Camping reservation myths answered

The state Department of Game, Fish and Parks does a lot of my work for me. They’ve done it again with the following Q&A on camping reservations. Enjoy.

"On opening day, I’ll go online and reserve at midnight." False

Reservations open at the same time online as they do over the phone (7 a.m. CT/6 a.m. MT.) Once they open, you can make online reservations 24/7. So don’t stay up until midnight expecting to snag a site early. Get some sleep instead!
"I always reserve several sites at one time so we can be next to our friends." True
Lots of people use this feature to make the most of camping with friends. Large groups aside, up to 10 sites can be reserved by one person. You just need to provide a person’s name for each of the sites. Also remember that if you make a reservation for several sites at once, you need to pay for them all at once, too. Just one check or credit card. After all, they’re your friends, they’ll pay you back, right?
"I went online and called at the same time to make sure I got a site." False
Well, you’re sure welcome to do this if you want, but in reality you’re accessing the system twice, which crowds it even more and slows down response time for everyone. Instead, have a list ready with several of your preferred sites so you can quickly make another selection. Or just book online – it’s only a couple more clicks from the availability page anyway.
"I tried to reserve right away the first day and all of the sites were already taken." True
That’s right, it’s true. It could happen. How can that be, you ask? Just remember that reservations can be made 90 days before the day you arrive. The person who wants to arrive on Thursday can make their reservation one day earlier than a person who is arriving that Friday. Lots of folks start their camping vacations early, but for a non-holiday weekend, it’s rare that everyone decides to take a long weekend at the same time. If it still doesn’t seem right, give the 90-day calendar another look-you might just be a day ahead, before reservations open.
"I already paid my entrance fees when I made a reservation." False
Entrance fees are not included in the reservation prices, and you won’t need to pay them until you enter the park. (However, you can purchase your annual entrance license ahead of time both online and through the call center, and we’ll mail it to you.) If you think you’ve paid more than you should have, check your reservation confirmation again. It might be the non-resident reservation fee or you might have requested a double-up (two camping units on one site).
"No one is working at the call center. I can’t ever get through." False
On the busiest days we overstaff the call center to handle the large volume of reservations, but it may still take a couple of tries to get through. Please hang with us and be patient. Remember, it’s not just opening day at your favorite park, but at 40 others as well. That’s thousands of campsites. The typical reservation takes around 3-5 minutes, and you can shorten that even more by having all your information ready when you place the call.
"Something came up, and they let me transfer my reservation to another weekend." True
Yes, you’re able to transfer your reservation, and even better, you can do so at no additional cost. You can switch to another weekend (if reservations are open for that date), or another park, or both. As long as the transfer is for the same number of nights, it’s easy as pie. And as long as you pay the difference, you can even add nights, upgrade to another site or transfer to a cabin. Just give the reservation center a call (select option #2) and we’ll take care of it.
"To make sure we get a site, we reserve a couple of days earlier and then cancel the days we don’t want." False
In the camping world, these people are known as "date jumpers." They jump the 90-day window and get in ahead of everyone else. Well, they try to. With our system, if someone reserves early and then cancels days at the front of their reservation, they loose the entire reservation. They are then flagged so they can’t re-reserve the campsite, and the site itself is held for an undisclosed period of time before being released for reservation (so their friend can’t call right in and get it for them). Obviously, we don’t recommend you try it.
"A group reserved early and rented the whole park!" False
While large groups can reserve before the 90-day window, they are limited to a maximum of 25% of the park’s sites (most parks allow less than that). Reservations for group sites (a minimum of 10) are taken between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1 for the upcoming season. Group reservations aren’t available in all parks and they aren’t accepted for holiday and some special event weekends. But what a great way to host a family reunion!
"You need a credit card to make a reservation." True and False
This one’s a little of both. If you’re reserving online, you do need to have a credit card to pay for your sites. However, if you call in, you can pay by credit card, check, or money order. And new this year: both the online system and call center accept our brand new gift cards. (You can also buy the gift cards online and over the phone, too.)
Categories: Outdoor Activities

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s Better Newspapers Contest. Seth’s day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota’s state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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