Want some 2022 camping reservation tips? The first is you better try to snag it right now. Actually, for the best chance, you should have started a couple of months ago.
But it will never be easier than today.
In Episode 373 of the RV Podcast, we hear from Mark Koep, of CampgroundViews.com, an online campground site that lets you see the site you're interested in, instantly know if it's available and then book it with just a click of the button.
There's no need to phone the campground or go to another site.
Mark has lots of 2022 camping reservation tips, whether for just an overnight stay or for an extended vacation.
Also on this week's podcast, we have audience tips, questions, RV News, and much more.
You can listen to the entire episode on your favorite podcast app or through the player below.
To watch a video version of the podcast on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel, click the player below.
2022 Camping Reservation Tips from an expert
Here's an edited transcript of the interview with Mark:
[MIKE WENDLAND]: We want to talk about why it's so important to make a 2022 campground reservation early. More important than perhaps it has been in a long time.
[Mark Koep]: If you remember, I'm always an advocate of not making reservations, you know, avoiding it, but that's really changed over the last year and a half, and it's an important topic to definitely discuss.
Camping Demand is at an all time high
[MIKE WENDLAND]: What's different about camping these days in terms of the competition out there?
[Mark Koep]: It's sheer volume. Record RV sales over the last year. Every month has beaten the previous trends in the previous months. They're selling more RVs. And what's different about that in comparison to years past, because if you look way back in time before 2008, 2009, we had record RV sales too.
And then the financial collapse hit. But even then when people were buying RVs back then, they maybe used them once or twice and didn't go out that much.
The difference now is people are able to work from the road, they're able to work from the road, and they're buying these RVs, and they're heading out on the road.
So a lot of the RV sites are getting filled up by these folks who are obviously enjoying the lifestyle many of us have enjoyed over these years. And it's just making it so there's more demand on the limited resources that that are available.
Technology has made the campground reservation system easier
[MIKE WENDLAND]: It used to be pretty complicated. Let's face it, you had to look up a site, find the number get of somebody on the phone.
Technology has gradually come into it and improved it year after year.
Now you guys at campgroundviews.com have made it even easier.
Talk about how early people should book and the differences, depending on whether they looking for overnight or they booking a destination
[Mark Koep]: If you're booking a campsite, it depends on the type of campsite you want.
If it's in a private park, generally they allow you to book further out, so a lot of private parks usually have at least a year, if not unlimited advance booking. So you can even now probably book a private RV park for this summer.
But if you're looking to book a public park, or say a Recreation.gov property that is a forest service or national park, or a county park or a state park, they usually have rolling schedules, so it's anywhere from six months to eight months out, that they open up their availability to book.
Know when you can make your 2022 camping reservation
So what ends up happening in those situations, is you have to set a timer on your phone, you know, for like seven AM the day that opens in order to grab it, especially if it's a hot weekend like the Fourth of July Weekend, Labor Day, Memorial Day, those really popular weekends, or if it's a popular destination.
The other thing to recognize. This goes back to one of the things we talk about a lot. You don't necessarily need to stay at the most popular campground in an area. There's usually a lot of other campgrounds around the area, and up until now, there haven't been any tools really to help you understand what you're getting into.
And so that's really where we're focusing on with the campgroundviews.com site and virtual tours that allow people to go see these parks that you wouldn't normally see.
So right now we've got 1,000 Recreation.gov properties that you can go in and virtually tour. Recreation.com is just for federal properties right now – for National Parks, Corps of Engineers, and the BLM – Bureau of Land Management – campgrounds and RV parks.
The biggest problem now for all of us campers is that there are a lot of different reservation engines out there.
All of them have their pros and cons, so as campers know, instead of finding a campground and having to call somebody, you end up having multiple bookings at different campgrounds all through different reservation engines. So instead of being able to manage a trip in one destination, you're managing it through all these different booking engines that are out there.
2022 Camping Reservation Tips for Arizona, Texas and Florida
[MIKE WENDLAND]: Well, let's take a couple of destinations. Let's talk about Arizona. You know, Arizona is a very popular place. Really, from January through the end of March, when it starts to get a little too warm.
Is it too late now to find many good spots in Arizona in the Southwest?
