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Old 09-28-2011, 07:25 AM   #1
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Rallies at KOAs?

This thread is meant to address a very specific question about booking rallies - I don't mean to start a general discussion on the merits of KOA campgrounds compared to others. We already have threads like that.

Is anyone planning a rally (of any club) at a KOA currently or very recently? We've run into a snag with our rally planned for next spring.

We had our Capitol Kickoff Rally at a local KOA and had a great experience. The manager was very helpful before the rally and great to work with. We had 19 campers, and the campground wasn't full - as the manager put it, "Look how much business you brought me."

A month or so ago, we booked the rally at the same place for next year, on the same weekend, since we'd had such a good experience and the feedback from the attendees of the rally was positive. It took the office a while to get it sorted, something about the computer (of course), but they finally got it booked, and we put a deposit on our site, same as last year. We were happy and started pimping our rally.

But then we got a message on our answering machine from the campground saying that they'd need a deposit for EVERY site before some time in November, or they'd cancel them. What? I've talked to the desk clerks and haven't gotten very far - they say someone else wants the sites, but I have trouble believing they got a group that wants to book all of their 100+ sites (we requested 25). One said it was a new policy for KOA. As far as we know, there's nothing major going on in the Baltimore, DC, or Annapolis area that weekend - it's not Cherry Blossom Festival time or anything like that.

I left a message last week for the manager to call, hoping to get a better explanation of what's going on, but so far he hasn't called, which is strange considering how helpful he was last year. Who knows, maybe he never got the message. We're planning a surprise drop-in. Fortunately it's close enough to home that we can do that easily.

We're wondering if it's how they entered the reservations into the KOA system that's causing the issue. This seems most likely to us.

But, in the mean time I'm wondering if anyone else is booking something with another KOA and running into the same thing? In other words, is it a KOA thing, a new thing for this campground, or perhaps there really is a group that wants a metric buttload of sites that weekend.

This isn't normal for campground rallies, right? This will only be our second time hosting a rally, both at the same campground, but to the best of my knowledge this is very unusual. As I understand it, campgrounds usually hold the sites without charge until some time just before the start of the rally, say two weeks or so, then release them for general booking.

When we got married, we certainly didn't have to pay deposits for every hotel room we asked them to hold for us, and that turned out to be a weekend when there was a huge soccer tournament in town. It just seems very odd a campground would want this...

Thanks in advance for any advice, experience, and other input...
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Old 09-28-2011, 07:51 AM   #2
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It is understandable from a campground owner's point that they might ask for a deposit from an individual to reserve a site but not for an organized rally. As you mentioned, a local event may trump that policy. Our GS chapter has a rally every month and with one exception, we have never been asked for a deposit. We book ahead and then give them a final count about a week in advance. The one park that insisted on a credit card hold for each site lost our business.

It does sound like you are working with a clerk who isn't permitted to make decisions. Hopefully a visit with the manager will resolve the issue and hopefully it is the same person you worked with last year.
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Old 09-28-2011, 07:52 AM   #3
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Hi,

A couple of general observations,

1. Our experience has been that what you hear when you talk to a campground employee on the phone is almost entirely dependent on who you talk to. The principle, "if you don't know the answer, make something up" seems to be widespread.

2. Our own policy in planning rallies at campgrounds that require reservation deposits is to encourage attendees to make their own reservations early. The advantage of staying out of the financial loop is that the hard feelings engendered by cancellation charges are then between the campground and the individuals, and the host doesn't end up holding the bag.

Good luck!
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Old 09-28-2011, 12:17 PM   #4
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Thanks for the responses so far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuvite-F View Post
2. Our own policy in planning rallies at campgrounds that require reservation deposits is to encourage attendees to make their own reservations early. The advantage of staying out of the financial loop is that the hard feelings engendered by cancellation charges are then between the campground and the individuals, and the host doesn't end up holding the bag.
I agree asking people to reserve early is good, and I understand why the campground would want that.

But, how many people really know right now whether they'll be able to go camping the last weekend in April? It's about 7 months away. Mid-November (the date they gave) is still 5.5 months away...that's a long time!

