Tips? Reserving popular campsites

Discussion in 'Reservation Systems' started by Weekend Warrior, May 18, 2012.

  1. Weekend Warrior

    Weekend Warrior New Member

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    Hi gang,

    Haven't been here in a while, just popped up the TT for the first time in preparation for our first weekend away coming up, can't wait!

    My question for the group is about reserving popular provinicial or state park campsites. Specifically via the online registration. We are trying to book a few days at the Haynes Point camping area in Osoyoos and have been skunked repeatedly even when we are sitting at the computer waiting for the opening bell! Now I realize we're trying to book one of the most sought after sites in BC and they only have a handfull ta boot. But it seems like they are instantly gone every time without ever having a shot at it. I mean I'm sitting at the reservation booking page waiting until the very minute we can book and I can't for the life of me get it done!

    Is there something I'm missing that everyone else knows to do?
    Are you able to call ahead and prebook?

    I'm just wondering if anyone knows of any tips or tricks in this department because it's getting really frustrating!

    Thanks for reading, appreciate any thoughts!
    WW
     
  2. Twisty

    Twisty New Member

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    The popularity is the killer.
    Perhaps it is time to go exploring and stay at a lesser known park.
    Of the 5 reservations I made this year in Oregon there was only 1 that I kept on eye on.
    I missed the window by 2 days yet still got the site I wanted for the dates I wanted. CG's that do not have full hookups or water or power at every site have sites that are pretty easy to get.
     
  3. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    One problem you're going to run into with reservations is that just about everybody has the same idea as you, particularly if it's a popular park; my guess is peak season and a weekend. If you can, you may want to look at camping in this particular park during the week and/or early/late season rather than peak. Are all sites reservable? Another issue you may run into is that only a certain number of sites are actually reservable....so you have a whole bunch of people vieing for a handfull of sites. Most of the SPs in New Mexico will take reservations through Reserve America, but only for a handfull of sites; the rest are first come-first served. There's one particular SP here in NM that if you didn't know any better, you would think it impossible to actually camp there because everything is seemingly always booked.....the reality is that of 35 sites at this SP, only 6 are reservable. I have found that if I arrive before noon on a Friday....but preferably earlier (like Thurs afternoon or something) I rarely have a problem getting a first come-first served site.....in fact, I can't recall ever not being able to find a site if I get their early on a Friday. Afternoon on Firday is another story altogether.

    You may also want to explore some less popular parks. We have a couple that don't take reservations and they're just as nice, if not nicer than the ones that do.....they're usually less crowded/popular for the simple fact that they don't take reservations and a lot of people like having that safety net. Also, non hookup sites tend to be more redily available.
     
  4. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    Have you tried later? IIRC, people can put a site in their shopping cart and have 15 minutes to finish booking it, after that it becomes available to others. When we reserved a NF site in CO last year, for the Rally, it seemed that everything booked up almost immediately, though we did get the site we wanted. However, later things opened up again, at least for a while. Plans change, people book more than one place to hedge their bets, change their minds etc.
    I'm also almost convinced some people have some program that allows then to snarf reservations and the like, not to mention we don't have the super-duper extra-fancy top speed connection.
     
  5. robanna

    robanna New Member

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    A friend of ours showed us this trick:
    Most places will let you book xx days ahead of time so she books and extra day or two if she really want that site. so if you want it on friday night book it for thursday and friday and you can book it a day before the guys that wants it for friday as well. You have to eat the cost of the extar days but to her it's worth it to get just the site she wants.
     
  6. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    I was acutally going to mention that. If others have a faster internet, they're going to get connected to the host server first. You may want to check your bandwidth.
     
  7. Weekend Warrior

    Weekend Warrior New Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions, I love this place!

    As far as connection speed goes, I actually not only have a fast connection at work where I try to book, but my wife tries at her work and my sister tries at her work, we all get shut out!

    We not only tried to book a couple of days ahead of when we plan to arrive we have been trying everymorning since to the point where we would be arriving a couple days late if we managed to get a spot! At this site you can only book 3 months ahead of time, so each day is a race to snag sites that are available at the very second reservations are allowed.

