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Old 11-14-2020, 09:21 AM   #1
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Reservation Trick for Recreation.gov ?

I'm baffled, Never had so much trouble as I have in the last few years.


trying to make reservations online Recreation.Gov for GSMNP Elkmont riverside. Sites were released today 10am for 6 months in advance when the 2021 season starts.


I had logged in to website and pulled up / loaded in different windows 8 of my choice sites with starting date May 14, 2021, I was hitting enter just before 10 am And at 10am on the dot but every site was already booked.


Is there some type of automated booking going on ? is there an App. that does this or is there another website that people are using that per-reserves the sites other than Recreation.Gov ?


very Frustrating
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Old 11-14-2020, 09:30 AM   #2
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Many people reserve them starting Thursday for the weekend. You can reserve 14 days beyond the current availability day. Most likely they were gone before you started.
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Old 11-14-2020, 09:36 AM   #3
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I just now looked for available sites on Rec.gov using my phone and multiple sites show available. Not sure what specific sites you were interested in, but there's certainly are a lot of sites available.
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Old 11-14-2020, 09:36 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by kamphiker View Post
I'm baffled, Never had so much trouble as I have in the last few years.


trying to make reservations online Recreation.Gov for GSMNP Elkmont riverside. Sites were released today 10am for 6 months in advance when the 2021 season starts.


I had logged in to website and pulled up / loaded in different windows 8 of my choice sites with starting date May 14, 2021, I was hitting enter just before 10 am And at 10am on the dot but every site was already booked.


Is there some type of automated booking going on ? is there an App. that does this or is there another website that people are using that per-reserves the sites other than Recreation.Gov ?


very Frustrating
I'm not sure if it's still happening (it probably is) but here's a 2017 article on this issue:

https://www.kqed.org/news/11450483/c...-could-be-bots

I also see that there are sites that profess to being able to provide access to last minute cancellations (for a fee, of course). Note that I have no experience with these, nor am I recommending them. Here's one example:

https://campnab.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAn...oaAoGPEALw_wcB
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Old 11-14-2020, 10:01 AM   #5
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I just now looked for available sites on Rec.gov using my phone and multiple sites show available. Not sure what specific sites you were interested in, but there's certainly are a lot of sites available.

It is specific riverside sites that are in the D, E, F, G, J sections. I know I can get into the Main / general campground sites with no issues. I just can't believe that the sites I had selected I could not book. My internet is quick and I had multiple pages open with everything pre-selected and no luck.
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Old 11-14-2020, 10:11 AM   #6
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I'm not sure if it's still happening (it probably is) but here's a 2017 article on this issue:

https://www.kqed.org/news/11450483/c...-could-be-bots

I also see that there are sites that profess to being able to provide access to last minute cancellations (for a fee, of course). Note that I have no experience with these, nor am I recommending them. Here's one example:

https://campnab.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAn...oaAoGPEALw_wcB

This is exactly what I'm starting to believe. Is it fair ? i don't believe it is. If I could find a BOT i could use, I guess I would because of the frustration i've been having for the last 3 - 5 years (Living in Fla. and Winter camping is another issue).


Several years agi, While Camping at Elkmont I saw a person that kept coming & going from 2 different campsites with trailers on them, He was a local (By the license tag being Sevier county). The trailers were setup more like Mobil homes in that the entry steps were not attached to the Trailers. different people used the trailers mainly during the weekends & no one really during the week. I got the impression that this individual was renting out the trailers. How he was doing this I don't know.
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Old 11-14-2020, 10:25 AM   #7
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Maybe you could reserve earlier than you plan to go and extend the time for when you want to be there, then cancel the early dates. Probably too late to do something like that this time though.

