If you’re an RVer or Camper, you already know it’s nearly impossible to reserve a campsite. It’s because campgrounds are booked even up to a year in advance. But even if you do get that magical campsite reservation, once you arrive, it’s hard not to notice that many campsites sit empty. And guess what? Your fellow campers are to blame!
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Why Campsites Sit Empty! Fellow Campers Are to Blame!
Beginning our full-time RV travels in 2014, getting a campsite reservation at most state, Corps of Engineers, military FamCamps and even private campgrounds was pretty easy. All we’d do is either log on to a particular campground website or portal and pick our dates, pay with our credit card and voila! Or, we’d call a specific campground to make our reservation over the phone. It was simple and painless to make a campground reservation.
RV Pro Tip: Want to know How We Find RV Parks and Campgrounds?
However, nearing a decade later, the tables have turned drastically. Now, trying to book a campground is like trying to find a unicorn in the ocean.
We attribute that to a few obvious variables as to why campgrounds are so busy all of a sudden due to media promotions, marketing, social media, and YouTube. And, I hate to use this as an excuse but the pandemic is part blame for the sudden surge of camping and RV living.
From our article, “Why So Many People are Buying RVs? It’s NOT why you think!”, camping is a relatively cheaper alternative to pricy family vacations. People are retiring much younger or have portable careers that enable them to work remotely. Roadschooling and distant learning is becoming evermore popular due to the ineptness and security failures within America’s public school systems.
But also, weekend and seasonal campers are seeking ways to get out more with their families without spending a ton of money. And, they’re doing that by camping locally.
So, this all results in an unsurmountable demand for campsites that hit an all time high. But, that totally negates what we’re noticing at campgrounds all over the United States.
We’re seeing several campsites sit empty even though they show reserved online. At first, we thought it was the campground’s fault. However, that’s not the case! So, we had to dig to find out what the deal is with these vacant campsites.
The shocking truth about this whole debacle is it’s because campers blatantly refuse to cancel their reservation! Which, totally explains why campsites sit empty and vacant. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that a lot of RVing families are actually giving up camping and selling their RVs.
To further add salt to the wound, these same campers are actually bragging about this selfish practice on social media. And because of that attitude, campgrounds and RV parks can’t release those campsites to other campers because, get this, “they’ve been already paid for”.
So, getting down to the root cause of this issue, it’s shocking to read why campers aren’t freeing up their campsites. Especially, if they know they aren’t going to camp! What’s angering is a lot of them are doing it for selfish reasons!
Why Campers Aren’t Cancelling Their Reservations
They forgot they had a reservation
We get it. Life happens. Schedules get twisted and sometimes people forget what’s on their calendar. Oftentimes, they will book a campsite reservation and then get sidetracked with a family event, doctor appointment or whatever other reason that would make them forget about their reservation.
But is that a good reason for allowing that campsite to sit vacant? Aside from bonafide emergencies, this is unacceptable; especially now that we have digital calendars with reminders.
Pulling a Marsha Brady, “Something suddenly came up”
Pulling a Marsha Brady is actually a common
excuse practice from campers who make a reservation yet fail to cancel it when their own ‘something suddenly came up’ happens.
Especially those campers who camp locally, they’ll intentionally book every weekend just so they know they have a campsite despite knowing they may not go camping.
And most times, they do get a better offer (wedding, birthday party, last minute event, etc.) which leaves their campsite sit empty. And there’s not a thing either other campers nor the campground managers can do about it.
They can’t be bothered
As mentioned above, a lot of campers won’t even bother to cancel their campsite reservation. They figure since it’s not a huge investment, they just blow off the reservation. Because to them, it’s not worth the time, effort and money they’d lose.
We learned they don’t want to be on the phone for HOURS trying to cancel their reservation. (Campground Owners, please take note!)
Now, I willing to bet that’s a bit of exaggeration that it takes HOURS to cancel. However, having cancelled a campsite reservation a time or two myself, A lot of campgrounds don’t answer the phone or don’t respond to their emails. And sometimes, their campground reservation software doesn’t allow them to make cancellations.
Double booking campgrounds
Quoted from an RV lifestyle Facebook page;
“A couple days ago on a Facebook group page, someone posted a question comparing two different parks. They had two reservations for the same time period and wanted to know which one they should cancel. They were tying up campsites in two different parks. Not a nice thing to do in my opinion.” -Art
Sadly Art is correct. It’s not a nice thing to do. But, it’s become a common practice. In fact, I even know several people who do this.
A former friend actually bragged to me about double booking two very popular Military FamCamps so she could ‘decide last minute’. Meanwhile, by her double booking the campgrounds, it bars another military family from getting a reservation at either of them. And sometimes, that may be an Active Duty family reporting in to their new duty station.
And I have to say, it’s a pretty cruddy way to treat their fellow campers.
Being docked cancellation fees
More responses on that RV lifestyle Facebook page regarding campground’s cancellation fees;
“We cancelled a 6-week trip a month or more in advance. Public campgrounds got us for the $10 fee. However, several private CGs kept one night fee. None kept entire week. Several charged nothing! All in all, $200 in cancellation fees which still was less than the extra cost of gas.”
“WHY do we have to pay a cancellation fee if it’s outside of a month or whatever ridiculous length of time these campgrounds have established? They know darn well, they can turn around and rent that site back out within the day. This is campground owners gouging and getting to double-charge for sites.”
“If a campground doesn’t charge a cancellation fee, it’s rude not to cancel as soon as you know, but if there’s no refund or an unreasonable cancellation fee I don’t see any obligation to cancel so they can resell the site.”
Personally, I have a hard time wrapping my head around these attitudes, not only towards their fellow campers, but also campground owners. RV parks and campgrounds are no different than hotels and motels, AirB&B’s, VRBOs, etc.
Some people who have this preconceived notion that campgrounds are making bank by keeping cancellation deposits. They assumedly believe campground owners are going to turn around and rent the campsite.
However, that is partly correct. If it’s late in the game, the campground can’t chance losing money if they can’t rent the campsite out.
So, campground cancellation fees are, more or less, their protection plan. It’s no different than a retail business incurring a restocking fee on an expensive item return or a hotel or AirB&B keeping their cancellation deposit.
We got to sit down with a few campground owners to get their take. They all said just making a camping reservation requires money; from website domain and hosting fees, reservation software, internet service, phone service, etc. Plus, adding in employee expenses to make certain the reservation goes through and on the books.
When a campground gets a determined number of reservations, they have to schedule a certain number of employees to be on site. If one cancels, they still have to pay those employees.
This is why it’s each camper’s responsibility to read each campground’s cancellation policy. Simply put, when making a campsite reservation, the camper is agreeing to whatever policies the campground or RV park has in place.
Refusing Campgrounds to double dip
If a camper calls to cancel past the cancellation window, the campground may keep the entire deposit and/or reservation fee according to the campground’s policy.
This alone leaves a bitter taste in those who lose all of that money. And, being quite honest, this has happened to us.
However, we understand that most times, even popular campgrounds may not have enough time to rent that campsite for the exact time period. Thus, they end up losing money.
Check out Let’s Go Adventures’ video below: Tips for Getting a Last Minute Camping Reservation to see how you can get around it.
Final thoughts at why campsites sit empty
One closing, these selfish campers are taking away the joy of camping for others. They are partially to blame for reasons why it’s so hard to get a campsite.
So, it really doesn’t make sense why these people are screwing their fellow campers other than for selfish reasons. We’ve always believed our fellow campers are the nicest people in the world.
However, that’s so not the case anymore. You can see how much the camping community has changed in the past few years. And it’s not for the good.
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