    I will inquire about non reservable sites, and like a few suggested, simply find less popular but just as nice spots.

    Anyone know any gems in Washington or Northern Oregon? I tried booking Fort Stevens, forget it! This place must be fantastic?? Last year we arrived on a Thursday in August and they were full so we stayed at the KOA across the street. Is that place as good as it seems with it being so hard to get??

    Thanks again everyone.
     
  8. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    I was just looking at making reservations for Fenton Lake SP here in NM; DW and I have been thinking about going, she's never been and I think I was 13 last time I was there. Anyway....had some difficulty putting in specific dates and finding an available site, so I opened it up to a range of a couple months and came up with tons of availability. Perhaps if you can be flexible in booking and open up a range you might have better luck than making plans for a specific date or a couple days prior or subsequent.
     
  9. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    The practice of booking more days than you really want is one of the big problems with reservation systems. Suppose you book Thursday to Sunday but don't really want the Thursday. There may be someone who is trying to book the whole week or Mon-Thurs, etc., and now s/he can't because of what you (general, no specific person) did. As I travel around I am seeing more and more places that say the camp site MUST be occupied on the first night of the reservation or the reservation will be cancelled and the site given away. That represents at least a modicum of progress IMO. Now, if they would just eliminate the entire reservation system, the world would be a LOT better. I loathe reservations.
     
  10. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    You said it! Reservations seem to make things worse, not better. As a kid, I camped all over the place with my family.....no internet, no reservations.....no problems that I can recall.
     
  11. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    While no reservations needed would be great, it saves us a lot of tension. When we began camping in 1990, we never even thought of making reservations. Then, after a few years, the American SW became popular with the Europeans, Japanese and whomever. It just became no fun on a number of occasions, when we got shut out of FCFS by noon, mid-week. We would much rather be camping and hiking than looking for a place to camp.
    However, an entire campground being reservation-only is over-the-top, in my opinion. North Rim is that way, but (I believe) cancellations are FCFS. Nothing is perfect, but a combination of FCFS and reservations would seem to me to cover the majority of people's needs.

    We don't reserve an extra day just to assure a space. On a couple of occasions, due to issues on the road, we have not arrived until a day late, but we called to make sure they kept our spot - in some places, if you do not arrive by a certain time, the site is available for others. We added an extra day on the group trip we facilitate for church, but we actually show up and camp. There are so few group sites within a reasonable distance that we found we had to reserve at first beginning Thursday for the weekend; that actually worked out well as the site is not open until 2 p.m. the first day, so for those arriving Friday, they get the whole day. (It is only 2 hours to the site.). We've now added Wednesday, we got shut out using Thursday a couple of years ago. [Last year got canceled with all the forest closures due to fire danger; we may have to cancel this year as some of the families now have too many kiddo activities to go- we'll cancel almost 3 weeks out, so someone else can get the site.]
     
  12. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    kitphantom - Reservations did come in handy for the Grand Canyon to be sure and they do come in handy when you absolutely have to know you have a site waiting for you or your vacation can be ruined.

    It just does seem that a lot of people abuse the reservation system.....book days just in case......book extra days just in case, etc. I've seen a lot of people just book a site and they have no idea if they're actually going to go or not....they just wanted to make the reservation with the idea that they might go, and know they have a pretty big window to cancel without penalty. This is a killer at busy parks. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to get concert tickets for some hot band rather than booking a campsite. That said, it is what it is and "the dude will abide".......when necessary.
     
  13. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    I rolled into the Grand Canyon and got a spot at Mather with no reservation. I would have used Ten X if Mather had been unavailable. The I went to Desert View (FCFS) and got in there with no trouble either.

