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Luis
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Hello to all. 
 

Our full time RVing research continues and we have come to across a lot of talks about RV life popularity continuing to grow. With this conversation about how hard it is to book RV locations, no matter which one it is. No Vacancy. I went into RV Trip Wizard and I can see that there is more vacancy when you search three months out or more. 
 

Is this really becoming as big of a problem?

How far out are you seeing yourself having to plan out? 
 

Are these memberships, such as Thousands Trails good alternatives? 
 

Is this just a fad that has been seen in the past and as we say, “This too shall pass”?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Safe and Happy Travels!!!

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We have found that things have changed dramatically in the past 3-4 years (starting well before COVID). We have pretty much given up on state and national parks unless we can plan and reserve several months in advance. In the past we never had problems dropping in from Sunday night through Thursday night, but that is now much more difficult, especially if you don't want to change sites during your stay. 

For our Texas State Parks we are generally making our reservations several months out, especially for longer stays. As an option we have friends that have put together trips with shorter lead time, but they end up changing sites 2 - 3 times for a 5-night stay. 

Even private parks in many areas have become more crowded and are less likely to be available for a last-minute stay. Single nights are often not an issue, but as your desired length of stay increases so do the odds that you'll need to plan further out. 

Our observation is that there are so many more folks out now in RV's, included folks that are working full-time (telecommuting) from their RV, as well as families that have hit the road and are home-schooling. Whether this tapers off as things get back to "normal" (whatever that is) remains to be seen.  But I feel like this is likely going to continue for the foreseeable future. 

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I've been full-timing for almost 10 years, and prefer state, national, and county parks, so i make my reservations as soon as sites open.  I know not everyone likes to do this, but I have specific campgrounds and specific sites I like to get, so early reservations are what I do.  Right now, I am working on national parks in July.  I already made reservations for several weeks in Washington State, but those sites are pretty much booked up already.

Some exceptions might be if you have a very small RV or don't care where you stay.  There may also be cancellations a couple of weeks before you want to go somewhere.

What you need to do is make a list of when sites open in each state you might want to visit and plan that way. 

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I have traveled with my home on wheels for many years now. My first place for finding a spot was in the winter in South Florida. It was tough, but I got it done each year. In the last two years I went there I had found a small "Ranch" in the equestrian area that rented me a spot that had everything but sewer dump. I got by  with using a "Port-a-Potty" service that was traveling through emptying out their units. Once you found the guy coming through and got their number you could call and have it done even if you weren't there. I left the money in a jar near the dump switches. You can schedule it with the "Company" but it's more of a hassle and more expensive too. 

Now back to subject. 

It is getting harder to find a spot. My current spot took almost a month to get, but I was lucky and had the job a couple months early. Most of the time I have just a few days and on occasion I've had to take spots that I normally wouldn't . It all works out though , at least so far. 

Rod 

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8 minutes ago, hemsteadc said:

I rarely make reservations.  When you're mostly a dry camper you don't need to, because all the newbies are looking for hookups.  They don't know a water pump from a watt.

It isn't just newbies looking for hook-ups, it is most RV'ers, old and new.  And many of us know a water pump from a watt. No need to be a jerk. The OP asked a simple and legitimate question. 

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I am following this subject with great interest.  We are in discussion about going full time but we do have a nagging voice that keeps saying that things in the RV world are changing and they will not be the way they used to be, even in the most recent past.  That being said, we are only looking for a place for our 1 rig, and expect to be boondocking capable but still have to do a park here and there just because we will need a break.

I have also seen lots of reports of public lands being closed due to many issues, some funding, some overuse and of course the unfortunate RVers that are not following or dont know to follow good etiquette and manners.  

The world is changing and I dont think we can truly gauge what the "new" normal will be, but as for us, I think our opportunity to experience what "old timers" did, has passed.   (That being said I do appreciate being able to enjoy the experiences shared here by some of those)  I have worked my entire adult life to get to this time so we can be able to see the wonders of this country and enjoy our "golden years" RVing, I am uncertain if we will realize that goal.  We can, though experience things differently and I am hopeful that it will be good enough.

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We’ve been fulltime for six years now and very rarely reserve in advance. We do of course make reservations for events such as rallies or festivals we want to attend or if we need to be in a specific area at a specific time for something, we will reserve a site to make sure there are no problems.

We are set up well for boondocking so we don’t worry about not finding places and often prefer to boondock. We also have a campground membership that allows us to stay free at many campgrounds but has to be reserved at least three days out. Sometimes we don’t know where we will be in three days or how long we might want to stay. But we try to take advantage of those full hookup stays for a few days when we can, especially after boondocking for awhile.

