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Hi everyone,

I read posts for the last 3 years and don't see this topic, so thought I'd gather your good thinking on it. We are relatively new to RV-ing, but jumped in with both feet last summer and bought a 35' TT. LOVE IT!! I spent 7 weeks in it last summer with my two daughters, ages 6 and 8. Best summer of my life! We cruised the eastern seaboard from Maine to Chincoteague, VA. What a rich experience for my daughters. We even convinced DH to join us for a couple of weeks. I must say to any other moms out can tow and manage a big TT. Whenever I pulled into a campground and the local dads figured out that my daughters were helping me back up, they all came out to help. I learned a lot at every site and had a great time.

I'm planning a cross-country jaunt this summer (with DH this time). We live near Albany, NY, in the country and tend to prefer the quiet, hiking, and outdoors. Last summer I relied on rvparkreviews to help me pick campgrounds, and the reviews were a super help. We tended to stay as busier resorts with pools, and so planned ahead with reservations for all our trips. I discovered however that it would have been a bit more fun to have a flexible schedule. There were a few campgrounds that we could have left early had we not pre-paid, and others where we wanted to stay a few more days.

My question is this: we are traveling from Albany to the Tetons and have seven weeks of time. We don't want to rush, but rather we'd prefer to take our time and explore each place rather than try to squeeze everything into one big trip. As teachers, we can travel each summer, so this is not a once-in-a-lifetime for us. So, now to the question: do you recommend making reservations ahead of time, or taking it as it comes...calling ahead while we are on the road to find an open campground. I'd guess that we'd alternate dry camping/public parks (to save money) with full-service parks (that have pools).

Thanks for your input. Once I hit the lottery, I'll buy that big diesel-pusher, home-school the kids, and go full-time. Until then, I appreciate any advice!
--Marisa Bel
Welcome aboard Marisa!
We are a friendly bunch with no shortage of good insights! Also represent a neat cross-section of the camping public. Am sure you'll enjoy not only the campground and RV park reviews, but this forum as well.

DH and I no longer make reservations ahead of time. However we are just two now, with no time restrictions. If a park we'd like to stay at, is full when we pull in, we are a bit more flexible without kids. Can sit in an overflow spot (have generator and fresh water), overnight waiting for an opening, or just to get a good night's sleep and move on after coffee and breakfast the next morning.

Expect to be flexible at high season and/or at the most popular parks. Technology has been a major blessing, as we can tap into other folks perceptions when they post reviews...sort of know what to expect.

You can wing it as you travel (no reservations) then, to give yourself some comfort, call ahead to make reservations for the 'must stay' key places you all wish to stop at for awhile.

I've seen so many folks sorry they'd locked themselves (and some cash) into a reservation, then wish they'd given themselves some wiggle room after arrival.

No right answer. The wrong answer: never leaving your driveway!

I'm glad to hear you love rv'ing!

I'm an RV nut too. I prefer to not book ahead. In these days of cell phones and portable internet it is easy to look for a site "one day at a time".
When we first started RVing we made reservations weeks in advance and kept to a schedule. We've loosened up quite a bit since then. However, we do still make reservations, usually the day before, just so that there are not any surprises. We do not want to drive around an unfamiliar town just as it is getting dark. We like the security of knowing where we will be staying.

One thing you need to consider is you are going to a very popular area of the country during the tourist season. While you may not need reservations along the way I think you should consider making them for the Grand Tetons area. I'd just hate to see you travel all that way and then find no vacancies.

Whatever you do it sounds like a great trip.
We have traveled from New England to the southwest each of the last three years, with a visit to the Tetons and Yellowstone last year. Except for holiday weekends, we have not made long-term reservations and have not had trouble finding parks. I hate being bound to a schedule. We did not find the parks in either Yellowstone or the Tetons to be full last year in June. Later in the summer may be a different story.
We have traveled 15,000 miles in the last 9 months with our coach. In that entire time we have never made a reservation and have never found a park that did not have space. Sometimes we will call ahead and verify that the WIFI is working, or to clarify any other details about the park. We like the freedom of stopping when and where we feel like that day, depending on weather, fatigue, etc. RVing is life without schedules or boundaries.
Florida Native
We travel for months at a time without making reservations. Very rarely, it will cause a problem, but not too often. We start thinking about what we are going to do in the early afternoon. We can easily boondock if necessary and that surely opens up your options. Some of the best sights we have seen have been accidentally discovered. We set long term destinations that are usually 1,000's of miles away. I think the more you RV, the less rigid you become in your planing. I am a recovering Type A personality and find that a slack schedule suits me best. We like to get local information from folks along the way for places to eat and to sights to see.
In our situation where we run our business from our motor home and travel around the country to work, if we are scheduled to work in an area for more than a few days we make reservations. If we are only working for a few days or so, we can usually find a place to dry camp, although it is not easy to do in S. Florida. Sometimes we make reservations quite a bit in advance if we know that it's around a holiday or in their busy season.

And, for us, if we stay in parks for a month or more and many of them offer good discounts so we have to make sure we reserve. Another thing that makes it challenging for us is that our motor home is 42 feet long and we pull a 25 foot enclosed trailer so we have to find RV parks that have the kind of space that we need for the length of time we need.

My DW hated reservations until we got to Albuquerque during balloon fest then we ended up walmart-ing over nite and now we always make reservations makes the campground happier and they tend to treat you nicer or so it seems
Florida Native
When I was in the lodging business, we usually gave advance reservations the rack (full) rate. As we got closer to the arrival time if it looked like we would be having vacancies, then we reduced the rate under the assumption that something was better than nothing. The people who got the cheapest rate were the ones who called up the afternoon of arrival. This is just a natural thing. We like to overnight at Wal-Mart ourselves and do it on a regular basis. Work on your wife as Wal-Marting will make things a lot easier to have this backup plan in your back pocket.
I hope you'll have a great vacation!

We travel to the northern Midwest from Maryland every year, and have found that we don't need reservations, especially in the past two years in the recession. As others have said above,
you need a little information about local festivals, etc. We got the last space in an Ohio park because of a nearby auto show, but could have stayed at several other parks on down the road if necessary. We also paid a premium price for the site, and really didn't fall in love with the campground. We're in a motorhome and can camp without water, electricity, etc. for a day or two, but we haven't had to yet.

One other thought---we really like the Army Corp of Engineer parks. There's one just north of Des Moines, on a nice lake, and we loved it. However, they were booked up way ahead and we would never have seen it without the reservation. It's at Saylorville Lake.

Once you're in a campground, if you like it and want to spend a few more days, it would be a good idea to book your site for those days, so that you don't have to relocate if the campground fills up.
Jerry S
I'm going to buck the general trend a little bit. I have a feeling that many of the folks telling you to "wing" on your trip are older couples travelling without kids and/or folks who don't do a lot of travelling during the "family vacation'" season of July and most of August. A lot of the places these folks have no problem getting into will have absolutely nothing for your kids to do. You also can't boondock as long with a family of 4 because of tank limitations. I agree that you should keep your schedule as open as possible but calling a few days ahead for a spot at a resort type park for the weekend may payoff. Until you are well away from population centers, parks with family friendly facilities often fill up on summer weekends. Also, You are not going to find a lot of parks in the Teton/Yellowstone area with swimming pools (the altitude and short season make pools too expensive). You'll find find plenty of parks with pools as you cross the Great Plains on I80 or I90, but they start to get rare as you climb into the Rockies.

You are lucky to have 7 weeks to do a trip many families have to squeeze into 2-3 weeks. Enjoy the trip.
QUOTE(rvmamabel @ Feb 20 2010, 06:56 PM) *
I must say to any other moms out can tow and manage a big TT.

All ladies, mom or not, can if they are willing. Good for you!!

Iím going to be in the middle with Jerry on this one. We are one of those Ďolder couplesí who usually travel without kids and don't make reservations. But when we do have the grandkids along, we need to take that into consideration. We let them have some say in picking a campground. But then I always tear out the pages that have the high priced resorts with pools, game rooms, and playgrounds before I give them the book. laugh.gif

You can pretty much count on getting a campsite most anywhere Sunday thru Thursday without a reservation. Even in the non-school months of the season, people still have jobs to go to during the week. The exception is if itís a major holiday, special events occur during those days, or itís a tourist destination park.

This website can also assist you in making the reservation decision by finding out how many CGs are in an area you are visiting. Obviously, when the choice is limited reservations might be appropriate.

There is probably not a good answer for the leave-early, stay later problem. Itís always a gamble, but then you did say you were going to play the lottery.

Itís good that youíre open to boon docking. Judicial use of boon docking in places that werenít where you had any plans in the first place can save a few bucks along the way. The savings might pay for some of those ridiculous $25 national park entrance fees, but thatís another issue. Boon docking is a nice back up for the occasional time when ďthe planĒ didnít work.

Iíve camp hosted in Missouri state parks. They have some really nice ones, many with hook-ups. If youíre traveling thru there, try one. Have a great trip.

This is something that my wife and I have bickered about a few times. Because of work schedules and having 2 kids under the age of 4, we have to limit ourselves to weekend trips. I prefer to make reservations in advance so I know where I am going and when (I am self employed). My wife likes to wait until Friday morning to make a reservation so she can see the weather report for the weekend. We both agree that we would rather stay home on rainy weekends. In our sitsuation, I like knowing where I am going a few days in advance so I can stock the trailer and arrive at check in. Waiting until the last minute usually results in my wife packing clothes at the last second (not mine, I always keep a weekend worth of clothes in the trailer) and grocery shopping. Waiting usually causes us to get in after dinner and setting up in the dark.

I guess I have to agree that there is no correct answer. You can plan ahead and risk paying for a site you may not enjoy or wing it and know you will have a good time once you get there
I don't like reservations, because RV Parks are doing like hotels, if you don't show up, you get charged anyway. I don't do them unless it's a major holiday (Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day). However, I have managed to "squeak by" without reservations on July 4th before.....

I always find SOMETHING even without reservations.

Of course, I don't go to the really TOURISTY places, like Yellowstone, etc....

Florida Native
I don't blame parks for charging you for not showing up if they have turned away. We almost never make reservations and try to boondock on holiday weekends.
Thanks everyone for your insight and experience. I think we'll make reservations for Yellowstone and the Teton area, and wing it from there. I think the flexibility will be more fun for us. The girls are so excited to see "Rount Mushmore."

Again, I appreciate your posts. Only one other note for Lindsay....I am the wife! Dragging DH along for this summer though. He's the homebody!
Florida Native
Be sure to see the backside of Mount Rushmore. Click link for a preview of it.

My Webpage
QUOTE(DXSMac @ Mar 8 2010, 12:23 PM) *

I don't like reservations, because RV Parks are doing like hotels, if you don't show up, you get charged anyway. I don't do them unless it's a major holiday (Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day). However, I have managed to "squeak by" without reservations on July 4th before.....

I always find SOMETHING even without reservations.

Of course, I don't go to the really TOURISTY places, like Yellowstone, etc....


Why would anyone expect otherwise? IIf you have a reservation the park is setting aside a site for you. If you don't use it, you still had it available to you. It is the same as an airline ticket, a seat at a ballgame or concert, a room at a motel or any other situation where there is a limited supply. How would a business make any money if they turned away paying customers to hold a site for someone who may or may not show up and pay? You have two perfect options, don't make a reservation and take your chances or make a reservation and know a site is available for you. If you don't show it is not the fault of the RV park, so why should they suffer any financial loss, which would happen if they turned away a customer while holding a site for someone who doesn't show?
I'm going to add my 2 cents. Most hotels only charge you if you do not cancel by 6pm. If RV parks need an earlier cancellation deadline that is fine with me. I don't even mind a full day or even two as the deadline. However, if someone cancels a week or two in advance I don't think they should still get charged. That should be plenty of time for the park to refill the spot.

I also do not mind a reasonable cancellation fee, such as $5-10 or half the nightly rate. But again I do not think you should be charged the fee for the entire stay. I'm sure some owners feel the need to do this because they have been burned in the past, but it is not fair to punish everyone because of a few inconsiderate people.

