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Vladimir

Changes to Federal Campground Reservation Systems.

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I have never been a fan of the campground reservation system. These folks are optimistic things will get better, but as a cynic I think hope springs eternal.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2330471/camping-reservations-app-access-land

For folks that forgot their history....Al Gore is the "father" of the campground reservation system. Something I have never forgiven him for. It was a nightmare when I was working from the administrative side and remains a nightmare for the public.

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Politics aside the online systems are broken.  I cannot count the number of times we were either closed out of a campground (full no sites available) or able to reserve basically the last sight available only to arrive at the campground with numerous empty sites.  Folks either don't show up or cancel their reservation and it never gets "put" back in to inventory.

 

There has to be a better system.

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We have hosted at a few parks , stayed at many others, and have seen the issues you discuss with reservation systems. The most common problem is folks who decide to not use the site(s) they reserved (for whatever reason), but never cancel the reservation.  In fact, the cancellation fee is often the same as the reservation fee (first nights camping fee), so there is no monetary reason to cancel. We have however seen parks that require the full amount to be paid in advance for all nights booked, and I wonder if folks are a little better about minding their reservations in those cases. 

All parks that I know of have a policy to at least hold the site for the first night, in case of a very late (or even early the next morning) arrival. If they don't show up after that it seems to be a crap shoot as to whether the sites are released or not. Some parks are pretty good about updating their systems, but many do not bother. 

And realistically, many park "lock-outs" are for Friday and Saturday nights. If the site is blocked for the Friday night there is little chance that it will be snapped up for the single remaining weekend night. As more folks enter the RV/camping world I think that parks in general are going to be more difficult to get in to. 

I would welcome any improvements to the current reservation systems, including "real time" updating of site availability. But I fear the biggest problem will continue to be too much demand and not enough supply, at least during peak season in popular areas. 

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On another forum it was suggested that the reservation systems should block out anyone reserving more than one place for the same dates as many times folks reserve multiple and at the last minute just go to one of them. 

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1 hour ago, Mr. Camper said:

Thanks for sharing your political views.

Those are not my political views. I just want people to know that it was NOT a Forest Service, BLM or National Park Service decision.

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1 hour ago, 2gypsies said:

On another forum it was suggested that the reservation systems should block out anyone reserving more than one place for the same dates as many times folks reserve multiple and at the last minute just go to one of them. 

I wonder how common this actually is. The reservation systems that I've used in the past couple of years all required at least the first night's fee to be paid as essentially a non-refundable deposit.  How many folks are willing to give up their reservation money to have several choices?

33 minutes ago, richfaa said:

So it is not really the system that is broken but rather RV'er abusing the system. 

Rather than RV'ers I'd say all campers. In the state parks that I'm familiar with folks are often making their reservations months in advance. As the weekend (or sometimes week) approaches things like weather, other activities, plans with friends falling through, etc. come up and they simply abandon the trip. The problem is that anyone else who tried to reserve those dates was out of luck, and by the time the first night passes with the site unoccupied most folks aren't in a position to quickly make alternate plans.

And as noted previously, sometimes park personnel or campground hosts do not track the status of reserved sites, so they may remain  reserved for several unoccupied days.  

As we traveled from Texas to Maine this spring we were pretty much unable to get sites in state parks on Friday or Saturday nights. But if we drove through those parks there were  often empty sites. 

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3 hours ago, Vladimir said:

I have never been a fan of the campground reservation system. These folks are optimistic things will get better, but as a cynic I think hope springs eternal.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2330471/camping-reservations-app-access-land

The premise of this above article -- Dad deciding at the last minute that the family should all go camping -- is quaint. Right out of the 50s. A time when there were far far far less campers looking for campsites. Since I started using Reserve America in 2004, I had to book months in advance, so this is nothing new.

There are abuses with the current system, but without a reservation system, state and national parks quickly become "local" parks where folks from town glom up all the spots. I had personal experience with this one. First, you need to understand that rangers and others who work in a park probably live nearby, so the locals know where they live and can exert pressure. Years ago I reserved a site on Memorial Day weekend at a WI state park. A few days before we were supposed to leave, got a call from the campgrounds saying that they had "cancelled" my reservation because of local pressure. Seems there wasn't enough sites left for the townies. The ranger lived in town.

I'd much rather have the current system than go backwards.

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21 minutes ago, mptjelgin said:

The reservation systems that I've used in the past couple of years all required at least the first night's fee to be paid as essentially a non-refundable deposit.  How many folks are willing to give up their reservation money to have several choices?

I can't speak to ReserveAmerica but Recreation.gov only charges $10 to cancel a reservation as long as it is ~24-48 hours in advance.  My understanding is that a lot of the problem are people who make reservations essentially for every weekend in the summer with an intent to use only a few of them.  As long as they cancel within the time limits the "penalty" is trivial.  Even charging for the first night's stay wouldn't deter some people.  $30-$40/week isn't all that much of a penalty for the "privilege"" of having a campsite available every weekend.

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The park systems using Reserve America set their own reservation and other fees. Or rather they decide what the fee charged to their guests will be, since RA charges them a flat rate per their contract. A few years back for instance, Florida state parks had no reservation fee, although of course RA was getting still getting paid. Then the state decided to pass a $6.70 reservation fee on to the guests instead of raising the site fees. Now Florida has raised the cancellation fee charged to guests up to $17.75 in an effort to reduce the multiple booking/last minute cancellation problems. And RA still gets the same flat rate...

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In October, a new contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, a management-consulting giant based in northern Virginia, will take over operations from Aspira, the parent company of ReserveAmerica, getting the keys to some 100,000 campsites 

 

I would bet that this is a major part of the reason that Reserve America is trying to sell memberships, as discussed in another thread. Milk the system as much as possible.

