No Room At The Inn

 Posted by at 12:49 am  Nick's Blog
Apr 062017

I got an email yesterday from a blog reader asking me if I had read an article on the website saying that due to the dramatic increase in the number of RVers on the road these days, the spontaneous road trip is pretty much a thing of the past. The article showed pictures used in advertising by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) showing RVers parked all alone in beautiful scenic places enjoying themselves, then a picture of a typical crowded RV park, saying this was really the norm. With all due respect to the author of that article, I’m not buying it.

For what it’s worth, people were saying the same thing when Terry and I started fulltiming way back in 1999. They warned us that there were so many baby boomers hitting the road that we would never find campgrounds. Guess what? We always did. It’s true, if you want to jump in your RV today and go to a popular place like the Oregon coast in the middle of the tourist season without a reservation, you’re probably not going to find a site in a commercial RV park. But this is not a new situation. It was the same way back when we started fulltiming. I know, because we spent our first summer on the road on the Pacific Northwest coast. It wasn’t always easy, but we always found a place to stay.

The article said that that most parks in popular snowbird areas like Florida and Arizona have restrictions not allowing anyone under 55 years old. We were both 46 when we hit the road, and it was an issue we had to deal with back then, too. But we still always found a campground when we wanted one. The article goes on to say that if you go to a popular National Park during tourist season you will be lucky to find a campsite within 20 miles of it. Right again. Just like it was way back when we started. Nothing has changed! You needed reservations way back then, and you still do today. So much for spontaneity.

You need to think outside the box. Campgrounds are not the only place to stay overnight, or even for a few days or weeks. Many, many small town city parks across the country have campgrounds, and a lot of them are free or only cost a few bucks a night. We list over a thousand of them in our Guide to Free Campgrounds and Overnight Parking Spaces. Many fairgrounds have RV parking spaces which are available at daily, weekly, and sometimes monthly rates. They may not have a swimming pool and a tennis court, but you’ll save a ton of money and they are often within a short driving distance of many attractions. So if you aren’t 55 years old yet and want to do the snowbird thing in Tucson this winter, contact the Pima County Fairgrounds RV Park. You’ll get a nice full hookup site for a lot less than any campgrounds in town, and nobody cares old you are! We’ve stayed in nice RV parks at Elks Lodges on the Oregon and Washington coasts many times in the summer at a fraction of the cost of local RV parks, and never had a problem getting a site.

And as for those advertisements that the RVIA puts out showing those RVs in those wonderful places, it’s kind of like the advertisements for the sports cars and the 4×4 trucks. Yeah, you can buy one of them, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have some gorgeous blonde sitting next to you as you skillfully make your way around hairpin turns on some winding mountain road alongside the coast, nor will you be taking your truck to the top of some pinnacle in the middle of the desert. It’s all hype to get you to buy something, whether that something be a recreational vehicle, an expensive sports car, or a pickup that runs on testosterone instead of gasoline.

Trust me, folks, I just looked outside and the sky isn’t falling.

It’s Thursday, and you know what that means. It’s time to kick off a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Point Taken, the tenth book in my friend Ben Rehder’s excellent Blanco County mystery series. I’ve read just about all of Ben’s books, and I don’t think he could write a bad story if he tried. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The bumble bee flies because nobody ever told it that it is aerodynamically impossible.

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Nick Russell

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  9 Responses to “No Room At The Inn”

  1. Just more doom and gloom Nick. We have been RVing since 1988 and even back then we heard the same line of bull%$#* and we’ve been hearing it ever since. Kind of like what you wrote while ago about the guys on the news saying the Oregon coast was going to fall into the ocean. We’re in Newport right now and its still there.

  2. I ignore stuff like that. Been on the road 6 years now and never had a problem. I do plan ahead in summer. Anyone who thinks they can just drive up to a campground in there busiest time and get a spot is an idiot. No different then motel rooms.

  3. Nick, as a wannabe RVer I’m encouraged by your take on this topic. Thanks for addressing it and putting my mind at ease. The voice of reason strikes again!

  4. I have decided that RVTravel is target marketing the grumbly people. I guess it is like newspapers. Bad news sells. I really like the blog, very informative but have been having trouble with the whining. But, if you look at the responses, he is hitting a sweet spot in volume.

  5. Well if that’s the truth, then there will be even MORE room for those of us who make reservations ahead of time like I’ve been doing since I was 16 years old!!

    I’m curious why an RV Website would post such bad information. Aren’t they trying to PROMOTE the industry? Sounds like they are doing the exact opposite!! Even when we traveled clear across the U.S. and back, we always found a campsite and rarely had reservations.

  6. What, you’re saying I can’t drive up the front of Mt Rushmore in my new 4×4 diesel Rip Snorter extended cab pickup and park on Abe Lincoln’s nose? Who’d a thunk it? All the RVIA is is a glorified ad agency for the RV industry. Whenever I see their ads for the people making smores over an open campfire in some pristine background, I wonder where they have their electric and water hooked up. Anyone who thinks they can go to a national park in peak season and get a campsite without reservations, either for an RV or a tent, probably also believes in the tooth fairy. It ain’t gonna happen and it’s been that way forever. Good blog post Nick.

  7. We travel 10 months of the year and never make reservations unless we are within 10 – 15 miles of salt water, and even then we only need them for holidays and school breaks. Of course, being an Elk helps provide us with a lot of peace of mind!

  8. I mostly agree with your comments, especially the common sense stuff. We have been fulltime for 11 years. We have volunteered as park hosts either a winter or summer season every year, sometimes we travel in summer, sometimes in winter. We’ve never had a problem finding a site because we mostly plan our stays. Hubby would like to travel with no plan and sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t. I would disagree with you on the fairgrounds suggestion. We purchased your Fairgrounds guide several years ago and have used it a lot. We don’t so much anymore, a lot of fairgrounds have raised prices to an unreasonable amount for no amenities. $30 for overnight with lots of horse poop is not our idea of low cost traveling. We get better value with Passport America.

  9. The only time we’ve ever had trouble was on holiday weekends like Memorial Day, Labor Day, July 4, etc. On those, get somewhere and stay put until it’s over! We went to Yellowstone, Tetons, and Glacier in July and got spots in each by calling just a few days ahead of arriving at each. Not to mention, some National and State Park sites are called “walk-up only” so you get there early and pick a spot and then go pay for it after you’re set up. Sunday night is a good time to arrive onone of those. Many state parks have the same thing.
    Also, we actually HAVE scored some of those gorgeous, not rowed up, beautiful settings. Try state parks in places like Arkansas and Missouri Ozark mountains, to name a couple.
    Last year, we rolled into Colorado Springs in the middle of season and scored a spot on a little creek at a commercial park. Not planning much in advance is part of the fun for us – but sometimes we pay the price by ending up on a Walmart parking lot.
    Nick, you’re so right, it’s still fun, and it’s all according to how you play the game and how flexible you can be.

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