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Are Campsites Really Getting Harder To Get?


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We are planning to purchase our new motorhome in a few months when I retire. I'm hearing podcasts stating that it's getting extremely hard just to travel and find campsites without advanced reservations at the end of the day. We understand that major tourist sites require reservations during the summer, but does folks traveling full-time really have this issue? If so it can be a deterrent of going full time. Appreciate your feedback!

 

 

Jim & Nancy

Future 2018 Tiffin Phaeton

 

 

Edited by jmarxen
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I rarely make reservations.  I try to show up to the park that I want to be at for the weekend no later than Thursday.  I also call ahead to make sure nothing is happening in the area or the park that will fill it up mid-week and if they are likely to have spaces left for the weekend if you get there by Thursday.  That said, it probably depends on the kinds of parks you want to visit and how large they are.  Again, call first, have alternatives, and you should be fine.  Part of the beauty of full-timing is you have the leisure of flexibility.

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We have no troubles, not any different really in the past 10 years to me.  If you are going to a tourist area or during a holiday or summer weekends yes, make a reservation.  We also avoid larger cities so nearby metro campgrounds might be busier.  We will call a campground mid morning while traveling to reserve a site that evening, we usually arrive about 2pm.  When we hole up over the winter we'll also make a reservation for winter season as the most popular snowbird campgrounds will fill up but there are always others not as popular.  We haven't curtailed our travels and have no thoughts to.      Greg    

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1 hour ago, jmarxen said:

...We understand that major tourist sites require reservations during the summer, but does folks traveling full-time really have this issue?...

Summer is not the only time that RV parks can be booked solid. Popular snowbird areas can be booked solid well in advance. Big events like Bike Week in Sturgis or Daytona, the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, etc. can result in RV parks over a pretty wide area being booked solid.

We usually don't make reservations very far in advance if at all. We do call ahead about mid-day. This winter in Florida, we have had more difficulty getting sites than any time in the past ten years. For the first time, we had to change our route and skip some areas we wanted to visit because the RV parks were full. With information readily available on the internet, once a park or campground starts getting mentioned regularly on this or other websites, it can become much more difficult to get a site. We have experienced this with Corps of Engineers parks, Forest Service campgrounds, State Parks, County parks and private RV parks/campgrounds.

Another consideration is what do you consider "travelling fulltime".  Many who live fulltime in their RV spend weeks to months in a location for the summer, winter, volunteering or work camping. All of these require preplanning. 

 

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Two days ago we returned from a trip of just over a month in time and from east TX to AZ, CA, and back again. In route, we stopped in 12 RV parks. We did have reservations in the CA county park where we spent a week and also in the Escapee park Jojoba Hills but not in any of the others. In several cases, we did call the park where we expected to spend the next night from our noon lunch stop via cell phone to confirm that there was space available, but in about half of the parks we just drove in and asked for a spot. There are areas that may require reservations during peak periods or when you want to book an extended stay but I really don't see significant changes in recent years. 

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I don't think full-time, retired RVers who have flexible schedules have difficulty finding sites without reservations especially if you don't require the top amenities in 'resort' areas.  Even national parks have campgrounds that don't even accept reservations and all parks get cancellations daily. Someone gets those sites; it could easily be you. 

Pull in early in the day. Don't expect to stop at 5pm and get a site.  Move around on Monday through Thursday, not on a weekend. Even the popular three-day weekends can be done if you go to a park without any water activities - river, lake, pool.  We saved those kinds of places for when the weekend warriors left. For a all-summer trip to Alaska we only made two reservations - for the July 4 weekend in a popular place and for Denali Nat'l Park's sought after campground - Teklanika. For those we made reservation only a couple weeks prior as we were traveling and when we could better judge when we'd be there.

We utilized all kinds of spots for our 40' motorhome - national and state parks, Corp of Engineers, national forest campgrounds, county and city parks. We rarely used RV parks and we didn't need hookups so that left us with lots of options.

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There are some places that require reservations - like staying near Seattle, which has very few parks that are almost all full months in advance.   But otherwise, if you follow the 2-2-2 travel guide (200 miles a day, in the park by 2:00 pm, stay 2 days) you won't have any problems.   We usually call about noon to verify availability and usually no problem.  Plus, if you are in by 2, you are all set up and relaxed when the herd arrives closer to 5 and have to wedge into whatever space is left - you get to watch the 'show' rather than be an active participant in the 'show'.  :D

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We only make reservations in major cities but not always Rest of the time we just call ahead around noon and we always have boondocking as an option.We haven't really traveled in the summer so we can't provide input to summer travel.

