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Re: Campsite reservation FAQ

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avatar Campsite reservation FAQ
March 13, 2009 05:38PM
The message for July 15 - Aug 14 Yosemite reservations is on the front page of the Recreation.gov website.

http://www.recreation.gov/marketing.do?goto=/faq/faq-onsalereservations.html

Any conspiracy theorists think it's a line of BS?

avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 13, 2009 07:23PM
I mostly think the current method is a stupid way of doing reservations.

Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 13, 2009 07:43PM
I like the one about "can I set the clock on my computer ahead and make reservations earlier?"

They didn't have the follow-up question though. "If the reservations are all taken, can I set the clock back to 6:59AM and try again?"

8^)





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 14, 2009 04:14PM
I have been making (or attemping to make) campground reservations for June every year now for about the last 30 yrs. I have to admit this current system is about the fairest and most efficient I've seen. The only unfair part about it would be for someone who doesn't have access to a computer and has to rely on phoning in, which for the summer reservations will get you nowhere. I've done Ticketron ( a long time ago), phone in, mail, computer, etc. I've done non site specific and site specific over the years. Yes, if you know which sites are going to be better than others then you may end up with a better site; the practice of doing your homework, and being up on pre-disposed information, is a process that, as a habit, helps in being successful in other adventures in life also.

I've been incredibly fortunate over the years to secure prime sites, even under the phone in system, and yet some years I've been completely shut out.


If someone else knows a fairer and more efficient process, I, and the Park service, would like to hear your suggestions. The system talks about thousands of people trying to get sites on the 15th of the month. I would guess that it's probably more in the tens of thousands when you include overseas people attempting to get reservations at the same time as we USA hopefuls.

Tom
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 14, 2009 06:49PM
mtn man wrote:

> If someone else knows a fairer and more efficient process, I,
> and the Park service, would like to hear your suggestions. The
> system talks about thousands of people trying to get sites on
> the 15th of the month. I would guess that it's probably more in
> the tens of thousands when you include overseas people
> attempting to get reservations at the same time as we USA
> hopefuls.

The Recreation.gov website is set up for lotteries. The only one they seem to currently have is for entry/exit at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (Superior National Forest) in Minnesota. Apparently a mail-in application should stand the same chance of winning as requests received online. Their quotas seem to apply to any overnight trip as well as motorized day use boating. They seem to have permitted unlimited day use hiking like we see in Sierra wilderness areas.

http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/superior/bwcaw/documents/2009LotteryApplication_000.pdf
http://www.recreation.gov/marketing.do?goto=/permitPolicy.jsp

Grand Canyon has a yearly weighted lottery system for noncommercial river launch permits for the Colorado River. I believe it replaced the old waiting list. If you saw the movie "Into the Wild", they made light of the permit waiting list where apparently it would take 12 years to get a launch date.

http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/weightedlottery.htm
http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/River_and_Weighted_Lottery_FAQs.pdf

I've used lottery based systems for sports ticketing before, such as NCAA Tournaments or the US Open golf tournament. Most were fairly simple with all-session passes as the only type of ticket for sale and the applicants randomly drawn. The US Open (processed by the USGA) gets more complex because they give the option for any combination of all-session passes and/or individual session tickets up the maximum request of 4 per any day. I ordered one full session ticket for the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach along with one single ticket for the final round and got it.

If Yosemite ever went to a lottery system it might have to change to a non site-specific request.

Still - I'm going to make my try tomorrow, opened to a few interior-loop sites with the dates (non-weekend) already selected. I'll be ready to tick them off one by one, but hopefully I can secure the first one.

avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 14, 2009 07:06PM
YPW:If you saw the movie "Into the Wild", they made light of the permit waiting list where apparently it would take 12 years to get a launch date.

The other dilemma of the 12 year waiting list was that by the time your permit became available, 3/4 of your "crew" had scattered, moved on in life, and was not longer interested in a two week float down the Colorado.

B
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 07:19AM
OK - got a site. Not sure what happened. I had a couple of open pages to my first choice sites in Upper Pines - a tent only site next to the bathroom. I had the dates (four consecutive nights starting from a Sunday) preselected and the system showing them as available, although it was a bit early. As soon as I thought it was 7:00 AM on the nose, I clicked on "Book these Dates" at which point I waited for almost a minute before it told me the site was already booked.

I then quickly checked for whatever else was available in my timeframe. Seemed to be quite a few but I just clicked on the first one my cursor wandered to on the map and clicked "Book these Dates" and it confirmed in seconds.

My site is rather huge - pretty much RV-camper sized with a long driveway. I just took the first one I could get.

avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 07:28AM
Congrats, YPW; I was thinking about the big reservation rush as I was firing up the computer for work (and tempted to use the computers for reservations, instead)

B
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 07:34AM
Bee wrote:

> Congrats, YPW; I was thinking about the big reservation rush as
> I was firing up the computer for work (and tempted to use the
> computers for reservations, instead)

Thanks. It was hectic.

I'd rather be planning a 3-night backpacking trip (bookended with the backpackers campground), but my wife won't go on one and I'm not sure she'd let me do it myself.

avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 09:12AM
y_p_w,

The trip I'm making in July will be solo. Since my wife is subject to severe altitude sickness above 9,000' and no longer has the physical stamina for high altitude backpacking, I informed her that I would be going alone. She occasionally takes solo mini-vacations to do geneological research (collecting dead relatives) so I have no problem saying I'm going backpacking solo. I would not mind having a friend along but finding somebody who can commit to the same schedule, including the cross-country flight, is remote at best.

Perhaps your wife would be a bit more amenable to the idea of you going alone if she were granted the opportunity to get away on her own or with a female friend to go somewhere or do something you may not be interested in? Some couples are not into the "you go your way and I'll go mine" scenario but as we get older there's lots to be said for some occasional freedom. Healthy relationships are not threatened by little trips of this sort. It's not like we're going AWOL. We just have different interests from time to time. My 2 cents worth.

Jim

avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 11:22AM
tomdisco wrote:

> Perhaps your wife would be a bit more amenable to the idea of
> you going alone if she were granted the opportunity to get away
> on her own or with a female friend to go somewhere or do
> something you may not be interested in? Some couples are not
> into the "you go your way and I'll go mine" scenario but as we
> get older there's lots to be said for some occasional freedom.
> Healthy relationships are not threatened by little trips of
> this sort. It's not like we're going AWOL. We just have
> different interests from time to time. My 2 cents worth.

Talked it over with her and maybe next year.

Still - she enjoys day hikes with me, so it can't be all bad. ;-)
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 07:47AM
Even now (about 7:47) there are still a few single nights available in Upper Pines. Strange. You'd have to be flexible with dates though. I still see 7 sites available for Aug 6.
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 07:53AM
YPW: I'm not sure she'd let me do it myself.

I used to lie to my family about where and what I was doing, now i pretty much stick to day hiking because my mom got suspicious.

>there are still a few single nights available in Upper Pines<

thats amazing; last month everything was basically gone a few minutes after 7am

B
Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 08:22AM
Y P W. Glad you got something.

I had thought about the lottery system as an alternative but then I realized the current system is somewhat like a lottery system as its pretty much random if you get a site. I would think this current system would be better than a lottery because at least if your first choice is taken you can always click on your next choices and hope to land something, like you did. Don't know that that option would work well on a lottery system.
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 03:36PM
mtn man wrote:

> Y P W. Glad you got something.
>
> I had thought about the lottery system as an alternative but
> then I realized the current system is somewhat like a lottery
> system as its pretty much random if you get a site. I would
> think this current system would be better than a lottery
> because at least if your first choice is taken you can always
> click on your next choices and hope to land something, like you
> did. Don't know that that option would work well on a lottery
> system.

Did you look at those lottery applications I linked? The do have secondary choices for dates. The Colorado River launch lottery did have extra weighting for those who were previously on the waiting list. The Forest Service runs a lottery for entry (and exit) via the Whitney Zone to the east of Mt Whitney.

The big problem now is the time pressure. Right now it opens up at 7 AM PST on the 15th of each month. For some people trying to reserve around the world (or maybe Hawaii), this could be very early in the morning. Right now it seems like a race. For people trying to get the same spot, the person with the fastest reaction time stands a better chance of getting that site. Even the secondary selection I made depended on a hectic selection of what was left. It was a free-for-all to try and snag what was left.

I believe Crane Flat Campground reservations are currently via non-specific site type and are assigned upon arrival. I've been to some non-specific reserved campgrounds where the site was chosen by the camper from any empty site of the same type. Something similar could be instituted for a lottery system.

