Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Finding a campsite getting nerve-racking?



Dear RV Shrink:
rvshrinkThis RV lifestyle is supposed to be relaxing, but trying to get a space in a campground is nerve-racking.

My husband and I have a method, but I am still shaking when it’s all over. We have a motorhome and pull a small car. As we get close to a first-come, first-served campground, he unhooks the car from the motorhome and waits while I go in and try to secure a site. Often I have to bother other campers and ask if they are leaving. Often there are others doing the same. It’s like a scavenger hunt. We see it only getting worse. Do you have any suggestions? —All shook up in Apgar

Dear Shook Up:
It is getting very interesting. More and more campgrounds are going to reservation only just to avoid all the disgruntled campers who reach a destination just to find out it is already filled to the gills.

We were just at Many Glacier Campground in Glacier National Park. That campground went to partial reservations this season. The sites that remain FCFS are in high demand. Every morning there is a line of rigs stretching from the entrance gate, down the road and around the corner. Those who know how it works get in line as early as 4 a.m. At 7 a.m. the hosts come out and allow in campers as sites become available. They have already quizzed site occupants the night before on whether they are leaving or not, and have an idea of how many sites will be available. They tell those far back in the line that they are most likely not getting a site and that they should move on and try to find other accommodations.


As sad as it is that there seems to be more demand than supply, I thought this was a well-organized attempt to take some of the pressure off people running willy-nilly through a campground almost fighting over sites and interrogating people on their intentions of length of stay.

Combat camping, campground bingo, and campground musical chairs — I’ve heard it all. On the front of our National Park handout we received at the gate, it says in large type, “FIND YOUR PARK.” What it should say is, “FIND YOUR PARKING SPACE.”

If reservations are not an option, my only suggestions would be to pick a day to move into a campground when it might be less busy, and more likely that people would be moving on. Sunday thru Wednesday are good choices. Try none-peak seasons, and arrive early.

The early bird gets to worm his way into the best sites.

My best advice is, “Never, and I mean never, let them see you sweat.” —Keep Smilin’, RV Shrink


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Terri Foxx-Wishert
6 years ago

We almost always make reservations, as full-timers, because we pull in for a few days, do our sight seeing, and then move on. Often, we are in high season, and need the security of knowing that we have a place to land. While I reserve on the credit card, once we get there, it’s paid for on the debit card.

6 years ago

It all depends on where you want to stay. High season, high-demand spots will only get busier. Over our 8+ years of full-timing, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of other RVs in places we periodically pass through. We’ve also seen RV parks and campgrounds fold, change owners or for other reasons decline in service, leaving fewer good places to stay.

It’s a bit arrogant to assume people who aren’t finding spots aren’t doing their homework — they could be traveling in a very different area, at a different time of the year. We all know you can stop into a usually quiet place on what happens to be the one week of the year a special event is going on so there’s nothing available.

In our years of full-timing, we’ve been full cycle. In 2009 we made some reservations, found out we didn’t need them, then didn’t make any. We made a few for our 2013 trip to Alaska, but didn’t make any for a few years. This year we did, and we will probably make more next year.

Marcel Ethier
6 years ago

We have been RVing since 2004 and seldom make reservations when travelling. When we leave in the mornings, we usually plan 300 miles or 6 hours, whichever comes first. We will look at where we will be then and call a few campgrounds around the area while we are travelling and reserve a site. We have always found a site.

6 years ago

Use Google maps (or one of the other similar sites) to find “nearby” campgrounds. Alternative is to locate more than one choice. I don’t do the hotspots much. I prefer to park for a month (paying the monthly site rent) in a fairly centrally located area and then use my towed to daytrip to other places (I pack picnic lunches too). Cheaper all around and I can tour the area cheaper, easier and more thoughly. Mostly cheaper. I still have to work for my $$. If I have to be in a specific location, I will do a reservation.

6 years ago

Within 2 hours of our home is a county park that is gorgeous …but FCFS. We don’t go there. Have considered going as a group so we could carpool & grab a few sites & then call everyone to bring the trailers on down.

In a different county the park has ‘walk up sites’ that become available on line at 8 am to reserve instead of driving there & being frustrated. This is a GREAT idea (& has stopped the line of campers that would start around midnight every weekend)

6 years ago

There are two sides to every coin. Full timers for 10 years, and we very rarely make reservations. We have found that when making reservations, those RV parks are expensive ($30/night) or more, you’re either crammed next to a barking dog, noisy kids or an unattended smokey campfire, or something worse. We’ve stayed in a Walmart once, and never any other parking lot. There are so many websites to get information on boondocking, which is free. You just need to spend the time to learn the computer technology, bookmark productive websites, keep good notes of past places or referrals, and leave the rv park reservation hassle to those who deserve it for not doing their research.

6 years ago
Reply to  Robbie

Amen!! We’ve been fullltiming for over 6 years and have been in almost every state, including Alaska. In all that time we’ve made less than 10 reservations. But we’re fully equipped with solar, large water capacities, and generator for boondocking, which helps for the few times we couldn’t get a site. But overall we’ve had few problems, with internet access and a little planning.

Lynn Decker
6 years ago

I would never take the chance on a first come, first serve campground. Even if I make the reservation an hour before we anticipate getting there. That is the joy of traveling with a cellphone and a computer. If you cant find a spot, try a WalMart, Sams Club, BassProShop, Cracker Barrel and then go hunting the next day…

Marv Thomasson
6 years ago

I would suggest checking out places within driving distance if you can’t make reservations. Also look for signs along the highways, there are a lot of very small campgrounds that are not listed anywhere. Just down the road from where we are is a campground that advertises overnight camping, but I can’t find it listed anywhere. I don’t need bathhouses, rec halls, etc. I just need a place to park with the basics. My RV provides what I need.

6 years ago

We’ve read about this for quite a long time. For us as full-time Rvers for three years we ALWAYS make reservations.
We camp at Florida State Parks from late October til mid May. We make reservations 11 months in advance. Even though we pay for these in advance it’s well worth knowing we have a place to stay. If something unexpected comes up we can always cancel and pay a small fee. We would hate driving around wasting gas on our DP looking for a spot let alone the stress.

Patricia Purtell
6 years ago

This is our first foray into RVing across the country. Based on our experience of short time camping in NYS campgrounds, I wouldn’t even consider NOT HAVING A RESERVATION. It would be lovely to be free wheeling hippies again but it is NOT a reality. I cannot deal with that kind of anxiety. Especially towing something. Most of the people approaching RVing are the Boomers. WE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE. Plan ahead. Check the site on Google maps satelite. Enjoy.

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