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Old 01-31-2020, 10:57 AM   #1
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Campsites - It's all about planning

Campground thoughts - think ahead of time.
Yesterday, with the temp at 10 below zero in the morning here in northern VT, we tied up our loose ends with our travel season's agenda. Things have surely changed over the years with reservations, both in National Parks and private campgrounds. Just to give you some idea...

Every year we do 2 weeks in April at St. Augustine FL - we have to reserve for next year when we sign in for this year.

Grand Teton National Park, Colter Bay (where we wanted to go this year) changed from 6 month when reservations open to 11 months. We got blocked out. We normally go there almost every year (damn). Yellowstone is now advising 11 months. Both of these locations are operated by concessioners - not the government.

So now we had to change our plans and head to Rocky Mountain National Park. To get a location in a favorite area, we had to go to website: Recreation.gov at exactly 6 months to the day, prior to our arrival, at exactly 10AM eastern time. (Today, 1/30/20, we got our reservation for July 30 start date. You could see the sites disappearing as we worked.)

It was still easy to get reservations at a private campground reservation near Acadia National Park, Maine.

Bottom line...
Go to websites a year in advanced for popular locations. Check their sites for size and facilities offered (water, electric, sewer). Rocky Mountain has no hookups - you are boon docking.

Oh... on our heavy driving days, 500 to 700 miles, Walmarts and Cracker Barrel Restaurants are our friends. I always check with managers first, and we buy something at their facilities.

Again, think, plan and act well ahead of time.
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Old 01-31-2020, 11:36 AM   #2
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I've become so frustrated with the mania to reserve campsites that I've given up booking in advance. Now I just travel without reservations. If I can't find a campsite, then Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or Sam's Club it is. I've added solar so that I never need a shore-powered site and rarely need a generator. Adding solar liberated me from the campsite reservation mania. I find it much more relaxing to just travel where I want to go knowing that I will find someplace when I get there. I still go to all the places you mentioned and usually find a non-electric campsite. I try to hunker down on weekends and travel from Monday through Thursday. I love first-come-first-serve campsites, but more of these are being added to the reservation system each year. Its getting tougher each year to find campsites.
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Old 01-31-2020, 12:28 PM   #3
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Hi

We have moved into the "forget reservations" crowd as well. That *can* become an issue on a major holiday weekend. The rest of the time, we get by ok. That includes camping near National Parks like Yellowstone ....

Bob
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Old 01-31-2020, 01:37 PM   #4
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Contrary to AirMiles, I am used to the reserve ahead model, perhaps because before getting into Airstream camping all of my business and family travels involved booking ahead. So, we do not do spur-of-the moment camping and everything is planned out for the the whole year, or 6 months ahead in the case of Recreation.gov. Even at that, we find that we cannot get our preferred campsites at some federal facilities because someone else booked it as a part of a stay that commenced earlier. It seems that the bottom line is that camping has just become very popular and crowded. I don't like it because I spent more time on a sailboat anchored in remote places with few neighbors and no ability to reserve anything. But, my Airstream won't float.
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Old 01-31-2020, 03:10 PM   #5
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Baby boomers are retiring and RV popularity seems to be at an all time high. Just look at RV sales. Thatís the new reality.

Fortunately for me DW is a real planner works through the details and makes the reservations. 😀
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Old 02-01-2020, 07:24 AM   #6
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Roll the dice
We are in the no reservations camp but we are extremely flexible when it comes to travel. The only place we have really gotten hosed is Florida Keys in February. Only could stay there for a week and had to make reservations at two separate parks because either no one had availability or completely booked solid. Peak season in the southern most point of the US is no joke!

I guess one thing that mugs me is the cancellation policy at most state or government ran parks. You can cancel up to 5 days before your trip so cancellations are common but they ruin peopleís ability to plan and commit to travel. Gotta play the game... itís annoying. Only way to avoid it is by traveling with rough approximations of where you want to be and be willing to zig or zag when audible is called
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Old 02-01-2020, 08:11 AM   #7
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I'm not one for much planning, but if the occasion calls for it, I'm willing.
All the planning in the world won't get you a spot at TopSail Hill SP in January 2021.
Now, the rules say you can't reserve more than 11 months in advance, 8am.
But if you sit on the site at 8 am 11 months in advance, you discover there's no sites. How can that be? People learned to reserve two weeks ahead and then cancel the first week. That gets their reservation early for the week they really want.
There's nothing available from Dec 28 through???
Planning does no good.
Playing by the rules does no good.
I'm discouraged, but I know many, many people cancel a few weeks ahead.
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Old 02-01-2020, 09:03 AM   #8
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We are still working, so our time to camp is hemmed in by schedules. Long trips must be worked around co-workers and their time off as well.

