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Old 01-28-2017, 07:59 PM   #1
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Frustration level rising.....

I am apologizing in advance if I offend anyone as a result of this post, but my frustration level is rising......

First of all, we are NOT RETIRED...( I've got 9 more years before that can happen!) Second, we are PERMANENT residents of Florida and have been since 1966 and 1973. We purchased our airstream 5 years ago and enjoy it very much, but it is getting harder and harder to do so because we are unable to secure camping sites during the winter months; recently, the summer months have become an issue as well. We do not have the luxury of planning our camping trips months in advance, due to my husband's job. The one year I did book sites in advance, we ended up having to cancel each one for various reasons...
We actually knew by Tuesday that we could get away this weekend, but when we started checking, everything was booked. We kept checking and finallyon Thursday, we were able to get 1 night at WP Franklin for tonight. We grabbed it. After we settled in, I was sitting outside. The couple next to us had another couple visiting and they were talking about all their camping plans...two weeks here, two more weeks at the next place, etc. THEN they went on to say how they get to stay on for another two weeks at parks they really like....even though they're not supposed to.

I could feel my cheeks burning. ( They actually were burning...I was sitting in semi shade with no sunscreen! It's winter here...natives don't use sunscreen in winter! I was born in Florida, but didn't move here until 1973, so technically, I am a native.) It's because of people doing things like this, that makes it hard for people like us, who want to get a site close enough to home to be able to get away for the weekend. I know about parks having to hold spots for walk ups, but who wants to drive 1-2 hours and not have anything available! I'm sorry to be so grouchy, but I live here, pay taxes, (some of which go towards funding state parks), and I'd like to be able to go camping in my airstream when I want to! Can you tell it's been a tough week? bb:
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Old 01-28-2017, 08:37 PM   #2
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I know how you feel. We have the same problem up in Canada in the summertime. It seems that almost all campgrounds are going to the "seasonal" camping system. My wife and I enjoy travelling around, but it is getting almost impossible to pull in and get a campsite without reserving months ahead. A couple of years ago we were lucky to get "the last spot" in a Provincial campground for the weekend. When we got there I saw over half the sites empty and it was that way all weekend. Very frustrating!!!
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Old 01-28-2017, 08:46 PM   #3
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Camping sites not full, even though reserve America says the campground IS full, is also a huge problem here. We experienced that during Thanksgiving. Couldn't get sites at the same park, had to book a single night, move to another park, booked 3 nights, moved to another park for 1 night. Couldn't get nights for the entire week because everything was full. Each park we were at had empty sites.....BUT reserve America said NOTHING was available! WP Franklin is FULL tonight, though!
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Old 01-28-2017, 09:13 PM   #4
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Meg and Rudy.

A bit of advice.

Use sunscreen.

My stepdad died from skin cancer. He was a native Californian, who would fall asleep on the deck of his Chriscraft sport fisher, and get sunburned. The docs would find a spot, cut it off, send him on his way assuring him all would be well. Then they would find another spot, cut off, send him on his way. By the end he had a eye removed, part of the occipital bone, and an ear. Then it spread to all his bones and he was done. There are worse things than having to plan ahead to find a camping spot.

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Old 01-28-2017, 09:34 PM   #5
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We do our road trips early spring, and after Labor Day, 6-7 weeks each...
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Old 01-28-2017, 09:44 PM   #6
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Frustration level rising.....

Nine years is a long time to be frustrated, and I don't foresee anything happening in the next nine years to reduce your frustration with finding winter camping spots in Florida. Recently, I visited friends in Scottsdale, AZ, and lucked into a prime downtown spot in an RV park there. I didn't realize how lucky that was until I got there and people explained to me how lucky I was to get that spot for the three days I wanted to stay there. But a few spaces away was the only other Airstreamer in the park, who rented a permanent spot there. He went other places in his Airstream when he felt like it, but he always left it in that spot when he wasn't off on a trip somewhere else, so it was sort of his vacation condo in Scottsdale. We sort of got into the figures, and it was clear to me that the cost of leaving his Airstream there was a lot less than actually owning a vacation condo in Scottsdale, given the discounts he got for long-term rental, etc.

