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Old 07-25-2018, 01:44 AM   #1
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Planning a trip in August from Whidbey island to the Greeley area of Colorado. There will be my wife and I and Beau the Dog. As we have not RV traveled for a few years, we were wondering if we need to plan ahead and have reservations at Campgrounds, or just wing it.
Suggestions and recommendations appreciated.
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Old 07-25-2018, 02:03 PM   #2
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Nick and Sue, for years we just wondered the West in our B and stayed where and when we wanted virtually all the time. That ability has diminished due to the significant increase in the number of people with RVs these days. We love National Forest campgrounds and many are now on the reservation service on line, recreation.gov
They also keep many sites as "Walk Ups" meaning no reservations, first come first serve.

Colorado in particular has changed a lot. The number of people moving there has been crazy and a lot of younger people have taken jobs in that state for the recreational opportunities. We seem to enjoy Colorado mostly now in September or October to avoid the summer rushes.

The commercial campgrounds vary a lot from state to state but I was recently surprised in trying to make a KOA reservation in a place we had stayed often in the past and it was almost full when I called two weeks out from our visit.

All that said, we have found August to be less crowded than mid June through late July, maybe into early August. The families with kids tend to pack campgrounds then and generally are really slowing down by early August to get into or ready for school.

Still, we usually can find a spot for the night in most campgrounds and with a B we have often stayed in a really small site inaccessible to others with larger units.

So, in summary: we plan ahead a lot more than we did twenty, ten or even five years ago. We miss the freedom to roam but still find it, just reduced a bit.

Paul
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Old 07-25-2018, 02:56 PM   #3
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Paul, thanks for the insight. It matches with what we thought might be the case with so many of us boomers now camping. I think for this trip we will see on the side of caution for most of the nights.
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Old 07-28-2018, 06:06 AM   #4
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. . . with so many of us boomers now camping.
Nick,

You've touched on an extremely important topic that deserves all of our attention. The problem isn't merely the increased number of ‘boomer’ campers - - rather, it's the near universal adoption of reservation systems that all but exclude the itinerant traveler. Increasingly, if you don't know where you're going to be 6 months or a year in advance, you're all but 'locked-out' of many of our National Jewels, our prime scenic, cultural and historic destinations.

It is hard to deny the benefit of 'The Reservation System' to 'the family' - - in November the following 'summer vacation' sign-up sheet is posted and, in turn, each employee 'reserves' their respective vacation slot. Each knows with certainty - - months in advance - - when their allotted week will be. And each, importantly, is assured that when they pull their dusty trailer from its back-lot slumber, there will be a spot 'reserved' for them at the end of their long drive.

But not everyone fits the Reservation System mold. Medical issues - - personal or for those whom we have a responsibility - - may unexpectedly intervene requiring cancellations and last-minute rescheduling, business obligations . . . and what about those of us who - - after decades of adhering to the scheduling realities of the working world - - are now, finally, free to wander, to travel, whenever, wherever . . . must we still march in lock-step to our working brethren from whom, in retirement, we expected liberation?

Let us provide a recent, real-life example.

We were traveling this spring in Texas . . . a land of many fine State Parks. But as you probably surmised, these are 100% Reservation System parks. And, it seems, that every one of these parks is within a comparatively short drive from some major Texas metropolitan population. So, every weekend, the parks are fully “reserved” by Texans.

In the not too long ago ‘first come, first served’ era, an itinerant traveler could insulate themself from the local population by arriving on Thursday . . . not too many of the local ‘working class’ could routinely take the extra day . . . so there were always spots available on Thursday. And once ensconced, the first come, first served itinerant out-of-town Thursday camper could lock-in the campsite for Friday and Saturday. That’s the way first come, first served works - - once ‘first’, you get to keep the campsite until you leave - - you can’t be bumped by a local weekend-only guest.

So how does Texas now deal with the itinerant traveler from Michigan? Let’s listen to the actual conversation from this May:

Michigan Traveler on Thursday: “We’re looking for a campsite.”

Texas Campground Personnel: “Not a problem, we have lots of sites.”

