2018 Campsite booking strategies

It’s the end of one of my favorite seasons — no not the holidays — but camping booking season. My husband and I are sometimers (we don’t fulltime in our RV but we get to spend a month on the road every year). While we still work we are tied to a teacher’s schedule so we take longer RV trips every summer.

There are definitely popular times to camp and if you’re like me and tied to a school schedule you’re likely to be planning trips during the popular summer months. If you plan to travel to a popular spot (we are heading to Colorado this summer) you may want to follow some of my strategies to ensure you have a spot to camp. I hope sharing these will help some of you.

Save your Favorites. I admit it — I’m a hyper planner. For me that means wherever I’m camping I’m looking at all the campsites and keeping notes on the best sites in the campground “so I can stay in those next time”. If you aren’t doing this already start now.

I now keep my notes in Evernote (because I used to lose them) — I take a photo of the campground map and add any additional flavor — see an example below.

Screen Capture from my Best Campsite Evernote notebook

Book early. For public campgrounds and state parks in Colorado (our destination this summer) the booking window is 6 months in advance. We spend some time over the Christmas holiday thinking about when we’ll travel so that we know when we can start booking.

Book before you want to arrive. A new strategy we are trying this year is to book a site in advance of our arrival date. Because recreation.gov allows you to book for 14 days and you can start that booking on the first date available I book before my window in order to get the dates I want. For example in order to camp in my favorite location on Heaton Bay near Breckenridge for 4th of July I started my booking on June 26th — allowing me to be there the for at least 5 days over that holiday.

Here’s what my booking calendar looks like for this summer’s trip.

Book More and Overlap. Another strategy I’m using this year is to book longer than I plan to stay at a site. This allows me flexibility in my travel plan. In January I’m uncertain how long we’ll stay at each location in the summer so I book longer than I need and I overlap my bookings. As we get closer to our actual travel dates I’ll make changes.

There is a cost to this — booking online has an associated fee and changes and cancellations have fees associated with them as well. I’m also carrying the cost of more nights than I need which will be refunded in the future but it does make for a large credit card bill in the short term. But for my peace of mind the cost is worth it — we’ll get to stay in some of our favorite sites which just adds to the enjoyment of our trip.

What strategies or questions do you have about campground booking?