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No-Show Campers: 8 Reasons Why They Don’t Cancel

No-Show campers who don’t cancel their reservations seem to be a growing pandemic of their own. Here are the reasons why it’s happening and what you can do about it…

A member of our RV Lifestyle Facebook group recently brought up how she pulled into a supposedly booked campground yet many sites were open. Apparently, she’s not alone in witnessing this growing phenomenon. 

With over 100 comments on the post, other members chimed in on why this may be happening and how it interferes with other campers who wish they had that empty spot! 

Getting a reservation these days is so difficult that it’s frustrating to see empty campsites. You think about all of your fellow RVers who are camped out at a Wal-Mart or stuck at home because they couldn’t get a spot. Yet, lo and behold, one empty spot is staring you in the face next to your own hard-to-get campsite. 

Furthermore, it makes you wonder about all of the places you tried to book but couldn’t get into. Were there empty spots that could’ve been yours?!

Why are there so many empty campsites when campground reservations are almost impossible to get? Well, I’m gonna tell you.

8 Reasons No-Show Campers Don’t Cancel Their Reservations

While you may chalk it up to inconsiderate people not canceling their reservations, that’s not the only reason this is happening. There are some logistical and understandable reasons why some people don’t cancel or a campsite sits empty. But, of course, there are less forgiving reasons, too!

No-Show Campers empty campground

1. Minimum Night Requirements

Several commenters pointed out that some campgrounds require a minimum number of nights to book a campsite. Some even require you to book starting on a certain day, like Friday. 

So, it’s not uncommon for campers to book an extra day that they aren’t going to be there in order to book the campsite at all. 

If they’re willing to pay for an extra night, you can’t really fault them for that. They’re just trying to work within the restrictions the campground has placed.

2. More Flexible Travel

Some travelers also have a looser itinerary and aren’t sure exactly when they’re going to arrive. They sometimes prefer to have a buffer before and even after their main stay to have more flexibility in their travel plans.

As serendipity travelers ourselves, Jennifer and I can understand this thinking. Though, it’d still be nice to cancel as soon as you realize you’re not going to make it that first night. That way, at least an overnighter has the opportunity to stay there until you arrive.

No-Show Campers at a campground

3. Early Arrival or Late Departure

Speaking of flexible travel, some people book a day early or late in order to have more flexible arrival and departure times. So, the campsite may sit empty the first night but the campers arrive earlier the next day. Or, vice versa for tacking an extra night on the end.

This strategy gives campers more time to set up and enjoy their first actual day on-site. Or, they sleep in and enjoy the last day more before packing up. 

Since they are still using the site for the majority of the time, this seems like a reasonable and understandable strategy.


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4. Holding Their Spot

This reason often overlaps with the minimum night requirements. But some people will reserve an ideal campsite for a prolonged amount of time so they can use it whenever they want. 

It’s not unheard of for someone to rent a spot for a couple of weeks or even a month, and then come and go as they please. 

This strategy reminds me of the people who claim a table at an order-at-the-counter restaurant before they even order their food. On one hand, you understand that they want to make sure they get a table. On the other hand, more people could cycle through if they just waited until they really needed a table.

5. Too-Strict Cancellation Policies

All of the common reasons so far have been because people want to use the campsite at some point. However, there are plenty of no-show campers that are exactly that: complete no-shows. 

“Why oh why don’t they cancel their reservation?!” we wonder. Why not spend a few minutes to cancel the reservation?

The interesting point that a few FB members brought up is that a lot of cancellation policies don’t offer any money back. So, why bother canceling if you have to pay for it anyway? The answer is so other people can use that spot, but some people don’t really care about that. (We’ll talk about that shortly.)

Some commenters suggested that more campgrounds should give an incentive for campers to take the time to cancel their reservation. Although, another member made a very good point that if that campground is getting paid without the work of having someone there it’s easier for them to leave it empty. They’re getting paid either way.

Perhaps even a small refund would be enough to satisfy both parties. The no-show campers can at least recoup some money. And the campgrounds get to make extra money from the no-shows and a rebooking. Something for more campgrounds to consider, I suppose.

No-Show Campers  empty campground

6. Inflexible Cancellation Systems

On that same note, some booking/cancellation systems make canceling difficult. One key problem a commenter brought up is that a lot of systems don’t let you make partial cancellations.

For instance, if you’re running behind and only need to cancel the first night, you can’t. 