Actually, being fulltime is an advantage in that we can be very flexible and adjust our schedule or our direction to go wherever the vacancies are.

Happy Travels!
 

Vicki 

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3 minutes ago, Rover said:

Actually, being fulltime is an advantage in that we can be very flexible and adjust our schedule or our direction to go wherever the vacancies are.

Thank you very much for that perspective!!

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4 hours ago, mptjelgin said:

We have found that things have changed dramatically in the past 3-4 years (starting well before COVID). We have pretty much given up on state and national parks unless we can plan and reserve several months in advance. In the past we never had problems dropping in from Sunday night through Thursday night, but that is now much more difficult, especially if you don't want to change sites during your stay. 

For our Texas State Parks we are generally making our reservations several months out, especially for longer stays. As an option we have friends that have put together trips with shorter lead time, but they end up changing sites 2 - 3 times for a 5-night stay. 

Even private parks in many areas have become more crowded and are less likely to be available for a last-minute stay. Single nights are often not an issue, but as your desired length of stay increases so do the odds that you'll need to plan further out. 

Our observation is that there are so many more folks out now in RV's, included folks that are working full-time (telecommuting) from their RV, as well as families that have hit the road and are home-schooling. Whether this tapers off as things get back to "normal" (whatever that is) remains to be seen.  But I feel like this is likely going to continue for the foreseeable future. 

Thank you for your honesty. I did a trial run on RV Trip Wizard and there were parks that I could not even see a reservation almost one year out. 
 

This is the reason why I posted the questions as it has been a hot topic. I don’t mind planning. I just couldn’t really get a clear answer when I was doing the trial run as I can do the travel, is just not probably the route I want to take. 
 

Thanks again. 

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4 hours ago, Solo18 said:

I've been full-timing for almost 10 years, and prefer state, national, and county parks, so i make my reservations as soon as sites open.  I know not everyone likes to do this, but I have specific campgrounds and specific sites I like to get, so early reservations are what I do.  Right now, I am working on national parks in July.  I already made reservations for several weeks in Washington State, but those sites are pretty much booked up already.

Some exceptions might be if you have a very small RV or don't care where you stay.  There may also be cancellations a couple of weeks before you want to go somewhere.

What you need to do is make a list of when sites open in each state you might want to visit and plan that way. 

Great strategy Solo. Thank you much. 

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3 hours ago, rpsinc said:

I am following this subject with great interest.  We are in discussion about going full time but we do have a nagging voice that keeps saying that things in the RV world are changing and they will not be the way they used to be, even in the most recent past.  That being said, we are only looking for a place for our 1 rig, and expect to be boondocking capable but still have to do a park here and there just because we will need a break.

I have also seen lots of reports of public lands being closed due to many issues, some funding, some overuse and of course the unfortunate RVers that are not following or dont know to follow good etiquette and manners.  

The world is changing and I dont think we can truly gauge what the "new" normal will be, but as for us, I think our opportunity to experience what "old timers" did, has passed.   (That being said I do appreciate being able to enjoy the experiences shared here by some of those)  I have worked my entire adult life to get to this time so we can be able to see the wonders of this country and enjoy our "golden years" RVing, I am uncertain if we will realize that goal.  We can, though experience things differently and I am hopeful that it will be good enough.

I do hope that those experiences surpass your goal and blessed be that good enough turns into memorable moments. I share your sentiment about “The world is Changing”. Thank you for your honesty. Maybe we can share our findings and thoughts as that nagging voice has reached our ear as well. Blessed Be. 

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I have been full time now 9 years. I ususlly stay in one place for several months. A summer stay and a winter stay. In the past I only had to book a site about 3 months in advance. Now it is at least 6 months and sometimes 1 yr, booking my return before I leave. I am in FL for the winter and have been told by many RV parks that they are not going to do monthly reservations any more and require a 12 month lease. 

I have also been volunteering in State Parks and National Parks summers past. Last summer the campground I was hosting was sold out even on week nights. I just booked 4 weekdays at Glacier NP for myself for the end of Aug and was told I got the last spot. I have an all electric Class A and don't boondock often. Need the electric to run the A/C for the dog. And most State and National Parks have a 14 day max.

Additionally, I very rarely can get a site for $35 to $45 a night anymore. Prices have gone up and are averaging $65 to $85 a night at most private RV Parks. 

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1 hour ago, Twotoes said:

I have been full time now 9 years. I ususlly stay in one place for several months. A summer stay and a winter stay. In the past I only had to book a site about 3 months in advance. Now it is at least 6 months and sometimes 1 yr, booking my return before I leave. I am in FL for the winter and have been told by many RV parks that they are not going to do monthly reservations any more and require a 12 month lease. 

