Camping

With record numbers of recreational vehicles sales in 2020, campgrounds are looking for a boom in 2021. This is a scene from the KOA Campground at Hogback Lake in Steuben County.

LAGRANGE — With tens of thousands of people expected to buy their first recreational vehicle this year, one of the biggest challenges facing RV’ers and campers this summer might just be finding a campsite.

The RV industry, which saw a strong year in 2020 because of the pandemic, is expected to skyrocket this year.

The RV Industry Association, a trade group that closely monitors RV production, said preliminary data suggests 2021 will be the best year for production the industry has ever seen in the 40 years RVIA has been collecting data.

With that many campers on the road, both public and private campgrounds are expected to be filled this summer — especially holidays and weekends — and likely will remain in high demand the rest of the season, said the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in their latest trends and insights report.

“The days of picking up on Friday afternoon and saying ‘let’s go camping this weekend’ are almost done,” said Ginger Murphy, the deputy director of stewardship for state parks.

The state operates 32 campgrounds at its parks across the state and Murphy said sites at state campgrounds have been popular for years, but seem to be in even higher demand recently.

“Anecdotally, we’ve seen an increase in people using our parks during the pandemic,” she explained. “I think people believe it’s a good place to be during the pandemic. I think that people feel it’s a good way to be outside.”

With more and more people purchasing new RVs, the demand for facilities for the RV has been growing too.

“Yes, camping is more popular than ever. Camping has been gaining popularity and new campers year-over-year for quite some time. COVID-19 served to amplify this growing trend,” said Saskia Boogman, director of public relations, Kampgrounds of America Inc.

Boogman said her company’s research showed when other means of travel started closing down because of the pandemic, camping exploded.

“This was due to limited travel options and, even more so, to the inherent social distancing that exists on a campground,” she explained. “In fact, both campers and non-camping leisure travelers said that camping was the safest way to travel according to our research. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that you have space between sites and generally are traveling with your own equipment and group of your choosing.”

Even before the pandemic, the demand for campsites has been booming, according to the NARVC research. And that demand appears to be far from peaking.

Boogman, like Murphy, urges people to plan ahead.

“In regards to booking campsites, we have seen this become more challenging in some cases,” Boogman said. “Overall, we have seen the booking window — the time between when people book and their trip commences — lengthen. This is especially true of holidays and popular summer weekends. That being said, it’s still very much possible to call a few days ahead and get a site in most areas. During less busy times, like during the week, it’s also feasible to pull up and get a site the same day. We advise that you book as early as possible just for the peace of mind.”

State parks sites must be booked online and can be researched six months ahead of time.

“It’s April and people are just now able to book for October. So planning ahead helps,” Murphy said.

Both Murphy and Boogman suggest people look at traveling midweek when campsites aren’t in as high of demand.

“If you’re willing to camp during the week, try,” Murphy said. “Take some time off and go during the week — Mondays, Tuesdays Wednesday and Thursdays — it’s much easier to get a site.”

NARVC said it anticipates more than 53,000 sites will be added to properties around the country in the next 12 months.

Murphy said Indiana operates campgrounds at 32 state properties. KOA operates more than 500 campgrounds across the country.

If you’ve trip is the first to a state park, Murphy suggested visiting stateparks.in.gov to better understand that park.

“It’s a great place to get started,” she added.

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