For our spring trip we had to make some reservations and we are winging the rest of it. The winging part will be at state parks and we are pretty sure there will be space because it will be before school is out. The reservation part is at a unique private park at a destination/tourist spot. We called in December and were told we should make reservations in January, so we did.
I would prefer not to make reservations, but sometimes we just have to.
I think one of the big differences might be if you're retired or not. If you're still working and have limited vacation time, reservations are probably a must.
We are retired full-timers so we are never in a rush to get somewhere. We don't tend to sit in one place for long periods of time except when we've got a volunteering gig in a park. We typically get to a campground on a Monday thru Thursday. We also try not to do private parks. We definitely don't travel on weekends. For the big holidays we go somewhere away from the popular areas and we never go where there is a lake or river for all the noise and partygoers! We really enjoy national parks, state parks, forest service campgrounds and just boondocking in a scenic place. Even in the popular western national parks we don't make reservations. All sites are not reservable and we always seem to find one, even with our 40' motorhome. We've even spent one full month in Yellowstone's campgrounds, moving to different areas of the huge park. If we find an exceptional boondocking spot we can last 11 days before having to refill with water and dump. The bottom line is that every situation is different. It can be done both ways. Safe travels!!
Full-Timers for 16+ Years
.... Now Seasonal
2004 Newmar Dutch Star 40' Motorhome
2004 Jeep Liberty
I'm sure the region you travel in makes a real difference also. Out here there is so much unpopulated areas that finding a place to stop and stay over night is not a problem. We have stopped out in the middle of nowhere many times and spent quiet evenings in complete darkness--some of them real fun like along the Extraterrestrial Highway west of Rachel where we could watch for aliens all night--one of quietest places on earth and you know no one is going to bother you way out there--heck, there isn't anyone around to bother you. That is one of the charms of RVing, before I bought mine, many times going hunting early in the morning we would find RV's parked in the Boonies and I always thought how neat that would be--found out it is.
We make a reservation if we are staying for a long period of time but since we travel when we choose we travel from place to place early in the week when locals are home working. Works most of the time. During summer months when children are out of school that could be a little more iffy. At that time if it is a popular destination you might want to reserve. Some parks have first come first serve sites so arriving early in the week gets you in.
IF you have the flexibility to change your reservations at the last minute you probably didn't NEED the reservations in the first place. Any RV Park or campground will allow you to change reservations UNLESS they already have your site reserved for the next day after you're scheduled to depart or the day before you get there. If you're traveling where you can't be flexible about how long you're gone or when you arrive, then reservations are a very good idea. If you really don't care WHERE you stay in a particular area then traveling without reservations allows a LOT more freedom of movement. If you like an area and want to stay longer, you do it. If you don't like something about the campground or RV Park or the area itself, you just pack up and leave.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both MAKING reservations and free lancing it but the only time I make reservations is on holiday weekends. So far I've been somewhere every night
Good luck / Skip
We generally have a rough schedule to keep, and reservations for each night of a month long trip. But if we're having fun and want to stay longer, we'll call the next park and make adjustments if possible. Conversely, we've stayed places where we were prepaid for several nights and left after one night. But sometimes when we called the next campground, they had nothing for us before our scheduled arrival. So we booked another location in between.
So we do adjust, but we don't always get to stay where we want to when we make last minute changes.
2003 Country Coach Intrigue, Cummins ISL 400
Toad: 2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (LJ) toad, with just a few mods...
Other rig: 2005 Chevy Silverado 3500 Duramax Dually / Next Level 38CK Fifth-wheel Toy Hauler w/ quads, sand rail, etc...
Love this part of your question:"Why do some of us feel the need for advanced reservations, while others have no use for them at all?"
My answer would be, why are some people accountants and some salesmen? Each of us are different, some are orderly, don't like leaving anything to chance and others of us just play the odds. I don't like schedules, places to be, or times to keep so no reservations except under rare circumstances. Yes, I have been tripped up, like in Alabama finding, after a rural 30 mile drive, that the campground I did not call to make reservations at was hosting a Bluegrass Festival! You know what, those wonderful folks, in a show of true Southern hospitality, found us a place to set up and we got music with our camping that night! The way we travel would drive an orderly and well organized person crazy I suspect.
The question wasn't meant to imply we shouldn't be different from one another. It was meant to discuss those differences and what motivates us one way or the other.
So far, I've heard the following motivations for why people do or don't make reservations:
Time of Year / Weekends / Holidays / Busy Areas
Destination Campgrounds vs. Stops in Transit
Site Preference / Wanting a particular spot (on the beach, good views, shade, etc...)
Full Hookups or not
Retired / fulltimers vs. Limited vacation time
Stress Free Arrival vs. ease of changing plans
Ability to coordinate stays with family / friends
Larger RVs are harder to fit in when a campground is full or nearly full
Thanks, everyone, for the feedback. I think it's interesing how no two posts have exactly the same priorities. That's actually kinda cool.
I think the biggest factors for my family are:
Not retired - so we have limited vacation time
DW really wants that long shower each day
Since we have kids in school, we often go during the busiest parts of the year - summer and holiday weekends
One day I hope to join those of you who can travel without time constraints. Maybe then we'll be able to wing it without reservations (at least some of the time). But in the meantime I am enjoying the planning process. It's got me really excited about the trip we're taking this summer.
Most state parks and county parks have a group of campsites set aside as
I always arrange to arrive on a Monday or Tuesday and get one of those.
I haven't had a problem getting a campsite yet.
X2 as this is what we try and do for several reasons. Seems like the folks in CO go to the woods on the weekends so finding a site Friday afternoon is very hard without reservations. We usually will spend M-F in a non FHU Public CG (USFS, BLM, SP, even NP) and then use the weekend to travel to a new location and resupply staying one or two nights in a Private CG that we will call the same day for a reservation.
Pretty sure making a long shower possible is cheaper than a divorce.
This post is my opinion (free advice). It is not intended to influence anyone's judgment nor do I advocate anyone do what I propose.
We make reservations only one time every year, mainly because we know we have that time off, but still wait until the last minute to get it. You never know when bad weather or family problems may occur. My occupation makes it difficult to plan ahead. I usually find out last minute when I have time off. Alot of times places are booked. A few places we frequent will do the best to accomodate us, so it works out in the end. Other than that, we like to wing it. Drive till I am tired, make a change of plans, etc. We call ahead and if someone has a spot then fine, if not, we continue. The best RV trips have been when we hopped in the RV and I would ask, which way you wanna go?
While I'll make reservations here in Michigan for a state park site during the summer we often like to just hit the road. Last July we headed west, leaving July 3rd, and went southwest to NM (Santa Fe & Taos). Then up into Colorado, Utah, and then into Jackson, WY. We never made an advanced reservation anywhere and we traveled over 5,000 miles.
The key to traveling without reservations is the internet. Granted, it's always good to plan a general route, but using this forum and things like RV Park Review.com you can map out potential camping areas/campgrounds. I did call ahead a couple of times to reserve a spot, but only after knowing when and where we planned to be the next day. I usually used the internet to locate a campground, then RV Park Review.com to check out what others had to say, and then called to save ourselves a site, especially if we expected to get there later in the day. I didn't always do that, but unless you are going to an urban type area or big tourist area where you have no idea where you might want to stay I say "take a walk on the wild side" and wing-it.