The Golden State is opening its doors to RV travelers who seek California camping fun. The state government has lifted many COVID-related restrictions, with plans in place to fully open the state’s economy on June 15.
RV travelers have responded to the favorable developments by reserving spots at RV parks across the state. But while weekends have already been booked up in many locations through the summer months, California campgrounds and RV resorts still have vacancies.
“You just have to know where to look. You also have to use different strategies to plan your getaways, using Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays as your start dates instead of Thursdays or Fridays, which book up before any other dates,” said Dyana Kelley, president and CEO of Camp-California.com.
Here are 8 reservation tips from operators of Good Sam Parks across California:
At Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina in Newport Beach, cottages are already 100 percent occupied for summer weekends, and so are many beachfront campsites. Summer weekends at Campland on the Bay and Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego are also heavily booked, according to Jan Yerzik, director of marketing for Terra Vista Management, which manages the three resorts.
But that doesn’t mean these resorts do not have any availability. “Since weekends routinely sell out, campers have a better chance of booking weekdays. Many campers depart on Sunday, so the slowest days may be Sunday through Wednesday in the summer,” Yerzik said.
Midweek Rates Are Often Lower
There’s another benefit to starting your vacation midweek: Rates for campsites and rental accommodations are usually lower during the week than they are on weekends.
Consider Shoulder Season Camping
While summer continues to be the busiest time of year for campgrounds across California, spring and fall are not nearly as busy, which increases your chances of finding a campsite or rental accommodation. “Early June and late August offer more availability to plan summer vacations,” Yerzik said. “If you can travel in September or October, the weather is still spectacular in Southern California, and you will find more campsite options along with off-season rates.”
Look for Hidden Gems
“Take the opportunity to visit a destination off the beaten path,” counsels Jennifer Ludovice, director of marketing communication strategy for Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS), which owns and operates numerous RV resorts in California and across the country.
“Instead of heading to a popular vacation area, try visiting a more secluded, remote or rural destination,” she said. “For example, are you looking for a Napa Valley getaway? Head just a little farther north to Russian River RV Campground in Cloverdale and enjoy camping along the banks of the beautiful Russian River while staying within minutes of several wonderful wineries.”
Other hidden gems in the ELS network include Rancho Oso RV Camping Resort, which is in the Santa Ynez Mountains a little over 30 minutes from Santa Barbara, and Pio Pico RV Resort and Campground in Jamul, which is about 30 minutes from San Diego’s Gaslamp District, which has many wonderful restaurants and stores.
Reap the Financial Benefits of Planning Ahead
The more advanced planning you do, the greater your success will be finding the campsite or rental accommodations you desire. Many campsites and rental accommodations can be booked up to a year or more in advance. There are also financial advantages to advance planning. Yerzik of Terra Vista Management notes that many campgrounds and RV resorts have revenue management systems that automatically adjust rates based on occupancy. So the further you book in advance, the less you will pay for your campsite or rental accommodation.
Don’t Wing It
Campground owners say that the days of just showing up on the weekend expecting an available site are over. Reservations have swelled considerably, and much of the demand is fueled by first-time campers. Don’t put yourself in a position of driving cross-country in search of an open site.
Review Cancellation Policies
Don’t forget to review the cancellation policy where you will be staying, advise campground owners. Cancellation fees can be zero to minimal if the cancellation policy is followed. These are different from hotel cancellation policies, so it is wise to double-check them.
Book the Correct Site for Your RV
Know your RV’s length and book accordingly. “When reservations are tight, please be sure to reserve a site that can accommodate the actual size of your RV,” Yerzik said. “Don’t risk being turned away or having to pay yield pricing to upgrade your site at the last minute.”