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Old 05-01-2011, 01:49 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by SLO karen View Post
@ webspinner~
Thanks for your advice. But how do you find out what the policies are of each campground? How would I learn if the reservations are 1 month out, 4 months out, or 6+ months out?

Is the 15th of each month pretty 'standard' for opening up blocks of reservations?
We're not ones to head out and see where we end up. Hopefully, we'll have that freedom later when we're not trying to cram our visits inside short vacations. I'm probably on the overplanning end of the spectrum at this point. I dont' want to get home and say "Oh, we missed X. I wish I'd known before hand."

We generally pick one or two main places we want to visit and start doing research just on those places. If I can't find the information on how fast they book up from looking at the campsite webpage, I find an online forum where I can ask questions. We are usually planned and booked for the year by March at the latest.

If there are only a few places to research, it doesn't take that much time. Thank goodness for Google.
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Old 05-01-2011, 09:54 PM   #16
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Campgraounds in CA

We're new AS owners; bought ours in February. Next weekend will be our 7th weekend trip. While we're TT newbies, we've tent camped for more than 40 years. It's not rocket science, so here are some suggestions:

1. Dry camping opens locations such as FS campgrounds--buy a guide at Amazon--whose facilities consist of water spigots and "vault"--read pit toilets. Some of these campgrounds are in beautiful locations; they're just not particularly popular because they don't have amenities. Consider dry camping at places like these, particularly for a weekend. Managing your gray water will allow 2 to 3 people two days easy w/out dumping. A gen set helps; if you don't need AC, get a 2kw ultra quiet model to charge batteries. We have a Yamaha.
2. Don't plan to visit popular campgrounds in high season, pick out-of-the-way sites. There are many coastal campsites that may have openings; we reserved an ocean view site at Salt Point near Jenner three weeks ago for this coming weekend. I hadn't even heard of Salt Point until I saw it when scanning a AAA road map.
3. Research, research, research. We have probably 5 or 6 RV and camping guides. You'll finds listings in one that are not in others. Surf county and city web sites in areas of interest; I've found small RV parks not listed elsewhere. Augment web surfing with real, old fashioned maps from AAA; I continually find locations I missed on the www.
4. Some--I don't know how many--campgrounds on Reserveamerica don't take reservations for all their sites. They save a proportion for walk-ons. Kirk Creek is an example; I believe they only allow 1/2 the sites to be reserved in advance. Experience tells me that the reserved are usually the best, but it's still Kirk Creek and I don't think there's a bad site in the campground.
5. Until the NPS gets control of the ticket scalpers, Yosemite's a lost cause. There are private campgrounds outside the park, but I have never stayed in them.

Hope this helps ...
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Old 05-01-2011, 10:16 PM   #17
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Pardon me if this is a duplicate post; I'm still learning how to reply and the original instance of this post is attached to another message "out there" somewhere ... With that said, here goes again...

We're new AS owners; bought ours in February. Next weekend will be our 7th weekend trip. While we're TT newbies, we've tent camped for more than 40 years. It's not rocket science, so here are some suggestions:

1. Consider dry camping, particularly for a weekend. There are many many FS campgrounds with minimal amenities--read pit toilets and water spigots that are in beautiful locations. Managing your gray water will allow 2 to 3 people two days easy w/out dumping. A gen set helps; if you don't need AC, get a 2kw ultra quiet model to charge batteries. We have a Yamaha.
2. Don't plan to visit popular campgrounds in high season, pick out-of-the-way sites. There are many coastal campsites that may have openings; we reserved an ocean view site at Salt Point near Jenner three weeks ago for this coming weekend. I hadn't even heard of Salt Point until I saw it when scanning a AAA road map. You can get inexpensive park and FS campgound guides at Amazon.
3. Research, research, research. We have probably 5 or 6 RV and camping guides. You'll finds listings in one that are not in others. Surf county and city web sites in areas of interest; I've found small RV parks not listed elsewhere. Augment web surfing with real, old fashioned maps from AAA; I continually find locations I missed on the www.
4. Some--I don't know how many--campgrounds on Reserveamerica don't take reservations for all their sites. They save a proportion for walk-ons. Kirk Creek on Hwy 1 is an example; I believe they only allow 1/2 the sites to be reserved in advance. We stayed there just before the washout without a reservation. We planned our travel to arrive there in the morning around 10. Got a beautiful site. Experience tells me that the reserved are usually the best, but it's still Kirk Creek and I don't think there's a bad site in the campground.
5. Until the NPS gets control of the ticket scalpers, Yosemite's a lost cause. There are private campgrounds outside the park, but I have never stayed in them.
6. Visit city and county web sites in areas you want to visit. You may find descriptions of small private, city and county campgrounds--parks--that are not listed elsewhere.

Hope this helps ....
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Old 05-01-2011, 11:27 PM   #18
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@ everyone~
Thanks for all the helpful feedback and advice.

**I will buy --not one, but several-- guide books. So interesting (and aggravating) that different information is in different books.

**I will continue to troll and surf www. sites but won't rely solely on them.

**I have accepted the fact that some of the places we really want to see will have to wait until next year and beyond. In the meantime, we'll 'practice' and have fun along the way.

**Word of mouth. I'll continue to ask around (on forums and people in real life) for recommendations on popular and obscure campgrounds.

Thanks!!
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Old 05-02-2011, 12:10 AM   #19
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A few years ago here in California, it was our practice to go to our destination on a Wednesday or Thursday without a reservation. We would always get a spot and could generally stay a few days or up to the two week maximum. We typically do a lot of camping in the Sierras. At that time, maybe 15-20% or each campgrounds spots were reservable. Now the US Forest Service has contracted with Reserve America and most campgrounds we frequent have at least 80% of their spots reservable. It's too much in my opinion as people don't show, you cant just go and find a spot. If there is a spot open its reserved the next day and so on. It's much harder to find spots nowadays.

