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Finally! California state parks proposing to penalize no-shows, release sites to public

One of the biggest issues that RVers report in our Campground Crowding column is the number of empty campsites caused by no-shows. Now, finally, something is being done about it at California state parks.

Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a California state lawmaker, is proposing a bill that would hit the no-show right in their wallet and make it difficult to book again at any of California’s 280 state parks.

Assembly Bill 618 would change the current policy and overhaul the reservation system. Here’s what the bill entails:

Cancellation

  • 10 days: Refund if cancellation is made at least 10 days ahead of reservation minus the reservation fee
  • 7 days: Credit is issued if cancellation is made 7 days ahead of reservation. Credit must be used within 5 years.
  • 3 days: No refund is made if canceled 3 days or less ahead of reservation.

With all these cancellations, the campsite or lodging site returns to circulation for anyone to book.

No-show

  • If no-show within 24 hours without notice, the entire reservation will be forfeited without a refund.
  • If no-show within 24 hours, the site will be made available for walk-up reservations.

Repeat offenders

  • If someone no-shows three times or more in a calendar year, future reservations are banned or limited.

Long-term limits

  • 30-day limit for calendar year, per park
  • 7 consecutive day limit during peak season

Notifications

Emails will be sent with reminders of the reservation dates and cancellation policies. They will be sent at 10 and 4 days before the reservation date to allow for cancellations with possible refunds or credit. The email will include a warning about losing reservations for no-shows.

6.5 million campers in California state parks yearly

6.5 million people camp in California state parks each year and demand is growing. Like so many other places, state park reservations are snapped up minutes after the 8 a.m. release.

It is hard to get a reservation, and finding numerous no-shows and empty sites when arriving is disheartening. This bill will penalize the no-shows and late cancellations, and it would open up those empty sites.

The bill was introduced on February 9 of this year by California State Assembly Member Bauer-Kahan. To read the bill click here.

If you would like to add your voice and support for this bill, you can contact Rebecca Bauer-Kahan’s office.

##RVT1092b

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Heather
1 month ago

Thanks for forwarding the Assemby woman’s website- but unfortunately only members in her district are allowed to contact her there. This is what I -wanted- to say:

“Dear Assembly Member Bauer-Kahan,

Just wanted to thank you for drafting up the very sensible Assembly Bill 618 that -finally- penalizes & restricts RV reservation “No-Shows.”

It’s about time someone addressed this very frustrating problem. Can only hope other states adopt this bill to keep park & camping access more equitable.”

Admin
Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Heather

Thank you, Heather. I would think Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan would want to hear from folks other than just people in her district, since her proposed bill would impact travelers from everywhere. Did you try this email link for her: https://lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=AD16 Good luck. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Kevin Hogle
1 month ago

Too little. Too late.

BarbJ
1 month ago

Thank you for the article about the proposed California bill penalizing no shows. As a Californian RVer, I hope this long-overdue legislation passes quickly, although the penalties could be more severe imo. It’s hard enough getting reservations at popular California parks/beaches. And I applaud the length of time limits.

Larry
1 month ago

A lot of this sounds good. However, the part about short notice cancellation not getting any refund sounds good, but it will backfire, since there is no incentive to cancel the reserved spot will be empty and wasted.

Brenda
1 month ago

It’s a great start! But humans are very creative folks…someone will figure out a way around the system. Some will go through their entire family for different registration names, and when they run out, they will go through the phone book!.

Unique identifier is the only way: camper license tags work well, I believe. It also helps camphosts to identify if a camper is late leaving or early arriving when it is at the campsite alone — no vehicle or humans to help identify.

If you try using your wife’s name or your mother’s name, it won’t matter since the ID is tied to the camper itself. Of course, if you loan your camper to a relative, they are using your 30 days. Nothing’s perfect, I guess.

From the wording of the bill, I suspect they are also trying to avoid long-term tenants which is becoming more problematic at public parks.

Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Brenda

I don’t loan my RV to anyone, not even my kids, they won’t take care of it like I do.

R M
1 month ago

It’s about time and the rest of the states need to follow suit !
As a camphost in a very busy Arizona state park I see a lot of no shows. IT’S NOT FAIR to others.

rvgrandma
1 month ago

Needs to be like majority of hotels/motels – no shows or cancellation within 24 hours are charged one night fee then the space is made available for walk ins. If a medical emergency or accident prevents them, then they can submit proof to get a refund for the one night charge.

Deena Jones
1 month ago

Why not charge the no-show within 24 hours without notice reservations the full amount of the cancelled reservation?

rich
1 month ago

that’s a start but unless the reservation includes some verifiable information that can be checked at check-in the penalty for repeated no-shows has no real teeth. offenders will simply use different IDs to circumvent the ban.

R M
1 month ago
Reply to  rich

We see people using maiden names, after being banned. Good thing our rangers and camphosts have a good memory..

bull
1 month ago

EVERY PARK OWNER public or private should be adopting cancellation policies such as this!

