Have you ever tried making campground reservations at popular national parks, state parks, or other campgrounds? Some require planning a year or more in advance! Planning anything that far ahead is tough at best. That’s where a campsite availability checker can be a game changer.
Would you like to RV camp at some of the most amazing destinations in North America? If you don’t yet have a campsite availability checker or campground cancellation app on your smartphone or tablet, you’ll want one after reading today’s post!
These services make it possible to get a reservation at a sold-out campground with very little notice.
Let’s dive in so you can take advantage of campsite availability checkers!
- 1) What’s a Campsite Availability Checker?
- 2) How Does a Campsite Availability Website or Campground Cancellation App Work?
- 3) Our Top Campsite Availability Checkers
- 4) Have You Used a Campsite Availability Checker or Campground Cancellation App?
- 5) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
What’s a Campsite Availability Checker?
A campsite availability checker is a website or campground cancellation app that allows you to scan for sites at heavily-booked campgrounds and RV parks. The site/app will alert you to cancellations, so you can swoop in and nab them!
They allow you to score a campsite reservation a couple of weeks (or days!) in advance at some of the most popular national, state, or provincial parks where you’d typically need to make a campsite reservation months or more in advance.
Think they’re just hype, or don’t really work? Think again! We’ve done it ourselves, and it’s incredible!
How Does a Campsite Availability Website or Campground Cancellation App Work?
Stary by visiting the website or downloading the app for a campsite availability checker (or two) onto your smartphone or tablet.
The best campground cancellation apps and sites offer reservation alerts when a cancellation meets your needs. Simply choose the parks or specific campgrounds you want to visit. You’ll automatically receive an alert via text or email when there’s a cancellation.
Once you receive the alert, if the dates and campsite work for you, simply nab the reservation for yourself as quickly as possible!
In most cases, you’ll need to nab the reservation quickly before someone else does, although one campground availability checker, (Arvie), can actually make the reservation for you on the spot with one click! (We’ll tell you more about that in a minute.)
You might be able to take your family camping at Glacier, Acadia, or Zion National Parks without planning your visit a year in advance. How about snagging a reservation at Yosemite a few days from now?!
Let’s take a look at two of the most popular campsite availability checkers available.
Our Top Campsite Availability Checkers
In 20 years of full-time RVing, we’ve learned that the last thing we need is a membership, website, or app that requires considerable effort and frustration for very little gain.
So we suggest the two services we’re highlighting below.
Because we were so pleased with our ability to score last-minute reservations at some very sought-after campgrounds using CampNab, we’ll mention it first. We’ve had amazing results from this awesome service.
We were so impressed that we published an entire post entitled “What Is CampNab?” about a year ago.
How Does CampNab Work?
The CampNab service is easy to set up and simple to use. Just go to the website and fill out the form with your criteria (dates, of course, but also sometimes site size and type, depending on the campground). CampNab then sets up a “scan” for you.
When someone else cancels a reservation that meets the criteria in your scan, CampNab sends you a text message (or email if you prefer). To “nab” the reservation, you simply click a link to go directly to the campground’s website and book it.
We’ll note here that the ability to filter by site size and amenities is limited by the data made available by the park’s reservation system. However, once the link comes in, you can check the details to decide if the available campsite is a good fit for you, and book immediately before it’s gone.
We sometimes tried doing this manually by continuously refreshing the reservation page to see if a cancellation happened to pop up while we were at our computer. Not only was that pretty futile, but there’s no more of us clicking like monkeys now!
Our Experience With CampNab
We’ve used CampNab to snag last-minute reservations at some of the most in-demand, hard-to-get, booked-solid-for-months national park campgrounds.
Zion National Park
The first time we used CampNab to search for a campsite cancellation, we were heading toward one of our all-time favorite places in the world — Zion National Park — on short notice.
The most appropriate place to camp in Zion in our big rig is Watchman Campground. But it’s extremely popular, and fully booked up months in advance, so we had no real expectation of getting in.
That’s especially true because we have a 43′ RV, so can only fit into certain sites. And we were hoping to stay for up to a week… a lot of days to hope that someone else canceled. And we were only a week away! This was a very tall order.
We couldn’t believe when the text popped in that a campsite had just opened up… for 5 days… big-rig-friendly… with a 50-amp hook-up even! We clicked through to the NPS website and nabbed it!
Glacier National Park
On another occasion, we didn’t expect to be near Glacier National Park until about two weeks prior, when we decided to alter our route.
This one was an even taller order because our plans would have us in this very popular national park over 4th of July weekend! Yes, we know, it was crazy to even think we could possibly get a site in super-popular Apgar Campground on such short notice.
We set up our scan, and within 48 hours CampNab alerted us to a cancelation. We nabbed it and booked the site for the entire July 4th weekend. Apgar Campground is always fully booked 6 months out, and we got in anyway… on 2 weeks notice!
Think that’s impressive? Now, THIS is crazy…
Peter’s cousins live near Glacier and had recently bought a new travel trailer. We told them we’d be camping in Apgar over the 4th, and would love it if they could join us in their camper. They said it isn’t possible to get a site without reserving 6 months ahead, especially over the biggest holiday weekend of the summer.