Anyway, if you are looking to get away later in the month. Camp Edison at Shaver Lake is nice at this time of year. Probably a couple hours from you in SLO.
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Old 05-02-2011, 01:40 AM   #20
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You'll get the hang of it with a little practice...when we first started camping we felt we had to know where we'd land every night of a trip... Now, after some experience, and comfortable with dry camping and boon docking, we are more relaxed in some in our scheduling and we don't feel we have to make reservations everywhere we are headed, and don't have to have hookups if it doesn't work out. You will learn to know when you need to make reservations and when you don't really need them.

For instance, we are going to be in Flagstaff to meet some friends over a specific weekend in June. We made reservations at a KOA where we are all meeting. After that weekend with friends, we are moving to a campground near Flagstaff on our own, where we have camped several times before. The first time we went there we made reservations...then then the next two times we did not...and barely go in, even though half the campground is first come first served and we arrived there early in the week. It's a popular place, so now we know that if we really want to be sure we have a space at that campground for a specific period, we know to make reservations ...

After that campground, we are going to shift into "play it by ear mode", moving to another area of Arizona where there are lots of national forest campgrounds, several of which do not even take reservations. We will arrive on a Friday because we know it will get busier as we get closer to the weekend, but we are fairly certain we will have no trouble finding the perfect site. If it's a holiday weekend, that changes and we know we must get there by Wednesday or Thursday at the latest to be sure to have a site since most do not take reservations. It can sometimes be a little more stressful in situations where the campground is strictly first come first served (especially if it's a favorite destination for folks from a nearby metro area).

Another trick we use is to make reservations for one of the destinations we want to hit, then scout neighboring campgrounds, either for a future trip to the same area or for a move in a couple of days...find out how busy they are, etc, etc. We often call a campground the day before (if it's a state park and there is a way to contact the folks manning check-in)...

Much of what your asking for guidance on depends on where you want to go and whether you need to be somewhere at a specific time...and of course, how much time you have to play with. We have been turned away a couple of times, but it's usually been because it's a holiday situation or there is something going on in the area and campgrounds are especially busy because of it.

If you go to the campground's website you can read about their policies, if they take reservations — and sometimes important — how many campsites they have and how many of those are reservable and how many are non-reservable. If it's a large campground with lots of non-reservable sites, your chances of nabbing one is better.

A good thing to remember is that in first come first served situations, you always have the option of extending your stay there if you decide. We usually pay for 2 or 3 nights, and then pay for more if we decide we want to stay longer ... (This may not be so easy if it's a reservations system, because the day your reservations ends someone else's may be starting.)

It can be a balance of several factors, but you will learn the ropes...especially if you spread your wings a little, be willing to play it by ear when you can, and set out to have an adventure! Research, research, research ... and try to have a plan "B"... in case the campground you are aiming for is full when you get there.
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Old 05-03-2011, 12:58 AM   #21
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Here's another option I haven't seen mentioned. Selected CA State Parks have an option titled "en route." Basically those campgrounds that offer this option allow overnight dry camping in their, I believe day use, parking lots. I don't know all the details, as we've never used this option, but I believe there's a charge, you have access to the restrooms, but no hookups, and you need to leave by 9:00 AM the next morning. In the printed guide we have, the campgrounds with this option are listed.

Absent a WalMart parking lot close by, this could be a nice alternative. The upside is that you can always check with the ranger first thing to find out if there are cancellations.
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Old 05-03-2011, 07:57 AM   #22
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We're new to this, too and have found a similar situation. We're not ready for non-reservation trips yet, especially with the kids on board, so we do use the Internet extensively to get the sites we want. For example, we wanted to go to Watkins Glen in NYS on a specific weekend but found that the whole place was booked months in advance. So I spent a little time browsing the web and was able to get an alternative State Park over on Cayuga Lake with no trouble at all, and it's not far from Watkins Glen so we'll head over for the day.

As has already been said, and we're finding out, you just need a little time to gain experience and confidence. I'm sure we'll know what we need to book and what we don't after a season or two.

Anyway, happy camping!
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Old 05-03-2011, 09:07 AM   #23
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I have found this website helpful.

RV Park Reviews :: Home

You can find a location on the map and see all the options in that area (parks and pvt camps). The "next nearest" feature is a help. There are links to the campground websites, too. It's not always perfectly current, but at least it helps you steer clear of the really sketchy places.
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Old 05-07-2011, 06:12 PM   #24
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We rarely travel with an itenerary with reservations ahead of time. When on the road it's difficult to accurately anticipate real time distance traveled in your day. We will refer to our campground guide after lunch and look ahead to where we think we'll be and make calls to check availablilty. Cell phone's have facilitated doing this nicely. If we have a definate destination we will plan ahead. Beware if you are Military and plan to use camping facilities on bases. They all have different reservation policies. Plan ahead, call ahead and know what the policy is. Private campgrounds are more flexible. Sometimes it takes a couple of calls but we've always found a place to stay when on the road. Last year in Lake City, Colorado we really came close though. All the places we called were full. One called us back when they had a cancellation and fit us in. And I mean " Fit us in". That was the tightest campsite we've ever had to fit into. But it was OK for 2 nights that we were there.

Don't loose sleep over it. An up to date directory is essential and a little planning and you'll do OK. As a last resort take note of the policies of Walmart and Flying J truckstops. When on the road they are a big help.

Enjoy your travels and See ya on the road.
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