We haven't done this, but it was just a thought on a possibility to get around the system.
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Old 11-14-2020, 10:43 AM   #8
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Unless or until there are punitive fees and actions for no shows and cancellations the problem will continue. A system where multiple no shows or cancellations tied to an identifier such as credit card, license number, email address, MAC address etc. are flagged and ultimately forbidden to make additional reservations would be the only system that would actually prevent abuse.
A fee, no matter how high, is not a deterrent to some but would at least begin to solve the issue. Perhaps premium sites such as the ones the poster is referring to could have a substantial additional reservation fee attached that would be forfeited should the reservation be cancelled or the reservation become a no show.
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Old 11-14-2020, 10:48 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by kamphiker View Post
It is specific riverside sites that are in the D, E, F, G, J sections. I know I can get into the Main / general campground sites with no issues. I just can't believe that the sites I had selected I could not book. My internet is quick and I had multiple pages open with everything pre-selected and no luck.
Just got a chance to look at Rec.gov on my laptop. Pretty fishy that all those "D" sites along the water are already reserved. I think a couple of letters to the park office and to Rec.gov are in order to complain and to get their official response to what is happening. Regarding the post about reserving early and then cancelling, your total reservation gets cancelled in those situations. They have a policy for manipulating early reservations, but this practice is even worse and should be prohibited.
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Old 11-14-2020, 11:25 AM   #10
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At a COE park only two "premium" sites (FHU) are reservable while there are actually about 25 premium sites. The other w/e sites are reservable. If you get one of the two reservable premium sites then upon arrival you can either keep it or take any other non-reservable premium site that's empty, or upon arrival to a w/e site you can take a non-reservable premium site, for an additional fee of course.

A host told me that it's done that way because locals would immediately reserve every premium site every weekend all season and since no one else could get them for a week or two, they'd sit empty all weekdays. Also, the reasoning is, that if you're a weekender you don't need FHU.

Perhaps something similar is actually going on.
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Old 11-16-2020, 10:13 PM   #11
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I use the recreation.gov site regularly.
This is the only trick I know, you can reserve a site for two weeks, if the first day of your stay is in the open window. Today is 11/16/20 which means I can make a reservation that starts on 5/16/21 and runs through 5/30/21. If I want a particular site on say 6/2/21 thru 6/4/21, I'd find the current last day site is reserved and work off that. Lets say my site is reserved through 5/25/21, then no one can reserve that site again until 11/26/20 and at that point I can reserve it from 5/26/21 through 6/9/21. On 11/26 I am ready at 7AM sharp and I reserve 5/26 through 6/4. Later you can modify the reservation to drop the first days (or in my case just go early). The cancellation policy is $5 if you cancel up to 48 hours in advance, if you cancel the day of arrival, it is the $5 plus first night. This is the problem in my mind. If they made it so the reservations couldn't be changed and you had to arrive on the first day it might help. A lot of the places I have been require ID to check in so I doubt bots are getting the sites and selling them. As far as I know the reservations are not transferrable. Just remember there are lots of people doing the same thing and every time you try to get the site it takes a few seconds to refresh so your timing needs to be good (don't try early). A crazy popular place will fill up nearly instantly. I know a few people who had 10 people try to get sites in Yosemite, all were queued up on different available sites, 4 were able to get sites the other 6 missed. Luckily they only need 3 sites (so they cancelled one of the sites). This was before the pandemic so there were probably 500 sites in the valley. Now there are fewer sites and more people trying to get them. I also think if they made the cancellation policy you lose 100% if you cancel less than 7 days it would open up things too. Right now, if there is a no show it becomes a walk up site which sucks. I was in Joshua Tree at Jumbo Rocks Campground a few years ago and it was completely booked full, when I drove through the campground, i counted at least 20 open spots out of about 130 total spots. The ranger was off so they weren't even having walk ups. I wanted to stay a few extra days and there were open spots but no way for me to legally get one. I could have just got into a spot and hoped no one showed up and threw me out but. Instead I moved to another campground where a ranger was present and could get a walk up site for the few extra days.
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Old 11-17-2020, 08:08 PM   #12
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My mistake. I looked at a my Joshua Tree NP reservation today the cancellation policy has been updated to $10 instead of $5.
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Old 12-31-2020, 04:00 PM   #13
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This is exactly what I'm starting to believe. Is it fair ? i don't believe it is.
Iím one of the folks working on Campnab, and wanted to quickly provide a little context to what we do. A number of folks book up more spots than they need, early in the year. Then, they cancel some of those reservations if they donít need them.

All our service does is let you know when one of those campsites opens up. We donít book the spot, hold the spot, or do anything else thatíd cause problems for campers. Additionally, our service is of no benefit when spots first open up for booking.

We built the product because we love to camp, and hated that we could never find a spot at our favorite parks. So, weíre trying to make this easier for folksónot harder. I feel like weíre helping as some of these spots would otherwise go unused.

I hope itís OK that Iím posting here. Iím not trying to plug our product. I just wanted to clarify any misunderstandings about how it works. :-)
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Old 12-31-2020, 04:26 PM   #14
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I just now looked at May 14 waterfront and there seems to be sites available for a 2-week period beginning on that date. I didn't look at every waterfront site but these show available: D3, F8, G2....

I also noted that there are no non-reservation sites going to be had in 2021.
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