Christina and Ben live a minimal and purposeful life that prioritizes adventures. Christina enjoys scenic drives, sunsets and art. Ben is more of a “watch the big game, campfire, bourbon, people person” type of guy. More than anything, they enjoy being together in their Jayco Jay Feather travel trailer and not being tied to one particular location.
How Far In Advance To Book A Campsite
CHRISTINA AND BEN MCMILLAN
Camping and RVing are continuing to gain popularity, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of slowing. More campers are hitting the road and are booking their campsites much earlier in the season.
So, if you’re looking to book a campsite but aren’t sure how far in advance to make a reservation or are struggling to find available campgrounds, we’ve got some tips to help.
Do Your Research - Book Far In Advance For Peak Season
Summer is the most popular season for camping, and for good reason. The days are longer, the weather is warmer and kids are out of school. The peak summer season typically runs from Memorial day to Labor Day. If you plan to RV camp during this time, then we highly recommend you book your campsite as far ahead as possible. At the end of the season, we recommend making a list of your top destinations for the following year. This will give you enough time to research and understand their individual reservation timelines and systems. Some private campgrounds offer reservations a year or more in advance, whereas some public campgrounds may be six months. This is also a good time to research and vet various campgrounds—Campendium is a great resource to use in this part of the process. A general rule of thumb is to have your campsites booked at least six months ahead of your trip.
National Park Reservation Windows Will Vary By Park
Most National Park Service (NPS) campsites are available for reservation six months in advance for individual sites or twelve months in advance for group sites. However, the exact reservation window does vary by park—some windows open three months in advance, while others open nine months in advance. Do your research to find out when your specific park starts taking reservations and try to jump on them as soon as possible. The winter months are actually a good time to start thinking about and planning next year’s summer camping. Reservations can be made online at recreation.gov or by calling the specific park’s office.
Use Wandering Labs To Find Last-Minute Cancellations
If all of the campgrounds and RV parks are full, then consider signing up for Wandering Labs. This website allows you to input the exact place you want to stay, and for how long, and then it continually monitors that specific location’s reservation system for any last-minute cancellations. You will receive a text or email notification once a site becomes available. Wandering Labs is free, but they do offer a premium membership for $30 per year.
Take Advantage Of Shoulder Seasons
Shoulder season is the period of time between peak season and off-season. Shoulder seasons can vary by location and region of the country but they generally occur in mid-spring and mid-fall. Crowds are typically much lower during shoulder seasons, and campground prices are often discounted. You’ll have a much easier time finding a reservation during this season, or you may not even have to make a reservation at all. Just keep in mind that weather and temperatures are likely to fluctuate during this time, and not all trails, roads and amenities are open.
Check Out First-Come-First-Serve Campsite Options
If you don’t want to be tied to a reservation then first-come-first-serve campgrounds, including boondocking on public lands, is a great option. Many established campgrounds will reserve a few spots specifically for first-come-first-serve. However, these types of campsites are becoming increasingly more popular. We’ve found that if we look for a site during the middle of the week, or show up really early in the morning, then we have a much better chance of finding an available spot.
Look For Private RV Parks Near Your Final Destination
If you are set on visiting a popular destination during peak seasons but are having trouble finding an available campsite at a public campground, then try looking at private RV parks. Public campgrounds at popular destinations can quickly fill up with tent or car campers, but RV parks are usually reserved for people with RVs. Most private RV parks will also let you make a reservation years in advance, which will help lock you into a specific rate (even if their nightly rates increase year-over-year). Some other benefits to private RV parks include large campsites, full hook-ups and premium amenities, including swimming pools, laundromats and restaurants. Keep in mind that RV parks can be more expensive than other types of campgrounds.
Try Boondocking Or Dry Camping
Boondocking, which is self-sufficient RVing without any access to water, sewer or electricity, can open you up to a lot more camping opportunities. National forests, state parks and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land are all great places for boondocking. Plus, many national parks have public land right next door, so you can camp nearby and not have to worry about making a reservation. If you do decide to boondock, make sure you’re aware of any maximum stay rules (usually 14 days) and any camping distance requirements (general rule of thumb is to park 1,000 feet away from another boondocker).
Find The Road Less Traveled
Be open to expanding how you view camping. Camping does not have to mean an established campsite in a campground or even a dedicated spot at an RV park. Camping can mean boondocking or moochdocking. It can mean going to a local national forest or a lesser-known state park for one night. You don’t have to stay at a well-known campground or a popular national park in order to enjoy the camping experience. You can find beautiful nature and solitude in so many places across the country, you just have to dig a little to find them.
Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.
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