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Campground reservaions complicate traveling more freely


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16 hours ago, Kirk W said:

We seem to have wandered off to debate other things so I'll try and bring things back as I have some of the same questions. We are starting to make plans to head from TX to Rock Springs, WY for Escapade and have rarely made advance reservations, but are considering it now. Your experience seems to indicate that reservations will be needed, at least in any popular areas. Can anyone offer more information about stopping in RV parks along the roads while traveling for the coming summer? 

A lot depends on your set up. We have a 46' 5th wheel and are 72' overall length. So we don't fit in all campgrounds. I like to pre plan my route as I do not want to get my self into a spot that has a low bridge, weight limit, or tight turns and no way to turn around. I use a lot of Google Satellite view especially in campgrounds to see what the sights look like and what the access roads are like. You can even measure in satellite view so I can see if the sites are long enough. This is not something I can do easily on the road so pre planning is necessary. 

On a longer trip, I will typically have the important stops reserved well in advance (many weekends are getting harder to reserve so they need to be done early) and stops near the end of the longer trip can usually wait but I try to do them before leaving. I do look and pay attention to reservation cancellations as plans can change. On our next trip I purposely reserved a more expensive campground as it had a better cancelation policy compared to another near by that was cheaper but you paid the whole amount up front with no cancelation refund and this was for a week stay.

I have had our fall trip (Sept, Oct, Nov) planned out but am just going to start making reservations. A lot was dependent on what was happening with the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta as we are scheduled to volunteer there and it was questionable if it was going to be held this year. Last year we tried and it was cancelled and had to redo reservations then. 

I usually map out the general locations we want to see, then find campgrounds that can accommodate us near those. I note them on a spread sheet. I then check miles a drive times between locations and see if we need to make stops in between and if so now look to see what is in those areas if it will be a one night stop or there are some other sites to see to make it a longer stop. These get added to the spread sheet and now I can start filling in dates so I can get my start and ending dates (wife likes to know when we will be home so we can make doctors and haircut appointments).

Once I have a good plan and locations for stops are determined, I start making reservations, usually starting with the state and national parks as they are the hardest to get into (during my planning I do check to see if they have availability for the time frame we are looking at). If no spots are left,  I  now look for a private campground in the area.

We then start booking other spots and try to fit in a few one night boondocking spots to help safe money enroute, usually using our Harvest Host membership. These can add to the site seeing opportunities also as we have done some museums and different things that we normally wouldn't have stopped at if we didn't need to spend the night 

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29 minutes ago, Star Dreamer said:

A lot depends on your set up. We have a 46' 5th wheel and are 72' overall length. So we don't fit in all campgrounds.

Thanks for the response. That is one advantage that we have since we downsized we have a truck and 20' travel trailer so fit into pretty much any campsite.

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We also are long with a 42 foot fifth wheel and 27 foot semi tractor so we don't fit just any where. We started our ninth year of full timing in April and still enjoy it. I make res's when we travel and stay in several parks during our trips from Texas to the midwest and elsewhere that we've parked before and like the park, owners, area etc. As far as canceling go a couple of those parks where we are acquainted with the owner-operators they only take cash or check and what seems to irk those folks is people make res's but don't show or forget to call if plans have changed. IMO common courtesy works two ways.

Dave

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7 hours ago, oldcodger said:

what seems to irk those folks is people make res's but don't show or forget to call if plans have changed.

Which is the reason that so many parks now require a credit card to reserve a site.

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7 minutes ago, Kirk W said:

Which is the reason that so many parks now require a credit card to reserve a site.

It's still frustrating to pull into a half empty campground and be told it is full because the sites are reserved and those people MAY yet show up. Since the park can charge the no shows they have no reason to open those sites to the drop ins.

Linda

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A few years ago I stopped at an RV park, the clerk asked if I had a reservation, to which I replied no. She quickly said without a reservation I don't have a site. I told her, that's ok I'll just go down the street and park at the truck stop. She then found a vacant site right up front. To some Rv parks it must be a game.

Edited by Ray,IN
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Well I am glad they at least charge the NO SHOWS.  For most of the time and places I have had great success on a first come first serve basis and relying on off season non vacation time for my heavy camping.  Most public campgrounds set aside around 50% or 45% sites as non reserve able and this is good for me.  Capt. Happy here.

https://www.facebook.com/Capt-Bill-Perkins-Evergreen-Helicopters-Singapore-HeliServices-Internat-1602761913330016

 

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2 minutes ago, NamMedevac 70 said:

Most public campgrounds set aside around 50% or 45% sites as non reserve able and this is good for me. 

They are moving away from non-reservable campgrounds.  In Grand Teton Nat'l Park this summer all will be reservable.  Previously, Gros Ventre and Colter Bay were first come and each had 300 sites.  Now the 600 sites are reservable.

Same for Yellowstone's campgrounds. Our favorite, Mammoth, is now reservable.

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I should have clarified my comment to say most U.S. National Forest and many state park campgrounds have almost half first come first serve campsites.  I no longer do the national park thing because of crowds.  My last U.S. park visit was at Crater Lake in Oregon in 2012 or 13.  I was just camping and fishing at Plumas and Tahoe NF and had the large campgrounds all to myself.  Perfect!!!!!

