Dear RV Shrink:
I know life is not fair, but some of these campground reservation sites need improvement. People have figured out how to game the system and bag all the best sites and times, trade them with friends, and snag walk-in sites at the last minute. I have witnessed all of these situations. I see campground host favoritism, park employees getting their relatives into parks that are booked solid, and have even noticed sites in popular parks being sold on Craigslist. Do we just have to get in the mud and wrestle if we want a site? Taking the high road often has us sleeping on the side of the road. —Be still my Cheatin’ Heart in Hillsboro
Dear Cheatin’ Heart:
Anyone who spends enough time on the road has witnessed some of the same. The reservation systems are not perfect. You will always have to deal with those who cut corners or bend the rules. However, there are things you can do to improve your odds.
My best advice would be to learn all the rules of the game, and play by the rules. When you find someone has broken those rules and it has affected your camping rights, you need to call them on it. You are correct. I have seen many of the same situations. The best one I have heard recently is a guy with a computer program that works like eBay auction software. It scans the campgrounds that he is interested in and snags site cancellations automatically. You can usually only hold a site for several minutes before you have to book or release it. His program snags it again and again until he checks the site and decides if he wants it or not.
How do you compete with that? You don’t find campground auctions on eBay anymore. That has been blocked. If they are still scalping campground sites on Craigslist I have not noticed. The same day walk-in sites are the hardest to figure out. Often the computer will show sites that the park employees say do not exist. A lot of people overbook and cancel what they find they will not use. That is often at the last minute. I call it campground Bingo. It often takes more time than I care to spend scouting a campground we want to visit and waiting for a cancellation. Again, knowing all the rules of engagement will help.
There are often subtle little understandings that make all the difference. Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement. So keep working at it until you have made all the mistakes and before long you will be an expert Campground Bingo player. —Keep Smilin’, RV Shrink