Hopefully, this problem will gradually go away as more and more campgrounds update their systems.

7. Just Plain Lazy or Inconsiderate

I know what you’re thinking at this point. Lots of campgrounds do offer money back and partial cancellations! So, what’s wrong with those no-shows?! Why don’t they just cancel so others can enjoy the spot?

You’d certainly think that recouping their money is incentive enough. I mean, why throw that money away? But, for whatever reason, some people just let it go. It’s apparently not worth their time to cancel. 

But, in reality, it’s not just about the money. Whether or not you get money back, the considerate thing to do is cancel so others can enjoy the spot. 

Unfortunately, some people just don’t care. They’re either too lazy or too inconsiderate to cancel the reservation. They just don’t show up. 

It’s easy to get frustrated by those people, but it’s not worth it. We all know those kinds of people exist.

8. Life Happens

The thing that is worth remembering is that life happens to everyone. Sometimes, no-show campers don’t show up or cancel because something unexpected happened to prevent them. Sometimes, they have something truly more important they need to focus on. 

Whether it’s a family emergency, stress at work, or simply feeling overwhelmed, we can all relate to some things slipping through the cracks. 

This leads me to my advice…

What to Do About No-Show Campers

No-Show Campers

My advice is to always give no-show campers the benefit of the doubt. Instead of assuming they fall into the category of lazy and inconsiderate, wish them the best. 

Hope that whatever prevented them from coming and enjoying a camping trip is a fluke. That they’ll soon be back enjoying the RV lifestyle like the rest of us. 

And if those campers fall under the first few categories and they do show up at some point, don’t begrudge them. Who knows how long they’ve been trying to make this trip happen and how many obstacles they’ve had to overcome. Be happy for them that they made it and hope they make the most of the time they do have there.

Because the truth is, there’s not much we can do as campers. It really comes down to the campgrounds changing their policies and creating incentives. So, the best advice I can give you (and which was shared by several commenters) is to focus on your fun. Leave a message in the campground suggestion box and carry on.

And, of course, always cancel any reservation you can’t use! Freeing it up for someone else to use is always enough incentive. We can thus lead by example!

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28 Responses to “No-Show Campers: 8 Reasons Why They Don’t Cancel”

July 13, 2022at1:33 pm, Stephen Willis said:

Get a sign that says “site is occupied”. Don’t expect people to be smart enough to figure out things as subtle as a case of bottled water. New campers might not know the routine. Like me. The average person isn’t very smart and half of all people are dumber than that.
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July 15, 2022at12:52 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for adding to the conversation, Stephen! Team RV Lifestyle

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June 17, 2022at12:29 pm, Janet Wolff said:

We often book an extra night so we can leave late. One campground offered a late departure and we were elated to pay for a late departure instead of the whole night. We always try to let the office know we’re leaning, but who knows if they actually rent out the space for a late arrival who could use the space.

I wonder if campgrounds would ever be willing to call campers and confirm if they’re coming after a certain time. I think we need to push just a little bit to bring about better policies. Ask them to call… Maybe it could work, or at least be a way to gently push for better policies that work better for all of us.

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June 18, 2022at11:16 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Great ideas, Janet. Thanks for sharing – Team RV Lifestyle

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June 11, 2022at3:47 pm, Paul Kooy said:

I will start out by saying I have never done this but on a holiday weekend the state campgrounds reservations go fast so people will book 2-3 days before the holiday just to get a spot and just show up whenever they want to

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June 10, 2022at6:22 pm, Thomas Moeller said:

Had to cancel a 5 stop trip because our slide was not repaired in a timely manor, lost $10 or $15 at 4 of them, the deposit on the 5th was one night, I have a one night credit if we get up there! Had to cancel our 2nd trip, I had only scheduled the first stop, cost $10, my wife decided on a 9 day hospital stay, not a good trade for her

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June 10, 2022at12:25 pm, DWD InAtlanta said:

I have wondered if there could be a power pole problem at one site that may take longer to fix. Also, is it cheaper to rent for a week than 4-5 days.

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June 10, 2022at11:58 am, Thomas Fields said:

I do a lot of State/local park camping. Rangers have said the if staffing is low, ( no camp hosts, short on Rangers or volunteers, site will be closed and not available. If you have ever been to Fort Desoto campground when it’s “full” and see half of sites empty the whole time you’re there, you know what I mean.

