible and look at other agencies more, and even private parks moving forward.

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Having seen these threads I decided to check rather than worry.  It seems things might be a bit tighter.  We are leaving on a 12 week trip to Maine and our travel model is to travel no more than two days in a row and then stay for at least a week.  I made the holiday reservations first - Memorial Day and the Fourth.  For Memorial Day there were three 50 amp FHU sites in Branson, MO (16 days).  For the Fourth we got the last site in Manistee, MI.  I made a few others with similar results.  I'm making the last of the reservations today.  I hate doing it that far ahead because I don't like the schedule to be that rigid.  Other places were still open but had fewer sites than I expected.

Wayne & Jinx
2017 F-350 diesel, dually
2006 Carriage Carri-Lite 36KSQ

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  • 1 month later...

Terrible in Arizona if you have a kid! 
 Everything seems to be 55+

 

we have our 10 year old son part time (one week on one week off) in chandler Arizona, we’ve had to Boondock it for the last 2 months with it getting hotter now it’s a lot more concerning! All the other family parks are FILLED and our Motorhome is older but nice renovations so OUR RIG ( the ENTERPRISE) is too old for some parks. So we are STUCK in a predicament!!! 

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Is there a specific reason you need to stay in Phoenix in the summer?  You need to get out of the heat!!

There are some wonderful Maricopa County Parks surrounding the greater Phoenix area.  Also, Lost Dutchman State Park. 

Try Desert Shadows, Apache Palms, North Phoenix RV Park, Desert Edge, Mesa/Apache Junction KOA, Twin Palms, Deer Valley RV.

Good luck!!

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On 3/15/2021 at 2:37 PM, Texsinbad said:

Thinking about going fulltime, but wonder if this is the right time because of all of the Newbies now.  How much harder and/or stressful is it finding campsites now?

I have heard of people reserving a year or more in advance.  This is not something I want to do.  I don't want to be on a schedule to be at a certain place on a certain date.  That does not sound like fun to me.

I am sure some will recommend boondocking, which I might do a little here and there, but I would prefer to have full hookups or at least electric.

Like to hear from those fulltiming now.

Thanks

Try this - imagine you are going fulltime, starting tomorrow.  Where will you stay tomorrow night?  Once you decide, get online and see if you could get a reservation there.  You don't have to actually reserve a site, just see if you could reserve if you wanted to.  

Then, think about the next month.  Do the same thing - see if you can make a reservation right now for the next 30 days.

If you can, then what you want to do will work for you.  If not, you are going to need to rethink your travel style.  

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On 3/15/2021 at 2:37 PM, Texsinbad said:

I have heard of people reserving a year or more in advance.  This is not something I want to do.  I don't want to be on a schedule to be at a certain place on a certain date.

If it is of any help, we just returned today from a trip through Oklahoma, Arkansas, to Branson, MO and back again taking 10 days. Because of what was posted in this and other threads, we made advance reservations for every night but not one night were we in a park with no empty spaces. We even drove around several times, just looking at the RV facilities in the areas we visited and even then we saw 1 park that had only 2 spaces left, with all others having more. I would suspect that none of the other parks were over 80% full. 

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5 hours ago, Kirk W said:

we just returned today from a trip through Oklahoma, Arkansas, to Branson, MO and back again taking 10 days. Because of what was posted in this and other threads, we made advance reservations for every night but not one night were we in a park with no empty spaces. We even drove around several times, just looking at the RV facilities in the areas we visited and even then we saw 1 park that had only 2 spaces left, with all others having more. I would suspect that none of the other parks were over 80% full. 

School is still in session. Most of the new Rvers appear to be families.

Wayne & Jinx
2017 F-350 diesel, dually
2006 Carriage Carri-Lite 36KSQ

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5 hours ago, Kirk W said:

If it is of any help, we just returned today from a trip through Oklahoma, Arkansas, to Branson, MO and back again taking 10 days. Because of what was posted in this and other threads, we made advance reservations for every night but not one night were we in a park with no empty spaces. We even drove around several times, just looking at the RV facilities in the areas we visited and even then we saw 1 park that had only 2 spaces left, with all others having more. I would suspect that none of the other parks were over 80% full. 

Just wait until school is out.  last Summer while in Tulsa, we saw an endless stream of new RVers.  When we left Tulsa, I made many calls trying to get a site.  So just wait.

Ken

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Popular areas like around the National Parks, beaches , places where snow birds go and resort areas you need to book in advance. Sometimes a year in advance. 
This winter was different as the Border was closed and most the Canadians did not come south.

Edited by rynosback
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6 hours ago, Kirk W said:

If it is of any help, we just returned today from a trip through Oklahoma, Arkansas, to Branson, MO and back again taking 10 days. Because of what was posted in this and other threads, we made advance reservations for every night but not one night were we in a park with no empty spaces. We even drove around several times, just looking at the RV facilities in the areas we visited and even then we saw 1 park that had only 2 spaces left, with all others having more. I would suspect that none of the other parks were over 80% full. 

The interesting thing that I've noted, at least in state parks, is that even though there appear to be plenty of empty sites, they are reserved and not available for others to use. The park is "full", even though it clearly is not.  So a park that may appear to be have 20% open sites may still not available to drop-in campers. 

Most places will hold a reserved site through at least the first night, and often longer, as many are now requiring payment for the entire reservation and are not losing money with no-shows. 

We spent two months as hosts at Goose Island State Park near Rockport, Texas, and while there was not a single night that every site was occupied, there were plenty of nights that the park was stated to be "full". 

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1 hour ago, mptjelgin said:

The interesting thing that I've noted, at least in state parks, is that even though there appear to be plenty of empty sites, they are reserved and not available for others to use. The park is "full", even though it clearly is not.  So a park that may appear to be have 20% open sites may still not available to drop-in campers. 

Most places will hold a reserved site through at least the first night, and often longer, as many are now requiring payment for the entire reservation and are not losing money with no-shows. 

We spent two months as hosts at Goose Island State Park near Rockport, Texas, and while there was not a single night that every site was occupied, there were plenty of nights that the park was stated to be "full". 

I agree. We've seen this as volunteers, also.

Wish folks would be considerate if they can't make their reservations to call the campground directly and let them know. Then they can open the site up for others to enjoy.

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