In many of the threads where someone is asking for route advice, the subject of making advanced reservations often comes up. Personally, I always make reservations for my 4-week summer trips, and adjust them along the way if we want to stay longer or leave sooner (if posisble). And I've had a number of experiences where I waited too long to call a campground and couldn't get a site on the dates that I wanted. This includes the National Parks such as Yosemite, Zion, etc..., but also includes private RV parks as well. Because of that, I've gotten in the habit of planning my trips 4-6 months in advance.
And honestly - I have always been a little envious of those who can hit the road without reservations and wing it.
So it got me thinking: why do the two groups have such opposite experiences? Why do some of us feel the need for advanced reservations, while others have no use for them at all? Could it be some other factor? Maybe RV length? Or Full Hookups vs. Dry camping?
I'd like to hear some thoughts about this from other people's point-of-view. For me, our RV is 38' long, and my wife is very unhappy if she cannot have a nice long hot shower each night. So both of those limit where I can stay. I need a longer site with full hookups.
Those of you who don't make reservations - is your RV length or Full Hookups a factor? Are there other factors that I'm not thinking of?
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I'm a FH guy myself. If I'm going to be someplace for several days, I make reservations. If I'm stopping overnight in a popular area, I make a reservation. If its an overnight along the way in a non-tourist area, I don't make reservations, and I've only been shut out once in 6 years.
In all cases, I check out RV Park Reviews before choosing where I'm going to stay.
Retired and visiting as much of this beautiful country as I can.
I always make reservations. Mainly for a couple of reasons.
First I love the planning stage. Setting up the route, picking the RV parks to stop at and getting ideas of different things to see and do in each stop area. We do not travel far on travel days (never over 200 miles) and we usually stay at leasst a couple of days to get the true experience. I make up my itinerary and print it with phone numbers in case I want to change anything around.
Second..We are 40' motorhome with 4 slides and it is not always easy to get into alot of parks. So with reservations I get first pick of the primo spots.
Third...It works for us and we love to do it that way, but everyone is different and has different outlooks on everything. What works for me may not be best for anyone else.
I like to be able to pull into a RV park and know that they will have space and a space big enough for me. No Stress!!! That is what is important to me.
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Next week I am heading down to the Smoky Mountains. I have about 9 days to spend there and have no reservations. In some cases, it is too early in the season and all sites are walk-in only. Because I haven't been there before, I have no idea of the sites I want anyway, so we will roll the dice.
However, in April and in October, I have reservations at Assateague State Park. Because there are so few pet sites, I reserved them as early ahead as I could. In May, I will be going to Curry Hammock state park. I managed to get an oceanfront site a couple of months ago when someone else canceled - the site was booked about 7 months in advance but it is very hard to get beachfront for an entire week otherwise. I also have a site in Big Meadows that I booked the day it became available in the system - 6 months in advance. It is a beautiful site with long mountain views rather than views of the campground and other rvs. If I want a particular site in typically crowded camping areas, I have no choice but to book in advance.
So, I advance reserve when I am booking a site I know I want - view or seclusion usually plays a big part. Otherwise, I wing it. I don't need hook-ups of any kind. My tt can hold plenty of water for a shower or two and if not, I can take shorter showers.
I think it always comes down to priorities. If you prefer living like you do at home or you want a particular site, you need to reserve in advance. If you don't mind 'roughing' it and don't need a particular type of site, you can wing it.
Personally, I would hate to be limited to FHU sites only. The best sites I've been in have been dry.
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In Colorado, particularly along the front range, if you want a decent campsite in the popular state and federal campgrounds then you must make a reservation six months in advance. There are a few exceptions with some parks holding out a few campsites on a first-come first-served basis. However, there are many unimproved forest service and BLM sites, mostly on the western slope, where you can generally find a campsite when you want one. Some of them have water from a well, many don't. Since most of our camping is pretty close to Denver, we find ourselves at the computer to make reservations usually six months to the day before the trip we are planning. For the most part we do not stay in RV parks unless they have a really nice pool.
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If it is a one night stop along the way, we seldom make reservations but do at our destination site. We like to alternate summers between western Colorado and Alaska. Due to weather, etc. we often change our routes to both so it would be difficult to make a reservation very far out ahead of time. Since we make the trips fairly often, we usually know where we are planning to stay so we may make a phone call that morning to reserve for the night.
For our summer stays in western Colorado, I usually make reservations. A month in Montrose, a couple of weeks at Ridgway State Park, a week in the Colorado Springs/Woodland Park area and so forth.
So if there is a specific campground we want to use, we make reservations when possible. The Colorado ones I tend to make 6 months ahead most times. In Alaska, I will usually call a week or two ahead but often our time schedule gets changed on that long a trip. I don't like to camp on the pavement at the big box stores and have only done it once, because I didn't make a reservation.
If we are going to meet family or friends at some place, then we will agree on a campground and make reservations at that site.
Formerly of Colorado and Alaska
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I am a reservation type. And a FHU type.
If I am going somewhere that is a popular "destination" area and I want a specific park, I will make reservations well in advance. Less popular areas I will likely check the area parks occasionally to see if they are filling up or not. That would determine when I made the reservations.
On travel days, I usually plan where we will be that night and call ahead when we are on the road to a park I prefer to stay at to see if they will have a site available. And since I am on the phone with them already I go ahead and make a reservation.
I do not want to arrive at my destination late in the day and find the park full and have to start searching for a different one.
I'm a reservation person - I value my precious limited vacation time and don't wish to waste a single second searching for available campsites. I plan our long trips months or even a year in advance for a Yellowstone trip. That very well planned Yellowstone trip with three other camping families was the best trip we have every taken. no stressing or wondering about where or what we would find.
Like most people I do enjoy many of the NW's most popular destinations making reservations during our short summer peak season a requirement.
Even our non reservation boondocking sites are very popular and the best sites along rivers or steams are usually occupied by Thursday night. I like getting to my favorite boondocking sites by Wed afternoon.
Experiece and researching are big factors on when reservations are needed or not. For example, Colter Bay FHU RV is reservations mandatory during peak but the FS CG next door is huge and no reservations are needed nor taken.
If I were retired and was able to roam the country at will, I'd likely not need to worry about making reservations most of the time. Only for the popular spots.
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We do both. For National parks and other high use areas we get reservations. On holiday periods we also get reservations. We can get along for 5 or 6 days without hookups. We have a generator and ration water use. But I like to alternate no-hookup periods with at least a couple days at a FHU site. We plan to do quite a bit of Boondocking this summer since I'm retiring and we have 90 days or so to camp. But I have reservations for Yosemite and an number of other parks already. And plan to wing it in between.
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