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June 10, 2022at11:12 am, Lynnette Shoemaker said:

Most state and federal campgrounds’ rules say if the site isn’t occupied by check-out time the next day, they automatically cancel your reservation. I always cancel when our plans change. One campground made me rather unhappy though. They didn’t require a deposit, but when I cancelled 3 months out, they charged me for one night! I probably wouldn’t go there in the future but there’s only two or three campgrounds in that area.

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June 11, 2022at10:46 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

That wouldn’t make us happy, either. Team RV Lifestyle

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June 10, 2022at11:08 am, Adell Neu said:

One thing I did not see mentioned is we have a Roadtrek so if we have to go somewhere the site is empty but we are coming back. We try to leave something on the site that indicates we are coming back but one time in Alaska we were visiting friends and came back very late at night and someone had parked in our spot and taken the case of water we had left out to mark our spot. We probably need to have a better way of marking the spot. Also we woke the people up and had them leave because the park was full – said so on the building. What would you have done?

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June 11, 2022at10:46 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

If I had paid for the spot, marked that it was taken, and came back to find someone there, would not have been happy, either. If you paid for it and it was your spot, they have to move. Team RV Lifestyle

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June 10, 2022at10:40 am, Janet Arnold said:

Recently I pulled into a state rec area in CA. There were plenty of empty campsites but all were reserved. I called the reservation system and they said “sorry”. I talked to the CG host who said that site 7 was definitely open and stay there. I paid nothing in a beautiful CG on the Sacramento River. That was certainly a first for me.

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June 11, 2022at10:44 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Hi Janet! Thanks for sharing this – and how nice the host let you do that, instead of turning you away. Team RV Lifestyle

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June 10, 2022at10:17 am, Mary Chaffee said:

We recently left Yellowstone for home and reserved ahead based on how far we thought we could go for each overnight, because it was snowing in Yellowstone and it might slow our departure. Instead we got there way early and could have made it further down the road to home by three hours, but the RV camp wouldn’t refund or discount our reservation, so there we were paying for a spot we either didn’t use or stoping for the night at 1pm. The camp was quite full already but they wouldn’t work with us on it. A big drawback to reserving ahead to make sure you have a place to stop vs waiting to see what circumstances you have when you get there.

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June 10, 2022at9:39 pm, Susan Crabb said:

We are going to Yellowstone in 2023. Any suggestions or comments?

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June 11, 2022at10:42 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for sharing this, Mary. Very frustrating. Team RV Lifestyle

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June 10, 2022at9:39 am, Thomas Morris said:

Sometimes it is impossible to cancel because you have no cell of WiFi connection. That has happened to us.

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June 11, 2022at10:41 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

This is also a good point, Thomas – Team RV Lifestyle

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June 10, 2022at9:03 am, Allison Rogers said:

What people do not realize when they see the empty sites is that they more than likely are reserved at some point. So if you came in for a couple days and did not see anyone in that site next to you, maybe they have booked a week or two and don’t arrive until a couple of days. If you want to book that site and move when the day they arrive, that is possible but not sensible. From someone that works in campgrounds and hear this question a lot, I have personally turned my computer screen around to show the complaining guest, and then they get it.

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June 11, 2022at10:41 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Thanks for adding this to the conversation, Allison! Team RV Lifestyle

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June 10, 2022at8:26 am, Terry Certa said:

We have cancelled a couple of reservations because of extenuating circumstances and in both cases the campgrounds were gracious enough to change our reservation to the next night. They appreciated the call and we appreciated being able to have a pla e to stay when we did get there.

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June 11, 2022at10:40 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

This is good to hear! And it seems is what should happen – thanks for sharing – Team RV Lifestyle

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June 10, 2022at8:24 am, Tim Dazey said:

Why couldn’t there be some sort of app or website where people or parks could advertise their cancellation and people looking could
Set up alerts when something comes available.

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June 10, 2022at8:58 am, Bobby Craven said:

Gulf State Park Campground in Gulf Shores, AL has a forum and people post their cancellations all the time.

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June 10, 2022at8:58 am, Bobby Craven said:

Gulf State Park Campground in Gulf Shores, AL has a forum and people post their cancellations all the time.

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June 11, 2022at9:53 am, Rob Koplitz said:

I thought about that too, but be careful because you’ll start getting into scalping like concert tickets and that sucks.

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June 11, 2022at10:39 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

That would be a great solution! Team RV Lifestyle

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