Michigan Traveler on Thursday: “Good, we’ll take a site . . . we’ll be here until Sunday”

Texas Campground Personnel: “Oh, you didn’t say you wanted to stay that long. We have no sites available for Friday or Saturday.”

We’ll omit the superfluous dialog along the lines of “But, wait, I’m here on Thursday, don’t I get to keep my site?” “No, you don’t, it’s reserved by one of our local Texas customers.”

But here’s the actual real-life dialog that followed:

Michigan Traveler on Thursday: “Ok, but where are we to go on Friday and Saturday?”

Texas Campground Host: “I don’t know. Why don't you go home?”

Honest to God - - this conversation actually occurred.

So, members of this Forum and all others who would like to preserve the ‘once-right’ to travel without having to schedule each individual stop months in advance - - it would be prudent for you to join in my now near solitary chorus . . . it’s time to move the pendulum back . . . no, we don’t have to abolish the very beneficial Reservations System . . . only, modify the System to withhold a meaningful percentage of sites for ‘first-come, first served’.

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Old 07-28-2018, 02:09 PM   #5
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Winston is right on target.

1. Since the financial debacle of 2008, interest rates have remained extremely low. Lenders have moved in the rv finance business because the rates on that paper are generally a better yield and risk analysis is much different than a decade ago.

Cheap financing!

2. In 2008, the Census Bureau estimates 304 million in the US. Now, they show it to be 327 million.

23 Million more people!

3. Those Baby Boomers got to retirement age and here they came at the rate of 10,000 per day (government estimates) to join in on the fun.

Boomers!

4. Reservation systems for everyone including state and national parks, forests, Corp, etc. became common (and many are still clunky).

Reservation Systems!

5. How many new state or national parks, national forest campgrounds, etc. have you seen built since 2008 or even in this century?

Few new non commercial facilities!


We are putting 16 ozs of pickles in a 12 oz jar.

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Old 07-28-2018, 02:54 PM   #6
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Well, the reservation system is a double-edge sword. Yes, you can get locked out on busy weekends in the summer on in popular family-friendly parks near cities. OTOH, we now have visibility into such situations that we have never had before. This gives us the ability to plan our travel so as to avoid the bottlenecks and seek alternatives. It seems to me that this is good for everybody, since it minimizes the number of "wasted" unoccupied sites. Plus, there are almost aways alternatives, especially for those who don't need hookups every night. I am increasingly finding the "find a campsite" apps to be essential.

The other thing is that these reservation systems and their policies are rapidly evolving. Many states are fine-tuning their "same day" walk-up policies so that no-show slots can be reused. I have been to several places where there is a "sweep" line at the reservation office at a certain time each afternoon. I have had good luck in them. Also, a lot of parks are starting to designate a certain number of sites as "non-reservalble" in order to form more of a balance. We are definitely in a transition stage, but I am optimistic that better days are coming.
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Old 07-28-2018, 04:55 PM   #7
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In 2008, the Census Bureau estimates 304 million in the US. Now, they show it to be 327 million. 23 Million more people!

How many new state or national parks, national forest campgrounds, etc. have you seen built since 2008 or even in this century? We are putting 16 ozs of pickles in a 12 oz jar.
Paul, thanks for succinctly voicing one of our greatest concerns. Ken Burns characterized our National Parks as “America’s Best Idea”. We’ve reflected on that . . . and on supply and demand. The population will double - - will we create new Yellowstones? Proper stewardship of these precious assets requires we not waste what we have.

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Well, the reservation system is a double-edge sword.

The other thing is that these reservation systems and their policies are rapidly evolving. Many states are fine-tuning their "same day" walk-up policies so that no-show slots can be reused.
Avanti, we wish we could agree with you. But campground administrators will be the first to concede that numerous campsites remain ‘fallow’ everyday due to the reservation system. “Our hands are tied,” they will say, “these people have paid for the site, there’s nothing we can do.” Indeed.

But you are correct in one perverse aspect, these same administrators love the system as it guarantees their revenue. They really don’t care if the site is occupied, they have their money. This is not conjecture - - in our now multi-year campaign to return balance to the campground registration system we’ve been repeatedly told this. Is this about money? Or should our higher goal be: making our national treasures available to the greatest number of citizens?

