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Camping Reservations - Is the Fix in?

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Morning All:

 

As background: We have been "camping" in and around the US for nigh on 40 years. With the vast majority being tent/vehicle camping, usually in un-developed sites- chasing whitewater flows. The last decade involved a stealthy class B van set-up, designed for a simple, yet comfortable camping experience- that required little if any trip planning.

 

Perhaps the longest on the road experience was to Alaska, in and around the state, and to and from, a goodly amount of travel. Even that trip commanded but a few hard "must plan" days - a wedding, a river trip, and the day we needed to be home. Other than those events, it was free form - stop when we felt like it, find a place to stay on the way. It works well for us. Well, except for trying to stay on the beach areas of Florida, in the winter months. Seems that involves a full year ahead commitment - other than cancellations - another story all together. But I usually find something.

 

Now, with the Oliver, and on the cusp of retirement and thus - more free time- I thought I would plan a 2 month spring/summer trip.

 

And to my query - is the system fixed - or stacked against us.

 

I had the crazy idea of visiting Yosemite in May/June of this year. I had done all the  homework, was ready, was on the site, was ready to hit the button at precisely the moment the sites became available - 7am Pacific time - and with in seconds- ten to be exact - all the sites were taken - Huh??? My selections timed out within 5 secs of the 9am opening (my time), and within 15 seconds, every other selection, was taken. Well - according to the electronic selection system. Perhaps - no - for certain - I'll have to do more research if I want to obtain a certified reservation, until then - its first come first taken. My old stand -by.

 

What if any experience do you Oliver owners have  with these centralized - demand driven reservation systems. I'd love to know the tricks - if any - ….

 

I'm  comfortable doing my normal - little planning - itinerary, but I'll admit - I'm a little miffed at the Yosemite experience. Oh, well. Have a great day.

 

RB


Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

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RB -

 

I feel your pain!  Been there, done that and its not just Yosemite.  Florida State Parks, South Carolina State Parks, Wyoming, Colorado, etc. have all brought me to my knees in trying to make reservations.  Yes, its extremely hard to believe that there are so many people out there with fingers poised on the button trying to get the exact same site.  What are the odds?

 

Bill


2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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It’s rigged, a computer program grabs them up the instant they become available. I am sure of it.

 

When the Oregon State Parks system decided to open up 900 extra rough camp sites (using overflow parking areas) for viewing the August 2017 total eclipse, reservations opened at noon on March 15. I was logged in, had two sites chosen at two different campgrounds, each open on a different browser window. I refreshed each window and I was poised to hit reserve ....  and within a few seconds after noon ALL 900 sites were gone.

 

That is fundamentally impossible since it takes several minutes for a human to go though the multiple steps for one reservation. It had to be a bot. There was a huge outcry at the Oregon Parks Facebook page but nothing was ever done about it. The spots should have been handed out by a lottery.

 

Many of the gazillion brand new RV owners who are hoping to “just go camping” mid summer are going to be very disappointed since the campground infrastructure has not grown. There just are not enough spots. Mid to late summer is a disaster here anyway due to nasty wildfire smoke. We try to camp more in spring and fall. Sad.

 

When I see local RV dealer tv ads saying ”Go camping this summer in your new RV!” it makes me a little angry because that is so deceptive. Not only are there not enough places to camp, many of the spots are already reserved from months earlier, and the dealers don’t have the desire or capacity to service all those new junk stick and staple units they sell at 40% off. This is a result of the booming economy and severe cuts to park budgets.  Grrrr.

 

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It was easy to find a campsite in 2009....

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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It’s rigged, a computer program grabs them up the instant they become available. I am sure of it.

And does what with them exactly?  Is there a black market for campsites that I'm unaware of?


Snowball • 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor

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It’s rigged, a computer program grabs them up the instant they become available. I am sure of it.

And does what with them exactly? Is there a black market for campsites that I’m unaware of?

 

I can’t answer that question about normal park sites, but how else can you explain it? The Oregon Parks server did not freeze from overload, it worked fine for other pages, all the green sites immediately and simultaneously turned red.

 

There was most definitely black market price gouging of eclipse viewing spots. I don’t specifically recall seeing any state park sites. Craigslist was full of ads. We ended up camping three nights at a tiny fairground parking lot in rural Idaho, for $20 per night. That was really grim, but the sky was cloudless and the event itself was beyond spectacular.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane  WA

 

 


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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It's probably explained by there being 900 spots and 9,000 people wanting them, if not 90,000.  Trying to get any kind of reservation in the path of the eclipse was next to impossible.  Hotels were booking up a year in advance.  We went up for the day and there were people lining the highway everywhere to see it.  It was a big event.


