RV Campground Reservations

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December 29, 2008

Do you need to make campground reservations? Whether you’re planning to stay in a public or private campground the answer, in my opinion, is always yes. Make a campground reservation!

I was disappointed more than once before I discovered the secret of making reservations well in advance of a scheduled trip. Even when you are just traveling through an area to your final destination you should try to plan every stop along the way and make advance reservations. When you’re tired and need some rest you’ll be glad you did.

Making reservations in advance not only assures you there will be a campsite available when you arrive, but you can make other important arrangements too. You can request a site large enough to accommodate your RV and tow vehicle, or a pull through site versus a site you would need to back into. You can make sure the site has the proper electrical hook up for your RV, or make sure you get a full hook-up rather than a partial hook-up. You might want a site with a telephone line or a campground with wireless internet access. If you just cross your fingers and pull into the campground late in the afternoon, without reservations, there is a good chance you’ll be turned away or get a site you really don’t care for.

Campground reservations need to be made well in advance during the busy time of the year (May through August) and it’s smart to make reservations during the slow time of the year too. That way you can always get your favorite site, or a shady site if it is summer time, or the best waterfront site at the state park you go to. Believe me there are lots of other RVers with their eye on the same site you want.

Happy Camping,

**Reminder: Don’t forget to Get Your Free RV DVD  (S/H of $5.95)

Mark Polk
RV Education 101

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  1. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s
    both equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on
    the head. The problem is something which too few
    folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I came
    across this during my hunt for something relating to this.

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  3. Ron Butler

    We have been traveling fulltime for the past 3+ years and very seldom make reservations for all of the above reasons already stated. The only time we got squeezed was in April at the Grand Canyon. The better half asked if we should make reservations and my response was “what for, this is April and it has over 300 spots, why would it be full this time of year!!” Well, they got us in for one night. That was before I learned from Bob D about the national forests and we could have boondocked just outside the southern entrance! We do make reservations at membership parks, since you have too, but always leave enough time to arrive there. We can usually get within a short drive and still have time for spur of the moment side trips. We also stay in the northwest during the summer and let those that are on short vacation schedules have the spaces. I can understand those families needing the security of a spot open for them during the summer months. It’s great being retired!!

  4. We make advance reservations only when going to a high usage destination area such as Orlando or places having major events such as Balloon Festival or when we have fixed dates to be somewhere. Our days are planned so we almost always arrive by 3:30 so parks are not filling yet.. We might make a phone call early afternoon to check availability and maybe make reservation at that time. We too like the flexibility of not being tied to staying at a certain place in a certain park. In 10 years of fulltiming this philosophy has yet to fail us.

  5. Frank Scivally

    My wife Lisa and I own Sagebrush Mobile Home and RV Park in Willcox in Southeast, Arizona and we love to have people call in for reservations. This is a quite and clean little park, located at 200 W. Lewis St. just two miles off Interstate 10 and you can walk to the El Ranchero Restaurant from our park.

    We have decided to do our part during the economic slowdown and are running a winter special for $12.50 per night for full hookups. We have a Rec Room with showers, laundry, Wi-Fi, and cable TV at every site.

    Please pass this to all your members and friends. Contact numbers for reservations at Sagebrush are (866)-401-1861 or (520)- 204-1718, or you can send an email to [email protected] to check on site availability with the on-site manager, Gary and Jeanene Larcom.

  6. Susan Blanchard

    How can you possibly make reservations when you don’t know where you are going? When we pull out of our driveway, whoever yells left or right the loudest wins, and that becomes the direction we travel. We have traveled this way for about twenty years, even with small children. We have never been disappointed because we could not find a place to stay, but have often found some beautiful spots, off the beaten path, which we might have missed had we needed to stay to a pre-planned schedule. The trick here is really about the ability to be flexible and enjoy the flow.

  7. John Shelton

    I seem to be detecting a common thread among those here who prefer reservations. One thing that all mention is that the campgrounds are filled during peak tourist periods. Is not one of the benefits of the RV lifestyle that one can avoid the “tourist rush” that occurs at select locations during select time periods? To me, one of the major attractions of the RV lifestyle is the ability to run from the crowds and not have to make reservations months in advance so I can jump in with them and contribute to the crowding. Perhaps this is why I can only remember twice in more than 30 years that I have been turned away from a desired campground (or other suitable stopover location) because I had no reservations.

  8. Dan Rambow

    We usually make reservations for the state parks when camping on weekends (and I do hate that reservation fee) but when traveling cross-country, we drive till we find something interesting or its getting late in the day and driving is getting a little tiring. I actually love driving my RV at night on the wide open western highways when we have to travel far, but I do not enjoy parking in the dark, so we usually find a place with about 1 hour of daylight left. We have always found a place, in that time frame, but after 1am, the rest areas work pretty well too.

  9. Bruce

    Normally, I would prefer to make a reservation but I get really discusted with many of their cancellation policies. The parks that won’t give a refund upon cancellation really tick me off, and unless I know for a fact that I will be there I will just take my chances. I currently have a reservation for a resort for February and if I cancel at least 24 hours prior to arrival, there is no charge. Now that is RV friendly!

