Frustrated with how hard it is to get RV reservations? Camping popularity has exploded. No worries! Our long time RV living family has some tips to help you snag the best reservations in this 4th post of the RV Travel Guide Series.
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The RV Lifestyle Has Really Become Popular!
Wow, things have changed in our almost 8 years of full-time RV living! Gone are the days of winging it with travel plans.
I used to love to change our travel plans often on a whim. Find a place that we fall in love with and decide to stay much longer than we planned.
Then bump back all of our other reservations. That was so nice.
It’s still possible to change plans, find last minute camping reservations, and late availability campsites, but it’s just a little tougher to do. Especially in popular state park and national park campgrounds.
Keep reading to learn the tips and tricks we have found to get the reservations that we really want. Even the ones that are really tough to get!
RVing USA Reservation Tips & Tricks – RV Travel Guide
1) Reserve Campground As Far In Advance As Possible For Your RV Road Trip
I know this tip isn’t earth-shattering information, but it used to be that only peak season locations required reservations far in advance.
For example, winter camping in Florida and Florida State Park camping reservations always had to be reserved up to a year in advance. Now it has become a must for almost all camping locations.
As soon as you know your travel plans, make the reservation! Even if you have to change plans, it’s always better to have something booked.
2) Know The Campsite Cancellations Policy
It is best to make your RV reservations as far in advance as possible. However, we both know so much can happen in a year, 9 months, heck even a few months.
So when making camping reservations, it is really important to note the campground’s cancellation policy.
Do you pay a deposit in advance, pay in full, or is nothing required?
How far in advance do you need to cancel to get your money back? Do you get all of your money back when canceling?
You may not want to make reservations far in advance at a place that doesn’t refund with sufficient notice.
We had some issues at two different locations of the popular cartoon bear chain campground keeping large deposits and in one case keeping the paid in full amount.
They are fun places to stay with kids, but be aware that this can be an issue with reserving far in advance at some campgrounds.
Camping cancellations happen sometimes and you don’t want to lose money if possible.
Florida Keys oceanview camping at Sunshine Key RV Resort.
3) Consider More Than One Itinerary Of Camping Reservations
It can be really hard to know a year in advance exactly where you want to travel.
Or maybe it is just me that has a hard time picking an itinerary? Let’s be honest, I want to go everywhere! It can be hard to choose.
So what is a travel lover to do? Create reservations for more than one itinerary far in advance!
This allows you to both make reservations far in advance at the beginning of the reservation windows, but also provides some flexibility to change your mind.
Just make sure that as we talked about above, that you make note of all cancellation policies and mark them in your calendar, so you don’t lose money on canceled reservations.
4) Know The Camping Site Reservation Window
To be able to make campground booking reservations as far in advance as possible, you need to know the reservation window of the place you would like to stay.
Private campgrounds don’t all necessarily have reservation windows. A year in advance is usually reservable at most private campgrounds.
Most campgrounds within the National Park System, including the Corps Of Engineers campgrounds, are reservable 6 months in advance on a rolling window.
State Park campgrounds all vary by state. For example, Florida State Parks are on a rolling 11-month reservation window.
Camping memberships also have a reservation window to reserve included camping locations and that can vary by your membership level.
For example, RPI reservations can be made 60 days in advance. Some Thousand Trails membership levels can reserve as far in advance as 180 days.
The point here is to find out any reservation windows that apply to where you would like to stay and use that window to reserve as soon as possible.
Oceanfront camping at Gamble Rogers State Park in Florida.
5) Seconds Can Count When Making High Demand State Park Or National Park Campsite Reservations
I know what you are thinking, these people are nuts talking about seconds when making RV reservations.
I feel ya, but it often comes down to seconds when trying to get the really popular reservations at the beginning of the reservation window.
Don’t just stop at finding out the date the reservation window opens for your desired camping location.
Take it farther and find out the time and time zone that the reservation window opens.
In advance, make sure you have an account created with whatever computer system the camping location is using. Login before the time to make sure your login works.
Practice by going through the prompts like you are going to make a reservation, just to get familiar with how the system works. Know what campsites work best for you and your camping equipment.
Log in a few minutes before the time and as the clock rolls over, snag your spot! If you don’t get your top site choice, keep trying with any other available sites.
Still didn’t get it? Keep reading to the bottom for my best tricks!
6) Recruit A Friend To Help Reserve Campground
Why not recruit your partner or a friend to help you try to get a tough-to-snag reservation. This could double your chances of success at the time the reservation window opens.