Snowball • 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor

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The Oregon Parks server did not freeze from overload, it worked fine for other pages, all the green sites immediately and simultaneously turned red.

 

And that is what doesn't make sense. I'm sure there is some hack - somewhere- that will help with this issue. But my experience leads me to John's conclusion... until I find more  info. The Yosemite system is set up differently than most- with multiple dates for reservations, and fairly detailed FAQ on getting them. I have thought about setting up multiple accounts (Mine and my spouse) on the  Rec.gov, and reserve America sites, than use two machines, set up and waiting. Its a crapshoot .

 

I was told of an issue with FLA reservations - there was indeed an inside angle - it was finally busted - but then again - who knows.

 

If there are resellers, I've never seen one, and if they exist, then the systems need fixing....

 

RB


Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

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Well, to reply to the OP, over the past 10 years we’ve traveled from coast to coast in our Oliver’s. We’ve visited 41 of the 50 National Parks in the lower 48 and over 200 National Park units with never a reservation and have never failed get a spot. To me, making a reservation is tantamount to being told what to do and when to do it. I love the freedom to be able to say “we’ll stay a night” and then find that we love it and stay a week. I just don’t want or need that much structure in my life.


Steve, Tali and the dogs: Reacher, Lucy and Rocky plus our beloved Storm and Maggie (both waiting at the Rainbow Bridge) 2008 Legacy Elite I - Outlaw Oliver, HULL NUMBER: 0026 2014 Legacy Elite II - Outlaw Oliver, HULL NUMBER: 0050 2017 Silverado High Country 2500HD Diesel 4x4 

 

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I'll make a reservation if I have a rally to go to, or if I know I'll be near a tourist destination on a holiday weekend.  Otherwise, I am like ScubaRx ,  wandering at my whim and enjoying wherever I happen to be.  Parks with reservations systems usually set aside a small number of "non-reservable" sites which are intended for the drop-in traveller.  The key to scoring one of those sites is to stop for the night early enough so the non-reservable sites are not all taken.

 

Another way to find a site at an "in demand" campground is to arrive anytime after checkout on Sunday (or Monday if it is a holiday weekend), when those still in the working world are heading home to start back to work on Monday.

 

 

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Pete & "Bosker".    TV -  '18 F150 Super-cab Fx4; RV  - "The Wonder Egg";   '08 Elite, Hull Number 014.


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We, too, have had issues with getting campsites at the popular places, in busy season. With or without a reservation.  Depends entirely on the season. Another reason we like shoulder season camping.

 

One leaf season, we stood in line for sites at Acadia. All that was left were random sites. We left Acadia,  and luckily  found beautiful sites at a state park a few miles away. Much nicer sites and services.

 

ReserveAmerica, and the consessionnaires, have taken some of the fun out of camping in National Parks.

 

I've had Canadian campers tell me about how they sit up at night,  finger on the reserve button, waiting for sites at our beautiful county park, Fort DeSoto. Six months ahead...

 

That said, we've also had some good luck. A few years ago, I  managed to get two cancelled sites at Denali NP, just a day ahead of arrival. So, some of it is luck. Some is timing, as we almost never reserve sites. We like to wing it.

 

Sherry

 

 


2008 Ram 1500 4 × 4

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We spend a few weeks each summer at Minnesota State Parks.

 

They have a rule to head off at least some of the reservation nonsense.  You MUST occupy your site on the first night of your reservation in Minnesota State Parks.  There is no ability to change the first date of your reservation once it is made.  If you try to change the first day, or don't show up the first day, the whole reservation is cancelled with a loss of funds.  This is key to stop one type of gaming of the reservation system.

 

For those who understand why this detail makes a difference can get a site of their choice and date of their choice before many others.

 

I want to acknowledge that this happens, but don't want to document a how-to for those who don't understand.  It'll just make it worse.

 

HTH, Ken


2013 Toyota Land Cruiser 200

2018 Twin Bed Elite II #351

 

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Thanks all,

 

Mine  was an attempt to acquire a "reservation" something out of the ordinary for me. Given my experience, I'll keep doing what I've done, but darn  it , I'm gonna get a reservation on one of these high demand spots, even if I have to  back out later. Its the challenge - man- the challenge!!!

 

Think I'll target the Keys, then Yosemite in Aug...….

 

Ok, a deep breath, back to regular programming.

