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Old 04-16-2015, 08:15 AM   #1
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Camping without reservations

With most state parks accepting reservation, I am curious if people ever show up and have no place to stay? Most the state parks in Illinois have some reservations sites and some First Come sites but I am worried that we drive a couple of hours and there is nothing there!

What are other experience and what would you do if it was full?


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Old 04-16-2015, 08:30 AM   #2
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If you plan to use a state park campground on a weekend without a reservation then you better have a plan B and possibly plan C. Just my experience.


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Old 04-16-2015, 08:43 AM   #3
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Agree with Oakman/Pine Tree also be sure you are close to a W/M! Youroo!!
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Old 04-16-2015, 09:04 AM   #4
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Illinois isn't usually as bad as Missouri because they don't allow 100% booking. Most places in MO are completely reserve able making it impossible to just show up. When we don't book, we make sure we get there early, like the night before the weekend or at least take a half day.
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Old 04-16-2015, 09:24 AM   #5
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In Maryland, most state campgrounds have a few first come first served sites, however if it is a nice weekend, these tend to go fast( late afternoon). Also on major weekends many parks are full. If you plan on using a FCFS site a state park you must have some camping equipment on the site and pay for it for it to be considered rented. If planning on using FCFS sites, check for major events in the area. A NASCAR race nearby or major local celebration in the area will most likely mean a full campground.

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Old 04-16-2015, 10:04 AM   #6
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Ed: I'm from Kansas and frequent lakes around MO, OK, AR, KS, TX. In today's world of RVing with the reservation systems in place, you'd be wise to get into the habit of using them especially during holidays and the height of the summer. We book our sites for Memorial weekend and 4th of July about the first week in January ... by the end of January most decent sites are already taken. Granted many parks have first come first serve sites, but like mentioned, they fill up early especially in the summer months. You can go to a lake on a Wednesday and get decent sites, but discover Friday afternoon you will have to move as the site was booked well in advance for the weekend. Once school starts in the Fall, you will be able to just head out and find decent sites without reserving.

As for getting there and the campground is full ... what else can you do other than move on down the road. You might hang around in a parking lot for a night hoping somone will vacate, but that is very iffy. Sitting in a hot RV in the summer hoping for an opening isn't very appealing to me.
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Old 04-16-2015, 10:14 AM   #7
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I have done both and reservations are the way to go. I have driven 5 hours to MOAB a few times and there are no sites (there are very few reservable sites in MOAB). I have had to stay in parking lots or in the Arches lot until a site opens up. I prefer to reserve when I can.
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Old 04-16-2015, 10:23 AM   #8
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Michigan State parks do reserve a large percent of the sites but also leave some open for drive ups. These sites open up first thing in the morning and when there gone there gone.
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Old 04-16-2015, 11:10 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Bianchina3 View Post
With most state parks accepting reservation, I am curious if people ever show up and have no place to stay? Most the state parks in Illinois have some reservations sites and some First Come sites but I am worried that we drive a couple of hours and there is nothing there!

What are other experience and what would you do if it was full?

In our experience, whether state or federal, most parks have a certain number of sites held out for "walk-up" campers. These non reserved sites are usually gone early in the day even on midweek days. That said, we have chanced it and headed off for some camp grounds we are familiar with, expecting to get a walk up site. We do not make a habit of this practice but like others have said, we have a plan B,C etc. ready just in case.
We dry camp a lot and can make a very comfortable camp on just about any flat spot. In our camping areas this is called "dispersed" camping and is quite common. Attached photo was taken from one of these dispersed camp spots. If your planned campground is in a more metropolitan or private property area this may not be an option.
Kind of kills the spontaneity of just deciding to take off and go camping, but the reservation systems have really worked well for us and the open land here in the west makes alternative plans easy and fun as well.
Either way go often and
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Old 04-20-2015, 07:49 AM   #10
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I remember as a kid riding in my parents motorhome and never know where we would camp! It was awesome! However with today's technology and the popularity of RV'ing at an all time high, I would not be like my parents were and just wing it. If the campground has online/ by phone reservations then you would be better to go ahead and make them.

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