This question has been our battle since the beginning of our RV experience. It’s a toughie. The age-old question of is it better to book ahead or leave your schedule open for flexibility when it comes to RV reservations.
When we were new to the RV game over a year ago, we booked ahead and made reservations for every stop along the way. This was wonderful, until one day it wasn’t. We found ourselves wanting more time in an area, but once reservations are made you are committed. If you have made multiple reservations, then changing all these along the way to accommodate could be an RV nightmare. On the flip side, we have found ourselves twiddling our thumbs in other areas and wanting to move on, but reservations were holding us hostage.
So it was settled. We would no longer make reservations! Sounds logical enough, what could go wrong right? We would be free as a bird and it would be wonderful. It does sound wonderful in theory, but we ran into was a brick wall of absolutely no openings in an area and we were literally begging mobile home parks for a flat piece of land to rent out to park our RV. This strategy actually worked for us in a pinch and we parked in a blazing hot field to get through the weekend, but we were excited to have a place to park our home.
Calling dozens of campgrounds and asking, no begging, for a place to stay is not our idea of RV nirvana. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way. Some we’ve already put into motion. Some are still in the works.
I’ve split up the tips into two sections because how we reserve depends the time of year and the popularity of the campground.
Be Aware of High Traffic Situations
When it comes to peak season (which can vary from destination to destination, but typically Memorial Day to Labor Day) we have discovered without reservations you can be caught with nowhere to park your RV. Reserving early may be the way to go during the busy summer months especially if you are visiting high traffic areas. If there is a campground that is a must-do on your list or an event that you are wanting to attend, then booking ahead would be the way to go.
For instance, let’s say I have this “friend” that was planning on visiting the most visited National Park in the US, Rocky Mountain National Park, in Peak Season with no reservation. Who is this crazy friend? Okay okay we were that “friend”, and we learned the hard way that was not a great idea and you may be left circling around the area like a vulture looking for a spot or waiting to ponce on a cancellation. Cancellations are always an option if you are in a pinch, but not a very reliable one.
Also, weekends during Peak season were extremely difficult to find openings for reservations. We would occasionally find weekday openings, but weekends were as common as a unicorn.
Watch out for holidays When we are fulltiming, we tend to lose track of holidays, Who am I kidding. We lose track of what day of the week it is. It is a very strange feeling. We have let holidays sneak up on us with no reservation and with no room in the inn if you know what I mean, so this is big. Most holidays are when most people get the RV out, so you are fighting the crowds.
Know your worst-case options. In the past, if we found ourselves with no reservation during a busy time, we would crash overnight at a Walmart. However, the problem has occurred that some areas do not allow overnight parking in city limits, so make sure to check and be aware of these areas. Using the All Stays app is a great tool for this situation. If there isn’t a Walmart in the area to park at, check All Stays for Cabellas, Cracker Barrells, Truck Stops, and Rest Stops (we prefer them in this order).
During non-peak season, we’ve had great results being relaxed with reservations. Once we arrive at a destination, we check out the area and look at what we have planned and then make a decision on our next destination and book that spot ahead. So booking one destination spot ahead has been working out for us and leaving more flexibility than booking months in advance in non-peak season.
This has been beneficial because life happens. If you book every single spot in advance to score the reservation you want to ensure, be aware the weather may be uncooperative, your body may be uncooperative and sickness occurs or a number of reasons you need more time in an area. We like to leave a few extra days for flexibility for those unseen situations.
Some of the same principals as peak season apply, but tend to be less of a problem. Be aware of holidays and weekends. We have noticed leaving and arriving during the week and before a Friday has been helpful in finding reservations.
When it comes to the question “To Reserve or Not to Reserve”, these are a few helpful tips we have learned along the way to help create an amazing RVing experience. Reservations can be a stressful situation at times, but with a little planning and balance of flexibility, you are on the right path for a wonderful experience.