 

RB


Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

ALAZARCACOFLIDMTNVNMOKORTNTXUTWAWYd56201524964bac5483378b34b491562080842sm.jpg

 

 

 

 

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I've been pretty lucky so far.  Was asleep at the switch and had notional ideas of going to Yellowstone this summer.  I just booked two weeks ago and there were still a number of the 40+ foot sites available for June (reservations opened Jan 1).  Shorter sites have even better availability, but in Yellowstone the spots are only single wide so you need enough room for your tow vehicle and trailer in the one spot.  And this year Fishing Bridge RV Park is closed for the whole season, so I imagine the other campgrounds in the park are more booked than they'd normally be.  We stayed at Bolsa Chica State Beach (just north of Huntington Beach, CA) over Christmas last year and had no problems getting reservations a couple of days after reservations were opened for December.

 

I agree with Ken, that kind of rule would go a long way to deterring some of the reservation games.  There are also a number of things they can do to prevent bots from making reservations, but, ya know, that takes effort & stuff.


2018 OLEII #344   |   2018 Ford Expedition


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Yes, Rumline, I too saw some Yellowstone spots, but not sure we would actually go to the park again, if so we will do the first come thing. It always worked in the  past! I think other than Florida in the winter months, I'll just not worry about reservations - for the most part. If there were more - any?- boondocking in Fla I would do that, but  I haven't found any so far, well at least near the beaches of the gulf.

 

The west is just so much  more open, really looking forward to having the Ollie along this summer.

 

 


Cindy,  Russell and  "Harley dog" . Home is our little farm near Winchester TN

2018 Oliver Legacy Elite II - 2018 GMC 2500 Duramax 

"Die young - As late as possible"

ALAZARCACOFLIDMTNVNMOKORTNTXUTWAWYd56201524964bac5483378b34b491562080842sm.jpg

 

 

 

 

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At risk of taking this thread further off topic, can you please elaborate on your experience doing first-come-first-served at Yellowstone?  I've read a bit about it and it doesn't sound like a great way to run your trip.  From what I read about visiting during the summer months, you have to arrive so early (before 7am) that you can really only get in one line per day, then even if you score a spot of someone who's leaving, you have to wait around until as late as 11am for the previous campers to move out.  If you don't get a spot, it's at least a two hour drive out of the park to go find a commercial spot.  Sounds like a lot of time spent with marginal success rate.

 

If the above is not accurate I would love to hear about that.


2018 OLEII #344   |   2018 Ford Expedition


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Rumline -

 

The good, the bad, and the ugly of Yellowstone can be had at many of the "first come, first served" camping areas.  In my own experience I've had the times when I just showed up and got a spot - arrived after 11am.  However, this was back in my tent and pop-up camper days when I could fit into just about any space.  More recently I arrived just after five am and was third in line!  And, yes, I then had to wait for the camper that was occupying that spot to leave.  This was no big deal in that I simply took a nice nap inside the Ollie.  Then, during the two weeks I spent in that campground there never was a day when the campground didn't become full by 10am.

 

Of course there are a couple of campgrounds inside the Park where it wouldn't take you two hours to exit the Park.  But, if all or virtually all the sites are taken inside the Park then you can rest assured that many of the closer in sites will also be reasonably crowded.

 

I understand that "Fishing Bridge" campground inside the Park will be closed for a good deal of the summer this year.  If that is the case, sites anywhere in the area are going to be a bit more crowded.

 

Bill

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Here's a timely article from National Parks Traveller -

 

Got Those Recreation.gov Blues

 

Apparently the Rec.gov service switched hands to a new contractor in October, and because of contract issues, they had to rebuild the site from scratch.  Lots of things like photos and maps haven't been added back yet - and the new site is supposed to have 'real time' reservation status, which seems to be glitchy.

 

For what it's worth, the new firm behind the site is Booz Allen, of Edward Snowden fame.


Snowball • 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor

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Interesting article.  Booz Allen primarily operates in the DoD space, which isn't exactly known for rapid results or customer service.  Where's that popcorn emoji?


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Booz Allen primarily operates in the DoD space, which isn’t exactly known for rapid results or customer service. Where’s that popcorn emoji?

 

I have also noticed a lack of information on Recreation.gov.

 

I worked for Booz Allen Hamilton for 18 months in between my career as an Army officer and my career as an Army civil servant. It is a good company (despite the Snowden episode) that works hard to provide quality service and takes care of their employees. If they bid and were awarded a contract to take over recreation.gov they will meet the contract requirements and milestones, whatever the federal government decided to put into the contract. It won’t be fast enough for most of us - I’ve already been frustrated by the lack of site information on campgrounds where I’ve tried to make reservations. Mike

 

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Mike and Carol | Fair Oaks Ranch, TX | 2016 Elite II #135 | 2020 Ram Rebel 4X4 5.7L Hemi

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