Over the last roughly 15+ years campers have been required to use the Reserve America online system to book State campgrounds in New York in advance. With the camping population across the nation increasing each year, and with little increase in the number of State campgrounds it is getting harder and harder to book campsites.
With the ever growing competitiveness the problem of reserving sites is only escalated with all the techniques campers use to secure sites that ultimately make it more difficult for others and result in a lot of vacancy at campgrounds despite them being fully 'booked'.
I will attempt to explain what has been happening, why sites are so difficult to get, and provide you with many tips to increase your odds in making your camping trip happen!
Disclaimer: These reservations tips are provided to assist campers succeed in the ever difficult and competitive world of booking a NY State Campground. Some information provided is derived from a variety of sources including the Reserve America website, NY State/DEC Park websites. Much of the information provided is based on personal reservation experience, other campers experience and observations over the years of the issues and difficulties campers have had in booking campsites.
Please use these tips as reference only. Should you be concerned with accuracy or have additional tips to offer you can contact us at email@example.com
To book online use any web browser or alternatively use the Reserve America app.
Whether you call or book online, both methods have the same access to the central reservation database.
Tip: Booking online is usually a lot faster and more efficient for those who already know where they want to go and what site(s) they like. First timers or those not so comfortable with a computer may choose to call instead.
Use the Reservations/Tips tab in the sidebar for any selected campground for a direct link to the reservation site for the specific campground you are interested in.
Tip: It is highly suggested that you reserve a site ahead of time, particularly in the summer months of July and August along with long weekends, holidays and often most weekends. Outside of these times you have a decent change of get a site just by showing up, but it depends on the individual campground. Chancing a walkup site is risky at some of the more popular campgrounds. Less popular campgrounds shouldn't be a problem. Checkout Chances of Getting a Site to see which campgrounds are more popular than others.
DUE TO COVID WALKINS ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR THE 2020 SEASON. YOU MUST HAVE A RESERVATION IN ORDER TO CAMP AT ANY STATE/DEC CAMPGROUND
These are tent specific sites and they will not fit a trailer. If you are looking for a site for an RV or trailer, you will need to pick a site that specifics a Max Vehicle Length suitable for your equipment.
On the Reserve America site you will have basic info for each site including the max equipment size (Max Vehicle Length). Some campgrounds indicate whether sites are shady or not and may indicate the driveway surface but that is about it. Some campgrounds offer a single thumbnail photo for reference.
Use NY State Campsite Photos to check out multiple high res photos of each individual campsite before choosing/booking a campsite. On the campgrounds 'Choose Site' page you can pick your maximum equipment size and all sites that will fit your equipment will be displayed. Sites on the water will be blue, off water will be green and non reservable sites will have a red outer ring around them. If you like the looks of a site than you can proceed to book it on Reserve America if it is available.
Sites may be book anywhere between 9 months out to either one or two days before the first day of your stay.
Popular campgrounds will often book up exactly 9 months in advanced. In this case be sure to be ready to book moments before 9:00:00am exactly 9 months out. See the Booking 9 Months Out section for more info.
Campers may check in from 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m., but must register and occupy their campsite by 9:00 p.m. on the first night of their reservation or the campsite will be subject to re-rental and fees may be forfeited.
Tip: Technically if you have not occupied the site by 9:00pm the campground may re-rent your site but they don't normally do this. Unfortunately some people arrive several days late and the site just sits there unused.
If you are going to arrive a day or more late I suggest calling the campground directly to let them know.
If you arrive earlier, you may still be able to check in before noon if the site is vacant. If you are already there on another site and are moving sites, you can simply check to see if the site is vacant and then go to the front gate, let them know and they will usually give you your new permit early.
Campers must be off their campsite no later than 11:00am on the final day.
Tip: Try to adhere to the 11:00am rule and don't be late packing up! Northing worst than the next camper arriving and having to wait for you to pack up your gear! Respect other campers who are arriving for their turn to enjoy the site. Save yourself some embarrassment as well.
Camping permits will not be issued for more than 14 nights but may be renewed depending upon availability of sites.
From July 1 through Labour Day only 14 cumulative nights of camping can be obtained at any campground. This is to ensure that new campers can enjoy their right to camp
Tip: At popular campgrounds renewing a campsite is only likely in the shoulder season and during the week. Renewing at a popular campground on the weekends are highly unlikely, even if you notice many vacant sites.
The 14 cumulative nights is per facility. If you camp 14 nights at Wellesley Island for example, you could still book another 7 nights at Coles Creek.
Some campers extend their total days beyond the 14 cumulative nights by reserving in a spouses, or other family members name.
The minimum number of nights you can stay at any campground ranges from 1 to 3 nights.
The most popular campgrounds require a 3 night minimum during July and August. Less popular sites require a 2 night minimum. The least popular campgrounds have a 1 night minimum.
See Chances of Getting a Site to see the minimum number of nights required at each campground.
Two tents OR one hard-wheeled equipment (RV/motorhome/trailer/truck camper/camper van/popup) and one tent.
Tip: This pertains to tents used for sleeping and does not include a canopy or kitchen screen room.