What I'd think would work is a system where all the Pines campgrounds are collapsed into one campground area (for selection purposes) and the campsites are categorized into basic site types (tent only and/or driveway length). Then maybe throw in other campgrounds as needed with similar sites grouped into categories. One then picks a size requirement (a larger than needed site could be given if only that type is available), then makes a first/second/third/fourth choice for a combination of campground/date. Like the previous US Open lottery I mentioned, draw applications one at a time and randomly assign a campsite that's available (meeting the required size) in order of 1st/2nd/3rd/4th choices and remove the applicant. Then move on to the next drawn request and fulfill it if one of the requests are available. It should get to the point where eventually requests won't line up with available slots and the process moves on to the next drawn application.

I've seen other systems in place. When I applied for college, I got accepted to one school and received a package from the housing office. What they had was an application where we eventually received a lottery number and then made our choices. I actually had a fairly high number drawn and turned down admission to the school. Right now I'm going to get my college basketball season tickets reseated, where priority levels are established and selections are made with an assigned date to select seats (with taken seats marked). These are rather slow systems, but gives an idea of the kind of priority drawing system I had in mind.

It might be a little bit strange with different stay limits for the Valley and for campgrounds outside the valley, but I think it could be workable.

Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 03:57PM
I really hope they never go to the lottery system; the only one I've used is for the Whitney main trail, and it's very frustrating to use. Give them a whole month and a half of any-day date ranges, wait for weeks while you check your bank or card for charges in hopes you got in, then finally the notice that 'sorry' and all your plans change. At least with the current system, you know if you got in. Others get in at Whitney first try, and many reserve a lot of spots, "just in case", of which they use 2 or 3...it costs them, and they can't sell or exchange the sites, but it makes it hard for the rest of us to plan anything. I'd take this system any day over a lottery. Save the gambling for Vegas 8^).

Fortunately for Whitney, there are so many cancellations due to the above, that you can drive up practically any time and get a permit. I think the competition would be very intense for that at Yosemite in the summer...I can see people lined up hours or days in advance.

The current system isn't perfect, but the old online site was pretty rough at 7AM on those dates; often the computer would be fine until that time, then never get through with the servers tied up as soon as it opened. Though I seldom go in the summer, I have had some success with checking a few hours later, and taking what was available...not prime sites, but something.

Glad to hear you got in VPW.





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 04:22PM
Sierrafan wrote:

> The current system isn't perfect, but the old online site was
> pretty rough at 7AM on those dates; often the computer would be
> fine until that time, then never get through with the servers
> tied up as soon as it opened. Though I seldom go in the
> summer, I have had some success with checking a few hours
> later, and taking what was available...not prime sites, but
> something.

Maybe not a lottery system, but how about just general categories. Right now it's a random shot at a particular open site. Collapsing it into four or five general site types might work out better because it won't be dependent on getting lucky with choosing one particular site before anyone else.

Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 09:43PM
y_p_w wrote:

> Maybe not a lottery system, but how about just general
> categories. Right now it's a random shot at a particular open
> site. Collapsing it into four or five general site types might
> work out better because it won't be dependent on getting lucky
> with choosing one particular site before anyone else.
>

That might end up as kind of a circus though; people driving around trying to find someone leaving with a good site (or worse...they know you're leaving and drive in and park there at 11 and wait for you to go).

Maybe that's why they've kept it as-is. Every time we think we have an idea, it turns out there's a snag of some sort. I'd like to see it improved too, but really don't know how they could do it...and in the off-season when I go, I like being able to pick my site, and I think a lot of folks do.

One thing I'm happy about; a couple of years ago some people were booking sites and then selling them on ebay at a big profit. (should I have said 'people' or 'jerks'? 8^). I haven't heard of it happening lately, at least not to any great extent. (though admittedly I don't look to see if there are any because if I found one I'd be mad the whole day).





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 15, 2009 11:39PM
Sierrafan wrote:

<snip part about non-specific campsite reservations>

> That might end up as kind of a circus though; people driving
> around trying to find someone leaving with a good site (or
> worse...they know you're leaving and drive in and park there at
> 11 and wait for you to go).

Isn't that already a problem with the FCFS campgrounds and/or campsites?