Other than our own rally, we haven't firmly planned any camping for next year yet. We have a few tentative ideas (Outer Banks rally in August, for example) but really we have to see what the rally schedule is, when/where we want to go on vacation, whether we have other events to go to, etc.
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Old 09-28-2011, 01:00 PM   #5
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People book campgrounds at Yellowstone and Yosemite many months in advance, etc. It seems like they could plan ahead for this rally, and if their plans change and they must cancel they can deal with that at the time. As long as the campground isn't demanding anything unusual like a non-refundable prepayment for the whole stay it shouldn't be a big deal. I've only attended 2 rallies so far, and I'm scheduled for a 3rd. In each case I booked the campsite within a day or so of hearing about the rally, 2-3 months before. If I didn't know that we can't travel that far from home for a couple of years because of my partner's schedule, I'd be booked for Alumapalooza and the Balloon Festival in 2012 already!
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Old 09-28-2011, 01:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skater View Post
I agree asking people to reserve early is good, and I understand why the campground would want that.

But, how many people really know right now whether they'll be able to go camping the last weekend in April? It's about 7 months away.
Skater,

When I said "early" I was talking about 2 weeks or maybe a month in advance. Campground cancellation policies vary widely. Some will accept cancellations 24 hours in advance with a full refund of any deposit while others require 2 weeks advance notice.

I once booked reservations at a KOA a full year in advance of an event--marveling at the folly of trying to predict the future that far out--but I knew that I could cancel if I had to. As it turned out we were pulling into that KOA on that fine sunny day a year hence. "Registration" consisted of being handed a welcome packet at the desk and the desk person saying into a walkie talkie, "I've got another Airstream for you". The "follow me" golf cart was in front of us by the time I walked back to the trailer. I was very impressed with their organization!
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Old 09-29-2011, 06:29 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKB_SATX View Post
People book campgrounds at Yellowstone and Yosemite many months in advance, etc. It seems like they could plan ahead for this rally, and if their plans change and they must cancel they can deal with that at the time. As long as the campground isn't demanding anything unusual like a non-refundable prepayment for the whole stay it shouldn't be a big deal. I've only attended 2 rallies so far, and I'm scheduled for a 3rd. In each case I booked the campsite within a day or so of hearing about the rally, 2-3 months before. If I didn't know that we can't travel that far from home for a couple of years because of my partner's schedule, I'd be booked for Alumapalooza and the Balloon Festival in 2012 already!
Generally, we book campsites approximately a month in advance of our trip. For longer trips, like our trip to Cedar Point and Columbus back in July, we actually booked that in March, so about 4 months out.

Obviously trips to places like Yellowstone, Disney, etc. probably have to be booked much farther out, because they're so popular. But we're talking about a weekend trip to a campground before Memorial Day.

I think expecting people to book a site for a rally in April by mid-November isn't practical. Many of the WDCUers are still in the workforce, and plenty have kids, so who knows what's going to come up between now and then? Sure, they could rely on the refund policy, but if I weren't running the rally, I probably wouldn't call and book it in November, either.
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Old 09-29-2011, 08:10 PM   #8
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Old 09-29-2011, 08:58 PM   #9
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I think expecting people to book a site for a rally in April by mid-November isn't practical.
We have 45 Airstreams signed up for the Canopener Rally (6-8 January 2012).......over half of those were signed up in August. The rally site is a Florida State Park which requires "full payment" at the time of booking (there is a $17.75 cancellation fee).

Most veteran Canopener attendees know how much fun we have.....and, to book early.

BTW, when I plan our long (30 day, or more) road trips, I book as far ahead as possible to get the "primo" sites......many times it is six months ahead. If you want to really see how hard some places are to book.....try getting a site at Bahia Honda State Park in the Keys......better be on the phone at one minute after 8:00 AM (EST) exactly six months from the day of your planned arrival.

