Monday, March 7, 2011

Tips: Camping reservations

Camping is a wonderful way to take a break from the routine, and to take a break from the always plugged-in lifestyle we have come to embrace. I grew up camping in California, and the state is blessed with extraordinarily beautiful and varied regions to explore. My husband and I have long wanted to make camping more of a priority, and until yesterday we had everything you'd need to go car camping except a tent. After a trip to REI, we now have a tent and are raring to go.

So, we had our gear. We had a couple of free weekends blocked out on the calendar. All we needed was a campsite. Since we both like to have things arranged ahead of time, we decided to use the online registration systems provided by both the state and federal governments so we could be assured of a spot in the campgrounds we favored. From experience, first come-first served sites fill up extremely quickly on the weekends. Apparently, the reserved sites also fill up extremely quickly on the weekends. We were hard-pressed to find anything free for the weekends we wanted that wasn't in a place likely to have snow covering it. Eventually, we found something suitable, but we learned a lot in the process.

  1. If you have a favorite campground and want to camp on the weekends, mark your calendar about six months in advance of your dates to check the online reservation system. That's when most reservations open up for a given campground. It really pays to plan ahead.
  2. If possible, plan your trip during the week, when campgrounds are much less busy and you'll have more options and more privacy. However, in summer, even this won't always guarantee you'll be able to get in at the campground of your choice.
  3. If you do want to attempt to get in at a first-come-first-served campground, have directions to some nearby alternatives in case you aren't successful at the first place. 
  4. Be sure to read the online descriptions carefully for a given campground before you make reservations, and be totally sure of your dates. You don't want to arrive and find out that pets aren't allowed, or that you booked a tent spot but you have an RV.

I'm counting the days until our first trip, and am marking my calendar to remind me to block out next year's dates early!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizing needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email

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