Without going into detail, we told them we might have a way to get them a site.
So, just two days before 4th of July weekend, we set up another CampNab scan to try for a second campsite. Like a bolt of lightning, we got an alert, literally within 5 minutes… for a site diagonally across from ours! Of course, we nabbed it, and they came to enjoy the weekend with us.
Being fellow RVers, our cousins of course watch us on The RVers on the Discovery Channel and PBS. It was hysterical having them insist that our “celebrity” must have gotten them into Glacier! CampNab turned us into actual big shots with our cousins! 😂
So, our experience with CampNab has been truly impressive, far beyond our wildest expectations.
How Much Does CampNab Cost?
CampNab offers various plan levels as well as a no-plan basic level known as “PPU” (Pay-Per-Use). This option allows you to simply pay for a scan when you need it. This is especially useful for people who don’t camp very frequently and just want to run one scan to book a site for, oh let’s say, Fourth of July weekend. 😁
So, PPU is the lowest commitment level. If you know exactly what park you want to camp at and on what dates, simply create a pay-per-use scan and let ‘er rip!
There are also different scan levels available for various fees.
You can choose CampNab’s “Good” scan. For $10/month, the system will scan every 60 minutes for any date within the next four months.
You can also choose the “Better” scan, and the system will scan every 20 minutes for any date within the next six months. This will run you $20/month.
If you choose the “Awesome” scan, you’ll pay $30/month, and the system will scan every 5 minutes and search for any date within the next 12 months.
And finally, for those of you who are super hard-core frequent campers, there’s the “Mega” scan. This top-of-the-line scan runs every 5 minutes while allowing you to run up to 15 scans at once. This premium level runs $50/month.
You can also choose an annual or month-to-month payment, allowing you to activate the service only when needed. If you choose to pay for an entire year, you’ll get 25% off the cost of your plan.
All the deets are available on the CampNab website.
Arvie is another excellent campsite availability checker with a fantastic twist that we’ve never seen available anywhere else. Not only does Arvie alert you to canceled reservations so that you can scoop them up if you’re so inclined, but the service can actually book reservations for you automatically the minute they become available!
So, Arvie is very similar to CampNab but a bit more full-service because it processes the reservations on your behalf for any campground in its system. (As of this writing, there are 4,300 campgrounds and more than 500,000 campsites in the Arvie system!)
This addresses a potential drawback to other systems: What happens when a text alert comes in while you’re asleep or away from your phone? We had such great results with CampNab by responding immediately to alerts. Had we not done that, we likely would have missed out on those campsites.
How Does Arvie Work?
Arvie can find and book reservations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
You’ll create a profile with Arvie and enter custom filters based on your desired campsite criteria. Once your profile is created, you’ll never need to fill out a campground reservation form again as long as you book through Arvie. (And there are no booking fees!)
Arvie features “SOS” or “Sold Out Searches” with a system that searches for cancellations 24/7/365.
When a cancellation pops up at a campground you’re interested in, Arvie sends you a text offering you the ability to book it immediately with a single click. This is very similar to CampNab. The main difference is that each system covers a different set of parks. Some parks are in both, and others may only appear in one or the other.
But you can set up Arvie to “Auto-Book” a reservation for you even while you’re asleep! You don’t even have to receive the text to snag a reservation. Once you set up the parameters for an Auto-Book, Arvie will automatically reserve the first site that meets your criteria that becomes available.
However, Arvie doesn’t just scan for cancellations. It’s also a general booking site, so you can use it to make reservations for any trip.
You’ll get unlimited custom-filtered searches based on your Arvie profile.
In less than a minute, the Arvie Search Hub will display results from up to 5 different campgrounds at once.
How Much Does Arvie Cost?
Arvie offers both monthly and annual membership plans. Choosing an annual plan saves 40% over the monthly cost.
They also offer an introductory trial, giving you the first 7 days completely free to try it out. (You can cancel anytime during those 7 days and never pay a cent to Arvie.)
If you sign up during Arvie’s intro period, you’ll be guaranteed a $19.95 /monthly rate for your first year of access to Arvie’s services.
However, if you sign using this special RVgeeks/Arvie Discount Landing Page or use promo code RVGEEKS1, you’ll save 10% on your membership, bringing it down to $17.95/month or your annual membership down to only $11.25/month (billed annually).
Arvie also offers a “Pause It” plan that allows you to pause your monthly membership during periods when you’re not using it. So, if you only travel during the summer and fall, for example, you can pause your Arvie plan during the winter months and resume when you’re gearing up for the next camping season.
With a free, no-risk 7-day trial, there’s nothing to lose in trying Arvie’s campsite availability checker and booking system.
Have You Used a Campsite Availability Checker or Campground Cancellation App?
As always, we’re interested in knowing what you find useful.
If you’ve been using and loving a particular system like this that works well for you, we’d love to know your preferred campsite availability service.
Have you tried CampNab or Arvie? Do you have an awesome success story that impressed your family or friends (or you!) like we did? Leave a comment below and let us know!
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