Because of overcrowding and overbooking, spots in traditional campgrounds during this unprecedented RV boom are often reserved months in advance. Many of the commercial and state park campgrounds in popular destinations say they are completely booked up until fall, with only a few scattered mid-week spots available.
Camping experts predict the campground overcrowding will continue for the foreseeable future. And with millions of marketing money being invested now in the booming RV rental market, campgrounds are overwhelmed. The fact is, at many campgrounds, there just are no open spots to be found this summer.
That's where a whole new aspect of the RV industry has developed – the campground alternative.
What is a Campground Alternative?
This was our alternate campground campsite at a Harvest Hosts location – the Heron Hill Winery in the Finger Lakes area of New York
Already, tens of thousands of RVers do choose a campground alternative every night. In terms of what we are discussing in this article, we're talking about non-traditional places to park that camper or RV for the night, a few days, or longer.
The campground alternative as it is shaping up this year takes four different forms we will explore:
-At the high end, organized membership programs that put RVers in touch with private property owners, be they someone's business or personal property
-Private, own-your-own campsites where the RVer buys their site, which they can use whenever they want, pretty much however they want.
-Dispersed camping and boondocking on public lands, typically state forests, national forests, Bureau of Land Management holdings, usually in wilderness areas with no hookups or amenities.
-Remote, lesser known so-called "primitive" campsites located off forest trails or roads on public land. These sites may have a dilineated "site," maybe a picnic table or fire ring but not much else.
. . . . .
Top Level Campground Alternative: Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome
There are many different membership sites that put private RVers and campers in touch with people and organizations. But the hands-down best-known Campground Alternative service is Harvest Hosts. The second best-known campground alternative is Boondockers Welcome.
Up until a month or so, these were two separate organizations. But just recently Harvest Hosts bought Boondockers Welcome, giving the two services a combined total of 5,000 camping spots available, with plans to add many more thousand by year's end.
In Episode 352 of the RV Podcast, I interviewed Joel Holland, the CEO of Harvest Hosts, and asked him about what this merger means to RVers and how campground alternative services like his are influencing the RV industry.
Here's a video of the interview (click cc to also show a transcript of the interview in the player window):