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We only make reservations well in advance in Virginia where our daughter's family lives, since it often books up and a COE park in Mississippi that is a hot spot when we travel there for my family's reunion. Other than that we call ahead after lunch on the day of arrival. This has worked well for us for 12 years of fulltiming.

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I thank everyone for their feedback, it appears the common theme is to call ahead around noon for a campsite that day except on weekends and good advice on staying put for the weekends. We currently RV and find making reservations for family vacations and just weekends are a necessity. With transitioning to being full-time, I would hate to spend that much money on an expensive motorhome just to stay in parking lots.

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2 hours ago, bruce t said:

Isn't is a case in many areas that workers are now filling parks? In many oil field towns we see RV parks with the 'no vacancy' signs out.

regards

Yes that does happen.  But I would not want to stay in a park filled with oil workers.  Not because of them as people but the fact they get up and leave in the we hours of the morning starting there diesel trucks up and driving by me.

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Howdy!

We've been fulltiming for ten years now and we use to only make reservations on the big three (Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day). Last year especially traveling in the northeast we had to make reservations. We found that almost all the campgrounds/RV Parks were full of seasonal and long term folks. This left very few site for people like us that travel.

"Happy Trails"

Chiefneon

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With the economy booming in the last few years there are  more Rv's on the road but we have not had a problem finding a campground of course in high tourist areas like here around Disneyworld reservations are a very good idea. 

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If you full-time (or even if you don't), boondocking can be one way to avoid those times when there may not be available campground spots.  For example, we are parked on BLM land right outside of Joshua Tree NP (came here for the Xscapers Convergence) and it is busier here than in most RV parks that I've been to.  Boondocking is apparently very popular in this area (and is even advised at the NPS Cottonwood Campground as a potential spot to park, if the campground is full).  And for $free.99, it is quite affordable....... 

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Even  20 years ago when I started fulltiming  I found some parks in some location would fill up at least on the weekends and some other extended periods. Where I volunteered a few times I have seen people that came in and only paid for a few days then decided to extend could not and had to leave the park. I experienced it personally last year at that park. I could have pulled out to a parking area to see if any reservations cancelled by the cut off time but elected to move on down the road. I have seen some one reserve and rent a site then not use it because they just changed there mind but wanted to be sure they had a spot. Nothing you can do about it in a public campground. Most will just eat the one night fee on a reservation and cancel the rest.

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To some extent I think the calling ahead at lunch time might work. Where it won't work as well if at all is in the North East. Starting along the Lake Erie shore if you don't have a place reserved by now you probbabley won't get one. Anouther place is along the northern Atlantic coast from NY to northern Main.:) You might get luckey but your ods arn't good.  A couple of years ago we wentto a rally at Mody Beach. There was no room in the park they let us stay/dry camp in the field in front of the RV park.

Then on the outher hand we got into RV Vilage at the Grand Canyon this year during spring break.

Bill

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It just depends........

Around large cities, it seems that a lot of the land (especially in TEXAS) is being turned into homes.

Around HOT cities:  Austin, and anywhere even remotely close to Austin it seems that they are building houses EVERYWHERE!  Places that may have previously had "Mom and Pop" RV Parks, they are either filled up with people that can't afford to buy one of the new houses are buying RVs and moving into the RV parks that haven't closed and sold their land to developers.  We lived in Austin in the 70's and it is unbelievable how many thousands  of new homes have sprung up in areas that were previously "boondocks".  

Same thing goes in San Antonio, Houston (and for hundreds of miles around.  Same thing goes for WACO.  I guess that the Gaines'  (Magnolia Farms) are going to turn Waco into the next humongous metropolitan area in Texas.  We were in Waco a couple of weeks ago and there were literally HUNDREDS of people hanging around the new Bakery and the Silos.  Who would of thunk it!

I have heard that the same thing is happening around Fredericksburg! 

When making time across the prairie, we generally give whatever Passport park we are heading to for the night's stop just in case it is the new squatin' place for roughnecks or homesteaders.  It has happened more than once.  We get up early and try to light about 2-3:00 PM.  