We have a number of go-to places we like that are 90-120 minutes away, and these are the places we go to for our weekends. We do book these ahead of time for the season, and we always cancel if our plans change.
We typically camp twice a month April - October.

For Holiday Weekends--we have found that these are a time when some of the gamesmanship mentioned above becomes necessary. But OTOH we have benefitted when we have been able to book a site a week before a holiday when a site opened up.

For our annual long trip (aprx 2 weeks) we find out in advance when the reservation window opens up and book then. We have been successful booking for National Parks or RV parks adjacent to National Parks in this manner. Then we fill in our travel days at KOAs or RV parks for the to and from travel days. Mostly because we will need AC and therefore electric getting to and from anywhere based on July travel.

Knock on wood, but this system seems to be working for us.
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Old 02-01-2020, 09:20 AM   #9
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Never made a reservation since 2006.

Arrive EARLY to a State or Federal campground. Stand at the door before they open. Cancellations are so common that if you have been to a Las Vegas Casino... chances are good you will have some option and a winner. Be... flexible.

Practice having a bit of 'adventure' as an alternative. Do not be embarrassed to camp in an empty lot or off the side of a gravel road with a pullout for an evening. I have never been asked to 'move on'. If you get 'skunked'... accept the fact and make the best of it. At Saratoga, Wyoming they even let us camp at the City Park with a group of bicycle tent camping overnight due to no facilities open. Was excellent.

Even try a Boondock site without any hookups to get a feel of what to expect. There are great campsites outside places like Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Grand Tetons, west side of Flathead Lake, Montana and outside in the National Forests at hunter's camps. Take on some risk and... reduce some stress of traveling to places you are not familiar.

The first couple times may be a bit worrisome... but after a year or two... there is no stress, plenty of options on a map and you will have a lot of weight lifted off your shoulders.
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Old 02-01-2020, 11:07 AM   #10
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We are also non reservationists. When we are on one of our Airstream Adventures, we are never quite sure where we are going to be when, so we generally wing it. We have been doing this for many years now (2,100 nights/14 years). Usually, the furthest in advance that we make any campground reservation is earlier that day. Sometimes we don't even decide where we are going until after we leave home. Our meandering kind of travel does not lend itself to long range planning.

Our goal is to see all of the nooks and crannies of the great country that we can in the time that we have left. Some days we cover 300 miles, others we only go 50 miles.

Brian
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Old 02-01-2020, 10:17 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by moosetags View Post
We are also non reservationists. When we are on one of our Airstream Adventures, we are never quite sure where we are going to be when, so we generally wing it. We have been doing this for many years now (2,100 nights/14 years). Usually, the furthest in advance that we make any campground reservation is earlier that day. Sometimes we don't even decide where we are going until after we leave home. Our meandering kind of travel does not lend itself to long range planning.



Our goal is to see all of the nooks and crannies of the great country that we can in the time that we have left. Some days we cover 300 miles, others we only go 50 miles.



Brian


Our last month long trip in September was essentially without reservations.

We Wallydocked, Crackerdocked, or moochdocked all the way. At intervals determined by tank levels, we made a quick reservation a few hours in advance at the nearest KOA for a single night to dump tanks. Last night out was at a KOA for the night, then home with clean tanks.

Ironically I usually plan the hell out of our trips, then get behind schedule and get stressed. This made a heck of a lot more sense and was easier on all of us (including the 4 dogs). The only Ďscheduledí activity was DisneyWorld, and we had tons of time to get there and back.

Stress reduction is nice. Besides, precise planning does not survive contact with on-road reality anyway.. best part was gettin up in the morning when WE wanted to. (Subject to doggie potty time alarm barking, of course). The dogs loved the adventure and settled in quickly.

Canít wait to retire (again) and plan even less...got dragged back to work after retiring in 2013. Shouldnít have advertised my skills and certifications, I guess. Next time Iíll keep my mouth shut...🤪
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Old 02-02-2020, 05:17 AM   #12
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Truck stops are incredibly convenient for long stretches of travel. We have dumped there, it $10 but beats spending $80 for a one night stay, and we have taken showers there. Sounds weird but $12 for the best shower of our lives. We shared a stall which is completely cleaned for you between each use and has a private bathroom attached. We also use truck stops for filling bulk DEF. paying $2 a gallon is much better than the $8 a gallon you spend on that boxed DEF

Then you just hit the road again or continue boondocking. It took us about a year on the road before we discovered truck stops.
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Old 02-02-2020, 06:02 AM   #13
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So glad I saw this thread. We are getting ready to head to Florida for 4 weeks. (I recently retired). Getting reservations was just not fun. We ended up getting where we wanted, but it was nerve racking. Late this summer we are headed to the northwest. Seattle to Santa Barbara and home. I haven’t made a single reservation. We will just be winging it. This will be our first ever attempt at it. I have always reserved every night in advance.
Good to see it’s working out for some of you.
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Old 02-02-2020, 10:42 AM   #14
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Cheers to all the no-reservations travelers!

