There seems to be a lot of concern this year about RV parks and campgrounds being booked solid and having no place to go. Yet, the way we travel by RV (and make reservations) hasn’t changed. In this article, we want to dispel some of the hype around campground reservations and provide you with some actionable advice to get out there and make your adventure happen.
But first, it’s important to acknowledge that the conclusions we make are almost always aligned with our beliefs.
What does that have to do with campground reservations? Let’s say someone buys into the idea that “everything is booked,” and their summer plans are doomed. He or she makes one phone call to a state park to learn that they are booked solid. Do they make a second phone call? Doubtful. The first phone call proved their point. It’s over. Pack it up and sell the RV!
Meanwhile, another RVer who does not have the idea that “everything is booked” calls a second campground, maybe a third, or even changes their exact destination or travel dates. They trade the adjustments for the memory of a lifetime.
Certainly there are more RVers today due to borders being closed and limited international travel. We have the distinct advantage of having RV’d semi full-time for the past 5 years and being able to compare 2021 to 2020 and 2016.
Candidly, we can’t tell the difference.
There has never been a time during our 5 years of travel that a reservation was not required at a highly popular place during a popular time of year. The only difference between 2016 and 2021 is what or who we blame.
The strategy we have adopted over the years remains the same: make reservations in key destinations with as much notice as possible and then figure out the gaps between as you go
There are several reasons we like this approach. The first is that we might experience a mechanical issue and need a day or a week to sort it out, without the domino effect changing all of our plans and losing reservation deposits. More likely, we might really enjoy a spot and want to stay another day or two. And of course, there is the possibility that we won’t like a place and will want to move on a little sooner than expected.
Having some buffer between key spots allows for spontaneity, which is where some of the best experiences come from. After all, it’s easier to exceed expectations when you don’t have any!
“How did you get in here??”
We hear this all the time. Popular state parks on the water tend to book 6 months in advance (to the minute). So imagine the surprise of people who called in January to book in June when they learn that we called 2 minutes ago!
When people make reservations 6 months in advance, their plans aren’t real. They’re basically hoping that by the time June comes, the schedule of their kids, grandkids, and other commitments will all work out. Most of the time it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. So when do they call to cancel? The day they don’t get their money back. When is that day? Every day for someone! Figure out when reservations go “back into the system,” and call or go online at that time to pick up a cancellation. This approach is how we’ve stayed at some of the best (and most popular) State Parks during peak times of year.
During Season 9, we recorded a video about the cost of RV Living. The key point in that video is that preparation is the #1 way to save money. In our experience, when there are few sites available, the sites left tend to be at nicer RV parks and the premium lots. Yes, this can be a budget killer, but there are also plenty of ways to keep your RV lodging budget in check by using Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, dry camping, BLM and of course Walmart. On occasion, it’s fun to experience a luxury RV park with amenities that you won’t find just anywhere. And a few nights of dry camping can sustain your nightly average. And remember that while these RV parks are expensive, in most cases, they are far below the cost of a hotel.
Keep your eye on the big picture!
You’ve heard us say “start small, start now” a million times. The idea is not to wait for that perfect RV or the perfect time to get going. The same is true for RV parks. It might be tempting to think that if you can’t stay exactly where you want, when you want, it’s not worth it… but that’s not true.
The fact is, memories have far less to do with your location than what you did or who you’re with. Think back to the adventures of last year or even a decade ago… is lodging the first thing that comes to mind? Or is it the overall experience?
There will be plenty of twists and turns in your RVing journey, and that’s part of what makes it exciting. Do your best to take your time, remain flexible and mind the dip!