DEC campgrounds limit you to two vehicles
NY State Parks (OPRHP) limit you to two or three vehicles depending on the campground. The Thousand Island Region allows 2 vehicles maximum.
The Reserve America clock advances to the current day at precisely 9:00:00am. I suggest you recalibrate your clock if it has not been done recently to ensure it is set to one of the atomic clocks. For best success I suggest you start clicking on your device(s) starting at about 8:59:55am to 8:59:59am. This allows for your request to get delivered to the Reserve America website just in time for when their clocks turn over at 9:00:00am.
For devices running a web browser: In the last few minutes leading up to 9:00:00am you should have already entered your dates, number of nights and chosen a site (or sites if you have multiple devices). Within the last minute click on the "I'm Not a Robot" robot and let your browser sit until just before 9:00:00am. If you happen to get the additional reCaptcha image challenge then you will have close to a minute to complete it. Again once that challenge is past, let your browser sit until just before 9:00:00am. You will now be ready to click the 'Book these Dates' button moments before 9:00:00am.
For devices running the Reserve America app: This one is a little easier. Within the last few minutes before 9:00:00am log into the app, choose your campground, enter your start and end dates, and campsite. Now let the app site until just before 9:00:00am
Between 8:59:55am and 8:59:59am click as quickly as possible on each "Book these Dates/Book Now" buttons. Hopefully you will be successful!
Unfortunately competition requires a bit of extreme methods to improve your odds of booking a suitable campsite.
1. Use multiple devices. With more than one device available you will have more chances leading up to 9:00:00am to click the 'Book These Dates" button.
2. Get help from family and friends. With more people you have more 'clickers' to try just before 9:00:00am to succeed in booking a site.
3. Have a short list of sites that will accommodate your camping equipment that you will be trying for. The more devices/help you have trying on more than one site, the more likely you will be able to book one of the sites on your list.
4. Starting clicking several seconds before 9:00:00am. From my experiences, and others, I suggest clicking the 'Book These Dates' button between 8:59:55am and 8:59:59am to improve your chances of booking a site. It really depends on the delay between your browser and the Reserve America servers.
5. Don't give up until about 9:30am! Often times other campers will be sucessful at 'locking up' a site right at 9:00:00am but for a variety of reason may end up ultimately abandoning the site and it eventually will go back into the pool of available sites shortly afterwards. Some reason include:
Sites often get locked up/booked at 9:00:00am but often get released back into the pool as late as 9:30am! Yes campers try to book a site and abort for any of the reasons mentioned above. The lesson learned is that if you really wanted a site and someone else appears to have gotten it, DO NOT GIVE UP BEFORE 9:30am! Whether it is a specific site you were trying for, or you weren't that fussy but all sites were taken right at 9:00:00am keep trying!
If someone succeeds at locking up a site right at 9:00:00am they have 15 minutes on the clock before RA times them out and they lose the site. Every time they interact with the site RA resets the timeout to 15 minutes. This means if someone has the site at 9:00:00am but doesn't complete the reservation or aborts, then it may take until 9:15am before the site reappears in the pool of available sites. Someone may partially complete a reservation but then abandon it. From their last interaction with the RA website the site gets released to the pool of available sites 15 minutes later.
6. If you fail wait 18 days and then start checking for cancellations. Reserve America requires that campers wait at least 18 days after they make a reservation in order to cancel a reservation or make reservation changes. This requirement is in place to prevent campers from rolling over reservations every 14 days. If you still failed to get a site don't give up! Many sites that were scooped up in Sep/Oct/Nov 9 months out will end up being cancelled/partially cancelled throughout late fall, through the winter and into the spring. Those who diligently monitor the site for cancellations will often be successful in getting a cancellation. Naturally the shorter your stay is, the more likely you will find the days you require.
There are two reasons for this.
In early or late season campgrounds often close off parts of the campground. There is no way to differentiate a site that is not available to be book versus a site that has been booked already.
During prime months like July and August as well as many weekends at popular campgrounds, it is not uncommon for all sites to be booked up exact 9 months in advanced. Unfortunately campers need to book well in advance to get sites at the most popular campgrounds.
Reserve America implemented Googles reCaptcha technology on all web browsers to help prevent abuse by bots supposedly attempting to book sites for the purpose of reselling them. There have been suggestions around the country that bots have been used to book up and resell sites. In the fall of 2018 Reserve America implemented Googles reCaptcha code on the website to prevent automated bots from booking sites.
The Reserve America app does not require reCaptcha so it is a great alternative, especially for those booking 9 Months out.
The ReCaptcha technology embedding in the Reserve America site is run by Google. They have very complex algorithms and rules that attempt to determine if a browser is a real person vs a robot (bot) that is programmed to try to automate booking site(s). Any browsing activity that doesn't conform with typical usage may alert Google that you might be a robot. If so the website will present you with reCaptcha 'challenges' to ensure you are not a robot. This includes the "I'm not a robot" box which you are required to click within a small box. If Google has ruled you 'suspicious' they may also present you with an additional image challenge. For example clicking on boxes within a matrix of images that have a bus in them or road signs. If you are presented with the image challenge then you will be at a disadvantage as the time to 9:00:00am closes in. I suggest clicking on the initial "I'm not a robot" box around 8:59:00am. Then if you are presented with the additional image challenge you will have 60 seconds to complete it successfully. If you don't get the image challenge then do not touch your browser until moments before 9:00:00am. The initial "I'm not a robot" box times-out after 60 seconds from when you click on the box so you will be fine.
