Camping offers a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect with nature. But finding and booking the perfect campsite can sometimes be a daunting task, especially if you're new to camping or unfamiliar with the area you’ll be traveling through. Luckily, there are many tools and resources available to help make the campsite booking process easier and more efficient.
Finding campsites & campgrounds
As a research junkie myself, I find the process of looking for places to stay therapeutic, but I know not everyone can relate, so allow me to help! Whether you're looking for a secluded wilderness experience or a family-friendly campground with amenities, this process of finding the right campsite can sometimes be overwhelming.
After planning quite a few of my own trips, I have honed in my process to work for our family — but hopefully, you can take away a few tips for your own.
Here’s my process for longer trips:
- Open Google Maps and set your start and end locations
- Break up the trip into manageable drive days (find the max number of hours you can realistically drive in a day before needing to rest and make sure each leg is less than that)
- “Add a destination” for each of the areas where you’ll need a place to stay/park for the night (be sure to move them into the right order)
- Once you know where you’ll need places to stay, begin cross-referencing those locations with some of my favorite apps for finding campgrounds
Best apps & sites for finding campgroundsCampspot:
- ⭐️ Best overall option for booking campgrounds
- Can filter by type of sites (RV, tent, lodging, & glamping), park features, etc.
- Unlike most other booking apps/sites, the parks aren’t posted by the owner, they are vetted and work with Campspot directly
- Provides a reservation system that allows you to book campsites online, with instant confirmation and secure payment processing
- ⭐️ Best for booking dry-camping sites
- Can filter by RV, tent, lodging, amenities, things to do, etc.
- Has the most options for really any location of the apps I use
- Sites are posted by the owner, so be sure to read reviews and do your due diligence prior to booking
- ⭐️ Best for when you want a unique overnight stay
- The most unique app of the ones I’ve used as far as the types of locations (wineries, farms, breweries, etc)
- Does require an annual membership fee, but in return, you have unlimited access to overnight stays at any location (as long as the host has space)
- Only available to self-contained RVs (your stock Mantis will be perfect, otherwise you’ll want a portable cassette toilet to use for your Cricket or TigerMoth)
- ⭐️ Best for dispersed camping (staying on public lands)
- If you want to stay or visit a National Park, chances are you’ll need to reserve it through this app
- Can filter by RV, tent, lodging, amenities, types of hookups, etc.
- Offers a loyalty program called the "America the Beautiful" pass, which provides discounts and other benefits to frequent visitors of federal recreation areas
- ⭐️ Most comprehensive database of locations
- Has a searchable database of 30,000 campsites and RV parks across the United States and Canada
- Includes detailed reviews and ratings from other campers, with information on amenities, prices, and nearby attractions
- Offers a trip planner tool that allows you to save and organize your favorite campsites and plan your camping trips
General tips for booking campsites
Now that you've found the perfect campsite for your next camping trip, it's time to book it. However, the booking process can be confusing and frustrating if you're not sure what to expect. By following these tips, you'll be able to book your campsite with confidence and ensure a smooth and stress-free camping experience.
Many popular campsites can fill up quickly, especially during peak season. Booking early can help you secure your preferred campsite, and you may have a wider range of options to choose from. Some campsites may allow you to book up to 12 months in advance, so it's a good idea to start planning your trip early.
Try the off-season
On that note, the off-season typically has fewer campers, which means that you may have a better chance of finding available campsites. In addition, many campsites offer discounted rates during the off-season, which can help you save money on your camping trip. However, it's important to keep in mind that the weather may be less predictable during the off-season, so make sure to pack appropriate clothing and gear for the conditions.
Be flexible with travel dates
If you have flexibility in your travel dates, also consider camping during the week instead of the weekend. Many people prefer to camp on weekends, which can make it harder to find available campsites. By camping during the week, you may have a better chance of finding open spots and avoiding crowded conditions.
Keep up-to-date on restrictions & closures
Make sure to check for any campground closures or restrictions before booking your campsite (especially if booking through a third-party app or website). Some may have restrictions on the number of people or vehicles allowed per site, or they may be closed due to weather or other reasons. Stay informed about any updates or changes to the campground policies before you go.
Sign up for loyalty programs
Many campground reservation systems offer loyalty or rewards programs that provide discounts, special offers, and other benefits to repeat customers. These programs can make it easier and more affordable to book campsites, especially if you frequently visit the same campgrounds or recreation areas.
Most of our trips usually include a combination of these options and tips, so don’t feel like you have to stick to just one app or use all of the tips for booking. For our longer trips, we like to book campgrounds with amenities during the workweek so we can have access to WiFi, laundry, and showers. On the weekends, we like to book dry-camping sites so we can disconnect and enjoy living minimally and outdoors.
Also remember to be respectful of the environment and your fellow campers. Always follow leave-no-trace principles, obey park rules and regulations, and be mindful of noise and other disturbances. By being a responsible camper and respecting the natural beauty of our public lands, we can all do our part to ensure that these resources are preserved for generations to come.
I hope you can put these tips to use when planning your next trip. Feel free to reach out on Instagram if you have any questions!
— Alex Hardgrave