You give those of us who live in Florida a chance ó a small chance ó to enjoy our own state parks.
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Old 02-02-2020, 05:42 PM   #15
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We are "semi" reservationists. We reserve for weekends (Friday & Saturday night) when we are traveling and take whatever we find in between those reservations. We did 6,200 miles and over three weeks last year and always found someplace to stay.

When we are ending the traveling day, we call and reserve if we see something we like online that seems to be a possibility or keep going to find something else. We've also asked places that are full -where would you go? And, some of those recommendations have been the best ever, the locals know stuff that isn't in the books. Find something great? Stay an extra day or two.

I must add, some of the long range reservations have also been pretty bad, it is hard to determine the "best' place from a map. And some of those last minute recommendations? Great!
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Old 02-02-2020, 09:25 PM   #16
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Reserving ahead

I am in the camp that reserves ahead. Don't have solar (yet). Will upgrade batteries and charger this spring to Lithium. This will give me much more time off grid. Love staying in national parks, as such, need to reserve 6 months in advance. May add solar next year (very expensive ). Won't know if I will need it
because we travel with a Champion Dual Fuel which we love. Will see how it works out this season this season as we will travel for a total of 12 weeks this year. Will do a cost analysis after the season ends.
For all of you that have traveled to Alaska, will solar be useful on that trip being so far north, cloud covered and rainy. Pros and cons appreciated.
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Old 02-02-2020, 09:38 PM   #17
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Truck stops are incredibly convenient for long stretches of travel. We have dumped there, it $10 but beats spending $80 for a one night stay, and we have taken showers there. Sounds weird but $12 for the best shower of our lives. We shared a stall which is completely cleaned for you between each use and has a private bathroom attached. We also use truck stops for filling bulk DEF. paying $2 a gallon is much better than the $8 a gallon you spend on that boxed DEF

Then you just hit the road again or continue boondocking. It took us about a year on the road before we discovered truck stops.
If you are using "Truck Stops" I hope you are staying in sites that are for RV's
Only and not taking up space meant for truckers. They earn a living driving and are required by law to rest periods. If you pull into a truck stop late, and their are many spots available, then it's probably not a problem. If only a couple spots remain leave them for the people that need them to earn a living.
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Old 02-02-2020, 11:33 PM   #18
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Campsites

Last winter, our 1st winter as retired snowbirds gone 8mos. spent mostly in the east & FL and rarely boondocked. Moved 3 times in 2 weeks within one FL state park playing "reservation roulette." Lew Farber installed 400W solar Dec. 2019. Left Oct. 6, 2019 for this winter and decided to wing it and use the solar. Went west all the way to CA then AZ two months boondocking almost all the way [included 3 days at the Petaluma CA fairgrounds after a mandatory fire evacuation.] It does take some research but there are lots of options: Harvest Hosts, Boondocker's Welcome, Airstream Club courtesy parking, Escapees Club Day's End Directory, Cabella's, Walmart, Cracker Barrel, FREE city or county parks [one in OK with free water, electric and dump], casinos, BLM and Nat'l. Forrest land. We learned how to budget our water and waste tanks and now we love the flexibility.
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Old 02-03-2020, 03:44 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Milo1952 View Post
If you are using "Truck Stops" I hope you are staying in sites that are for RV's

Only and not taking up space meant for truckers. They earn a living driving and are required by law to rest periods. If you pull into a truck stop late, and their are many spots available, then it's probably not a problem. If only a couple spots remain leave them for the people that need them to earn a living.


I typically try to park in 1-3 spot at a time in the truck section so they donít get too close to the aluminum. Obviously only if I can find them right next to each other. Usually itís only one spot that is open so I wonít back all the way in the spot but instead leave at least my truck length sticking out into the lane of traffic so people see me.

If Iím lucky, there are reserved spots that are open. I like to ghost in one (but up to three at one time) of those. Easiest free parking ever.
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Old 02-03-2020, 05:30 AM   #20
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I went full time to relax and enjoy our country's incredible beauty. Drives me nuts to talk to the "camper" next to me in a Florida KOA who booked three months at this one campground. Dude, that is not camping - sell your rig and buy a timeshare condo. Imagine the number of real campers who have never seen this region of the country before, and you sit here with your tires rotting in the sun.
If I was king for a day, no reservations over 7 days.
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