[Mark Koep]: No, you can. you can go find spots right now, Let's talk about the Phoenix – Mesa – Chandler area. That whole region there right around the Phoenix, metropolitan area. There are several hundred RV parks within that region and when I say RV parks, there' everything from an RV resort.
Like the nicest places, those are generally going to be booked all down, to mobile home communities that have RV sites.
And don't shrug. Some of those mobile home communities are actually really nice, very quiet. You have a very large site, stuff like that, so you just have to go along that spectrum there from full-on RV resort to mobile home community.
And you'll be able to find an RV site.
Now if you're going there to vacation, you want to go to one of the state parks or one of the county parks. Those do fill up really fast, and generally are pretty full, so those would be hard to get into.
But then, within Arizona, you also can look outside of that Phoenix metro area. There are a lot of really great destinations in Arizona that not a lot of people go to, you can go south closer to the border or up into the foothills of the mountains.
There are some really beautiful spots so it would encourage folks that may be getting discouraged that there are some really nice RV resorts north of Phoenix where you turn off to go up to Sedona, there's a bunch of new RV resorts right there that were just built. So there are some good spots right in there and if you go there for a season, you can get a seasonal rate.
[MIKE WENDLAND]: Now when we talk about the other hot destinations, places like Texas and Florida Let's be really honest. Pretty much for those popular reasons you're out of luck, are you not? For most of the rest of 2022, especially for the winter season.
Make a list and be flexible
[Mark Koep]: I would say yes, And where you might come into luck is if you can be flexible.
One of the most important 2022 camping reservation tips I can make is to make a list of several campgrounds or RV parks that I'm interested in.
I'll start calling them because inevitably one of them has cancellation and then you can slide into that canceled spot and get a few nights.
Another 2022 camping reservation tip is to also again open your radius up around the area you will be visiting.
One of the things I like about Florida is it's not very far between the two coasts. So I actually like staying right in the middle of the state.
There, it‘s generally less expensive, generally less crowded.
If you want to be on the beach, you have to book those in advance, far in advance.
Waiting lists don't really work in getting a 2022 camping reservation
And here’s another one of our 2022 camping reservation tips: Don't call and get on the waiting list. You can't get on a waiting list. You're never going to get a call back.
So to snag a site requires you just kind of getting lucky on a few spots to slide into a cancellation, and those happen all the time.
That's actually the biggest problem as we talk about advance bookings and planning your trips in advance, as you well know when you're driving an RV stuff breaks things happen. Your schedule gets out of whack. And so my thing to encourage you to do is to definitely plan for those places that you absolutely have to be at and make those reservations.
But then be flexible and be open on your other destinations. The great thing about an RV is you have an engine either in it or pulling it to get you somewhere. You can go off the beaten path and find some really cool spots.
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Best time of day for a last minute camping spot
[MIKE WENDLAND]: Is there a particular time of day that you suggest people try for a reservation when you are near a popular area?
[Mark Koep]: Yeah, so the trick is most RV parks check-out is at 11 AM. And so then the next check-in is between 2 and 3 PM. So if you think about it from other campers, they're usually leaving that campsite at 11 AM.
So, if you happen to time it right, and it's just random luck, you call them at 11.
We always found spots that way.
Just know just it's a different environment out there. So you really have to choose how you want to travel and be very focused on where you're going to stay.
Finding overnight-only spots
[MIKE WENDLAND]: Now, the big thing that so many people get frustrated about is overnighting on the way to someplace else. What's your advice on when you don't have a reservation for just that night. How's their best way to find a spot?
[Mark Koep]: A lot of folks will talk about Walmarts and truck stops. I'll be honest with you, and twelve years of full-time and we never stayed at a Walmart and never stayed at a truck stop.
I couldn't sleep at night. We tried it once, and I just couldn't sleep. Every noise woke me up. It didn't work.
So Harvest Hosts is a great alternative for you. They've got some really cool destinations and you can book them and slide into them. It's similar to Walmart, but the only exception is that you're expected to buy a bottle of wine or cheese from the place that you're staying at. The other thing is there's a lot of roadside RV parks that maintain overnight spots, and those spots are only overnight so they don't let people stay there a week, or whatever.
It's one night you're in, you're out.
Look for City RV Parks
The other thing again is to look for city-run parks. Those generally have no bookings, nothing, and there are always sites available in those because they are just poorly managed. And so if you look for city parks, you may be able to find a few of them, especially in the central part of the U. S., in small towns.