    When I went to Bryce the reservable CG (Sunset) was completely full and the FCFS CG (North) was full too, but that was because Bryce was hosting a 3-day astronomy event in conjunction with the annular eclipse. I suspect I could have gotten into North CG (FCFS) if it had not been for that event. OTOH, I didn't intend to camp in Bryce anyway because I wanted to try Red Canyon, a FCFS NFS CG about 12 miles away. I'm glad I did. It was very nice and the sites were much larger than those in Bryce.

    I did get shut out of Zion. Watchman is fully reservable and the first slots open aren't until mid-August. South, the FCFS CG was full and no one was leaving so I couldn't get in even though I arrived at 9:00 AM. Zion will still be there for another visit.

    I absolutely could not deal with trying to tour the way I do and having to have reservations. Talk about ruining a trip! I'd much rather suffer the occasional "shutout" problem like I did at Zion than to have to make and keep a schedule of reservations.
     
  14. EileanT

    EileanT New Member

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    While I understand the annoyance with unfilled sites that are reserved... things do happen...

    We tend to camp in places more than 5 hours drive from home and that is a tough haul on a Friday after work... on our last trip our car decided it wanted to rest half way to the camp. We had reservations and while we really wanted to be there on time it just wasn't going to happen... I had no problem paying for the night we missed... but knowing that our spot was there when we did make it Saturday morning was well worth it. Our kids would have been seriously disappointed if they had to miss the wolves because someone decided we were hogging the site... it was not intentional and I am sure a lot of these cases are not. Now... that said... RESERVED can also work like a NO-VACANCY sign on a Mom and Pop Hotel... I have seen camps throw up signs that say they are full because they just don't want to be open.

    If a site is THAT popular... I'm not sure I really want to be there anyway... I like a little breathing room. Not over crowed camps with tons of people. The only time I want tons of people around me is at a rally when I know them! Speaking of which... gotta go pack!
     
  15. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    Exactly! Generally, when I can't get in somewhere I am happy about it because it means that I'm not in a jammed up situation. I prefer to be where there are few people around.
     
  16. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    Ten X was actually our first choice, but they were closed for the season. We could have gotten a spot at Mather without reservations, but it seemed like all of the non reservation folks were getting moved around pretty much daily as the spot they were in were open for the day they arrived, but booked the next day, etc. If I had the opportunity to travel around and camp, I'd probably be pretty annoyed with the reservations, but I was glad I had them for my 3 nights at Mather....what a PITA to have to pack up and move down the loop every morning.
     
  17. Travelhoveler

    Travelhoveler New Member

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    Around here the reservable campgrounds are often filled to the gills. Try to get a weekend spot at a Corps of Engineers campground in summer. If you're lucky enough to get a reservation, it's almost certain that when you arrive, every other space will be taken and you're stuck in a noisy, crowded campground.

    Meanwhile, in our state parks, most of which don't take reservations, you will find a space except on a major holiday weekend.

    A couple of times this summer, we've been the only campers in the park rustic campgrounds. The ones with hookups had a few more campers. The reservable campgrounds are chock full.

    I suppose some people are so worried about having a space that they will take the last site in a crowded campground simply because they can pay more and get a confirmation.

    We've never had issues finding sites, even at popular parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. Show up by early afternoon and there will be space in the FCFS campgrounds. The only time we couldn't get a spot was showing up at Rocky Mountain late in the day; instead, we booked into a much nicer USFS campground outside the park, and never wanted to move into the park.

    When traveling long distances, we do have a "plan B" or "plan C" in case of finding campgrounds full, but almost never have to rely on them.

    This phenomenon about reservable campgrounds baffles me; I even posted a thread about it recently.
     
  18. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    At first, that's what they said I'd have to do if I wanted to stay more than a night. When I said that was undesirable and I'd have to go to Ten X the clerk said, "Wait a minute, let me try something else." She looked around in the computer for a couple of minutes and then said she found something. I could have a site for three nights. I thanked her and went off to set up in a nice pull-through.

    Desert view is an option to Mather as well. It is FCFS and has bigger sites. It is a perfect place for exploring the eastern end of the park but is a but far if you want to go to the western-most parts. I moved there after my time at Mather.
     

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