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Old 12-01-2020, 10:15 AM   #1
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Teach me something about Recreation.gov

I am not new to Recreation.gov... been using it for years.

I am planning a trip for next May / June 2021. Recreation.gov has a 6 months rolling reservation system, so the dates I wanted just opened at 9:00 AM CST today. I have been watching the sites and most were still available. At 9:00 AM CST, I go to reserve and all of the best sites are taken already! I am using a PC, not the phone app.

So what is the secret to beating the system that it seems others have figured out.
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Old 12-01-2020, 10:39 AM   #2
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The wife and I each use our phones for double the chances of getting a site.

We each pick one site and start hitting " book " about 30 seconds before 8AM Eastern time. We keep trying as fast as we can.

Sometimes we get one, sometime not. If not, we start the next morning.
Should work with a few computers too.
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Old 12-01-2020, 10:48 AM   #3
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Since you can make reservations for a longer time period than just a weekend, the way people game the system is by including the dates they really want at the end of a longer reservation. This lets them make the reservation earlier than someone who was trying to reserve just the weekend or holiday dates they really wanted. Later on, the unwanted days are cancelled and the end of the reservation is still left in place. This is an old game being played with the various reservation systems, and I've long wished they would put some type of check in place to prevent this.
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Old 12-01-2020, 10:51 AM   #4
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I want to know also. I spent 3 hours this morning trying to get a reservation for Bahia Honda State park and curry hammock state park. These are through the dreaded Reserve America, a for profit company that is similarly run. Reservations start 11 months ahead on the first of the month at 8AM EST. You line up your reservation request and prepare to begin hitting the refresh button before that time in case someone's clock is off. Many of the best sites were not available even before eight. I thought these were "walk in" sites but they no longer do that nor do they separate for Covid. By eight oh one or earlier the sites are gone. If you do get one you may find glitches that set you back while others get there first. In case you do succeed then you must check out within time and you can expect that the credit card charge will be fumbled at least once so go go go!
Others are having the same problems and when they fail the listing might go back on the site so spend several hours going back again and again. The site will tell you to try again in two weeks for the cancellations but no one knows what the schedule is to make them available really.

The groups get in by getting everyone they know to get on there and hammer away. These sites are so desirable that getting too many is OK. They can be cancelled for $10 or (yes it is common) resold to others at a profit. There is software that will get you in first, I looked and found two. Some folks create several accounts and get them all going ahead of time and go down the line repeatedly hoping to get something. I had to open a second account to try to get spot at Curry Hammock after I tried for one at Bahia Honda. I did not get it though.
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Old 12-01-2020, 11:46 AM   #5
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I want to know also. I spent 3 hours this morning trying to get a reservation for Bahia Honda State park and curry hammock state park. These are through the dreaded Reserve America, a for profit company that is similarly run. Reservations start 11 months ahead on the first of the month at 8AM EST. You line up your reservation request and prepare to begin hitting the refresh button before that time in case someone's clock is off. Many of the best sites were not available even before eight. I thought these were "walk in" sites but they no longer do that nor do they separate for Covid. By eight oh one or earlier the sites are gone. If you do get one you may find glitches that set you back while others get there first. In case you do succeed then you must check out within time and you can expect that the credit card charge will be fumbled at least once so go go go!
Others are having the same problems and when they fail the listing might go back on the site so spend several hours going back again and again. The site will tell you to try again in two weeks for the cancellations but no one knows what the schedule is to make them available really.

The groups get in by getting everyone they know to get on there and hammer away. These sites are so desirable that getting too many is OK. They can be cancelled for $10 or (yes it is common) resold to others at a profit. There is software that will get you in first, I looked and found two. Some folks create several accounts and get them all going ahead of time and go down the line repeatedly hoping to get something. I had to open a second account to try to get spot at Curry Hammock after I tried for one at Bahia Honda. I did not get it though.
I'm at Bahia Honda now, and just for fun, I checked for open sites and found 6 or 7 before 8AM this morning.

The waterfront were gone at 8:00 and a few seconds, but others were still there at 8:05. Did you use Nov. 1st for your start date ?

You also want to be ready at 8:15. That's when the time to complete expires. Double bookers will drop one.
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Old 12-01-2020, 01:08 PM   #6
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I'm at Bahia Honda now, and just for fun, I checked for open sites and found 6 or 7 before 8AM this morning.

The waterfront were gone at 8:00 and a few seconds, but others were still there at 8:05. Did you use Nov. 1st for your start date ?

You also want to be ready at 8:15. That's when the time to complete expires. Double bookers will drop one.

Yes there were 6 or 7 this morning before 8. I did grab a waterfront site but even though I had carefully input the 33' length of our camper in the sorting information one of the ones it offered me was a 24'. This was only discovered after I put it in the cart and tried to pay. If I had known the system would disregard my input I surely would have looked more closely but...oh well. By the time I found another I was, and am, back in the bushes and consider myself fortunate to be there.

While trying to pay for that one my debit card was said to be declined twice, I tried a different one and it was said to be declined. I tried a different bank and that one went through with 30 seconds to spare. Later I spoke with my bank and they stated that they did not decline them. They said that they do see that there was an inquiry and that they confirmed the card was good but the RA never completed the transaction.

