Life on Holiday
If you are new to RVing, or have a history of staying in a couple of places over the year and don’t typically travel, you may kind of know to book early-ish for remembrance and holiday weekends (typically Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day are the trifecta of camping craziness). You may know this. However, no one can properly prepare you for how ridiculously prepared you need to be if you have your eyes on an area, particularly if that area involves the words “State” and “Park” in it.
Let’s back this fun bus up: how crazy are we talking? We’ll use Colorado as an example. According to our hosts at Cherry Creek, Colorado allows you to book up to six months from the date. Colorado citizens go into the most popular state park websites and book every single weekend from opening weekend until closing weekend. Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day are gobbled up immediately. This leaves little room for tourists outside of the state to come in for a couple of weeks straight (usually there’s a 14 day max) and have one solid visit.
This also leaves very little room for the spirit of exploration or winging it, particularly if you have a very large rig and can’t just pull off anywhere. You shouldn’t plan on Walmart, Cabela’s or similar because guess what? Everyone else who neglected to make timely reservations are likely to do the same thing. That said, we did see the same fifth wheel – with slides out – in a pull-off rest area for the entire Memorial Day weekend. So it can be done.
We were new to RVing last year and left our winter residence in Florida in late April. We knew we had to go to Tiffin to get work done and worked our way to Red Bay, AL. We got there right before Memorial Day. This made predicting exactly where we’d be during Memorial Day to be very difficult, so we didn’t book anything and we didn’t exactly want to spend the holiday in Red Bay (we know people love it here, but we had spent almost two weeks there and were DONE). We ended up in a tiny park in Georgia which was lucky, but there were reasons why that park was available. It was fine for the two days we were there but there were serious issues that could have potentially damaged our coach. We were lucky, and one of the factors we think about is our animals’ comfort. So we definitely had that.
So what did we learn? Book early and book often. When you have an itinerary that’s relatively open, discuss where you may be and choose 2 or 3 locations. Then, as long as the cancellation policy exists where you can cancel x amount of time, book in those 2 or 3 places. They could be close-ish to each other or on different coasts. What you have to lose is money. You will lose approximately $10 per reservation as a service fee for many parks (state parks and KOA included). You must be meticulous to cancel in the right amount of time (parks vary from two weeks to 48 hours before check in time/date) or you’ll be charged either one day’s fee or for the entire time (the latter is rare). If you don’t want to pay cancellation fees, the risk is you don’t have a nice place to stay for the holiday. The risk if you do book is that you’ll forget to cancel. So you need to weigh risk versus reward.
With that in mind, you can ask yourself questions to narrow things down for yourself. What coast will you be on? North or South? Any particular state or states?
This year, we knew that we would want to be in Colorado so for us it was easier. That said, we neglected to log into the Colorado State Park system for a particular park in time to book Memorial Day (missed it by 2 days – 2 days!). Alas, everything was GONE for that weekend, even sites with no hookups (“primitive”). We were able to book Independence Day at a Georgia state park last year in February, so not as cut-throat but still not ideal if you are a wanderer. If you have minimal needs for the weekend (hookups, namely) or are a smaller rig, you’ll find it to be much easier. If you’re a planner, perhaps you live for this. If you have a large rig and aren’t a planner, it is definitely more difficult.
May the odds be ever in your favor.