If you find the image challenge to be too difficult simply click on the refresh buttom in the lower left until you get a easier image challenge to solve.
Reserve America states: ReserveAmerica utilizes NTP to synchronize the clocks of servers to standard time references. Several time reference sources are made available to ensure fault tolerance and accuracy of the clocks. Continuous monitoring of the server clocks is in place to ensure that the time is accurate, again utilizing NTP to ensure accuracy.
For desktop users (MAC) you can ensure your clock is precise by going into System Preferences -> Date & Time and following the procedure HERE.
For iPhone/iPad users I suggest using the Emerald Time app. The disadvantage is that you might want to be running the Reserve America app on your iPhone to actually book a site. This works if you have an extra mobile device available.
If you are simply booking an available site less than 9 months in advance then you can use whatever is at your disposal. A desktop/notebook browser, a tablet browser, or the Reserve America app for table/mobile devices.
On the other hand if you are booking exactly 9 months in advance you will need some extra help.
For 9 month out bookings I suggest using multiple devices per person whether this be a desktop computer, tablet or mobile devices. It boils down to how many device 'Book These Dates' buttons you can click in 3-5 seconds.
On a desktop you can potentially open up several overlayed browser windows to allow you to click several times in the moments before 9am. The only problem with this method is that it may awaken the dreaded reCaptcha image challenge box if reCaptcha decides you might be a robot due to your none expected browser behavior. It might be better to have one browser window open per desktop/notebook.
Those with larger camping equipment such as larger motorhomes, Fifth Wheels, long tow behinds are much more limited in the number of sites that will accommodate their gear. By choosing to downside if possible you will benefit from increasing the odds of getting a site that works for you.
July and August are extremely difficult months to get a site. The last week in August however is an exception and can be much easier to get a site. Also consider late June or early September if you can instead. If you are more flexible earlier season dates and late season dates are much easier to book. The fall has the benefits of no bugs and the fall colors are superb!
There are over 95 great State/DEC campgrounds in New York State and over 1,740 campsites right by the water. Why not try another one? There are often other campgrounds that may be similar in nature to the one you have been going to every year.
Sites that have photos here on NY State Campsite Photos are sites that are not made available to the reservation system. These sites are saved for walkups and/or maintenance sites (sites saved for campers who can't get on their sites, who had an issue with a neighbour, where rained out or had a problem with the site in general).
These are sites saved for walkups and/or maintenance sites (sites saved for campers who can't get on their sites, who had an issue with a neighbour, where rained out or had a problem with the site in general).
Sites in blue signify they are located on the water. This means the site pad is located beside or near the water. Sometimes a site may be set back from the water but has easy access to it. Sometimes sites may be up above the water with a pathway leading down to the water.
Sites in green signify they are located off water and don't have any access directly from the site to any body of water.
Some campgrounds that have only one or two photos:
Campground with a handful of photos:
Campground with as many as 24 photos:
Sites with extra photos are intended to help answer all the questions people often have including:
What is the entrance like?
What obstacles must I contend with near the entrance way?
How far will I be from my neighbours?
What is the fireplace like?
Where is the fireplace located on the pad?
How far is the pad from the lake/pond?
What is the access to the lake/pond like?
What is the view of the lake/pond like from the site?
How wide is the site?
How deep is the site?
How level is the site?
Is the site grassy, muddy, sandy, gravel, full of roots?
What is the site driveway surface material?
Does the site get sun, shade or partial shade?
What obstacles must I contend with within the site?
How are the roads where the campsite is located?
Is there a water tape nearby?
Is there a washroom nearby?
The photos were often taken in the early spring as that is when the sites are most vacant for taking photos. Unfortunately this means the photos show some campgrounds in a different light compared to if you are camping in the midst of the summer season. Keep this in mind when you view photos of campgrounds that were shot in May. The date each photo was taken is visible below each campsite photo.
Only campgrounds including Fish Creek and Rollins Pond have campsite photos that were taken in the middle of summer when tree leaves were fully out and often other campers equipment can be seen in some photos representing a more realistic environment.
New photos taken during the summer months are planned as time/access permits at the most popular campgrounds.
New York State campground book up well in advance. It is nearly impossible to find anything available, especially in prime summer months.
Here we provide you with some tools to help you out...
Are you looking for a recent cancellation? Then look now further then our New York State Campsite Cancellations Facebook Group. You'll find lots of recently posted sites including some of the best watersides in New York State.
Want to post a cancellation you noticed? Then visit the Campsite Cancellation Formatter to quickly and easily prepare your message for posting on the facebook group.
Want to offer a site you are cancelling to a fellow camper? Then visit the Campsite Cancellation Formatter to quickly and easily prepare your message for posting on the facebook group.
Looking for a cancellation? Check out recently cancelled campsites.