I have a little confession to make… I hate and try to avoid making reservations for campgrounds and RV parks. It sounds crazy I know what with all the news stories proclaiming how crowded campgrounds have become and how hard it is to reserve a site these days. Still after 8 years travelling around the country in our RV we go out of our way to not make reservations. What about you? Do you need to make reservations at a campground or RV Park? Let’s evaluate the options.
Option 1: Yes you should always make reservations.
Advanced reservations ensure you lock in your site during the dates you want to stay there. Reservations are mandatory to ensure a spot at some of the most popular National Park, forest service, state park, and private campgrounds in the country. Want to head down to the Florida Keys during the winter months… you should have reservations.Want to have a full hookup RV site at Fishing Bridge in July? Reservations are a must for the most popular destinations if you absolutely need to stay THERE on a specific date. Reservations are also important for anyone in your family who is a type A personality… if it is you then you get this “why on earth would I not have reservations!?”.
Option 2: Sometimes reservations are good
After you plan your first few RV trips you will start to come to the realization that reservations are sometimes more of a pain than they are worth. For those parks that you “absolutely need reservations” you will notice that they never fully fill up during your stay; in fact the park only seems to be about 60-75% full. This is what we term the law of “unintended reservations”. Because everybody knows that you need reservations to stay there folks will book their reservations months, or even years in advance, only to cancel at the last minute or not show up at all.
Just this last weekend we stayed at a “sold out” state park, heck it even had a big sign at the entrance stating it was full! Well that sign lied as we learned by simply approaching the camp host and asking if there were any sites available. It so happened that two full hookup sites were available that evening and we were free to choose either one. For that evening the only site that remained un-occupied was that other full hookup site.
Option 3: Reservations are for the planners. Be a free spirit!
This is the way we roll and have found it to be an excellent option over spending countless hours trying to make a reservation in advance. Usually the day of, or if we are feeling “plan-y”, the day before I will search our destination at CampgroundViews.com identify a few options and start calling. “Hello I need a large site with full hookups for the next 3 days”. Inevitably the first answer is always “no sorry we are full I am sure of it but let me look.” After a few minutes they will come back on the line “you know what I actually have a site available that will fit you.”
In our case we used this method to travel to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and the Grand Canyon during July and August… no advanced reservations. The freedom this allowed was priceless. Instead of being locked in to a rigid reservation schedule, you know the one “okay we have to start out at 6am, drive 400 miles, stay at this park for 2 days, drive stay…”and on and on. Instead of adventuring the RV trip becomes a mission to keep reservations and stick to the schedule. By being a free spirit we were given the ability to wing it a bit and stay flexible in travels to go wherever we wanted. What we gave up was the certainty of a spot at a particular place on a particular day; in turn we gained the freedom to stay in certain areas longer, avoid areas altogether, and go with the flow of our feelings during the travels.
So do I need to make reservations in advance for our camping trip? Much like the variability of RVs and people it comes down to personal preference. If you absolutely must stay in a certain location on a specific date then yes reservations are a must. If instead you and your travelling companions want to wing it, despite what is put out in the news, you can absolutely wing it when RVing. Now the question is what type of traveler are you? Do you need reservations or can you go with the flow?