How to Make Campsite Reservations Like a Pro - Panergy
Whether you’re a seasoned camper or looking to get out there for the first time, it’s essential that you know where and how to make camping reservations when the time comes. And there might be a little more to it than you think.
Right about now some of you know exactly where we’re going with this. Some of you are interested to hear what advice we’re dishing out. And the rest of you didn’t even realize that camping reservations were a thing. Isn’t the outdoors for everyone? Why do we have to reserve space? We get it, but we’re here to make the process a little bit easier.
Believe it or not, making campsite reservations helps our outdoor recreation spaces and public lands in the long run by not only attempting to regulate how many people are in a single outdoor space at a time, but also allowing for funds to be funneled back into maintaining campgrounds and paying campground supervisors. This means things like better maintained campsites, cleaner bathrooms, and even more perks for you, our mindful camper. This all may seem unnecessary, but it’s there to create a better experience for everyone while keeping our outdoor spaces safe and preserved.
So, camper, let’s take on how to make campsite reservations like a pro.
STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE
The first step when deciding where to make camping reservations is choosing what your adventure is going to be. Will you be car camping? How far from home will you be traveling? Would you be willing to hike in to your site? Do you want to have access to bathrooms? Do you need a power hookup? Establish these needs when first planning your trip so you can then narrow down nearby campsites that best serve the adventure you’re looking to have. It’s all about figuring out the experience you want, then finding a campsite that fits these needs.
Types of Campsites
There are an array of campsites out there. Some are very rugged, some are only meant to accommodate a tent, and others include power hookups and bathrooms. It’s important for you to assess what you’re expecting from your camping experience and to go from there.
KOA campsites allow people to car, RV, tent, and sometimes even cabin camp on their grounds. These campgrounds typically offer many amenities, from power hookups, running water, picnic tables, grills, fire wood for purchase, and even community programs for children. If you’re looking for an ultra-comfy campout experience with many amenities at your fingertips, this would be a good fit for you.
If you’re looking to get a little more rugged, many other campsites will suffice, but it’s up to you to do your research to ensure they meet your needs. You don’t necessarily have to give up comforts like bathrooms, bear boxes, water spigots, firewood, RV hookups, or even power outlets for generators. But you must establish which of these conveniences you want because some specific sites and campgrounds may not offer them. It’s very important to note that even though a specific campground as a whole may offer power hookups or bathrooms, that doesn’t mean every specific, singular lot or site within the campground will offer these things. So it’s crucial to establish what you want when booking your campsite, and ensure that the lot you choose includes what you need.
Types of Land Management
The type of land you choose to camp on will often dictate how you can camp, as well as where you can make campsite reservations. This typically depends on if you’re staying on federally managed land, State Park land, etc. These land organizations all run on their own sets of rules, are funded differently, and all manage their respective lands differently, so it’s important to understand who is managing the campgrounds where you’re staying to be best prepared. Some of the main organizations that currently exist are:
- US Forest Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- US Department of the Interior
- National Park Service
- US Geological Survey (USGS)
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
Outside of these organizations, many lands are managed by their respective states or local organizations. It’s important to know how the organization that manages the land you’ll be camping on regulates campgrounds. For instance, the National Park Service requires paid reservations for most of its drive up campsites but allows for dispersed camping for free in certain spaces, while often times the Forest Service requires payment for even dispersed camping in the backcountry to help fund their services. There are parts of the country where almost entire states are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, while this type of management doesn’t even exist in other parts of the country.
Being a proactive camper and looking up these rules and regulations for the area you’re staying in while planning your trip will avoid any confusion, fines, or worse…having that cute park ranger wake you up in the middle of the night while you’re in your footie pajamas rockin’ some major bed head and asking you to pack up your stuff. Woof.
STEP 2: GET YOUR GANG
Half the fun of camping is being around good company. It’s important to keep in mind that the size of your group will often dictate where you’ll be able to camp, and how many site reservations you may need to make. Some campsites will charge per site, per lot, or even per vehicle, so it’s essential have this established before you go to reserve your campsite. Some campsite lots will even cater to large groups (15-25 people) and won’t allow you to book unless you meet the minimum requirement of guests. It’s important to respect any occupancy caps that may exist at whatever campground you’re staying in.
Just as important to note in this process is if pets are allowed or not. We all love our furry friends, but sometimes it’s unfortunately a no-go for Fido. Often, campgrounds won’t allow pets due to proximity of campsites, environmental protections, or past issues with guests not cleaning up after pets. These rules may seem annoying, but again, they’re there to ensure the campground stays manageable, protected, and accessible for others in the future.
STEP 3: LET’S BOOK IT!
Depending on where you’re choosing to camp, more times than not you’ll need to make campsite reservations through a website. This is often dictated by which organization manages the land you’re choosing to camp on, as listed above. Depending on this organization, you will make your reservation and pay online, or you will show up and pay at the camp. Either way, be sure you know these rules and regulations as you’re planning your trip.
Useful Websites and Apps:
Love it or hate it, we all live in the age of technology. But lucky for us tech-savvy (and not-so tech savvy) campers, there are some pretty great resources at our fingertips. A wealth of resources exist to help us figure out if the information listed above is available to us, and allow us to more easily reserve our perfect campsite.
Many websites and apps have been developed to make the campsite reservation process as easy as pie…or s’mores…or whatever your preferred campsite desert is. It’s just…it’s just really easy. Many of these websites have benefits like allowing you to preview pictures of the exact campsite where you’ll be staying, as well as read reviews of sites so you can make sure you pick the best of the lot and know exactly what you’re getting into. For example, the website Hipcamp is just like Airbnb but caters to campsites. After you narrow down where you want to camp and what amenities you’re looking for you’re shown all applicable sites with images and reviews from those who’ve camped there before. It’s pretty darn neat.
IF YOU NEED TO CANCEL
Sometimes things don’t work out and your venture to the great outdoors needs to get cancelled. WOMP WOMP. It happens. In this situation, it’s important to retrieve your reservation and cancel. Most reservations made online will come with a confirmation email, which usually contains instructions and guidelines for cancelling your campsite reservation. Even if you can’t get your money back, your cancellation allows this camping spot to be opened back up for the next person who may be chomping at the bit to get outside and experience that perfect campsite as well.
OFF YOU GO!
Well, camper, I think we’re ready to send you on your way. If you follow these handy campsite reservation tips, you should be able nab the perfect campsite for you and the gang. Now go on!