You might want to consider this for the next nine years, as I assume something like this could be arranged in some place you would like to get away to in Florida, which would save you the heartburn you are describing.
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Old 01-28-2017, 10:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by megandrudy View Post
We purchased our airstream 5 years ago and enjoy it very much, but it is getting harder and harder to do so because we are unable to secure camping sites during the winter months; recently, the summer months have become an issue as well.
It's not just camping. Everything is full. Back in the day, if you wanted to run a 10k or do any other outdoor activity, you just signed up and showed up. Now? Sorry, sold out. Kudos to folks for getting out but there isn't enough infrastructure to handle the demand. Bummer, no?
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Old 01-28-2017, 10:25 PM   #8
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I find that people reserve spots, probably way in advance, pay and then show up if they want. I questioned open sites at an allegedly full campground recently. The host told me that even though it was obvious the people that reserved weren't coming, they couldn't fill the spot.
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Old 01-28-2017, 10:28 PM   #9
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Do the places you like to stay have a large penalty for cancellations? If it's only a nominal fee ($5-10), then why not book up reservations as far ahead as you can for the season? Then you have them in place, and can cancel if necessary.

We do that here, even in the vast midwest.

But I also ALWAYS cancel if I am not able to go.

And here the camp hosts will be calling you if you are a no-show.
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:17 AM   #10
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So frustrating. RVing just seems to be so much more popular now than it was when we were young 'uns. Maybe the best you can do is make those way-in-advance reservations, keep your fingers crossed, and then forfeit the reservation fee if you can't use them when the time arrives. You'll generally get the balance back with some advance notification-- often same-day.

Sometimes there are spots available for a one-nighter-- it's the longer stays that become impractical on short notice. (You can see this with parks that show you their on-line booking.)

Near where we lived in Ontario the nearby provincial park allows campsite leases for the entire summer. People leave their RVs on-site, and build decks onto them. Needless to say, these lease-holders are gone a lot of the time, yet nobody else can use their sites.

Our experience has been that in-state residents will often get breaks on the price of a campsite, but no special booking privileges.

Maybe there should be an Airbnb arrangement for RVs-- beachfront property owners could rent their driveways for the weekend.....
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Old 01-29-2017, 05:15 AM   #11
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Many public campgrounds have first come, first served sites, not reservable online.

In popular areas, like winter months in Florida, it can be easier finding a weekend site inland than on the coast.

No show, no call should = forfeiture of Site, in my opinion....maybe some feedback to campgrounds holding empty sites is in order.


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Old 01-29-2017, 08:48 AM   #12
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Same issues here in SW Missouri. Every COE campgrounds on Table Rock Lake and other lakes get booked up solid all the way to their closing weekend. You have to reserve months in advance.

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Old 01-29-2017, 09:06 AM   #13
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No show, no call should = forfeiture of Site, in my opinion....maybe some feedback to campgrounds holding empty sites is in order.
For what it's worth, here's what it says on a current Florida state park campsite reservation confirmation:

Quote:
The park will hold reserved campsites or cabins until the applicable checkout time, one day after the scheduled arrival date. If you do not call the park directly before then the remainder of the reservation will be cancelled as a no-show.
So looks like they will hold it for one day, but if you reserved for a week and don't show, the site becomes available for the rest of the week.
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Old 01-29-2017, 09:14 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dasams View Post
It's not just camping. Everything is full. Back in the day, if you wanted to run a 10k or do any other outdoor activity, you just signed up and showed up. Now? Sorry, sold out. Kudos to folks for getting out but there isn't enough infrastructure to handle the demand. Bummer, no?


True...l My sister and I are Disney Vacation club members. When she bought into the DVC when it originated, we never had problems getting the type of room we wanted, where we wanted, and when we wanted it. NOW, it is almost impossible to get reservations UNLESS you book 11 months in advance.....
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Old 01-29-2017, 10:11 AM   #15
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Not just in Florida but a big problem here too in California state parks. What's really frustrating is seeing all the unoccupied reserved sites. By policy they are supposed to be made available for anyone by noon the second day if its a no-show, but its not enforced. Last fall I stayed in a park for one week and asked to move to a much better campsite that was reserved by no-show for three days running, and four days left. I was denied by staff because the daily computer report from Reserve America said it was reserved. Apparently there's no feedback from park staff to Reserve America regarding no-shows. Park staff say they have no authority to assign campsites anymore.

Last summer made a rare reservation at a prime forest service park for a week. Expected it to be crowded but it was nice and empty. Probably thanks to all the wealthy SF Bay Area folks that reserved the sites and didn't show, combined with park staff that didn't enforce the no-show policy.
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Old 01-29-2017, 11:39 AM   #16
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Demand exceeding supply sounds like a business opportunity.
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Old 01-29-2017, 12:27 PM   #17
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Many Floridians feel your pain, they tell me about the problem with reservations when I'm sitting in a site next to them. More baby boomers retire every year. Airstream is building a second plant to keep up with demand. RV dealerships are popping up everywhere, demand is definitely up.