I actually got reservations for Fallen Leaf Campground in Tahoe on Memorial weekend in 2007. They had four sizes of campsites on perhaps the busiest weekend of the year, with a 3 day minimum stay requirement. It actually worked out pretty well. I had a half-day off to get to Tahoe, but somehow my manager kept me in the office longer than I wanted. Even though I got in at about 8:30 PM, I was able to find a decent site next to the bathroom and didn't find people circling for a spot. Apparently they've changed to specific site selection on reservation. Still - that campground was nothing. Camp Richardson on Hwy 89 was virtually a zoo.

However - there could be a combination of non-specific selection in addition to random assignment to avoid people becoming site "vultures" when they arrive. I don't think it's much different than athletic ticket lotteries (or even ordering from Tickets.com or Ticketmaster) I've tried where the specific seats are assigned after the basic seat type has been requested.

> Maybe that's why they've kept it as-is. Every time we think we
> have an idea, it turns out there's a snag of some sort. I'd
> like to see it improved too, but really don't know how they
> could do it...and in the off-season when I go, I like being
> able to pick my site, and I think a lot of folks do.

A change in the system could be only for peak-demand periods. The off-season means you can't reserve, and you probably don't have to. Right now we have a wilderness permit system where you can reserve any time of the year but there's a quota for certain times of the year. Having different rules in the off-season isn't unusual.

We're actually rather lucky with Yosemite that there are campgrounds still open in the winter. All but one of the NPS campgrounds I stayed in last summer in the Pacific NW aren't even open during the winter. The one that's open year round is on the coast where it doesn't snow.

> One thing I'm happy about; a couple of years ago some people
> were booking sites and then selling them on ebay at a big
> profit. (should I have said 'people' or 'jerks'? 8^). I
> haven't heard of it happening lately, at least not to any great
> extent. (though admittedly I don't look to see if there are
> any because if I found one I'd be mad the whole day).

Don't look on eBay. I saw one for $80 starting bid for 4 nights, plus $10 for the change fee.

Here's a discussion on the topic of reselling. The reselling of reservations in Yosemite on eBay was specifically mentioned. Someone received an answer from someone answering emails for Recreation.gov - back to July 2007:

http://www.rvparkreviews.com/invboard/index.php?s=&showtopic=1192&view=findpost&p=7550

Quote

FWIW, got an answer from Recreation.gov -- they wrote:

"We are aware of customers "reselling" their reservations and we have reported to the head of the NPS and thank you for bringing it to our attention."

Whether or not anything will be done about this has yet to be seen.

http://nationalparkstraveler.com/2007/07/you-want-how-much-campsite

Quote

Park officials say there currently is nothing they can do.

“Apparently it’s been going on for a couple years. It’s not just us. It’s anyone on the reservation system. There’s nothing that says that sites aren’t transferable," Yosemite spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman tells me. "We don't condone this. We’re looking for ways to prohibit this, including working with Ebay. But it doesn’t fall under the penal code for scalping.

I mentioned the tickets I bought for the US Open golf tournament in 2000. I got curious to see how much they might be on eBay. It wasn't technically illegal to resell them, but the USGA got some sort of deal with eBay where they promptly delisted any live tickets. About the only thing I saw that didn't eventually get delisted were used tickets sold as souvenirs.

BTW - anyone recall when reservations shifted such that they had to be made directly on Recreation.gov? I realize that ReserveAmerica provides the software and servers for the NRRS, but previously one could reserve a federal campsite via the ReserveAmerica.com website; I used them to reserve that FS campground in 2007. Now ReserveAmerica seems to provide information on Federal campgrounds down to availability dates, but then forces the user to book on Recreation.gov with a specific login for that website. I have both a login for ResereAmerica and Recreation.gov.



Post Edited (03-15-09 23:59)
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 19, 2009 11:46PM
Sierrafan wrote:

> One thing I'm happy about; a couple of years ago some people
> were booking sites and then selling them on ebay at a big
> profit. (should I have said 'people' or 'jerks'? 8^). I
> haven't heard of it happening lately, at least not to any great
> extent. (though admittedly I don't look to see if there are
> any because if I found one I'd be mad the whole day).

I just took a look on eBay and there weren't any listings to transfer Yosemite campsite listings. Just last Sunday I saw two 7-day listings that theoretically wouldn't be concluded until this weekend. I'm not sure what happened. They could have taken them down, sold it offline, or perhaps eBay decided to take them down.