  10. In my 6 years a a host on the central coast of Calif. while I agree mostly with Bob and Nick, but I also have to agree on the reservations especially in high end targeted areas. It is very touristy. I can’t even count or remember the number of times people showed up and were flabbergasted, mad, irate and etc that we had no sites and nothing available along the coast within 100 miles or more and tuned away! In our area people can make reservations 7 months in advance and believe you me they sit at their computers at 12:10 a.m. 7 months in advance to make their reservations for the central coast. I guess your destination has a lot to do with it, but if you plan a trip to the central coast of Calif. during summer you had better have reservations!


  11. Drew Mueller

    We also like to make reservations…but so far, we are only taking planned trips. We now own a lot in Lake Havasu City, and we generally make reservations at the parks enroute there from our house in the San Francisco Bay Area. (We know the good ones we’ve used before, and I don’t like unpredictable bad surprises at the end of the day).

    I really do look forward to just driving until something peaks my interest…and then just opening the bedroll, finding the chuck wagon…and gettin’ some shut eye!

  12. I make reservations ONLY when staying at a membership campground (as that’s about the only way you can get in). I’ve found that if you arrive at your destination by no later than 3 pm on any given day of travel, staying in an RV Campground one will almost never be turned away except maybe a long holiday weekend or really high use park.

    I used to make reservations all the time, till on two occasions the parks kept my one nights deposit in full even when I called to cancel two WEEKS before my scheduled arrival date. Now I NEVER make reservations. I might call when I’m 30 minutes away but that’s it.

  13. T. J. Maddock

    One issued NOT addressed here is the cost of making reservations. Most state parks and National Forest campgrounds, I have found, require you to go through a nation-wide reservation (for Profit) company, and reservation charges can exceed $10 for a $22 campsite! Anyone else with info on this?


  14. I think it is great to read all of the comments and experiences!

    Mark and I travel with our 2 kids and 2 dogs. One regular trip we make is to Colorado where my family lives and it is quite a distance from North Carolina where we live. It takes a good bit of time to get there and back and still have time to enjoy the visit. Plus we want to make sure we have a reservation when we get to our final destination in Colorado. There is a favorite campground we have there and it is ALWAYS booked. Yes we are on a schedule as the kids have activities to get back to and yes, we do have to also get back to work.

    After a long day, the kids (and dogs) are anxious to get to our nightly destination and check out the new environment. More than once we have gotten to a campground that has been full…..not fun to drive around looking for someplace to stop for the night, not to mention find a reputable campground. Soooo we plan ahead.

    We also like to go to the beach a lot in the summertime and without reservations….again, we have been disappointed. We have taken trips to different parts of the country before with no reservations and sometimes it works and sometimes not.

    I do look so forward to the day we can just take whatever time we need and just leave destiny to the wind!

  15. John Shelton

    I absolutely cannot understand the thought process leading to the RV traveler wishing to make reservations. Haven’t you lived by the clock and calendar enough throughout your working life? Now is the time to relax and loosen up. If you get somewhere today, that is ok; and it is also ok if you don’t get there ’til tomorrow or the next day. Are you a business person traveling by RV with strict schedules and appointments to keep, or are you an RV traveler enjoying not having to live by tight schedules? Loosen up, live a while and forget reservations that force you into unnecessary and undesirable scheduling!!!!!!

  16. Ron

    We usually do not make reservations on long trips as we never know when & where we will end up or if we like a place we may end up staying several days.
    We do often make reservations when camping on a weekend or major holiday.

  17. barbara kruger

    I agree with Nick and Bob. I am a single female full timer. When I retired and became a wanderer, I was full filling my dream to no longer be captive to a schedule. The only place I make a reservation for is when I want to camp by my kids or friends at a high season time. I usually call a campground about 30 min before I want to stop to see if they have an available site. If I find a nice campground, I will sometimes opt to extend by a few days which i could not do if I had future reservations. BK

  18. Bob Difley

    Nick and I are of the same mind. We never know what we might see along the way that would deter us from any schedule we might have–which, of course we never have a set schedule, only an end point, sometimes with a set date, most times not. And as Nick said, we have always managed to find a spot of one kind or another. Of course, if you are an experienced boondocker, then the fear of not finding a space is greatly reduced. Many of the best places we’ve stayed were totally unplanned and found only when we found ourselves at the end of the day looking through the guide books and campground guides for a spot where we happened to be, not where we had to be because we had a reservation. A hint: If you are traveling to National Parks, where it is often hard to get a spaced during the busy season, consider staying outside the park in a National Forest Service campsite. Many of the National Parks are surrounded by National Forests. If we have to be somewhere at a given time, then we usually make reservations.

  19. We prefer not making reservations, because then we have some place we have to be at a given time. What fun is that?

    What if we find a neat place along the way and want to tarry there for a while? What if we discover an interesting back road we want to explore?

    About the only time we make reservations is when we are going into a high use area during their peak times. Otherwise, we play it by ear, and we have never had a problem finding a place to stay.