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Contacting via email only viable if California resident. Out of staters must call.

Gary
1 month ago
Reply to  Neal Davis

Where does it say that?

Neal Davis
1 month ago

Excellent policy with generous windows for cancellation with refund or credit. I especially applaud the potential banning, or at least constraining, of repeat offenders. This improves the experience for all and is quite a nice step to offset some of the anti-RV effects of other California policies and legislation.

Jack
1 month ago

I am glad someone is finally trying to do something. It would be nice if they would add that the bookings be tied to a tag number, and also all bookings have to be paid in full at the time of reservation. I believe that would stop a lot of the blocking of sites with the same tag number. And if you had to pay in full you might rethink the number of days you are attempting to book. If passed I hope all state parks make the new rule mandatory.

Ron
1 month ago

It’s about time

Jim Johnson
1 month ago

Love it!

Well, with the exception that I see no exceptions for delays not controllable by the reservation holder. Weather, road conditions (traffic jams happen for more than weather reasons – just look at many California freeways), mechanical issues or medical issues all come to mind. And what documentation might be needed to justify these exceptions? And do you lose the whole reservation or just lose reimbursement for days you are not there?

Last fall the campground where we leave our RV year-round and winter was almost completely booked. We transit using a second much smaller TT, pay for a site for one night to allow us to re-open the larger RV, winterize the small TT and move it to its reserved storage site. No sites were available near our RV and we had to schlep things across the campground. However, 3 sites directly across the park road from our RV remained empty for over a week. All I needed was one bloody night.

bull
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Johnson

Leave earlier, take a different route, get WAZE to help with traffic bottlenecks and REMEMBER you still have 24 hours from when your reservation starts to git there BEFORE they totally cancel your reservation for being a No Show.

Bud
1 month ago
Reply to  bull

We couldn’t leave earlier (vehicle mechanical issues), road was closed, (I-5 south), alternate route was stop and go traffic for 4 hours out of 5, no alternate route to San Diego. Any other ideas? Not everyone fits in a box. Don’t get me wrong, I would cancel no shows with no refund! In our case, we called the campground 3 times updating them. They gave us late checkin instructions and we made it in the dark. A 2 hr trip took 5 hours! Things happen 🤷🏼‍♂️

Cancelproof
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Johnson

Yeah, that seems harsh but if your only a day late you only lose a day.

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

If you are going to be running late, who are we supposed to call that will answer the phone ?

bull
1 month ago

The person on the other end at the phone number provided to you by your reservation email/paperwork.

Brenda
1 month ago
Reply to  bull

As a volunteer, it is unfortunate that there are seldom enough workers to man the phones 24/7 AND provide service for the line of folks already standing at the desk. Most online systems have a cancellation option. We have used that several times at state parks and it worked well.

Rich K.
1 month ago

5 will get you 10 somebody in the CA legislature will insert a clause that says that people who belong to certain allegedly “marginalized” groups will get a “free pass” and the rules and restrictions won’t apply to them…cuz, California!

Otherwise, it’s a great idea and should apply nation-wide!

Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Rich K.

Go back to sleep

R M
1 month ago
Reply to  Rich K.

You are 💯 correct

LKetner
1 month ago

I totally get that no-shows are a problem. What I disagree with is paying for a spot in advance and then possibly breaking down and being unable to get to the campground. I’ve paid for a spot that I can’t use, but if the campground then fills that spot with someone, that’s unjust enrichment. There needs to be a caveat for those who have emergencies. We ALWAYS call if we need to cancel and most places refund or refund less a small fee. I hope they take emergencies into consideration.

Jim Prideaux
1 month ago

“If no show within 24 hours…” Within 24 hours of what? If I reserve a site for the 15th of the month and check in is at 3:00 pm, Does the 24 hour period begin at 3:00 pm? Many are still on the road traveling to the site at that time until dark and even past dark.

bull
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Prideaux

Yes! Pretty simple Huh?

Duane
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Prideaux

It was written by elected officials. They intentionally use confusing language.

Bill T
1 month ago

I didn’t read anywhere in the article that said any reservation made would be paid in full at the time of the reservation. This would be pointless without full upfront cash and couple that with the ‘three strike” annual rule, would this really be effective, given that most campers are weekend or annual summer holiday users. The biggest problem I have noticed in my travels is that the requirement to book so far in advance (up to a year in places) with only a minimum down payment causes a lot of “I don’t know where I will actually be travelling next year, when I get my two weeks holidays, so lets book a bunch and then choose later. Most folks don’t mind loosing a “one night” deposit if it means they can have their choice of destinations “next summer”. Reservation payment in full and “bot” blocking reservation software will go a long way to prevent “no shows”.

Warren G
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill T

I haven’t stayed in CA yet, but every other state that I have required the entire payment upfront.

Duane
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill T

Full payment has been required when I have booked in CA State Parks (and every other state). Many private campgrounds don’t require full payment at reservation, but this bill does not impact them.

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