Avoid hidden fees by knowing a park’s reservation system

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RVtravel.com reader Jeffrey Torsrud has been an avid RVer for nearly two decades and has owned several RVs. He offers this warning about fees when booking your campsite online:

As most RVers know, making reservations in advance is a must these days. However, I’ve come across a very troublesome problem.


Some RV parks, usually the ones in popular tourist locations, use online reservation systems. I have found it is wise to understand the online system thoroughly before making a reservation to avoid extra fees. In some cases, extra fees will be added during the process, like pet fees, extra fees for 50-amp service, AND THE BIG ONE: cancellation fees.

These online systems are set up as a convenience, which provides an extra fee for the online system provider.

I recently had to cancel an upcoming trip, where we would have stayed at six different RV parks. I was only penalized $10 by one park for using their online system. Another park on this trip would have charged me another $10, had I used their online system (which I didn’t). The park in question at the first stop charged the entire stay to my credit card, so now I have to wait for their system to refund the fees back, which can take up to seven days. You have to make sure this is done or risk losing the entire amount.

BOTTOM LINE: It is better to simply call the RV parks you wish to stop at and make the reservation over the phone. Many parks have some form of a cancellation fee, if you don’t cancel within a certain time frame, say 24 hours.

I understand the need for parks to protect their reservations, especially in the busy seasons, but the consumer/RVer needs to be aware of the hidden fees within the specific online reservation system (and they vary from state to state). Be thoughtful when you book, and you could save yourself a lot of money.

We welcome your thoughts. Please submit them here.

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Jeff

As a follow-up to my original Story and comments.

I finally got my refund back from the OASIS RV Resort in Amarillo, TX.

It took over 5 weeks from the original cancellation date!

So, RVers beware on Online Reservation Systems. Much easier to call the RV Park and make your reservation over the phone!

Gene Cheatham

A related issue that bugs the stew out of me concerns the online reservation system(s), Recreation.gov and Reserve America for instance, for Corps of Engineer properties and many state parks. We currently camp mostly in IL and MO and love the US Army Corps parks and the great state parks.

My problem lies with those Iv’e heard talking openly about booking multiple campgrounds for the same, and often a holiday, weekend. Their rationale is they aren’t sure where they want to go or be. First off, shame on them for being so discourteous to everyone, especially those that can only get out on those busy weekends.

It seems to me it would not be difficult to cull out duplicate reservations and not allow one without cancelling the other. There must be some way to beat back selfish site hogs.

Betsy

I work at a campground during the spring and summer in the Outer Banks, NC. We have an online reservation system but I always recommend that guests call us directly to save the booking fee and to get a better idea where the campsites are located in the campground. We have more than 400 sites at several different price levels. The reservation office is open 9 am to 10:30 pm from mid May to Labor Day so there isn’t really a need to book online.

Bill

The biggest of the many issues I have with the Reservation Systems is that time and again I have run into situations where campsites are reserved at multiple locations for the same night by the same party. These presumably financially stable folks then just come and pick the site they like best and let the others go empty. This has become a rampant style and others must surely feel by now the frustration of seeing a reserved site by the stream or next to the beach go empty for the duration of the reserved period (while the rest of us go campground to campground in search of an unreserved spot). Or, having been suckered in to the reservation system we arrive at our less than levelable site only to see others remain vacant yet reserved. This is mainly at USFS Campgrounds in Oregon and Washington but I have seen it in every western state I’ve camped in. State Parks too.

Cindy Martin

I’m aggravated that our Indiana State Park Reserve America people charge not only for MAKING the reservation in the first place, but then for the Credit Card to secure it besides. They don’t want to do business outside of the internet. And if you cancel, tough on you. They issue no refund. I don’t know if they can sell the site to someone else or not. A one night stay ends up costing you nearly $10 just for the reservation. Doesn’t seem very cost effective. I’m staying home.

Richard Carlson

We’ve seen both sides of the deal — as travelers and park hosts. An average phone call with someone to make a reservation can take as much as fifteen minutes, and somebody has got to pay that human to sit at the phone. Having the ability to preview the sites, choose from what’s open, and get a written (email) confirmation is more than worth the $10 to us. YMMV.

Mike & Cathi Stark

There is a very nice park in northern Spokane that gives NO refund. If you have to cancel, you receive a credit to be used within a year (I think). Fortunately we were in that park when a family situation required us to make major changes to our September plans. I had to cancel reservations at about 8 other parks, but except for a couple of $10 fees I had no issues. I will make a note when I create a reservation in the future so I can keep track of the phone vs on-line reservation differences. Thanks for the alert.

Traveler

Colorado state parks charged us a reservation fee to walk in and get a site in 2017. Grrrr.

Hank

Our gripe with state Parks is they tack on an additional fee If you have a toad. They say it is because you have 2 motors. I say I am no different then a trailer or 5th wheel, because we park our motorhome and it never moves. Only our toad. I know for sure Nebraska does this, $8 a DAY. Also Colorado. We are being screwed because we have a motorhome. I say state lawmakers don’t know what the heck they are doing when passing these stupid laws. We do not and will not stay in State parks in Nebraska or Colorado ever again and any other state because of this unfair practice. I think their state park systems are interpreting the law wrong, and are making more money on it so no one is going to correct this injustice. Also some states tack on an extra fee if you are not a state resident!

Bill T.

Good story. We had an extra fee tacked on as a reservation fee using the Parks of St Lawrence website, in Ontario Canada and didn’t know it until after we checked in and received the invoice. I will be calling for reservations where we travel, unless otherwise required.

Stephen Gorzynski

In addition to the “hidden fees” associated with online reservation, one must be on the lookout for additional fees encountered when checking-in and not known until arrival. Many (not all) State Parks across the country will tack on a park “day-usage fee” to be inside the state park. I have been told that the reservation fee made online only covers the use of the campground and its facilities. The day use fee is for entering the state park in general. This fee is usually $5.00/day, but I have seen it as high at $15/day. We usually stay in state parks at least five days and sometimes as long as 10 days. If you are staying in a particular state park that charges an additional day use fee to those staying in the campground, this hidden fee can REALLY add up.

Jeff

As a Follow-up to this story:

As I mentioned, I booked a reservation online for a 4 night stay via the parks Online System. That was on 10/22/19. Unfortunately, we had to cancel this trip and cancel the reservations. It has been more than a week now and I have still NOT received my Refund for the stay, back to my Credit Card.

This is one of those Online Systems that is a contract style system, that makes its money from Cancellation Fees and I don’t know if the RV Park gets a cut of that or not??

The Cancellation Fee was $10, but the original amount was $160! So I am still waiting for $150 to be refunded.

For those of you wondering what RV Park this is: Oasis RV Resort in Amarillo, TX. This is one of those cases to call them on the phone and make the reservation directly.

Well, back to the Email to see what the hold up is!

You all take Care out there!

Jeff