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If you’re dreaming about hiking quiet forest trails, training binoculars on roaming wildlife or just toasting marshmallows over a campfire this summer, now’s the time to start planning.
The pandemic kicked off a surge of interest in the outdoors that hasn’t eased three years later, and more campgrounds and RV parks, both public and private, are requiring reservations. The cost of booking a camping/RV spot is climbing, too, and some parks are selling out months in advance.
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If that lights a (camp)fire within you — good! There’s still time to find a great camping spot. First thing to do: Decide where you want to go. One recent survey by online booking resource Campspot found that most campers in the U.S. are looking to pitch tents and park RVs in the pine-covered mountains, along sandy beaches and in the deliciously tangled wilderness areas of Colorado, Montana, Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina this year. The old faithful national parks, including Yellowstone National Park (which is almost back to normal after floods washed out roads last year), remain popular too. Also trendy? Agritourism — staying on farm or ranch land — and camping trips timed around natural events like eclipses or meteor showers. (Obvious tip: If you want to increase your chances of reserving a camping spot, look outside of the more popular destinations.)
With more than 80 million campers in the U.S., including about 15 million who camped for the first time in the last two years, all vying for coveted spots, it’s getting trickier to schedule a trip.
“New campers coming on to the scene are outstripping the supply of campgrounds by a landslide,” says Kevin Long, CEO and cofounder of The Dyrt, a website and smartphone app that allows users to reserve sites at campgrounds and RV parks around the country. “Even with more than half of the campgrounds expanding the number of sites and extending their seasons, they’re not able to keep up with demand. If you’re looking to get some serious camping going in 2023, make reservations early.”
Each year, The Dyrt gathers information about camping trends. According to their 2023 Camping Report, the number of people who had a hard time booking a campsite because all reservations were taken increased from 30.2 percent in 2021 to 58.4 percent last year.
Toby O’Rourke, CEO and president of KOA, which operates more than 500 campgrounds across the United States and Canada, says that a quarter of U.S. campers have already made their reservations for this year.
“There have definitely been inventory concerns, particularly on weekends and in the summer,” O’Rourke says.