RVing in 2021: What’s Changed

I have been on the road off and on full-time for nearly five years now, and things have really changed since I first started traveling in my motorhome in 2016. Last year, RV travel looked particularly different than any of my previous years traveling, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restriction of international travel. This year, as more people become vaccinated and are beginning to travel further from home, the world of RV travel looks even more different. The following is my perspective and take on the current RV travel trends of 2021 and what is different this year. 

Please keep in mind that these are mostly my experiences and opinions. Each RV traveler will likely have a different idea of the current camping trends and differences. I have also included some tips and suggestions based on my observations and predictions. I hope that this helps you to plan out the best camping season this summer 2021.

Popularity is overall increasing!

We have touched on this before, but more people than ever are traveling domestically to avoid flying and traveling internationally. This will likely change next year and in the coming years, but last year, many people purchased and/or rented RVs for the first time ever, and this trend will likely continue. In addition, the rise in RV sales last year and through the beginning of this year will see more RVs in general on the road this summer 2021. To prepare for the increase in overall popularity, I have included some thoughts and suggestions for camping reservations and choices below.

Campgrounds are filling up much earlier than before

I don’t tend to stay in too many campgrounds, but when I do, I don’t typically book very far in advance to account for flexibility of travel and potential changes. However, this year, that will need to change. Campgrounds are booking entirely at a much faster rate than ever before, with many in popular areas having few, if any, summer reservations available. However, most campgrounds that were limiting campsites at the height of the pandemic have begun to allow for greater capacity in their campgrounds. Still, many campgrounds I had planned to visit are already booked out until July or August.

I will be checking periodically for cancellations and recommend that you do the same anywhere you wish to camp. With some campgrounds, it’s also possible to be placed on a waiting list in case cancellations occur. To combat this conundrum altogether, I highly recommend booking campsites for any upcoming vacations as far in advance as possible. Try three or more months in advance, just to be safe.

Harvest Hosts locations are booked and/or fuller than ever before

When campgrounds are full, or when you need a comfortable place to stay the night when going to or coming from a destination, Harvest Hosts locations are an excellent choice. And yet, even Harvest Hosts locations have become more booked and full than ever before. This is also likely to do with the increase and growth of the company, but this current season, I have stayed at five different Harvest Hosts locations so far, in less-popular areas I might add, and I have had several neighbors each night. I have been a Harvest Hosts member for five years now, and this is the first time I have ever seen these locations so booked. Keep in mind that this is still the off-season, so I expect the summer season to be even more popular.

While the growth of the program and its popularity is awesome, I highly recommend booking your Harvest Hosts locations in advance as well. Booking months in advance may be unnecessary, but booking when you know of your upcoming travel plans, even if just a week or two ahead of time, is best here. Did you know that you can now book online with some Harvest Hosts locations? Check out our blog post to read more about it. 

Boondocking areas are more populated

When campgrounds and Harvest Hosts locations are fully booked, boondocking locations make a great option. Because I am well set up for it, I actually prefer boondocking for the most part, but I know that this is not many people’s first choice. However, even the boondocking locations in some areas are more popular than ever before. Public lands camping allows for greater distance between campers and, oftentimes, more peace and quiet overall. Since these spaces are not reservable, I recommend showing up on a weekday mid-morning for the best chances at securing a campsite. You may have more neighbors than you would have in previous years, but meeting people is often part of the fun when traveling somewhere new.

National and state parks are even more popular than before

While camping popularity has increased, so has the number of those recreating outdoors. Since indoor entertainment options are often still unavailable or just limiting overall capacities, many have taken up hiking and outdoor recreation to escape the crowds and enjoy the scenery. This means that overall, national parks and state parks are going to be more crowded this season. To avoid crowds, I highly recommend waking up early for sunrise hiking. This will help to ensure parking availability and less people on the trail.

Rentals are increasing

RV rentals have always been popular but many are predicting that there will continue to be more rentals on the road this year. While this doesn’t really affect RV owners, keep this in mind if you plan to rent an RV this year. As with everything else, booking a rental early is key.

Gas prices have increased

Last year saw some of the lowest gas prices in the past decade. Since then, gas prices have increased by nearly fifty percent in most areas, with prices steadily increasing and becoming closer and closer to three dollars per gallon. This means that RV travel will likely be more expensive than last year, so you will want to factor this into your equation when budgeting for vacations this summer.

Business hours are often still affected

Lastly, despite the pandemic beginning to come to an end (hopefully!), many business hours are still feeling the negative effects. This means you can expect many businesses to open later and close earlier than before, even in 2021. This is just another thing to keep in mind when making travel plans. Always call ahead or check online for the business hours to avoid wasted trips, and adjust your plans accordingly.

Despite all the changes in the current camping climate, I expect 2021 to be a great RVing year. I have several trips planned, and I hope you do too! Who knows, maybe we’ll even pass each other on the road.

Are you planning to travel in your RV in 2021? Have you noticed any changes when compared to previous years? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below!

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  1. Stephen Schuit
    9th May, 2021

    I find it helpful when analysts and writers point out trends that effect overall experiences. Your trends do just that; unfortunately they suggest what I would consider “negative” trends. I am one of those “newbies.” Just purchased a Ram Promaster with a humble conversion from a company called Wayfarer Vans in Colorado, Springs. We will set out from Maine in October and head south, then west, and then up the CA coast. We hope that “Harvest Hosts” will be part of our strategy. All I can say (for the pessimistic comments here), don’t pull up the ladder. Rather, be supportive and helpful to others who are learning the lay of the land. Thanks.

