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Old 04-16-2019, 11:05 AM   #1
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Road Trip and reservations

We are planning a road trip this summer from Texas to Washington state. This is our first long road trip. I am wondering if it is better to reserve the RV park prior to leaving or just stop when you want to. I am just worried about lack of availability. I welcome any advice - thanks!
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Old 04-16-2019, 11:13 AM   #2
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A lot depends on your route, and how particular you are about where you stay.

If you are going to visit heavily traveled and touristy areas, try to make reservations, tho it is late for this year.

Most of the time, I make route and distance decisions on a day by day basis, and call ahead in the mornings to find a site by mid afternoon...if what I want is a campground with amenities.

I rarely have difficulty finding a spot, but also am not terribly picky, and intersperse established campgrounds with dry camping nights where I find them.

If this is your first big trip, consider reservations so that uncertainty is out of the picture.

Good luck.

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Old 04-16-2019, 11:16 AM   #3
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Reservations in National Parks may need to be made months ahead of time. Private campgrounds near National Parks and other popular spots weeks ahead of time. If you are willing to stay at smaller campgrounds in the national forests or boondocks on BLM land you can go without reservations, except holiday weekends.
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Old 04-16-2019, 11:19 AM   #4
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

We have been Airstreaming for a long time and are approaching 2,000 nights of Airstream camping. Last summer we took a 73 day trip from Florida up the west coast from the Mexican Border to the Canadian Border. we did not make any reservations before we left home. We basically always wing it, and look for a campground on line when we are ready to stop.

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Old 04-16-2019, 11:49 AM   #5
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For our first big trip, we planned the whole trip ahead of time and booked all the campsites. We would never do this again. This makes you rush from one campsite to the next and not take time to stop at interesting points along your route.

For our next three big trips, we did not book anything and had a wonderful time because we could stop and enjoy all the interesting points along the route. What really helped us with this new no-reservation method of travel was having a solar powered Airstream. With solar, we do not have to worry about ever plugging into shore power and can stay at a Walmart if there is no campsite available. We also find that non-electric campsites are typically easier to get when we travel in popular places.

But, this year we are going to the Northeast. Since there are far fewer places to stay in the East, we mixed in some reservations along the way. We booked Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend, one day in New York (Statue of Liberty), two days in Boston, and three days at Acadia National Park. So we have reservations for 12 days from Memorial day through the Fourth of July. We also have some reservations at the Minnesota State Parks with family in late July and August. We will see how this works out for us. There will be a lot of freedom, but we will also need to be at certain places at certain times. We shall see, but I believe we will prefer the freedom of traveling with no reservations and just going where the road takes us like Moosetags.

I wish there were more first-come-first-serve campgrounds!
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Old 04-16-2019, 12:49 PM   #6
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For the road trip part of our trips we do not generally reserve sites ahead of time. I do carry an I-pad and sometimes reserve 1 day in advance or during the day for that night. I am not real tolerant of worrying about a site at 6 pm or if the campgrounds shown on the GPS even exist (which they often do not). When we are "making time" and push the driving time a bit I I tend to stay at a lot of KOA's because of the easy reservation system. Hollidays like the 4th of July weekend, are must reservation times in most places I have been.
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Old 04-16-2019, 01:22 PM   #7
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We mostly just wing it. We have never not found somewhere to stay, but we are open to rest stops and walmarts etc.. if need be. We look at mappity map (full disclosure: i wrote it) the night before and see where we want to go and then try to find a spot at that time or we just drive and find a spot on the way.

If we are wanting to stay in NF and it's not FCFS then we reserve. When we went to Big Bend, we reserved at the full hookup rv spot - but that put a damper in some of our tangents... didn't get to stay another night in Marfa because we got rushed to get to BB. Also, if we are gonna go weekend camping we usually make a reservation - but that's because it's not FCFS... it should be IMO.

You know, I guess a lot of it just how you want to travel... Sometimes we like to just go.
And that's probably more than what you wanted to hear.
so TLDR; Sometimes yes, mostly no
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Old 04-16-2019, 01:30 PM   #8
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Like most said here, just wing it.

We planned our first big road trip and boy were we sorry. We had to make each date and could not stop to see the many things on the way.