I camp to enjoy nature and the quietness of that nature experience and crowds ruin it for me such as loud hollering, screaming, loud vehicles, loud music, loud fights, etc., etc.  Yes I find quiet nice public campgrounds due to research and prior visits but none of these places are the "popular tourist hot spots".  I may have to travel further and off season but that is okay with me as I have been retired since 1995 and enjoying great outdoors.

Cheers to most and none to others.

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We also found that during the Pandemic, many locations had restrictions on how full the campground could be so many restricted the number of sites that were available and to avoid having to handle money and interact with people, went to only sites that were available to online reservations. Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas was one of them.  We had reservations and had no issue but upon arriving they said they were filled up and only online reservations were being accepted (we had met a couple at our previous stop that wanted to go there and asked us to see if they had any availability). When we pulled in and parked, there were a lot of sites that were open, even a complete campground area. I also think it was a staffing issue with not enough people to keep up with bathrooms, etc...

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We are finding lots of parks still are only available for online registration and payment for overnight sites.   Stayed in Weed, when we pulled in, there were 6  envelopes on the information door besides the office door with names and site numbers on them.   Just got out, grabbed the env, got back in and surprised Dave when I said ok, let's go - - he had gone back to the bathroom after driving for a couple of hours - was use to 15 min wait while I registered.  Sure enough, through the afternoon, 6 rigs pulled in.  When we left in the morning, they already had the envelopes up for the afternoon arrivals.

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I mostly stay in federal, state, and regional campgrounds, and that requires reservations long in advance.  However, one thing I do is plan on not driving too far between campgrounds and staying an extra day or two in each.  This gives me some flexibility if I want to see something I had not planned on seeing.  It is also a lot more relaxing.  If I end up with too much time someplace, that just means an extra day of relaxing.

It helps that I am retired and full-time, so I often do not have to be in a hurry. 

I do not boondock because I am an older woman traveling alone and like to have electric hookups and the security of a campground.  I don't care about water or sewer because I can go 3-4 days without refilling and dumping tanks. 

Except for a few days in September, I currently have reservations in Florida from October through March in state parks.  (Usually for two weeks each.)  The premium state parks fill up within seconds of the 11-month window, by the way.  And some of these parks took me several days of getting up at 5 am and trying for a spot.

FYI, New Mexico state parks require reservations made at least 3 days in advance--no last minute dropping in.  (See correction below.  I meant New Mexico COE campgrounds.)

Edited by Solo18
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3 hours ago, Solo18 said:

FYI, New Mexico state parks require reservations made at least 3 days in advance--no last minute dropping in. 

I do not believe this is accurate. In past years, reservations had to be made in advance and could not be made the day of arrival. Sites that had not been reserved were available to walk ins for one night. They were marked with green signs that read available for one night only. Reserved sites were marked with a red sign. This was just copied from the Caballo Lake State Park Reservation Page.

Quote

Camping

Wed May 12 2021 - Fri Nov 12 2021

Reservations can be made for today and can be made up to 6 Month(s) in advance.

 

So it would seem that reservations can now be made on the same day as arrival.

Oliver Lee State Park still has a few walk in only sites available. 

 

Edited by trailertraveler
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6 hours ago, Solo18 said:

FYI, New Mexico state parks require reservations made at least 3 days in advance--no last minute dropping in. 

According to a friend who is there now, New Mexico state parks just opened boondocking sites in the campground areas for walk-ins. No disbursed sites yet.

Linda

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Sorry - I should have said COE campgrounds in New Mexico required three days advance reservations.  Abiquiu Lake was where I tried to stop by and get in.  The place was almost empty but camp host told me no drop-ins and needed to make reservations three days in advance. 

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8 hours ago, Solo18 said:

Sorry - I should have said COE campgrounds in New Mexico required three days advance reservations.  Abiquiu Lake was where I tried to stop by and get in.  The place was almost empty but camp host told me no drop-ins and needed to make reservations three days in advance. 

Really? I made a reservation for a non-NM COE park sitting at the check in station in my car but I guess rules may vary.

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Here's something to throw into the mix of things.  Yesterday I saw the on-line reservation/what's available map for a park.  It showed I could get a month (June 5 - July 5) - I've stayed there before and it's a fine place.  But I couldn't remember if they allowed mail/packages to be forwarded to them, so called before I hit the reserve button.  The host who answered remembered me from a few years ago, so told her I was about to make a months reservation on-line...she said well, let me check.  Evidently the way their system is set-up, you might get to stay for a month, but have to move to different sites during your stay!  One camper had to move 6 times!  So she called me back and I am able to spend the first 18 days in a pull thru, then move to a back in for the rest of my stay.  I can handle that.  

It's not just RV traveling that is getting more difficult,  Wanted to take my truck into an independent garage I used for 15 years when I lived here....they are out 30+ days for appts!  Same with a veterinarian for my cat, just a wellness check is 30 days out.  Not sure what it's called when it's paved but not a blue road, but that's where I'm going to head and hope for less difficulty.

