Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My husband is the suspicious sort. Always coming up with a conspiracy theory. I swear one day I am going to catch him talking into the heal of his shoe. Recently we have been camping in Florida State Parks. We seldom use reservations and are always playing campground Bingo on the computer to get in, or stay in a park we like. He just discovered that several campground sites in each park are not registered on the reservation site. He asked for one of these sites early one morning and was told there was nothing available. An hour later one of the sites was sold to another walk-in customer. He continues to obsess over this issue. How can I convince him to forget it and get a life. I don’t want to travel if it means stressing over finding a piece of real estate every night to park our rig.
--Maxwell Notso Smart in New Smyrna
Your husband will make himself crazy before he ever makes sense of the campground reservation system. The sites marked with a white “W” on many reservation sites, including the NPS sites, means walk-in available. But try to get one. As for Florida State Parks and others, they always have several sites out of the reservation loop to use for mistakes in the reservation system, special situations, volunteers etc... When not in use for one of these categories they will be assigned to those who ask. It is similar to winning the lottery in some popular parks. Knowledge is king. Your husband is on the right track as far as learning all he can about the system. Discovering these Phantom sites, and the fact that they can be made available, can help you negotiate a site in the future. A great source of information is to talk to a host. They often have worked in many campgrounds in many states and have the inside scoop on campground site management. It can be frustrating. Some National Forest campgrounds now charge up to $9.00 to make a reservation. That can be for as little as a one night stay. If your husband didn’t get one of the extra sites that eventually went to another later arriving camper, it could be that he was hanging around the registration office too often talking into his shoe.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink