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Hello all! I have a question on check in time etiquette at “campgrounds”. My family is new to the RV / Camping world. We bought a very nice pop-up camper in August :-). I have two children under the age of 10 so we like staying at campgrounds and not RV parks. I love this site and all the reviews it offers! One thing I have noticed jumping to campground websites is that they all have check in times and check out times. I have to stay in Hotels 3-4 nights a month for one of my jobs so I understand why they have the check in times and check out times. But I have noticed in the last few months most of the campgrounds / state parks have several empty sites during the week and there is no need to rush out of a spot to have the cleaning crew clean it up before a new camper checks in like at a hotel. So, finally my question… Do most campgrounds let you check in early? Is it acceptable to ask to check in early “8:00-10:00 a.m.” when they have a 2:00 check in time?

I work three jobs so time is very precious to me. I usually will only have two to three days off at a time so I don’t want to waste ¾ of a day waiting to check in and set up. I am not a very pushy person or a haggler so I have never asked about it the few times we have camped. I don’t want to offend the campground attendant or park ranger by not following the “check in time etiquette”.

I would expect that a very early check in would result in an additional fee. I would also think that it could be a logistical problem, especially at busy campgrounds. Not every site that is vacant would be vacant for all the days you are going to be there so you can't just assume that you could take any site that happened to be vacant when you arrived. I would call first and not just show up.
I was once told by a campground owner in Arizona that she did not let people check in early because they immediately started using the electricity that was included in their nightly rate.

She said that electricity was a major part of the cost of running an RV park in a hot climate.
I would just ask when you call for information, or email them, and explain your situation. At our park it wouldn't bother me a bit for someone to come in early but we aren't that busy and it would pose no problem for me at all. We also tell people that if they need a delayed check out just to let us know. The only time I would push someone to leave on time is if I had someone that really needed that particular spot.
Florida Native
Maybe, I am old fashioned, but we check in when it is best for us and have never had a problem. We have gotten in late after the office closed and found our own site. We leave a note on the door and owners seem to appreciate the business. Prices are always available in the books (Woodalls, Trailer Life, PPA, ETC). We have also been in late and seen a note on the office door telling us to do just that. We recently stayed in a Mennonite campground in Berlin, Ohio where the office was closed on Sunday for religious reasons. We went in and didn't catch up with the owner until Tuesday. I expect most owners to be honest and I think they expect most campers to be honest also. If we are there early, we normally use no services as we go exploring the area until late afternoon. In this business, I think there are few hard and fast universal rules and use your common sense.
Thanks for the advice and information. I can see the point of using more electricity if you check in early and the campground owner needing to charge for an extra day. I guess I can ask when we make the reservation and if I have to pay extra then I will without grumbling........ to much heheheh. I wounder if they would take payment for half a day for showing up 6 hours early? Even with three jobs times are tough LOL!
smile.gif As a campground owner, I can tell you that we have check-in and check-out times for several reasons. That being said, if you call us and ask if you can check in early, we will allow it if the site has been vacated by the previous occupant and the area has been properly cleaned and mowed/weedeated. We would allow you to choose another site only if it is not reserved by someone else at any time during your intended stay.

In the Summer we are totally booked by weeklong campers with all reservations running either Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday. It is not unusual for us thave 70 to 85 check-outs in the morning followed by the same number of check-ins that afternoon. That gives our crew 2 hrs. to clean, mow, weedeat, empty fire rings and pick up trash for the entire park. We will not allow anyone into a site early on those days unless the site and the sites immediately surrounding the site have been cleaned because it slows the mowing crew down by having to be careful not to throw grass or rocks toward rigs in the area they are mowing.

Additionally, all of our sites are reserved by site number; therefore, if you come in early and your particular site is not ready or not yet vacated by the previous occupant, we can't just allow you to go to any other empty site as that site may be reserved by someone else. Also if you wish to stay for several days, the empty site you would like to move to may be reserved by someone else for the next day or later.

The possible extra use of electricity, etc. does not enter into our decision to allow an early check-in or late check-out. We allow late check-outs upon request for a $10.00 charge if no one is scheduled to arrive for your site that day. That entitles you to stay until dark and swim, tube, golf or whatever for the rest of the day.

I hope this helps explain the campgrounds' dilemma. We would really like to accomodate you if it is at all possible, but often it is not possible.

Thanks for letting me opine again.

As others have said I think the main thing here is to communicate with the campground. As usual Parkview has given excellent insight into why there needs to be check-in check-out times. That said I believe most campgrounds will try to accommodate you if they can, as long as they know in advance so there are no surprises.
dog bone
What I usually do is reserve the site for an extra night. I know I won't be getting to the campground til Saturday morning. I reserve the site for Fri nite. That allows me to go right to my site. Check in time, most of the time, is 1 to 2 o'clock. Like you, I don't want to wait around and waste a day of my vacation. It cost me an extra night, but what the heck I'm on vacation.
it would also depend on the campground. As the others have said sometimes communication could work out to your advantage. The campground I was talking about never has an open site in the summer. As one leaves another comes in. No late stays either.
Florida Native
We usually try to boondock on holiday weekends. Wal-Mart is rarely full then. People use campgrounds for different reasons. Lots of folks go to use the pool, the mini golf, and the rest. We pretty much use it as a place for sleeping and to recharge and discharge our tanks. As I have said before, we almost never see a full campground. Hopefully when the economy gets better, this will change.
Many campgrounds will take away your reservation if you do not show up the first night, it is assumed that you are a no show. I would double check when making reservations. sad.gif
QUOTE(lauriefla @ Oct 9 2010, 06:30 PM) *

Many campgrounds will take away your reservation if you do not show up the first night, it is assumed that you are a no show. I would double check when making reservations. sad.gif

COE parks seem to do this. We were delayed by weather one time so we called the reservation system to let them know that we would arrive one night late, BUT in order to hold the reservation we would pay for the unused first night. We were told that if we did not show up by midnight of the first night, the whole reservation would be cancelled. I did not think this was fair. If we didn't pay for first night I could maybe understand the cancellation, but if I pay for a site I think I should be able not to stay in it. Now I emphasize we were dealing with the reservation system, so we called the park directly and explained the situation. The host was extremely nice and assured us we would still have our spot the following night. And we did. But lauriefla is certainly correct in pointing this out.

How about it private park owners? Would you cancel the remainder of a reservation if the RVer was willing to pay for the first night and if they let you know they were still coming the second night?
I am a manager, not an owner, but I would hold the spot, with or without payment, as long as the person called and let me know what was going on. I have held many spots for people, both for overnight and long term and had them never show or call. One recent Sunday, my day off, I had 3 campers coming in so I canceled my plans so I could be at the park and only one of them showed up. The others didn't even have the courtesy to call. I am thinking about getting CC numbers to at least ensure a decent cancellation.
Florida Native
I think taking a credit card number and having a cancellation fee of say $25 would be acceptable to campers. It would separate the tire kickers. When we were in the lodging business, we did it successfully. The problem is that if they dispute it, without a signature, it can be hard to collect.
I suspect that paying in advance on a reservation and then having the “system” dump you because you didn’t show up on a particular day is a legal breach of contract regardless of what the fine print says.

I’ve been a camp host several times and know that a few no shows are a common occurrence. It is unpleasant to have to turn a family away who could have enjoyed the vacant site.

A reservation is a promise to perform. The campground’s performance is in holding the site open for the customer. If the customer does not pay up front and does not show up on Friday by a reasonable time as determined by the CG, then they have not performed. The reservation promise is no longer valid. If the customer makes a courtesy call for a late arrival then that is another promise and payment should be expected.

One of the complaints I have heard is that a cancellation fee was charged for not showing up as promised. Since the CG probably turned someone away because of the reservation, I see no reason not to recoup some of the lost revenue if the site were not re-rented.

You promise, you make good on it. How hard is that?

As far as check in times, all campgrounds could make them mandatory and I’d be happy. That would mean that the guy next to me would have no reason to get up before dawn and make a racket when leaving early.
Florida Native
What we did about No Shows is take a credit card number to hold the reservation. When they arrived, we ran it and got them to sign the slip. If they did not show, didn't call, and caused somebody else to be turned away, then we ran the credit card for the full amount as we had explained to them. If they called well in advance, which gave us a chance to rerent, then there was no charge. This is pretty routine in the hotel business and I think would work well in the RV business. When somebody gives their credit card number, that means they are serious.

Hi again all,

We take deposits via credit card on all advance reservations. We will automically hold the site for 24 hrs. after the scheduled arrival date, and will hold it longer if we are notified of a later arrival by the reserving party. In the Summer, when we are fully booked and turning away people, all of our sites are rented by the week only. We will rerent the site after the 24 hour holding period unless we are notified. If not notified, the original deposit is forfeited and that client is put on our no-show warning list that requires 100% deposit on all future reervations. If someone notifies us that they are arriving more than 24 hrs. late, we will hold the site for them, but they are still required to pay for all of the dates reeserved at the time of check-in (Summer only). This is all fully disclosed in advance on the confirmation sent with all reservations.

During our off-season (after Labor Day), we are very liberal with our deposit refund policy - we will refund any deposit with no questions asked as long as we are informed prior to the scheduled check-in date of either an intent to cancel or to change dates. If someone pays for an extra day in order to arrive early, I can see no justification for considering them a no-show if they have let us know of their intended arrival date or time. In the off-season, we only require a deposit if you request a particular site. With no deposit, we will not hold a given site for you, and you can take your pick of what is available upon check-in.

As stated many times in this forum on other topics, a litlle communication goes a long way. We can and will always work with you as long as you can give us the courtesy of a phone call. On the other hand, if you no-show us during a packed season when we could have easily rented the site to someone else, you have cost us money and why would we want you you back?

Thanks again,


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