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A lot of repair shops lost people to the virus, so their staffing is down, plus after they saw a lot of people becoming ill, they spaced out workers so that reduced the number of people they could take in.   In addition, the parts they would need to fix anything are harder to get, because everything is on a demand setting, so parts supplies were down, etc.    We had a problem with out car and told if they needed to get parts, it was going to take a minimum of 2 weeks from Ford.  Luckily the problem resolved as we drove it and the car settled down and we have had no problem since then.   It is going to take several MONTHS before we start to approach normal.  

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10 hours ago, Solo18 said:

Sorry - I should have said COE campgrounds in New Mexico required three days advance reservations.  Abiquiu Lake was where I tried to stop by and get in.  The place was almost empty but camp host told me no drop-ins and needed to make reservations three days in advance. 

According to this May 10 announcement the campground is closed.

https://www.spa.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/Updates/

 

Edited by 2gypsies
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That's weird.  They closed Abiquiu Lake, but opened Cochiti Lake, which was closed for the last several months!!  Maybe they are short of staff?  The camp host I met driving through Abiquiu Lake said he could not understand why they were requiring three days advance reservations. 

Also, COE parks are divided into regions.  Both Abiquiu Lake and Cochiti Lake are part of the Albuquerque District.  It covers New Mexico, and parts of Texas and Colorado.  https://www.spa.usace.army.mil/About/District-Map/

The national site has a map of districts, and rules do vary:  https://www.usace.army.mil/Locations.aspx

Edited by Solo18
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We're planning our summer travels now. We have two dates and locations that are fixed, but the rest is up to us. We laid out the route and figured where we would be spending nights. We have most of the reservations made. We'll be on the road for Independence Day weekend, but not traveling. Since that actually involves a conference, we'll be in a hotel then and the MH will be in the shop.

When we were full-timing we'd generally plan a couple of months at a time. There are some places we know of that we can call a couple of hours out and get a spot, while others require more advance planning. If you never go back to the same place you are always learning and never get to use your knowledge. We keep track of what site we're at at each campground and note whether or not we like it. We'll be hitting a few campgrounds that we've been to before because of that. In one case we've actually gotten a site we've had before.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 5/13/2021 at 1:34 PM, 2gypsies said:

According to this May 10 announcement the campground is closed.

https://www.spa.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/Updates/

Things seem to be changing pretty fast.

 

Quote

 

Abiquiu Lake

The day-use recreation areas are open, including the boat ramp; the Cerrito Day Use Area; the Overlook Day Use Area, including picnic areas; and the downstream Rio Chama Day Use Area. The group shelters remain closed at this time.

Camping: As of May 21, 2021, all of the Riana campground sites are opening for use with a reservation. The shower buildings and flush toilets are also open. All campsites must be reserved at: https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/233598

Same-day reservations are allowed.

 

Cochiti Lake

Cochiti Lake campground is open at 40% capacity. 

The lake is open for day-use recreation including fishing, boating, picnicking, hiking, and swimming. The Cochiti boat ramp is open. Cochiti Lake is still a no-wake lake.

Camping: 30 campsites in the Cochiti side campground are open. The Tetilla Peak campgrounds remain closed at this time. Reservations for camping are necessary and must be made 24 hours in advance at: www.recreation.gov

The Tetilla Peak entrance and recreation area are closed. Entrance to the lake is only on the Cochiti side.

There are new procedures to enter the lake:

Visitors to the lake will need to make a reservation by purchasing a ticket at least 24 hours in advance through www.recreation.gov.

 

Tickets and reservations will NOT be sold at the lake. The ticket cost consists of a $3.00 personal vehicle fee and a $2.00 non-refundable reservation fee, for a total of $5.00. The cost of the ticket is the day use fee and applies to entry to the park.

 

 

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OK we are back at our home base for three weeks for the grandkid hit. That's in North Florida. One the way back we spent a night maybe seven miles from the shore in Gulfport Alabama area, and then spent three days on the beach on the Florida panhandle and could have spent a month. This place was a five minute walk from jumping in the water from the white sand beach. And a shell covered mud bottomed beach was maybe two minutes away.

And for those interested Mexico Beach seems to be fully recovered but St Joseph Peninsula SP is not even close, just a beach open there, the rest of the park barricaded off.

And out going in mid June I have reservations at a Georgia State Park, and then three COE cg, and could have camped inside Mammoth Caves park except they have a 25 ft limit on the open sites. Normally I do not make reservations but do for state parks and COE sites. And mostly do not even try NP.

Georgia State parks seem to be fairly open. Cannot say that for Florida State parks tho, they are almost always full. Snowbirds in the winter, residents in the warm season.

Most cg had lots of open spots. The one near Gulfport, Azalia something cg was maybe 1/4 full. It's a nice new camp with lots of room between sites.

For our 7000 mile spring loop we almost never had any problems getting a spot calling ahead an hour or two before we got there. Maybe two or three times we got the we are full answer but always got the second choice.

So the crunch is, as always, around National parks and popular state parks like Custer in SD. And almost always you can boondock around those

 

Edited by agesilaus
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