Campsite RSVP

December 30, 2009
Filed under Feature Stories

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It’s the beginning of a new year, and time to think about the camping trips you would like to take throughout the coming season. Not necessarily thinking about all of the gear you’ll need, but where in the country you would like to camp and at which type of campground or recreation site (U.S. National Park, private campground, RV park, etc.).

Camping veterans know it’s never too early to make reservations, due to high demand at popular campgrounds at certain times of the year. Even if you plan on camping in late summer or early fall, now is a good time to check the reservation guidelines of a particular campground and its site availability, especially if you want to camp on a particular weekend or holiday (Fourth of July, Labor Day, etc.).

Depending on your interests and level of experience, there are several different types of camping to choose from at U.S. National Parks and other federal recreation sites, state parks and private campgrounds. The types of camping range from
full-facility campgrounds, to backcountry camping with limited facilities, to wilderness camping with possibly no facilities at all. And, there are campgrounds that accept reservations and those that operate on a first-come, first-served basis.

Don’t know where to begin? It might be a good idea to first ask friends or family where they like to camp and how and when they reserve a campsite. Then, go online to research and to make campground reservations. We have included a snapshot of each featured website to make it easier for you to search for that perfect spot to camp.

There are 391 national parks in the National Park Service, and most accept reservations. The National Park Service website, NPS.gov, makes it easy to find a park that piques your interest. You can find a national park by state or location, and then click on a link for camping reservation information.

Most camping reservations at national parks are booked through the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) at Recreation.gov. The NRRS provides campground and tour reservation services for all federal recreation sites. Aside from national parks, it also includes properties that are part of the Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies. The website allows you to find a recreation site in different ways, but a nice shortcut is a camping link at the bottom left portion of the home page. There you’ll find additional links to recreation areas with camping activities, and to reserve a camping spot. In order to make online campground reservations, visitors must first register at Recreation.gov.

If you haven’t heard of Reserve America, it is the largest provider of campsite reservations in North America. Through its service you can make campsite, RV site or cabin reservations in one of more than 4000 parks with more than 300,000 campsites, cabins and other rental options across the country.

Like Recreation.gov, you can make camping reservations at NRRS recreation sites, including national parks, at ReserveAmerica.com. But the bulk of the website’s campgrounds are state parks from 20 states, followed by other miscellaneous parks, and private campgrounds such as Kampgrounds of America (KOA) Parks. As with Recreation.gov, you must first register with ReserveAmerica before making reservations. A nice feature on the website is the Camping Spotlight tab on the home page that highlights camping locations in various states.

An alternative website for campers who are avid anglers is TakeMeFishing.org, which is managed by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF). Geared primarily toward fishermen and boaters, the site now offers access to online campground booking through ReserveAmerica. The Family Activities tab on the home page takes you to the new ReserveAmerica link to make a direct reservation, as well as links for vacation planning, campgrounds, fun family ideas and related hobbies.

This website is produced by The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, the only national association that exclusively represents all commercial RV parks and campgrounds in the U.S. This includes RV parks and campgrounds, cabin and lodge resorts, and membership campgrounds and resorts. Redesigned last year, the website is easy to navigate and provides many ways to find a campground or campsite and book reservations online.

GoCampingAmerica.com currently has a network of more than 750 parks, and reservations are linked to each individual campground’s online reservation system. No registration or subscription is required to book online. For those who don’t have a tent or RV and still want to camp, the website offers a Find Rentals tab to find campgrounds and RV parks with RV rentals on site, as well as cabins, park models, yurts and teepees. You can also find parks affiliated with major campground chains, including KOA, franchises such as Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resorts, and parks that offer AAA, AARP, Good Sam and other popular discounts.

This website is an extension of Woodall’s flagship product, an annual private campground directory that’s typically the size of a phone book. Its annual North American Campground Directory offers more than 15,000 listings of family-friendly campgrounds across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and Woodall’s rep teams have visited and rated all privately owned campgrounds listed. The campgrounds in the directory that have online reservation capabilities are listed in Woodalls.com.

The Woodall’s website provides a lot of information and resources for RVers as well as tent campers. Many of the online listings include RV parks, RV rentals, RV campgrounds and even special RV resorts. You can also read up on campground reviews as well as tips on RVing, RV camping and tent camping. Registration is required for the free Woodall’s Diamond Club membership to book through the online reservation system.

Regardless of your destination or whether you have a reserved or first-come, first-served site, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and check on park conditions. But if your first choice is booked, be flexible and consider other options.

Have alternate parks in mind, or consider camping on less busy days, such as mid-week. Also consider less popular camps that are more remote and away from major metropolitan areas. Consider the “shoulder season” (April, May, September, October) since the weather is usually good during these times. And while cancellations are rare, they still can occur, so return to one of these websites to check for any cancellations. Good luck!

What to Know About Campgrounds
Some issues to consider before making a reservation:
*What are the available facilities (water and power hookups, restrooms, showers,
picnic tables, grills, laundry facilities, etc.)?
*What is the maximum number of people and vehicles permitted per campsite?
*Is there a limit on the number of days or consecutive days you can camp at a park? Are there other restrictions on the length of stay?
*What are the restrictions with pets? Are there any discounts available?

Have the following information ready when booking campsite reservations:
*Park selections and the date you wish to start camping
*Type and size of camping equipment
*Number of people in your party who will occupy the campsite
*Number of nights you want to camp
*Alternative park and camping date choices

From Camping Life’s January/February 2010 issue.

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