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Old 09-29-2011, 09:20 PM   #10
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It's interesting when you go to their site (Capitol KOA) you are unable to make reservations beyond November of this year. The website says they are closed from November 15 till March 1 and when you click on the calendar to make a reservation in April the link is inactive.

I think they are trying to confirm the sites prior to reopening in March so they know they have the sites locked up before closing for the season. If they demand reservations by November the unit could probably plan for it the same way we did for the Belle Isle rally this year. If the sites are reserved in advance we should demand that we are all put together in sequential sites and not spread out like we were this past April. Just a thought...
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Old 09-29-2011, 11:14 PM   #11
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No help on the best reservation tactics, or input on that particular KOA, but I'm pretty sure KOAs are franchised—individually owned and managed—so you're going to have a completely different experience at each one in terms of quality of place, quality of staff, and possibly even reservation policies. The only thing that KOAs share are some of the features, the look (like the "Kabins") and other branding and experience-related stuff.
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Old 09-29-2011, 11:37 PM   #12
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Reservations at KOA's go through the franchiser's computer reservation system whether you call an individual KOA or use KOA's website. Like all forms, the options are limited and not as good as some humans at working with you. We were just at a KOA where the computer would not accept a discount coupon that we all knew was good, but the campground owner knew how to do a work around.

However, the franchisee appears to have to follow lots of rules on how to make reservations and deposits now seem to be one of them. Someone at KOA is afraid they may lose some money if their are a lot of cancellations, but such a policy may have unintended consequences. Additionally, the campground may have to pay some percentage of gross to KOA for use of the name, reservation system, etc. If everything goes through a central computer, KOA knows how much the franchisee is making and the franchisee can't cheat them as easily on reporting receipts. The franchisee's hand may be tied and he may avoiding you because he feels bad about this or is embarrassed.

The result of all this is, of course, inflexibility and that can lead to loss of customers. You could insist you have a deal and you expect him to live up to it. Unfortunately, he may not be a good host next year. This may be the time to look elsewhere.

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Old 09-30-2011, 12:59 AM   #13
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Unlike Chief.

Hi, first off I won't say anything about KOA. Unlike Chief, we just got back from a 50 day trip to Alaska with not a single reservation made for campgrounds. We got into one very popular camp ground where people there told us that they made reservations for this place six months in advance, and we just drove in. On the other hand, we signed up, and paid in full, for the Jackson Rancheria Rally about one year ago. It was more than half full in the first week of notice. We plan on seeing about 40 Airstreams there around the 7th of October.
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Old 09-30-2011, 07:22 AM   #14
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Quote:
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RJ

It's interesting when you go to their site (Capitol KOA) you are unable to make reservations beyond November of this year. The website says they are closed from November 15 till March 1 and when you click on the calendar to make a reservation in April the link is inactive.

I think they are trying to confirm the sites prior to reopening in March so they know they have the sites locked up before closing for the season. If they demand reservations by November the unit could probably plan for it the same way we did for the Belle Isle rally this year. If the sites are reserved in advance we should demand that we are all put together in sequential sites and not spread out like we were this past April. Just a thought...
Well, the spreading out thing related to the trailer sizes. We (Erica and I) wanted to be down next to the pavilion to make it easier for us, and we thought everyone would be in the trees with us. But then we saw how much trouble Danee had leveling his trailer!

Also, people who need 50 amp or have a larger rig I think have to be at the top of the hill. (In fact, our site for next year is on the top of the hill somewhere.) So there were a couple things going on with that... honestly, I didn't mind being spread out - the campground isn't so large that you can't see all the Airstreams sitting around, so it's pretty obvious something is going on.

We haven't had the chance yet to go talk to them.

Before this happened, we were already thinking we'd move it somewhere else for 2013 to change it up a bit. Actually we originally considered changing it for 2012, but the experience with the campground was so good in 2011 that we decided to go with them one more year.

And, for others: Yes, I get that some rallies have early booking. WDCU's own CBR used to be that way, because it would fill up and have a waiting list! But this rally hasn't quite made it to that level... yet. We got 19 last year and we're setting a goal of 25 this year.
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