(Nap time, you know ;~) 

I just know that there are more RVers out there than when we started in 2004.  More people are wanting MY site:~)  and Momma isn't happy if she cant stop when she wants to stop.

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On 4/13/2017 at 6:30 AM, jmarxen said:

With transitioning to being full-time, I would hate to spend that much money on an expensive motorhome just to stay in parking lots.

 

 

We have traveled in RVs for more than 40 years now and have mostly stayed in parks that have hookups for 20+ years with only rare nights spent in a parking lot or other dry camping location. There have always been places that require advance reservations much of the time, such as New England (where seasons are short and land is expensive) and around any major attraction in season. There have also always been areas that experience a sudden economic boom that brings in large numbers of workers to jobs that may end suddenly and those have always brought a high demand for RV sites and an expansion of the bare necessity RV parks which eventually either disappear from lack of demand or are replaced by more permanent housing. While we don't experience all parts of the country every year, there are very few places that we have not been with our RV and I do not see any increase in difficulty locating a place to hook up our RV for the night or longer. 

It is true that the market had changed and demand is up and may be greater compared to availability in some areas, but with that increase in demand have come some tools to make the locating of an RV site much less difficult. Today we have cell phones to call ahead as we approach, apps for those phones to locate RV parks and even to rate their services, all sorts of internet information that is usually easily found, and a host of other ways to locate, evaluate, and ensure availability of a site. It is no longer necessary to drive to one park after another when you arrive but you can easily anticipate where you will be in a few hours and call ahead with a list of possible parks to work from just hours before arrival. No longer does one need to pour over a big paper book while sitting in a telephone booth in an effort to be sure that there will be a place to connect the RV when you get to a busy location that is only a few hours of travel from you. 

In my opinion, the tools available today far offset the demand issues to a point that I believe that there is less need for extensive planning ahead and advance reservations in most situations. Things are different, but everything changes and it will continue to do so. RVs today are far more capable of providing comfort if you do find yourself in a position that provides only a place to park on occasion so I believe that RV travels, while different, have never been more easily accomplished or more comfortably done than today.

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You will find over the first year what type of Rver you are. Initially, you may want the security of a campground with full hook-ups and other facilities. As you become more experienced and confident in your equipment and your skills you may try a lower level cg and then start trying boondocking for a night or 2. You will evolve into your comfort level of RVing during the first year.

If you want to stay at National Parks and in many State Parks you will find there are no hook-ups and there may not be any other option available in a reasonable distance. Be open to the different types of camping experiences.

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Most of the year we wing it as we travel, although we do have a reservation at a NY state park for the 4th of July week. On the other hand, we already have confirmed reservations for most of our chosen Florida and Georgia state parks for next winter, as well as our month long stay at the SKP's Sumter Oaks park near Bushnell, FL. It used to be we could wing it in Florida in the winter as well, but that's no longer an option for anything more than a few days at best.

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Everyone's experiences and their perceptions and thus their reality based on those experiences will be different. We have traveled from the mid-Atlantic states South to Florida and back and West to at least the mountain states and back every year for the past ten years. I have been Rving since the mid-1960s. My perception is that more campgrounds both public and private have closed than new have opened. For example, the 400+ site Fishing Bridge campground (not the RV Park) closed in the 1970s while park visitation has set new highs almost every year. Some Forest Service campgrounds that were open all year are now closed in the off season. Rules for RV/vehicle camping along Forest and BLM roads have gotten more restrictive. If one can believe the RV manufacturers, RV ownership is increasing.

In my experience, finding a spot for a single night along a major highway is different than finding a spot that we want to stay for several days to a week. It only took a couple of times wasting time and miles driving on local roads only to find the campground full or closed for me to start doing a little more research and planning and calling ahead. What type of site you want can also make a big difference. We have been to a number of Corps of Engineers Parks, State Parks, County Parks and Forest Service campgrounds where all the sites with electric are booked and the first come first serve sites fill before noon while the non-electric sites are nearly all vacant.

When looking for more than an overnight, I will call or check online a day or two in advance so that we can change our route if nothing is available in an area. With the online reservation systems like Reserve America of Recreation.gov , you will often notice that there may be a site available for one day, another for the next, etc. If you are willing to change sites, you may be able to stay for a longer period of time. We do not like to change sites preferring to move on or just skip the area altogether. 

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