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1 hour ago, Optimistic Paranoid said:

How hard would it be to program the computer to track cancellations by credit/debit card, and block future use of that card if it has too many cancellations?

The problem is that they aren't cancellations; they are no shows. Staff generally are too busy to keep track of who didn't show up.

Linda

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There are many out there that don't bother to cancel.  What's a little lost money?  They're probably the ones that have a big credit debt.

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We understand what everyone is saying here. We used State and Federal Campgrounds in the past and saw the problems described our camping mode has  changed over the years and our Rv's have got larger where we  no longer fit in many State  or Federal campgrounds.

We are older now and we have preferred pull through  full hookup, 50 amps for years. I should have said lazier  also. 

 

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We're only in our mid-70's and still prefer state and national parks. We do take full hookup sites when available though. Back-in sites are not a problem for us either, although we do like pull-thru's for short stays when available. ReservationAmerica and Recreation.gov have worked well for us over the years. It'll be interesting to see what changes Booz Allen brings to the Rec.gov site.

 

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2 hours ago, Kirk Wood said:

I would bet that this is a major part of the reason that Reserve America is trying to sell memberships, as discussed in another thread. Milk the system as much as possible.

Aspira is not losing ReserveAmerica and it's 240,000+ state campsites. Booz Allen is only getting the Recreation.gov contract.

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Based on my experience, the current recreation.gov system does not usually permit same day reservations. For many campgrounds there is a 48-72 hour blackout period. So, even if the campground staff is aware of a cancellation/no show; the site is not available online immediately. The cancellation of a weekend reservation on Thursday may not result in the site being shown as available for Friday/Saturday. If the new system corrects this, it will in my opinion be a good thing. 

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So much misinformation.  Add to that the lack of understanding of the very large diversity of the campgrounds managed by Recreation.gov.

And, yes, I don't like the reservations system, either, but for reasons other than what has been discussed so far.

First off, it is not the reservations system which sets the rules & fees for making or canceling the campsite.  It is the humans which operate the campgrounds.  Yes, Reserve America has a few rules of their own, but most of what folks are griping about are not rules dictated by Reserve America. 

For Recreation.gov, the 48-72 hour blackout period encountered, some or many times, is because of the remote nature of the campgrounds.  No phone service or dedicated internet connection.  So the list of campsites reserved are delivered once a day or perhaps every other day. It also may be done to reduce the workload of the campground host.  Anyways, this part of the problem is not the fault of Reserve America. 

Bottom line, go gripe at the campground operators, more so than the folks running the reservation website.  Keep in mind it is not the individual campground setting the rules, but some folks or group which has the contract to operate the campgrounds. 

Of course we all could just go to the "nice" (or dumpy) RV Park in the area and park our RV right next to the RV next door for $40-$60 night. Sometimes there isn't room to fully extend your awning w/o hitting the slideout of the RV next door.  Or we could go stay at the wonderful KOA campground.

I'll end my grumbling, complaining or ranting now.

Edited by Al F

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6 hours ago, Al F said:

For Recreation.gov, the 48-72 hour blackout period encountered, some or many times, is because of the remote nature of the campgrounds.  No phone service or dedicated internet connection.  So the list of campsites reserved are delivered once a day or perhaps every other day. It also may be done to reduce the workload of the

From our volunteering, travels and boondocking in the boonies experiences, it's rare that a reservable campground would not have telephone or internet capabilities.  That's how they receive the reservation list for each day. 

If they're that far removed from civilization then they wouldn't need to have a reservation company involved.

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22 hours ago, mptjelgin said:

I wonder how common this actually is. The reservation systems that I've used in the past couple of years all required at least the first night's fee to be paid as essentially a non-refundable deposit.  How many folks are willing to give up their reservation money to have several choices?

Rather than RV'ers I'd say all campers. In the state parks that I'm familiar with folks are often making their reservations months in advance. As the weekend (or sometimes week) approaches things like weather, other activities, plans with friends falling through, etc. come up and they simply abandon the trip. The problem is that anyone else who tried to reserve those dates was out of luck, and by the time the first night passes with the site unoccupied most folks aren't in a position to quickly make alternate plans.

And as noted previously, sometimes park personnel or campground hosts do not track the status of reserved sites, so they may remain  reserved for several unoccupied days.  

As we traveled from Texas to Maine this spring we were pretty much unable to get sites in state parks on Friday or Saturday nights. But if we drove through those parks there were  often empty sites. 

well I got fed up and I joined a r.v. Campground and I if been very happy with i can stay up to 21days at any of the site's and I can reserve from 7days to 90days in advance.   So now I am starting to build a puller out of my 2011 Coronado glider kit i hv. Owned since New .  My wife and I are going too the HDT   get together in kansas in October i will be in my dodge with my 5th wheel   i hope to gather a lot of info on skerting my rig     well every body hv. A gr8 day RVING             thanks Dave513

😍

Edited by David Ba!es
Bad typing far finger

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6 hours ago, 2gypsies said:

From our volunteering, travels and boondocking in the boonies experiences, it's rare that a reservable campground would not have telephone or internet capabilities.  That's how they receive the reservation list for each day. 

If they're that far removed from civilization then they wouldn't need to have a reservation company involved.

 

Our experience as well. We also have experienced very little problem with our the use of Recreation.gov.

 

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1 hour ago, JimK said:

I would love to see the reservation system scrapped.  First come, first served....

Yep, it's so much more exciting to drive a thousand miles or so only to find there are no sites available.

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