I have also been volunteering in State Parks and National Parks summers past. Last summer the campground I was hosting was sold out even on week nights. I just booked 4 weekdays at Glacier NP for myself for the end of Aug and was told I got the last spot. I have an all electric Class A and don't boondock often. Need the electric to run the A/C for the dog. And most State and National Parks have a 14 day max.

Additionally, I very rarely can get a site for $35 to $45 a night anymore. Prices have gone up and are averaging $65 to $85 a night at most private RV Parks. 

Thank you Twotoes. I have looked at that budgeting about $40 dollars a day for lodging. You believe that budget to be low and shoot more for $65?

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Prices and availability both vary by area with the highest prices and the most difficulty finding campsites both being most difficult near larger population centers. This past summer we made reservations ahead for most of our travels but I also watched closely to see if the parks we stayed in were full each night. When we traveled through Oklahoma & Missouri in May, no park that we stayed in was ever completely full, although the nearest to that was the Escapees, Turkey Creek RV Park. In July we stopped in 4 parks Kansas and 1 in eastern CO that were not full but had quite a search to find a site between Denver & Ft. Collins, CO when making reservations for July stay in late May. In WY we stopped in 2 different parks and neither were full. The lowest price was a self-service park near Abilene, KS that was $35/night, with most sites costing $45 or more. In Rawlins, WY  and in Genoa, CO we paid $40/night and neither of those were completely full when we were there.  

Edited by Kirk W
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If you have Allstays app you can find city and county parks with 2-4 nights free before paying. We also only make reservations for rallies or to visit someone at a specific place. If you don’t need a place with top of the line amenities we have found plenty of places we can find a spot at. 

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8 hours ago, Luis said:

Thank you Twotoes. I have looked at that budgeting about $40 dollars a day for lodging. You believe that budget to be low and shoot more for $65?

Price depends on location and season. I have a big rig and live in it full time so National Parks are not an option except for a short 2 or 3 day stay. Most don't have any hookups. But with my Senior discount I can stay for less than $20. Most Escapee Parks and Co-Ops are around $25 a day. Most private parks with big rig sites and FHU are running $55 to $65 a night. You can get less with a P/A membership but they have lots of restrictions like only discount for 1 to 3 days and no weekends. Parks in popular areas (think AZ or FL in winter) are going for $75 to $85 for a night and some are over $100. Staying for a week or month will cost less per day but many Resorts are over $1,000 for a month stay. No more are the days of $25 to $35 a night.

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1 hour ago, Twotoes said:

Most Escapee Parks and Co-Ops are around $25 a day.

Just to add a little bit more information about the benefits of belonging to this RV club, here are the park rates, with nonmember rates in ( ). Listings are full hookup, 30a with 50a usually a few dollars more.  Dry camping at any of these is $7.50/night. Rates are as of 1/22/2022.

Raccoon Valley, TN            $23   ($30)

Sumter Oaks, FL                $28   ($32.50)

Rainbow Plantation, AL    $25   ($30)

Tra-Park, TX                     $23   ($30)

Dream Catcher, NM         $21    ($26)

North Ranch, AZ              $21    $(26)

Turkey Creek, MO           $20    ($24)

Rainbow's End, TX         $22    ($27.50)

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17 hours ago, mptjelgin said:

We have found that things have changed dramatically in the past 3-4 years

We have been RVing about 6 months a year (3 months in the Spring and 3 months in the Fall) since 2004. Our experience has been similar to mptjelgin's. We rarely use to make reservations more than a day or two in advance. This past Fall was the first time that we had advance reservations for nearly every stay longer than one night. Heading West to New Mexico from the East Coast in August, we were able to get into the campgrounds we wanted by calling in the morning and making a reservation for that night. While campgrounds were not completely full, the available sites for longer rigs were often not available so we would have to unhook the trailer in order to fit in a site. We prefer not to do this when only passing through for a night. Pull throughs were often also in short supply or unavailable. Traveling through Kansas in 100 degree heat, we were able to get sites in some County, State and Corps of Engineers (COE) campgrounds on relatively short notice. Across the country, some of the State and COE campgrounds, had lots of dry camping sites available. At others whole loops or an entire campground were closed due to Covid. On the return to the East Coast in October, we had no problem getting sites travelling through OK, AR. AL and TN during the week. The large campground we stayed at in Sevierville, TN was completely full the entire week we were there. Every campground that we stayed at along I-81 through VA and WV was nearly full during the week and reservations could not be had a month in advance for weekends.

I am currently in the process of making reservations for our Spring trip to Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. So far, I have been able to book three two week stays in March and April. One is at a county park. The other two are at Thousand Trails parks with our Zone Pass (reservations cannot be made more than 60 days in advance).