A park Ranger told us that every year, thousands more retirees come to winter in Florida and they aren't making any more state parks. Florida residents 65+ get a 50% discount on camping sites so the state loses half of the income that they would get from a snow bird. Tourists generated 23% of the sales tax in 2015. In 2015, tourists spent $108.8 billion in Florida. Florida is the top tourist destination in the world.

Reservations are difficult but not impossible. Our first trip down to Florida (2015) we didn't start looking until early December 2014. I was lucky enough to find 2 weeks the first of February, at Hillsborough River in a very nice spot (a cancellation, I'm sure). We found others, 3 days here, 5 days there, 2 days 90 miles away etc. When we couldn't stay in a state park we went to a commercial resort, stayed a couple of days. It's a few dollars more and you're not in a park, but you can drive to the park and get a day pass. I needed a Friday night spot on this trip, couldn't reserve one, even 11 months in advance. On the 6th day of our 10 day reservation I found one, giving us 11 days total.

You have to be diligent and check every day even multiple times a day. Most parks have "walk up" spots, but you have to be there, sometimes a half hour before the Rangers/Volunteers arrive. If you're lucky enough to get one of them you can stay there for up to 14 days. These spots are not reservable and you have to be there, no calling.
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Old 01-29-2017, 01:13 PM   #18
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Demand exceeding supply sounds like a business opportunity.

It is and it isn't. There really isn't much opportunity to increase the number of campsites within public parks, without diminishing the camping experience. One would think there might be an opportunity to open new private RV parks in close proximity to public parks. The problem with doing this is that the private RV parks would have to charge twice as much as the public parks for equivalent spaces in order to make a profit, and are not going to be as conveniently or scenically located to attractions. This means the private RV parks are mainly going to be overflow parks when public parks are full. For example, when we camped at the beautiful Ft Stevens state park in Astoria, OR, during the off season, the Ft Stevens campground was maybe 2/3 full. The KOA across the street was virtually empty. I would imagine it's hard to run a business profitably when you don't get much business for a good part of the year.

It does seem from the comments made that the most promising approach would be to do something about spots that are vacant because of no-shows. One first has to ask the question, though, is that because of neglect or design? I know much more about backpacking than I do about RV camping, since I have been doing it a lot longer, and I can tell you that the forrest service and park service could do a lot more than they do to facilitate things for backpackers, without spending any more money or hiring more rangers. Many of the staff-members come from conservationist backgrounds, and if you ask them why they don't do some obvious things to better accommodate backpackers, many of them will flat out tell you that they think there are already too many backpackers and they're not about to do anything to encourage more.

I don't know if public RV campground staff would be that blatant, but clearly, trying to fill no-show spaces would just create more work for them without anymore pay, so I would think that any change would have to be a policy change at a higher level. Again, the question would have to be asked, what would the motivation be at a higher level to keep the park full when the spaces have been paid for anyway? Even if the park gets paid twice for the no-show spaces, there would be additional costs and maintenance involved with running a full park, and I'm not sure they would consider it worth the extra effort for the relatively low fees they charge for spaces.

One possibility would be to charge a significant premium for making a reservation, which would be refundable if the reservation were cancelled, say, at least two days before. I'm sure the park service would be happy with that plan, as they would get more money without having to do any more work, and it would open up more reservations a day or so before, which should please people who can't or don't want to make long-term plans.
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Old 01-29-2017, 02:54 PM   #19
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Meg and Rudy.

A bit of advice.

Use sunscreen.

My stepdad died from skin cancer. He was a native Californian, who would fall asleep on the deck of his Chriscraft sport fisher, and get sunburned. The docs would find a spot, cut it off, send him on his way assuring him all would be well. Then they would find another spot, cut off, send him on his way. By the end he had a eye removed, part of the occipital bone, and an ear. Then it spread to all his bones and he was done. There are worse things than having to plan ahead to find a camping spot.

Mike


Point taken. Next time, I will use the sunscreen that is, and has been, in the camper.
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Old 01-29-2017, 03:10 PM   #20
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I feel your pain, I'm planning to stay up until midnight tonight to make a reservation at an Ontario park for Canada day weekend, July 1!
There's a good chance I won't get a spot because people book for the week and then change their reservations to just the weekend, or cancel the week before and pay the penalty.
It's very difficult to get a spot on an Ontario park on a weekend, even making reservations 5 months in advance. For this reason, we mostly travel to New York or Pennsylvania for our camping trips, then I get to hear people complain that I'm not supporting the Canadian economy. Can't win.
Go airstreaming whenever you can on whatever site you can get and make the best of it. A day at a bad campsite is better than a good day at the office.
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