    1. Sam Leash
      15th June, 2021

      Hey Stephen! I think it’s important to point out trends each year, but I don’t think busyness is necessarily negative! It just means that more people are out enjoying the RVing lifestyle. With plenty of planning, it should still be totally doable. 🙂 Best of luck planning your future adventures!

  2. Go Where I'm Towed
    8th May, 2021

    Unfortunately, not only are the campgrounds full and unavailable, but several of these new “campers” have no sense of common manners or cleanliness. A lot of public land is being closed to camping because people completely trash the area or stay past the 14 day limit. And I have personally experienced motorcycles and ATVs racing through my campsite. I also hope that once people have other options, the camping craze will moderate, but I’m not holding my breath.

    1. Connie
      9th May, 2021

      We are host and i second that note above some of things i see sicken me

    2. Sam Leash
      15th June, 2021

      That sounds terrible! I haven’t been on public land since last November. I’m hoping some of it will have died down by the time I’m back out west this summer.

  3. Class~C~Lass
    8th May, 2021

    I’m crossing my fingers as I say this, but by the time I get to buying an RV, which can be a decade into the future, hopefully the current RV craze will have cooled off considerably. Realistically though, as long as the current U.S. economy makes housing increasingly out-of-reach for a shrinking middle class whose income buys less & less as food, rent, gas, utilities, & even water gets more & more expensive, it would not be surprising to see this RV surge continue indefinitely. Let’s be honest, the cost of living became prohibitively expensive even before Covid hit. The average U.S. income has been long overdue to be increased for the current cost of living.

  4. Leslie F. Yowell
    7th May, 2021

    We dove into the full time RVer pool this year after retirement. We have seen some great areas. The shocker in Desert Palm, CA was that gas was anywhere from $3.75 to $4.10 a gallon. We want to travel from Texas up through Colorado and back down into Utah, but are finding it hard to find campgrounds, let alone ones that aren’t booked up already even three months out. We aren’t really set up so good for boondocking in our 30 ft travel trailer.

  5. Cyndi
    7th May, 2021

    Thanks Sam for all of the information you’ve provided! We’re going to be permanent RVr’s come this September! Can’t wait to begin to explore and create memories!

    1. Sam Leash
      15th June, 2021

      I’m so glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the blog. So excited for you to begin your adventures in September, too. Happy trails to you!

  6. Sylvia
    7th May, 2021

    I chuckle when I see bloggers commenting that they are old hands at full timing with 3-5 yrs under their belt. My husband and I have been RVing for 30+ yrs with 11 + yrs as full timers. We’ve seen it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. Mainly the good and excellent side of RVing. We have friends all over the country. We stay in the south most of the season now but still travel to interesting spots around the country. Currently packing for another trip to the Carolinas and the Great Smokey Mts Finally made it to Alaska last year but that’s another whole adventure. Keep safe and travel kindly.
    Sylvia and Bob

    1. Michelle
      8th May, 2021

      You two should blog or vlog to teach all of us newbies the tricks that you have learned during your journey. I would love to know about it all.

    2. Lisa
      8th May, 2021

      Yes. I hear you and laugh too. I started out Full time RV in 1988. Camped instate and National Parks for 2 years. Then got domestic and bought a house. Taking only weekend trips. 34 ft Class A. My then husband and 3 dogs. No GPS or cell phones then. Used maps and knew my directions N.S.E. and West. Lol… still use maps. Highly suggest maps. I recently decided to go full time again. And as a single person.. I intend to utilize the internet.GPS and cell when it’s absolutely necessary. But first hand experience through adventure and skill is my motto.

    3. Sam Leash
      15th June, 2021

      Definitely not an old hand, but I’ve been doing this long enough to note that this year is very different! I’m not even quite 30 years old yet, but I do hope to have as many years as you one day. 🙂

  7. Jesten and Adam
    7th May, 2021

    Great article! My husband and I are new full timers. It is interesting to imagine the scene pre-covid19! Adam works insurance, RV coverage in particular. It is crazy to hear some of the mistakes made or the unfortunate circumstances that can happen. Not sure if you’ve done an article on that yet but it sure is interesting and important!

    1. Michelle
      8th May, 2021

      Jesten and Adam,
      What are the mistakes to avoid? Please share. Thank you

    2. Sam Leash
      15th June, 2021

      Hey Jesten! Congrats on the start of your full-time RV life, and thanks for the blog idea! I don’t have an insurance article yet, but I will totally add one to the queue for upcoming months. Happy trails to you!

  8. Riley Mitchell
    30th April, 2021

    As a host location that actively uses our member benefits when we travel in the off season, you hit the nail on the head Sam!
    We have seen an absolute spike in member reservations, which has made the Request To Stay feature vital to keeping track of who’s coming and going, before we were using a google spreadsheet. We are beyond grateful for all of this support, however it has also made us have to plan WAY in advance for our fall trip. In my 11 years of RVing, I have never even begun to think about making reservations for November, non the less needing a reservation to be guaranteed a spot.
    I know I am extremely excited to welcome all RV owners, new or seasoned, and renters to our facility. I feel this amazing opportunity to both educate and learn from both new and experienced RVers, due to this once in a lifetime surge of RV buyers, will truly bring this industry to a whole new level.

    Cheers & Safe Travels

    1. Sam Leash
      4th May, 2021

      Hi Riley, first of all, it was so nice meeting you on Sunday! You guys have an amazing location, and we really enjoyed our stay. Totally agreed, this is definitely a huge year for RVing. I hope you guys have a great season and an awesome time traveling and visiting locations in the off season this year. Safe travels and happy trails to you as well! 🙂