It will be interesting to see what if any impact the rising fuel prices have. The last time fuel was near $4.00/gal (I think it was 2009 or 2010) RV travel declined in popular out of the way places like Yellowstone (Diesel was $4.45/gal. inside the park that year when we were there in Sept.)

6 hours ago, Danfreda1 said:

If you have Allstays app you can find city and county parks with 2-4 nights free before paying.

I have found the best websites for finding free or low-cost public campgrounds to be Free Campsites and The Ultimate Public Campgrounds Project. Local, county and state fairgrounds often have large no frill campgrounds that are virtually empty when there are no scheduled events. In some states like KS, free dry camping is available at many state fishing lakes. Many of these are listed in the above resources.

Edited by trailertraveler
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We have been RVing since 1984 and full time for 8.5 years and agree with others that where we seldom made plans more than a day or two in advance, we now have to plan months out.  Shoot, we do not stick to that rigid of a timetable.  We have given up on using state and Corp of Engineers parks.  They have all gone to site specific reservations and it is virtually impossible to get a full week in one site unless you move every 2 or 3 days.  To get a week or two, you have to book as soon as the reservation window opens, which is generally 6 months or more out.

As a result of this, we have only stayed at one COE park in the past 3 years.   The rest of the time we use private and commercial RV campgrounds.

We are currently in a nice commercial campground and have an open-ended reservation as we are looking to buy a place and get off the road.  It is no longer fun to travel and has become a job planning so far in advance.

I wish all of the recent RVers all the success in the future and hope you get to enjoy seeing America.

Ken

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We've owned and used RV's since the late 60's, and have been fulltimers since 2010. The days of no planning and tossing a coin at each intersection are long gone now, so we have state and national park reservations booked through the end of 2022 and are already starting to book sites for 2023. We don't normally book overnight in transit stops more than a day or two ahead, but even some of those have become problematic and we're forced to book at least a month ahead to ensure we get a spot. We don't like it, but that's the way it is. 

Edited by Dutch_12078
typo
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One advantage to being a newbie is that you have the whole country open to you so you can go off the beaten tracks and find the odd little places. I loved stumbling across the hobo museum in Britt, Iowa. And free city campgrounds in small towns. And beautiful scenery most people whizz right on by. A smaller rig also opens up choices of places big rigs can't go; we drove our 24' Winnebago View down Route 66 and visited all the museums and many diners along the way since we could park right there.

Linda

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It would be an interesting exercise to see if hotel bookings are tracking the same way as campsite bookings. Is it just an RV 'thing' or is it travel in general?

I know here in Australia finding a campsite is like winning the lottery. Thousands have stopped traveling overseas and are now traveling at home. Thousands of new RVs and zero new RV sites. Dry camping has become so much in demand that even remote dry camps are now crowded. Wait for a new RV can be up to 18 months.

My crystal ball tells me that in a year or two, when covid is the 'norm', international travel will be back and used RVs will be cheap. Maybe even empty RV sites will return.

 

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1 minute ago, bruce t said:

It would be an interesting exercise to see if hotel bookings are tracking the same way as campsite bookings. Is it just an RV 'thing' or is it travel in general?

I know here in Australia finding a campsite is like winning the lottery. Thousands have stopped traveling overseas and are now traveling at home. Thousands of new RVs and zero new RV sites. Dry camping has become so much in demand that even remote dry camps are now crowded. Wait for a new RV can be up to 18 months.

My crystal ball tells me that in a year or two, when covid is the 'norm', international travel will be back and used RVs will be cheap. Maybe even empty RV sites will return.

 

I haven't seen anything here in the US to indicate hotel rooms are hard to find, but it's not an industry I follow very closely either. 

I think you're right about the RV boom going bust when COVID either settles into a flu like status or mutates to something even less harmful. A year or two might be a little optimistic, but it'll happen at some point.

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16 minutes ago, bruce t said:

It would be an interesting exercise to see if hotel bookings are tracking the same way as campsite bookings. Is it just an RV 'thing' or is it travel in general?

I don't know anything official or have a good source but while in Rawlins, WY last summer I noted that the RV parks there were all busy, although not 100% full and spoke with the park manager about that. She said that the RV parks in Rawlins were having the best year ever but that she knew several people in motel management and that they had been struggling to meet expenses. Last May when we were in Branson, MO staying at Turkey Creek SKP park, that park was probably running between 80% and 90% full but the crowds in town and the theaters were very light. We went on the Branson Belle dinner cruise and I'd guess that it was at maybe 60%. We were past 2 other RV parks in that area and both had no vacancy signs out but we didn't see any such signs at the motels. I did read recently in a business news letter that the hotel/motel industry has begun to recover but has a long way to go. 

Edited by Kirk W
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