Friday, March 24, 2023


New virtual waitlist opens for campground reservations; prime sites snatched within seconds

What?! I hit the reservations button at the moment they were released at 9:00 a.m. and I am over number 400 on the waiting list for a Minnesota campsite reservation! How did that happen?!

Waitlisted for Minnesota campsite reservations

A very popular regional park in Minnesota is trying out a new reservation system: The wait list is in a virtual waiting room. Evidently, if you are logged in at the moment reservations open, everyone is put on a virtual waitlist based on when they logged in. How, then, did I get to be over 400 when I was up and ready at 6 a.m. to make the reservations? How were all the prime spots taken up before I ever got in?

This new system is to reduce the stress of booking reservations and keep the website up and running by slowing the traffic to it. Did it work?

Less stress

Yes, it was less stressful watching the bar move toward me getting in instead of seeing it spinning and not knowing if the site crashed or if I had been kicked out. Getting in was relatively quick—8 minutes. But the premium sites were gone by then.

Take your time

One of the advantages touted by the park was that you could take your time rather than having to complete the reservation within 10 minutes or risk it going back into circulation. I have made some big mistakes under the pressure to get it done! Most notable was once booking the wrong month and skipping a day mid-reservation another time. That means in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 campers and 9,000 campsites, there is nowhere to go. (Note: The state slogan is The Land of 10,000 Lakes. I am pretty sure there are more campers than that, at least in the middle of the short camping season.)

Prime Minnesota campsites reservations gone

The downside? The prime sites were gone, gone, gone. We did snag a full hook-up, pull-through site up against a bank of trees, so at least we are not squished next to another RV. My husband will not like it though. His happy camper self is being able to sit in a lawn chair and chat with others as they walk by. There will be no level place to put a chair on this site.

No crash

I will have to admit that the site did not crash, as it has in other years. There was no spinning. No starting all over again. I was not kicked out.

However, unlike other years, the prime sites were gone before I even got in. It feels a lot like a lottery. Never know if you are going to win or not. I wondered how others that came after me faired.



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4 days ago

Yeah, it can be really frustrating getting up early, or staying up late, waiting to book that gotta have a campground.

Just today our friend was up early to try to book a popular Florida state park campsite for them and us. Yesterday she called the 800 number and the very nice person she talked to said yep, there are 6 sites available so call right at 8 AM and you should be set. Well of course they were gone. So my friend and I were on the phone looking at nearby parks online and as we were checking out side-by-side sites, checking the length and what size rigs are allowed sites we clicked off as gone! In less than 10 minutes time of the 21 sites we were looking at in loop one, more than 10 were taken! So I called the 800 number and got connected immediately, had a super helpful agent and we got a couple of sites.

I think the bottom line is on any given day there are probably thousands of folks with the same idea trying to book the same park “when the booking window opens”.

Sandi Pearson
4 days ago

I know the pain of trying to get a camp site in Minnesota! We start summer on the north shore…the first year we had 4 different campsites over 2 weeks in one park, with having to leave for the weekend and come back in on Monday..crazy. This year we were able to get 2weeks in one space..hooray…not one of the three we really wanted and it is set up backwards with picnic table and fire ring are on the wrong side! We were grateful to get it as our stay includes the 4th of July this year! Another inland park was equally hard and we settled for the only site left…near the drive entrance. We hope the measurements are a misprint as it says 50′ long by 1′ wide…think we are camping on the trail! I keep forgetting to call and double check…tomorrow for sure!
Minnesota’s North Shore is a popular place in the summer!

5 days ago

Is it true that there are apps that camp on to reservation sites like this and let the ‘bot’ hold your place or make your reservation? Also is it true that many folks reserve everywhere they “might” want to go and then cancel all but the one they end up wanting? In which case, there will be cancellations all the time, and only bot could keep track and get you in much later once a vacancy is found. The whole thing makes me tired because I have trouble committing to an RV plan a year in advance. For one thing, there is this thing called bad weather!

5 days ago

Hi Nanci. I know exactly the park you are referring to! It’s one of our favorites. I can understand why you didn’t mention it by name. Nowadays you have to guard a favored campground like your best fishing hole or hunting spot!

I was logged in about 7:30 am. I was #38 in line. I have no idea how they are assigning the wait list positions. I was let in about 9:02. I was not booking a holiday, but was for the beginning State Fair time period (both grand daughters show animals). Got the two very large sites I wanted (one for us and the other next to it for my daughter’s family.)

My wife and I are pretty close to just being done with holiday weekends for RVing.

Tommy Molnar
5 days ago

I’m glad when I retired ten years ago we did the ‘customary’ National Park tour which took in the Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion. A side trip to Antelope Canyon ended our tour. We did make reservations at various campgrounds OUTSIDE of the actual parks and had no trouble finding spots. Not sure if that would be possible now. All of us had already been to Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Teton on previous trips. Now we boondock in NV and AZ.

5 days ago

Which MN state park campgrounds are the most in demand and hardest to book? Gooseberry Falls? Asking for a friend in WI.

5 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Anything along the North Shore will be hard to get.

Neal Davis
5 days ago

Good to know. Thanks, Nanci! 😎 I doubt that we’ll try to travel to Minnesota in the coming years.

5 days ago
Reply to  Neal Davis

Neal, when and if you do, Fall, especially October, anywhere along the Mississippi and along the North Shore will rival any fall foliage viewing you can find anywhere. Canoe in the Boundary Waters Wilderness on a cool fall morning with loons calling and a thin layer of fog rising from the still waters. Watch massive waves from Lake Superior crash along the shore or hike trails to the many waterfalls. Minnesota should be a destination on any traveler’s list of places to see. 🙂

Sandi Pearson
4 days ago
Reply to  Spike

True! Gunflint trail is amazing!

Gordon den Otter
5 days ago

For the last couple of years, Parks Canada has used a system where it tracks everyone who gets on before the start time, and then randomizes those entries at the start time. This is more fair than their previous system, which favored the more computer-savvy.

And 400th in line? You did great! For Jasper national park, I was about 13,000th in line, and counted myself lucky. Last year, I was about 37,000th in line for Banff (I got my reservations, but not always the specific sites and dates I wanted).

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