Recreation.gov lets you search and reserve campsites, lodging, permits, and tours at the largest inventory of federal land in the country. Not only can you reserve a campsite, but you can also sign up for cabins, group facilities, lotteries, and special events. With campgrounds becoming more and more crowded on summer trips, these five tips will help you plan an RV trip ahead of time using the online service.
1. Sign up for an account in advance and stay logged in
Don’t wait for the last minute or an On-Sale deadline to open up your Recreation.gov account. Having an active account not only allows for quick access to your booking requests, but also your past reservations. This is helpful if you can’t quite remember that amazing campsite you stayed at two summers ago. In addition, when you search through the website, stay logged in. Staying logged in will allow you to create a Trip Plan and add your favorite campgrounds to that plan. You can always access your account by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking “My Account”.
2. Read the Recreation.gov newsletter
The Recreation.gov sends out periodic newsletters with important news, deadlines, and price changes. In addition, the newsletter features camping and reservation tips, trip ideas, destinations, and activities. You will only receive the newsletter if you’re signed up on Recreation.gov with a correct email and have the opt-in information box selected under your account.
3. Watch those fees
After more than a decade of not raising fees, this year Recreation.gov has raised many fees by five cents to $1 depending on the location. Lottery and permit locations have gone up $4 or more. This is due to the organization providing increased online, call center, and field location services. If you book a campsite and need to change your location or dates, there are other additional fees. It costs $10 to cancel a reservation and $10 to change your site or dates. Reservation.gov charges $20 plus the first night use fee for no-shows.
4. Know the area and have a Plan B
If you’re planning on camping in an extremely popular campground, don’t only plan ahead, but also have a Plan B. On-Sale sites for popular locations, lotteries, and National Parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite can be sold out within a few minutes. If you are not quick enough to get to the site you want, learn more about the area and find nearby or alternative campgrounds. Your Plan B can consist of alternative dates, less popular campgrounds, off-season travel, and mid-week travel.
5. Use multiple resources to find your perfect campsite
Many of Recreation.gov’s listed campgrounds have the option to learn more about your desired campsite. This includes a brief description, RV accommodation size, location, and a photo or two of the site. If you want to know more about the campsite, open up a few more browser windows and check out TripAdvisor and RV Park Reviews. They have pages dedicated to campground reviews all over North America, as well as customer photos.