Expert Booking Tips to Help Snag Busy Campgrounds

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Good luck if you want to go camping anytime soon and haven’t made a reservation. Scoring a campsite can be like winning the lottery at some locations.

You may need to reserve your site 6 to 12 months in advance for the most popular spots. Luckily, you can do a few things to tip the scales in your favor. 

We’ve learned a thing or two about snagging campground reservations through our full-time traveling adventures. We’ve used these methods to snag sites at some incredible spots.

Today, we’re sharing our best tips and tricks for booking at busy campgrounds. By using these tips, there’s a good chance you’ll be sitting around a campfire before you know it.

Let’s dive in and see how you can book a spot at a popular campground.

Why Is It Difficult to Get Into Campgrounds?

There’s been a renewed interest in camping over the past several years.

As a result, the RV industry has experienced a tremendous boom, with one record-breaking year after another. RV ownership has increased 62% over the last two decades, and people need a place to park them.

Unfortunately, while manufacturers were busy creating hundreds of thousands of new RVs, many campgrounds weren’t upgrading infrastructures to accommodate them. This has resulted in a massive shortage of campsites.

Campgrounds that once only reached capacity on holiday weekends are starting to fill up most weekends during their busy season.

Additionally, some managers blame the shortage on the increase in those traveling full-time in their campers. This is because many of these travelers stay for weeks at a time instead of days. Depending on the policies, a single reservation could occupy a campsite for 14 to 21 days.

It’s the simple principle of supply and demand. Currently, the demand far exceeds the supply, and customers feel the growing pains. Infrastructure upgrades are expensive and can take time to plan and execute.

Many business owners see these upgrades as major risks, as the camping trend could end before they see a return on their investment.

When Are Campgrounds Most Busy?

Camping season for much of the country runs from late spring to mid-fall.

This allows campers to enjoy cooler temperatures and take advantage of the time off from school and other activities. However, peak camping season varies geographically based on the climate.

Additionally, campgrounds tend to fill up quickly on many holiday weekends. The most popular camping holidays are Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. However, Father’s Day and Halloween tend to be busier than normal for many locations as well.

Expert Booking Tips to Snag Busy Campgrounds

You may feel frustrated if you’re struggling to book a campsite at a particularly busy location. Trust us; we’ve been there and know the feeling. Here are our expert tips to help snag reservations at busy campgrounds.

Book as Far in Advance as Possible

For some of the most popular spots, you must book as far in advance as possible. Some allow guests to book campsites 6 to 12 months in advance.

However, others open their entire reservation system on a specific day. You must know the booking window if you want the best shot of snagging a spot.

Unfortunately, this will require more attention to detail and flexibility, especially if you book your entire camping season. Luckily, booking as far in advance as possible gives you plenty of time to adjust your travel plans.

Know the Campground Cancellation Policy

In addition to knowing the booking window, you should also read the campground’s cancellation policy.

Since you’ll likely be booking these spots several weeks or months in advance, there’s always a chance you may need to cancel. As we all know, life can be unpredictable and throws us a curveball occasionally.

Cancellations vary from one location to the next. We’ve seen spots that provide 100% refunds more than 24 or 48 hours ahead of time. On the other hand, we’ve also seen somewhere all sales are final and don’t provide refunds. If the cancelation policy isn’t clearly listed on their website, call and ask.

Unless you are comfortable losing money, don’t make a reservation without reviewing this policy. Some of these locations come with expensive price tags. If you must cancel several nights, this could significantly impact your bank account.

However, knowing you can cancel if needed can help you plan a trip and book a site in advance without worrying if plans might change several months later.

Pro Tip: Life can be unpredictable! If you end up getting to your campground later than planned, make sure you know these Tips for a Late-Night Arrival

Book Longer Than Your Planned Trip

This is a controversial strategy that some campers use to book sites during busy seasons, especially on holiday weekends. Campers extend the start of their reservation to include a few days before they intend to use the site or even arrive at the campground. 

By doing so, they can book their site earlier than those making their reservations for the weekend. Paying for a few extra days is worth the cost to secure their spot.

However, it’s worth noting that many managers have caught onto this strategy. We’ve seen some policies requiring campers to occupy their site within 24 hours of the start of their reservation.

If you try this strategy, read the guidelines thoroughly, or you could lose money, and the campground could cancel your reservation.

Use a Service to Check Campsite Cancellations

People cancel reservations for all sorts of unexpected reasons. As a result, it’s essential to know that just because there’s no availability currently, that will likely change. You can even use technology to your advantage to monitor for cancellations.

Services like Campnab, Wandering Labs, and AbsoluteCamp monitor for changes in availability that match your designated criteria. However, you may need to act fast if you receive an alert from them because you’re likely not the only one using these services.

As these services are businesses, they’re typically not doing the work for free. Some may offer reduced plans for free, but most average between $5 and $30 per year. Campnab is one of the best options, but it is also the most expensive costing $10 to $50 per month.

Call the Campground Daily to Check the Availability

If you’re anything like us, you rarely use your smartphone to call anyone. However, some campgrounds have yet to upgrade their reservation systems. This means that you’ll need to find their phone number and give them a call to inquire about any reservation changes.

With this method, avoid becoming a nuisance to the staff. You must also have realistic expectations and avoid taking your frustrations out on whoever is on the other end of the call. 

They can’t magically open up a water-front site over the Fourth of July weekend. Treating them rudely or with attitude will likely only ensure you’re not their first phone call if one does open.

Pro Tip: If you’re trying to get a first-come first-serve camping spot, check out these tips so you can always get a spot!

Utilize Walk-Up Reservations

Many campgrounds in state and national parks utilize walk-up reservation systems. These operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so the early bird gets the worm. These can be great options if you have some flexibility, but they can also be risky.

Since you don’t have an actual reservation, there’s no guarantee that one will be available when you arrive. You may need to arrive early and cross your fingers that someone in a site is packing up to leave.

However, we’ve heard many travelers hitting the jackpot and scoring phenomenal sites this way.

Snag Good RV Sites This Year

Seeing people desiring to disconnect from technology and spend time in nature is exciting. However, we feel the same frustrations many other campers feel when booking campsites.

Unfortunately, we have no indication that these frustrations will disappear anytime soon. So try out these expert tips to enjoy a memorable camping experience.

Have you had any luck booking busy campgrounds?

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