My husband and I both login and try when it is a hard to get campsite. We have a little competition fun with this.
He claims he is faster. I actually have pretty delayed reflexes, but I have gotten more than he has. You may as well have fun with the process.
7) Book Park Reservations Longer Than Your Planned Trip – An Example Using State Park Reservations Florida
Okay, this tactic is getting a little technical, but it may be something to consider. Reserving longer than needed on the front end allows you more days to try to get your target reservation.
Let’s say I want to camp for 1 week over the 4th of July at an ocean-front state park that is one of the super had to get Florida camping reservations.
I need to make this using the Florida State Parks camping reservations website.
For our example, this state park allows a maximum stay of 14 days at a time and has a rolling 11 months reservation window. I want to stay 7 nights from July 1-8, 2022.
This is obviously going to be tougher to get because of the holiday.
The rolling 11 months reservation window would mean that I would have to reserve at a certain time on August 1, 2021.
Remember you only need 1 week for your trip, but the state park allows you to stay for 14 nights.
If you instead try to book a longer stay on the front end, it gives you more days to try to get your reservation.
Lost? I know this is a little tricky. Let’s break it down.
If you want to stay July 1-8, 2022, why not try to book 2 weeks from June 24-July 8? You can modify/shorten the reservation for a small change fee later.
That allows you to start trying for the reservation on July 24, 2021, for 14 nights. If you don’t get it, try again on July 25, 2021, for 13 nights, etc.
This gives you 7 more days to try to get your target reservation than if you just tried for only July 1.
Note that you will have a change fee when you shorten the reservation later. Some systems make you wait a couple of weeks before you can modify a 2-week reservation.
Florida State Park reservations is a system that makes you wait before canceling or changing a reservation. You can find this info in the Florida State Park camping cancellation policy.
Also please be sure to shorten the reservation as soon as possible so that others can snag those days you are letting go. Consider setting a calendar reminder.
View through our oceanfront campsite windows at Curry Hammock State Park in the Florida Keys.
What Can You Do If You Still Didn’t Get The Reservation?
It’s always great to try to get reservations as far in advance as possible. But sometimes we just don’t have that luxury.
Other times we try far in advance and still don’t get the reservation. I love to see so many people getting into RVing, but it makes it harder to get reservations.
No worries! There are still things you can do to get the reservation you want.
8) Use A Service To Check For Campsite Cancellations
All of the information in this post is helpful for getting reservations, but none of it compares to using a campsite cancellation notification service.
Using a campsite availability checker for cancellations is how we have gotten so many prime, impossible to get, oceanfront campsites.
I not only tell you WHICH campsite cancellation service I use but a SECRET for HOW I use the service to almost always get the reservations I am looking for.
I spill the beans on how we have gotten Bahia Honda reservations right on the beach. Bahia Honda State Park reservations are the hardest camping spot to get in Florida but with our tips you can stay there too!
It is all in my FREE GUIDE: How to Score Sold-Out Campsites In State and National Parks. Click the picture below to snag it!
9) Let A Service FIND The Campsite Cancellations and BOOK Them For You
There is a new kid on the block in finding RV camping cancellations, and it is a GAME CHANGER!!!
Why? Because it not only finds campsites that are canceled but it goes ahead and books the campsite for you.
No more missing notifications by text or email. No more sitting by the phone or trying to be fast enough to get the best campsite reservation.
The best part is that there is no booking fee. You pay the same for the campsite as if you would have booked it yourself.
This new service is called ARVIE and it is the answer almost every camper has been looking for!
We wrote a whole review about how ARVIE works HERE.
We have been using it now for a while, and it is a must-have tool for us now.
In fact, we just scored an oceanfront state park campsite in Florida with ARVIE this week!
This is one of the best and least known RV camping tips and tricks.
A little part of me wants to keep it a secret, but I want to see you grab these incredible places to go camping too!
10) Persistence Wins – Call Daily
If it is a private campground, don’t rely on their reservation website. Give them a call and keep calling daily to check for cancellations.
Maybe they even keep a call-back list for cancellations for holidays or peak seasons. Regardless, keep on calling. People cancel reservations all the time, even last minute.
If you are using a campground membership, sometimes it is still beneficial to check directly with the resort.
If you find the resort in your membership can’t do reservations directly, then call the membership line daily to check for cancellations.