Reservations are a two-way street with each side bearing some of the responsibility for cancellations. For owners it is a cost of doing business, and for RVers it is a taking a chance that nothing happens to cause a cancellation, but at the same time it is the security of knowing you will have a spot when you arrive--even at midnight. Owners should set reasonable cancellation deadlines and fees, and RVers should expect to meet and pay them if it becomes necessary to cancel.

The best way to avoid problems is to ask about cancellations when the reservation is made. That way you know up front what to expect, and if you do not like the policy then you can call the next park on your list.
Florida Native
We were in the lodging business for over 10 years and cancellations were one of our biggest problems. They cost us thousands of dollars and were one of our biggest problems. The idea the host shares partial responsibility is not valid at all. When the host takes a reservation and they turn away all others with credit card in hand. This has happened to us hundreds of times and the canceling party thinks it is perfectly fine. Hotels and motels frequently double book to allow for cancellations. If they have 250 rooms, they take 260 reservations assuming they will get at least 10 cancellations. Airlines d the same. That doesnít work for a small campground. The trend is to increase the cancellation times also. The reservation is a contract between two parties and what would we think if we arrived at our campground after a hard day of driving only to find they had rented our site to somebody else for an extra $5. If we expect the campground owner to comply with his side, we have to comply on our side. I certainly disagree with somebodyís problem costing the campground owner $50 as just being a cost of doing business. It is called getting screwed. The simple fact is that many people also lie about their excuses for canceling and this hurts the honest folks. If you get sick, then you have the cost of missing work, copays on doctor visits, medicine and many other things. Having your site be empty when you committed to paying for it and others were turned away is just another cost of getting sick (or many other common excuses). I have seen lodging owners screw the customer by rerenting the room and still charging the canceling party.
Good communications during the reservation call is the key to having a good experience on both sides of the contract.
Lindsay, I looked at the photo and I'm pretty glad they have shoes and pants on! I think I'll show this to my six year old who is very excited to see "Rount Mushmore". This photo puts a whole new spin on her seemingly innocent consonant juxtaposition. She believes everything we tell her, so she will want to hike around to the back to see that view too. She's one of those kids who will believe in Santa Claus until high school. Love it! laugh.gif
Florida Native
Please don't tell me that there is no Santa Claus. You have ruined my day. Even though it's only April, I have already started my list.
We do not take credit card information when we take reservations but at times I wish we did. There have been times we have been booked up and had to turn people away only to have the people with reservations not show up and the site went unused and we lost the money we could have gotten if the people had bothered to cancel. One couple called and reserved a site, came by asked for directions to another campground where "they had reservations" and I didn't realize until later they had made reservations with us and at another campground for the same night. I called them and asked why but they never bothered to return my call. That was one time I truly wished I had been able to charge them. The only fun part was that the other CG was out in the middle of nowhere and had no amenities of any kind.
Florida Native
When we were in the lodging business, we always took credit card numbers and explained that if they were a late cancel and it caused the room to go empty when we were other wise full, they would be charged. Almost everybody understands this concept. If they baulk at it, then you are much better off knowing it at the beginning. Many people out there think only of themselves and when in business you have to prepare for those types. I may be hard to win a dispute with the credit card company but them knowing you have their number prevents 95% of the problems.
From mid-May to June 2, we drove a Class C Winnabego Chalet motorhome from Iowa to Alaska, touring in SD, WY, MT, and also through Canada in Alberta, BC & Yukon. I had no advance reservations, but had done some research of RV parks in certain cities along the way. Each morning (or afternoon) I would figure out how far we'd get that day & what our RV park choices were and then I'd call on the cell phone. Close to Memorial Day weekend, I realized the weather was going to be really nice in AK (warm, sunny "brochure" days) and that that the campgrounds would be packed with local residents of AK as well as visitors like us. So we stayed an extra night at one before moving next day to City of Seward waterfront park. (Heard it was PACKED over Sat & Sun nights of the holiday weekend.) The weekend before othat we were traveling through Canada over their Victoria Day holiday, but the weather was so bad (cold, snowy, rainy) that most RV parks had alot of cancellations!!
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