The RV boom is continuing as never before. With record sales and so many new people entering the RV lifestyle, it might seem like snagging a campsite reservation is a cut-throat competition.
But it isn’t.
We have 5 tips to help you snag a spot for camping this summer–peak RVing season. But first, a reality check.
Just like it’s a seller’s market in the RV industry, it’s a renter‘s market in the campground industry, and that holds true whether that recreational vehicle campground is a county, state or national park or any of the thousands of private RV parks across North America.
It makes no difference what kind of RV you have – a motorhome, towable, 5th wheel, or pop-up.
RV campgrounds are filled right now, for most weekends and holidays during the summer months In fact, for many in the most popular areas, they’re filled all week long. That’s how many people have embraced the RV lifestyle. But all hope is not lost. Let’s get on to our tips, starting with the most basic tip on snagging a campsite.
1) Understand that full campgrounds will be the new “normal”
A growing RV community is great, but it also means you need a plan. You need to realize you are competing against other travelers, and persistence is the name of the game. Get a pen and paper, or start a spreadsheet if that’s your style. Write down all the campgrounds around the destination where you are hoping to camp.
Start by looking online. See if you can adjust your schedule. Being flexible is key. If you find an open site for one night around your stay, mark it down. Look for different sites in that campground that are open on subsequent days. It’s not ideal, but some scenic and high-demand campgrounds are really worth it.
Very often you can put together a string of open days by just booking them day by day and being willing to move from site to site.
2) Plan your camping trips as far out as possible
I know, this should go without saying, but look at your calendar and check the openings. Book ‘em as you find ‘em, you can always cancel later. This is what a great many experienced campers do.
Many campgrounds do not accept reservations more than six months out. Smart campers look for times they can go camping longer than six months out, and when reservations open for that day, BAM, they nail it. That’s why that spreadsheet or paper list you started will come in handy.
3) Check for cancellations when you find full campgrounds
Every campground everywhere has cancellations, pretty much every day. Some campground owners tell me they figure 10% of the reserved sites will be no shows. For future dates, check the online reservation list every day. I suggest checking about noon, as mornings are busy at most campgrounds and it may not be until noon that the booking calendar reflects future cancellations.
If the campsite has a Facebook or social media page, check it, too. Sometimes, as soon as a canceled booking comes in, the manager puts a note on social media. Be ready to swoop down immediately and rebook that cancellation. If the dates you want are in the next few days, call the campground. Be polite. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve snagged awesome campsites at popular campgrounds that are usually booked out, sometimes as long as a year in advance.
4) Use a service that finds open campsites
There are some websites that offer to find you a campsite by checking cancellations for you and then texting you as soon as they find one. Naturally, they charge you to do so. Want to try? Here are three:
The fees for these services usually start around $10 to $50 a month, depending on how often they check for cancellations during the day and how many different campgrounds they check. Remember, “time is money,” so shelling out a few extra bucks to have someone else do the work for you could be worth it.
5) Try some other ways to camp
There are times when you will strike out at a campground. But who says you have to be at a traditional, full hookup campground to camp?
- Primitive camping – Primitive camping is typically found in state and national forests. These are campgrounds with clearly delineated sites, often with a picnic table and fire ring. Most don’t accept reservations. But these are always the last to fill up. We have had some of our best camping experiences at primitive campgrounds.
- Dispersed camping – This is typically in state and national forests and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Corps of Engineers (COE) lands. If your camper has good boondocking capability, you’ll find this the ultimate form of true boondocking There are no hookups, no designated campsites, no firepit, picnic table or anything else looking like a normal campsite. This is Jennifer and my favrite style of camping as it is usually in true wilderness.
- Harvest Hosts – A Harvest Hosts membership service lets you stay free at 2,000 wineries, farms, tourist attractions, microbreweries and other unique locations. It costs $99 a year to join but there are no camping fees. We’ve had some pretty great camping trips using this service.
- Church Parking – Across the country, many churches allow RVers to camp in their parking lots. They’re listed on a website called Faithful Parking and it allows RV parking at churches in quiet, often secluded church parking lots across the country. There’s no membership subscription needed, just a very small fee charged by the churches to offset.
- Moochdocking – You surely have heard the term moochdocking by now, a variation on the boondocking trend that is so popular with RVers. While boondocking is typically off-grid camping in remote areas, moochdocking is camping – usually without hookups – in people’s driveways or the back of their property. A website called Moochdocker will help you find places for moochdocking.
I can’t guarantee that by using these tips, you’ll find a campsite on the exact date and the exact campground you want. But in our 10 years of living this lifestyle, they have always worked for us. Sometimes, we feel like a stalker, closely monitoring and calling the campground. But as long as you are polite and nice, we’ve never had anyone complain at our persistence.