No Vacancy?!?: Booked vs. Actually (not so) Busy Campsites

RV Campground with Text, "No Vacancy? Are these spots really taken?"

Have you ever tried to book a campsite only to find they’re all reserved — but then noticed many sites are mysteriously available when you actually get there? 

You’re not alone! This frustrating “Cancellation Conundrum” makes it a pain for campers to schedule their camping trips in advance.

At Bish’s RV, we’ve been helping families get outdoors and camp for nearly 40 years.

RV Park in Galveston, TX. Sun is setting

Our team has seen it all, from last-minute campsite grabs to strategic booking tips. We’re here to help guide you through the rocky terrain of campsite reservations.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand why it’s so hard to book a spot and yet so easy to find one if you just show up. 

Plus, we’ll share some insider tips on securing the best sites, dodging the common pitfalls of booking, and tell you how to make the most of California’s new camping laws.

Ready to become a campsite booking wizard? Let’s dive in!

How much does it cost to camp in your RV?
Find out the prices for camping across the country in our article, “The Cost to Stay at RV Parks, RV Campgrounds and National Parks.”

Find out more about Campsite Cancellations and other RV Industry News with Josh the RV Nerd.

The Great Campsite Cancellation Craze

What’s Going On?

It’s a beautiful day, you’re ready to hit the road and soak up some nature, but wait—every campsite at your favorite park is booked solid. 

Fast forward to your arrival, and what’s this? Half the sites are empty! 

Turns out, this isn’t a case of bad luck; it’s a trend that’s becoming all too common among modern campers.

The Numbers Game

Booking a campsite has become four times harder than it was back in 2019. 

Why? Because many campers are now treating reservations like placeholders. 

They book multiple sites at different parks and keep their options open until the last possible moment. 

Here’s a breakdown of Campsite Reservation Cancellations:

  • 87.3% of people cancel their reservation with over 48 hours’ notice.
  • 32.2% wait until less than 48 hours before they’re due to arrive.
  • A surprising 14.9% don’t show up at all!

Who’s Canceling and Why?

  • Millennials and Gen Z are 52.6% more likely to be no-shows compared to Gen X and Boomers.
  • Higher income campers (earning $250k or more) are twice as likely to be no-shows as those earning under $50,000.

Reasons for Cancellations:

  • Many are just securing a backup in case their plans change.
  • Others are on the hunt for a better site and cancel the original booking once they find it.

California’s Legislative Response to Campground Cancellations

With the rising frustration among campers and park management alike, California has stepped up. A new law signed by the governor aims to reshape camping etiquette on public lands:

  • Cancellation Notice: Campers must now give at least a week’s notice to cancel a reservation.
  • Incentives and Penalties: Those who adhere to this rule receive a five-year credit towards future bookings, while no-shows lose their deposit.

Mastering the Art of Strategic Camping

Secure Your Spot, No Surprises

Tired of the campground booking blues? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to lock down the best spots and ensure your camping trips go off without a hitch.

Timing is Everything

Book Early: The early bird doesn’t just get the worm; they get the best campsite, too! Since more people are now booking in advance, you may have to book waaaaay in advance.

Try booking your campsite more than 6-months in advance to avoid the frustration of not being able to book your site before you leave for your camping adventure.

Off-Peak Perks: Consider camping during the week or in shoulder seasons (early spring or late fall).

Not only will you face less competition for bookings, but you’ll also enjoy quieter, more serene settings.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Technology, like the CampScanner App help you find open campsites.

Alerts and Apps: Sign up for alerts from your favorite campgrounds or use apps like The Dyrt, ReserveAmerica and Campnab.

These tools notify you about new openings or cancellations, giving you a real-time edge over other campers.

Get a Look Online: Utilize online resources to understand the layout and features of the campground.

Google Earth, for example, can provide a satellite view, helping you pick the perfect site away from noisy areas or closer to the lake.

Build Flexibility into Your Plans

Have a Plan B (and C): Always have backup dates and locations. If your first choice is booked, having alternatives can mean the difference between a canceled trip and an unforgettable adventure.

Consider Last-Minute Opportunities: Some campgrounds offer first-come, first-served sites. Arriving early in the day can improve your chances of securing these spots, especially if you’re flexible with your schedule.

Cultivate Good Camping Karma

Follow the Rules: Adhere to campground rules and cancellation policies. Building a reputation as a courteous and respectful camper can sometimes lead to perks or insider tips from campground staff.

Engage with the Community: Join online forums and local camping groups. These communities are invaluable for swapping tips, sharing up-to-date information, and sometimes even securing bookings through member-shared opportunities.

Your Next Great Escape Starts Here!

Finding that perfect campsite can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack, but you’re not alone in this struggle.

At Bish’s RV, we’re here to help guide you through every aspect of your RV journey, from selecting the right model to choosing the best campgrounds.

Armed with the strategies and insights from this article, you’re now ready to book your next campsite with confidence.

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