I have always had better luck with calling, versus campground membership websites.
Sometimes the person can move people around in the system to fill gaps and create openings that a computer system just can’t do.
We have found this true with Thousand Trails reservations. Persistence pays off big time!
11) Try Walk-Up Sites For Last Minute Camping Reservations
Many state and national park campgrounds offer walk-up sites for last-minute campers that aren’t in the online state or national park reservation system inventory.
This option works best on a weekday and with some idea of a backup plan in case you don’t get a spot.
Find out how many spaces the campground has for walkup and try to call the day before to see if any will become available.
Also, be sure to arrive well before the park opens for the day so you can be lined up at the gate to snag the opening.
This could also be a great option if you are staying someplace else nearby and you are able to drive over every morning checking for availability.
Walk-up isn’t our jam. Our rig is too large and can’t just fit into any site. Plus we are planners and I feel like I need to have a concrete plan in place. It can be a great option though.
12) State Specific Facebook Groups For Campsite Catch & Release
Did you know that many states have Facebook groups where people post campsites that they are getting ready to cancel?
Then group members can coordinate the release so that someone in the group can grab the cancellation.
This seems to be mainly for state and national park campsites, but I have also seen it used for some popular private campgrounds as well.
This option is a little more random, but you never know when you may get lucky with the release you are looking for.
Oceanfront camping in the Florida Keys at Bahia Honda State Park. Bahia Honda is known as the toughest state park camping reservation to get.
FAQs Camping Site Reservation
Why Is It So Hard To Book A Campsite?
It is so hard to book a campsite because camping has become so popular that there are more campers than campsites available. It helps to make reservations as early as possible and use a campground booking service like Arvie to find and book campsite cancellations.
How Do I Make Reservations For Camping?
To have the best chance at getting reservations for camping, make the reservation as far in advance as possible. You can call a campground directly or book online. You can also use campground booking tools like Campspot or RoverPass.
Where Can I Make Camping Reservations?
The old way to make camping reservations was to call individual campgrounds and hope to get a spot. Now there are new tools to make this easier. You can often reserve online at a campground website or you can reserve privately owned campgrounds on Campspot.
How Far In Advance Can You Book Florida State Parks?
You can book Florida State Park camping reservations 11 months in advance. Reservations are released at 7:00 am Eastern and are usually gone in the first few seconds. If you miss getting the reservation, you can use Arvie to grab campsite cancellations.
How Do I Make Camping Reservations At A National Park?
National Park camping reservations can be made at recreation.gov. Most national park campgrounds are reservable on a 6-month rolling window. Some parks like Yosemite are experimenting with new shorter reservation windows in 2023.
How Do I Make Camping Reservations At Florida State Parks?
You can make camping reservations at Florida State Parks on their website, floridastateparks.org. You can also call 1-800-326-3521 from 8 am to 8 pm Eastern. Reservations are released on a rolling 11-month window at 7 am Eastern.
How Do I Make Camping Reservations At California State Parks?
You can make camping reservations at California State Parks at reservecalifornia.com. Or you can also call 1-800-444-PARK from 8 am to 6 pm PST. California camping reservations are available on a 6-month rolling window beginning at 8 am PST.
How Do You Make An RV Reservation?
Before you make an RV reservation, know how long your RV is to make sure you will fit in the campsite. Also, note the cancellation policy of the campground, so you don’t end up losing money if you need to cancel. Call or visit the campground website to reserve or use a campground booking tool like Campspot or RoverPass.
I Hope This RV Travel Guide Inspires You To Try For The Very Best Campsites!
With a little advance planning, a few great tools, and some patience, you can also grab dream campsites. I didn’t share all of our tricks here though, so be sure to get your FREE GUIDE: How to Score Sold-Out Campsites In State and National Parks.
Did you miss the first, second, or third posts in this series?
Have you ever wondered if full-time RVing feels like living on vacation? Check out this post: Why Full-Time RVing Is Not Like Living On Vacation
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Enjoy your adventure detour!
Scott and Van of The Adventure Detour are travel writers focusing on RV travel, family outdoor travel, national parks travel, and hiking. They have been full-time RV living and traveling across the US since 2015. In 8 years of full-time RVing, they have visited 38 national parks so far with the ultimate goal to see them all. They work as digital nomads while roadschooling their daughter nicknamed Sissy. On the way to all 50 states, they have visited and hiked through 42 states so far. The travel bucket list is forever growing!