Really exactly what was expected and just another part of the excitement of Reserve America. Next time I will get the software and get at least 2 so I can cancel the excess if any.
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Old 12-01-2020, 03:22 PM   #7
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Since you can make reservations for a longer time period than just a weekend, the way people game the system is by including the dates they really want at the end of a longer reservation. This lets them make the reservation earlier than someone who was trying to reserve just the weekend or holiday dates they really wanted. Later on, the unwanted days are cancelled and the end of the reservation is still left in place. This is an old game being played with the various reservation systems, and I've long wished they would put some type of check in place to prevent this.
I agree that this shouldn't be allowed. However, I wouldn't post the 'how to' on a forum.
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Old 12-01-2020, 03:39 PM   #8
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Since you can make reservations for a longer time period than just a weekend, the way people game the system is by including the dates they really want at the end of a longer reservation. This lets them make the reservation earlier than someone who was trying to reserve just the weekend or holiday dates they really wanted. Later on, the unwanted days are cancelled and the end of the reservation is still left in place. This is an old game being played with the various reservation systems, and I've long wished they would put some type of check in place to prevent this.
If you make a reservation in Florida, it $10 to change it and you need to wait 18 days after booking it, to change or cancel it. Cancel fee is $17.

If you do shorten your stay, that's OK. It gives a chance to the folks who don't plan 11 months in advance.
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Old 12-01-2020, 03:45 PM   #9
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If you make a reservation in Florida, it $10 to change it and you need to wait 18 days after booking it, to change or cancel it. Cancel fee is $17.
WHen glorious dump like Lazy Lakes is getting over 4,000 for a month in December or $140 a day the cancellation fee is nothing to get into Bahia Honda. Unfortunately for us we want to live there for 2 weeks because we are hoping to visit home again and see all of our friends (6 feet and mask of course. )
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Old 12-01-2020, 03:46 PM   #10
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I agree that this shouldn't be allowed. However, I wouldn't post the 'how to' on a forum.
I thought about that, but it just doesn't seem fair for some people to know the scam and not everyone. If everyone is playing by the same rules it takes away the power from those trying to jump in early to snatch up reservations.

Possible solution? Implement a rule that if any portion of your reservation falls outside the open period for the starting point a reservation you cannot cancel a portion of that reservation without canceling the whole thing, and a no-show on the starting day of the reservation made in this way would forfeit the entire thing. Harsh? Perhaps. But, it would curtail this kind of thing from taking place.
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Old 12-01-2020, 04:25 PM   #11
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Old 12-01-2020, 04:27 PM   #12
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WHen glorious dump like Lazy Lakes is getting over 4,000 for a month in December or $140 a day the cancellation fee is nothing to get into Bahia Honda. Unfortunately for us we want to live there for 2 weeks because we are hoping to visit home again and see all of our friends (6 feet and mask of course. )
I tried for a second 2 weeks, with a few days in-between at Pennecamp, but couldn't get back here.
Guess we couldn't retry fast enough.
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Old 12-09-2020, 09:20 PM   #13
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This isn't "gaming" the system. It IS the system. The rules are the same for everyone. If there's an advantage it is for those who are in a situation where they can plan 11 months out and that's not the fault of the reservation system. If you want the last 6 days of a 14 day reservation you have an extra 8 days to book for those 6 days you want and then turn those 8 days back in. If they said that you could only cancel days at the end of the reservation, not the beginning, that may change things but what about the many who need to cancel for reasons such as illness, etc? Those unused days that folks later cancel go back into the system and perhaps often account for those sites that are available later well inside the 11 months that those who are unable to plan 11 months out can then pick up. I was as confounded as many of us were when we started camping and watched the sites disappear in 5 minutes. But I learned the rules and now I have the same chance as the next guy. Sometimes I get the site we want, sometimes not.

The public parks need to maximize their income these days. 50 years ago we'd throw the tent in the car on a Friday night on a whim and drive a hundred miles to Wyalusing State Park in Wisonsin and get a site on the bluff overlooking the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. There were no reservations then so many wouldn't chance it. Half the park sat empty. Today those sites are some of the most sought after in the state. A former Tea Party governor decided the parks must be self funding and they now struggle but survive because they are full.

This topic comes up again and again. I think a lot of us have given it a lot of thought and I've yet to see any real good options to what we are dealing with. I don't see the supply/demand imbalance for sites changing anytime soon. I hope you can make the best of it and enjoy every day you can get out there. Time goes by pretty fast.
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Old 12-10-2020, 05:27 AM   #14
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This isn't "gaming" the system. It IS the system. The rules are the same for everyone. ...
I can see how my use of the phrase 'gaming the system' can seem off and I can see your point. When I say that this is gaming the system, I mean that it's just not the way most people would normally approach making a reservation. Wanting to make a reservation for a particular weekend, most people's first approach is to try and make if for that weekend, never thinking to make the reservation starting on the previous Monday or Tuesday, only to later cancel the first few days.

Generally speaking, I don't like it when people play games with something that should be pretty straightforward, and even though in this case the game seems to be within the rules, it still makes a game of it.

The whole thing reminds me of something my mother used to say all the time, "You know what I mean...don't play with my words!" Maybe that's where I get this from.
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