[MIKE WENDLAND]: Let's talk now about our big camping plans for 2022. People really want to get away for a couple of weeks. They want to maybe find a couple three spots that they can stay at in an area and the most popular areas are, of course out west come summertime, And that's where campgroundviews.com comes in so handy.
Summer booking out west go very fast
[Mark Koep]: Now is the time to go find those parks and then figure out when their booking window is so that you can reserve it when it comes available.
It's easy to find campgrounds. You can find campgrounds on Google or whatever. It's easy to do that. The pain is finding the right campsite for you, right?
CampgroundViews.com gives you this visual experience. Basically, it's Google Street View for campgrounds, you go through the campground and you look around and then we provide information. So when you look at a site you can click on it and get more information in size and all that type of stuff.
Research, research and research
[MIKE WENDLAND]: One of the things that I think is neat about CampgroundViews.com is that you can not only see the site you want and then book it right then and there without having to back out and go to another site. And you don't have to pick up the phone, either, and hope someone answers.
[Mark Koep]: Yeah. It links you directly into it. You can directly link into the underlying reservation engine. When you click on, it takes you right to the page for that campsite.
So now you can start planning your trips a little bit more, really. All we're doing is adding a tool on top of what's out there.
[MIKE WENDLAND]: So we're learning is that in 2022 we're going to have to research a little bit better than we have in past years.
This isn't anything you really should be doing at the last minute.
You gave us some great tips.
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Mike and Jennifer's Favorite Places in Florida – all 3 ebooks!
We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.
Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter.
That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys.
Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.
Altogether these guides are over 300 pages of content!
FAQ's about Florida Gulf Coast beaches of interest to RVers
What is the weather like along Florida's Gulf Coast?
The weather along Florida's Gulf Coast can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. In general, the area experiences hot, humid summers and mild, pleasant winters.
The Panhandle region can be quite cool in January. It is seldom below freezing, but daytime highs are typically in the 50s. It warms up about 10 degrees each month.
You can also generally add about 10 degrees for every 150 miles you travel south down the Florida peninsula.
By the time you hit Naples, daytime highs in January are in the comfortable 70s.
Did Hurricane Ian destroy many beach campgrounds on the Gulf Coast?
While it severely damaged almost two dozen RV parks and campgrounds, about 8-10 campgrounds in the Naples-Ft. Myers area were completely destroyed. Most of the damaged campgrounds have been repaired and reopened.
Check with the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds if you have questions or concerns.
Are there any websites that can help me get a reservation for a Florida beach campground?
One of the best resources we can recommend is called Campnab. This service monitors parks for cancelations and sends you an alert when an opening matches your criteria. That said, it isn’t magic. The app doesn’t create availabilities.
The service works – but it is not free.
Campnab offers two ways to use the service. The first is individual pay-per-use scans. These watch for vacancies at a specific park for a specific date. These work well if you know exactly when and where you intend to camp. Pay-per-use scans cost $10 – $20, depending on how frequently you want them to check availability.
The second way to use the service is through a membership. These typically run monthly and are tailored to those who camp more frequently or are looking to maximize their chance of finding a site. Membership allows you to scan multiple parks and/or dates simultaneously. With memberships, you pay a monthly recurring fee ($10, $20, $30, or $50), depending on your needs.
Are there places in Florida where you can literally camp on the beach for free?
Not many. And they are very pricey. If you want to sleep directly on the sand in an RV, you'll have to stay at a developed commercial campground like Camp Gulf on the Emerald Coast or an RV resort like Big Pine Key Resort in the keys. Some state parks like the Gamble Rogers State Memorial Recreation Area in the Atlantic Coast or Bahia Honda State Park in the keys or Fort Desto State Park near St. Petersburg have beachside sites, too.
But are there free, unrestricted RV beach camping spots in Florida?
Sorry, none that I know of that would work for RVs.
There is unrestricted camping on wild beaches on a couple of islands, but you need a boat to get there, and it is for tent camping only. If you want to sleep directly on the sand, there is Anclote Key offshore Tarpon Springs, and Shell Key in Pinellas County. Another favorite is Keewaydin Island between Naples and Marco Island but that area remains pretty devasted from Hurricane Ian.