Even under the most favorable rules, registrants are ‘given one day grace’ - - if they fail to appear on day one, their site will become available to you, Avanti, on the next day. We have yet to find a campground that will release a site on day one . . . “We just don’t know if this camper will be here or not. They may arrive late,” we are told. In Big Bend this spring we finally abducted a campsite that had gone unoccupied for three days . . . the campground host was unwilling to apply the one-day grace rule.

Why not be creative? First, start with the principle that “reservations are a privilege,” not a right. If you abuse your privilege, your access to the reservation system can be suspended. We understand there are complexities in implementation - - but Reserve America and Recreation.gov both know who we are - - just type in our phone number and, bingo, our identity is revealed . Could not these computers be programmed to keep tabs on abuse?

Or, alternatively, why not create incentives for timely cancellations? Full refunds? Or ‘chits’ that can be applied to future reservations within the system?

Avanti, we hope you did not misinterpret the thrust of our earlier protest. We see the need for a reservation system and use it and love it (that’s why rec.gov and ReserveAmerica know us). But let’s use both edges of that sword - - lets develop intelligent campsite allocations that better meet the needs of all.

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Old 07-30-2018, 03:54 PM   #8
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They went all reservations in Minnesota a few years ago. Makes it virtually impossible to get into any of the popular campgrounds from Memorial Day to Labor day, unless you get really lucky and keep watching for a cancellation. To do so, you have to search the campgrounds every couple of hours for days, and still the chance of success are very small as hundreds of others are also doing it. No non reserveable sites at all, so out of towners never get to see the good spots.


When they put the system in, they insisted that there always would be drive ups available based on past usage, but this is not the case. Now they say you can still get a site in a state park as a drive up, which is true if you want to go to a place the never filled up anyway because no one wants to go there.


What appears to be happening is that those with enough money not to care about losing a cancellation fee make a whole bunch of reservations as soon as they can be made, and then cancel or let their friends use them if they decide not to go.


IMO there should always be some drive up sites held back, as not everyone has the luxury of planning 6 months out. It really hits the working class campers the hardest, as many of them can't schedule time off more than a couple of weeks out. Their taxes still support the parks, but they can't use them because of the rules.


When you go to the state park campgrounds in Minnesota now, you can see that the mix of campers has moved upscale because of the new rules, leaving out a lot tenters and popup owners.
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Old 07-30-2018, 04:47 PM   #9
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Booster, absolutely correct in all you said. Also, there is a new attitude that is perverse in society today that certainly applies to this situation: if I win, you have to lose. It is all about me. The world began when I was born.

I see that attitude driving, at the grocery store and even in our neighborhoods as some move out and new move in. I don't mean to be a negative sounding old retired goat but regardless of age I do think our basic manners - like reserving what you may need and then to heck with everyone else, cancelling the trip without cancelling the reservation, etc.- have really deteriorated as a society in the last decade or two.

Now that I have admitted to being in that referenced status to old goathood, let me also say that our Golden Age and other passes allow us to get campground sites at half price, therefore tempting us to fudge.

The current strong economy also adds to this by allowing a whole lot of folks more financial discretion than they enjoyed a few years ago. And the Boomers. And so on.

Personally, I don't see travel from Memorial to Labor Days as to good a thing anymore.

I really understand that the northern half of the US and all of Canada have fewer calendar choices than can be enjoyed here in more moderate winter climes. Summer is the only or certainly most desirable alternative. Around here, I can enjoy my B for a night or two all winter most of the time, with a brief interlude for tough Oklahoma winters that last only a few days normally.

Paul
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Old 08-02-2018, 09:18 PM   #10
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Absolutely reserve. It’s very difficult to camp in Colorado these days with no plan. Even the private campgrounds are filling, although they are usually last to fill. Most campgrounds both US Forest and State will be reserved for any weekends. Slightly more opportunities for mid week. One night stays are possible as walk ins but even those fill early in the morning. After August 15 when Colorado schools are in session, things will open up a little but out of staters are still here. The father the drive from Denver, the less booked it will be. Southwest corner-Durango and northwest corner Steamboat Springs might be easier.
I’m a Colorado resident and know all the tricks but it’s still very difficult to find sites.
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