When you call a campground ahead of time, they will tell you they only have two sites left. You get there and you and another guy are the only ones in the campground. They want you to book and they might just be telling you a small white lie.

Winging it may mean you might end up at a Cabelas, but that's not so bad as there is usually a Yard House brewery nearby!

Don't stress it and certainly don't worry about it. Get some good planning tools on your phone or laptop and make the call the night before so you will have a good sleep!
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Old 04-16-2019, 05:26 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by moosetags View Post
We have been Airstreaming for a long time and are approaching 2,000 nights of Airstream camping. Last summer we took a 73 day trip from Florida up the west coast from the Mexican Border to the Canadian Border. we did not make any reservations before we left home. We basically always wing it, and look for a campground on line when we are ready to stop.

Brian
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What Brian said.👍

Better to be pleasantly surprised than surprisedly disappointed.

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Old 04-16-2019, 05:50 PM   #10
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Washington State has some really nice State Parks, the only problem is that in the summer the sites with hookups tend to fill up so I would check the Washington State Park campground website for reservations. We typically don't use the private parks close to home so not sure about availability. Hope you have a great time and enjoy our little corner of the US.
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Old 04-17-2019, 07:34 AM   #11
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I plan our trips. Mostly because I like to do it. I limit travel time cause I'm retired and like to be done before rush hour. OK, in the country that has different meaning. I usually make the return less structured. I might plan out the first three weeks of a five week trip to accomplish the main objective and plan the return once out on the trip picking a return itinerary along the route. We might be ready to go home...…..or visit some more somewhere else.

Plan or not its your trip.

The thing is, don't come back here and complain cause you couldn't get a "walk on" site in Yellow Stone, or a state park in Florida on the beach. (OK I know you're not going to Florida.) But popular places are in demand everywhere. It is supply and demand. There might be a site available or there might not be one.

State parks in Florida for example usually get reserved up for the winter months, popular time, 11 months in advance. The National parks around here maybe 6 months. It all depends upon where they are, amenities, and the season. I'm sure out there it is similar in many ways.
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Old 04-17-2019, 07:36 AM   #12
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……..I'm just worried about lack of availability. ….….
One of the base ideologies from my prior life...........Prior planning prevents P...poor performance.
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Old 04-17-2019, 08:04 AM   #13
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We have made two major trips. First to the East Coast by way of Maine. Made a list of what we wanted to see and wheel spoked out from a central campsite. All pre-planned and reserved in private campgrounds. A little hectic, but doable. Last year, we traveled the Midwest and booked state parks and national parks for June, July, August and half of September. Figured the kids would be back in school by then. Most campgrounds full on weekends and nearly full on weekdays all summer long. Lots of empty sites in Sept, Oct and Nov.



Absolutely book a site for 3 day weekends. At Traverse City State Park for Labor Day with 400+ sites completely full until Monday. Maybe 10 sites occupied Monday night.



This year we have booked sites in NM, AZ, CA, OR, WA and AK. Went back to add a Thursday. Already booked and no other site available in the CG on a Thursday. NV does not reserve sites. Bummer.


We have not booked any sites in Canada and few in Alaska. My wife is worried. Well, there's always Walmart.



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Old 04-17-2019, 09:15 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by garcia5g View Post
We are planning a road trip this summer from Texas to Washington state. This is our first long road trip. I am wondering if it is better to reserve the RV park prior to leaving or just stop when you want to. I am just worried about lack of availability. I welcome any advice - thanks!
My recommendation is to book your destination campground as far in advance as you reasonably can, but for overnight stops en route, you can play it by ear; just leave home early enough to in advance of your reservation to allow a few extra nights here and there along the way, whether for sightseeing, weather-related delays, or whatever.

I'm surprised that no one on this thread has mentioned Corps of Engineers campgrounds. There are 13 CoE lakes in Washington, mostly along the Columbia River, with multiple campgrounds along the banklines of most of them. However, only 6 CoE campgrounds in Washington use recreation.gov for online booking. Most CoE campgrounds have dump stations instead of sewer hookups, but the price for an overnight stay is usually half to one-third the price of nearby commercial campgrounds.

And since there are CoE campgrounds in 44 of our 50 states, it's possible to travel clear across the country and stay only at CoE campgrounds, as long as you're willing to get off the Interstate Highway system to get to them.
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