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Campground owners discuss campsite waitlists. Are they worth it or too hard to manage?

Campgrounds in popular locations have long used campsite waitlists to handle backlogs of RVers waiting for an open spot.

While many park owners still work to maintain their ever-growing waiting lists to give those at the top first dibs on sites when cancellations occur, more than a few are forgoing the waitlists and relying instead on a first-come, first-served process.

Kampgrounds of America’s recent North American Camping Report said 56 million families camped at least once in 2021. The report also said 93.8 million households in the U.S. identify themselves as active camping households.

That rapid rise in the number of campers has led to intense competition for elusive available campsites. It has also led to campers searching far and wide at multiple parks for an open site.

Many campground owners are reporting their tried-and-true site waiting lists weren’t working as well as they used to. By the time a site opened and the owner tracked down the camper, it’s likely the camper had either found an alternate location, changed their route, or canceled the trip entirely.

We decided to check with a few campground owners and see what they are doing about camper waitlists. The information is anecdotal and is intended to give RVers an insight into the current state of mind of owners. If you’re wondering how waitlists are being handled at your favorite park location, contact them directly.

Owners’ comments on campsite waitlists

“There is no waitlist here. Just keep calling to check. I tried a waitlist and when I’d call them they’d already found another site, which is great for them. I got tired of the hassle since no problem filling cancelled sites.” —Marla S.

“We don’t do waiting lists at all. Typically, by the time we get to someone on a list, they have found somewhere else. It is first-come, first-served.” —Mary G.

“We always have a waitlist. The longer, the better.” —Katy B.

“We do not do seasonal stays, so no list for that. If we are full for a holiday or regular weekend and if someone asks to go on a list, I tell them no. I don’t care if they call every day to check, but no list.” —Lea T.

“We had a big list, but most on the list found other places. We are full since I added more sewer sites and they are filling up fast. Everyone wants full hookups, even for one night. It’s crazy.” —Jeff C.

“We have 150 people on the campsite waitlist. We go by date and size of the site. I called #98 today for a site because he will fit into the one site I have available. Everybody before him had over 30-foot-long campers.” —Jen L.

“I booked three canceled sites for Memorial Day weekend from our waitlist today. I think people really appreciate that you will call them.” —Karen P.

“We don’t do a waitlist for campers. We are mostly an overnight park for those heading to another destination. By mid-June I would have 30+ people for every night on the list. We’ll do a short list for cabins on busy weekends. We only have seven cabins, so after the first 10 on the waitlist we quit adding them.” —Richard T.

“We have a 90-day max stay, and we are still full with a waiting list since September 2019.” —Terry T.

How do YOU feel about campsite waitlists to access canceled campsites? Let us know in the comments below.

##RVT1052

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Smallrvlifestyle
3 days ago

Wait lists are probably only in private campgrounds. I saw national parks or state parks full but they don’t have waiting lists. My rig is set up for boondocking so I always find options for an overnight anywhere but if i wanted to stay in Florida in the winter for months probably i would have to be on a waiting lists or west public land don’t have wait lists. I have no desire to be in full campgrounds much, I don’t like parks crowded. I try to avoid busy areas.

J Edwards
7 days ago

I can see where it is a bit of a job for rv parks to call someone just to find out they found a different campground. But. Come on, really?? Owners want campers to call back as often as every day??? Having been full time for 7 years, it is becoming obvious that customer service has been rapidly disappearing in the last couple of years. We’ve called several in Florida 9 months in advance for a 1 to 2 month stay just to be told, “We’re only taking reservations for 6 months stays, but you can check back in October or November in case we relax that requirement.” Sure, like that’s going to work for RVers.

Becky T
7 days ago

Wait lists are a tool for planning. Requiring to update say every 3 months or 6 months off season or be deleted. Is a tool necessary for seasonal camper customers planning. Always kept renting seasonal FL Apts. Even with return Season Deposits.

Brad
10 days ago

Wait lists exacerbate an already existing problem with reservations that are made and then never used. As the article and others mention, there’s a lot of overhead in maintaining a waiting list and many times the camper has already found another place to stay. There is a service called CampNab that you can use to be automatically notified when a cancellation occurs but they have a per use/monthly/annual fee structure that is, IMO, pricey and is not very widespread. If private RV parks, chains like KOA and reservation services like ReserveAmerica & Recreation.Gov offered a similar, integrated service then there’d be little need for waiting lists.

In a related example, we recently made a reservation in 2024 at a campsite to watch the upcoming solar eclipse and had to commit to a nonrefundable payment. We can, however, transfer the reservation to another person if it turns out that we can’t make it. That certainly seemed like one way to keep campers from booking multiple sites. 😉

Steve
10 days ago

Never been on a waitlist and never plan to be. If an RV park in an area we need to stay in is full, we are equipped to dry camp or boondock for 1-2 nights. But we mostly stay in Federal, state, or city/county campgrounds, so waitlists are something we haven’t run across.

Dwelch
10 days ago

I was struck by the number of parks that said most often the waitlisted campers had gone elsewhere by the time they were called back. For parks that maintain waitlists, it would be courteous and helpful if waitlisted campers let the park know when they’ve found other accommodations.

Jerome Welte
10 days ago

Park owners may also be missing the secondary benefits of a wait list. An opportunity to interact again with a potential client when a spot is available. A list to call when they aren’t close to being full. Etc.

Bob M
10 days ago

With the price of fuel up, maybe they’ll be more campsites available. People may just use campsites a few miles from home. I may only make reservations next year at state parks less than 50 miles from home. I own my own campsite 18 miles from my house where I leave my camper.

wanderer
10 days ago
Reply to  Bob M

There will be more campsites available in remote locations, but the ones close to population centers will have that much more pressure on them as people plan cheaper getaways.

Steve
10 days ago
Reply to  wanderer

@ Wanderer, right on. This has been my opinion all along. I would like to see data like this (which I don’t really believe anyway) stratified more. And one comparison being a breakdown of say campground availability based on a 50 miles radius of a major attraction and availability outside the 50 mile radius. We have rarely had issues with sites availability, but we are not “vacationing” in a camper going to major tourist attractions!

tom
10 days ago

A short wait list may be okay. We have been on a wait list for a very popular week-end event. It’s been several years, and still no call. We check occasionally. A lottery system might be better for very popular events .