Frankly I can't find anything that shows a live campsite reservation being sold on eBay. I think it might have something to do with eBay's stance on restricting resale of travel or lodging. I found the following:

http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/travel.html
Quote

Square Trade Participation:Effective June 3, 2002, all members listing airline tickets, cruises, vacation packages, or lodging must be participants in the Seller Verify by SquareTrade Program. This program combines verification of sellers with ongoing monitoring. This is designed to increase confidence in the eBay Travel category and enhance trading for both buyers and sellers. This program reflects the highly regulated nature of the industry at both the state and federal level and is based on feedback from members and industry experts.

I did see a one listing on Craigslist (Orange County) - at $250 for 7 nights. There were numerous requests from potential campsite buyers though.

The other thing I saw was someone looking to sell a used receipt from Yosemite for $10 that still had five days before expiration. Not sure how useful it would be, although I suppose someone could try to use it before it expires. I've heard of some motels around Yosemite that got complaints from YNP management for a certain practice. Apparently some of the motels were putting out baskets for guests to dump their old Yosemite entrance receipts for others to reuse before their expiration. Yosemite's website doesn't specifically mention it, but other NPS websites state that the entry is non-transferrable. And different rates for summer/winter - what a concept.

http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/entrance-fees.htm

avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 24, 2009 12:33PM
Sierrafan wrote:

> One thing I'm happy about; a couple of years ago some people
> were booking sites and then selling them on ebay at a big
> profit. (should I have said 'people' or 'jerks'? 8^). I
> haven't heard of it happening lately, at least not to any great
> extent. (though admittedly I don't look to see if there are
> any because if I found one I'd be mad the whole day).

Followup. Checking the Craigslist SF Bay Area for "Yosemite" today yielded one person willing to transfer a single night's campsite reservation at cost, and one listing for a site at North Pines on four nights on Memorial weekend for $500. Also one Fresno listing is trying to transfer reservations at cost because plans fell through.

I frankly don't begrudge anyone who dumps reservations at cost, although there is the possibility of canceling and getting a refund minus an administrative fee. There are bound to be people going to the campground office trying to score a site open due to a cancelled reservation. If it's released early enough, someone might even be able to get it on Recreation.gov.

Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 24, 2009 04:06PM
Yep, it's hard to fault someone who just has a change in plans and sells it for what it cost. But the scumbags (yep, scumbags) who get reservations that someone else could have gotten, then tries to make a big profit via ebay or whatever, different story. I saw a post on another board long ago that basically said 'it's the American way, more power to 'em.' Yeah, be greedy and get what you can out of a system that was designed to let people appreciate our national parks, not for greedy people to make profit from.

What puzzles me is when the NPS says they can't do much about it. All they have to do is disallow transfers, and require that the person reserving be an occupant of the site. Otherwise, no check in unless you call and transfer for a good reason, illness or something. They limit the days we can stay overnight in the park, how can they enforce it if people can buy tickets from ebay? People using discount cards can't transfer them, why should anyone be able to, other than family members?

If the NPS, who makes the rules to begin with, says they can't do anything, how much sense does that make?



Post Edited (03-25-09 18:30)



Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 31, 2009 04:51PM
Sierrafan wrote:

> y_p_w wrote:
>
> > Maybe not a lottery system, but how about just general
> > categories. Right now it's a random shot at a particular
> open
> > site. Collapsing it into four or five general site types
> might
> > work out better because it won't be dependent on getting
> lucky
> > with choosing one particular site before anyone else.
> >
>
> That might end up as kind of a circus though; people driving
> around trying to find someone leaving with a good site (or
> worse...they know you're leaving and drive in and park there at
> 11 and wait for you to go).

OK - how about just collapsing it into a few limited categories and then randomly assigning a site based on what's available? One of the problems right now is that if you've got a first choice target site that might make a difference if there are five other people targeting that same site with overlapping dates. I actually found my site (four nights no less) after almost a minute of waiting for a response on my first choice. I was too scared to interrupt my processing of my first request just in case it was OK but the servers were being slow.

I would have been happy with any campsite in the Valley for my specific dates.

avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 25, 2009 02:54PM
Someone mentioned Ticketron. I recall going to Sequoia NP and staying at Lodgepole Campground years ago when the reservations were handled by Ticketron. I remember the reservation was just printed out on a standard Ticketron ticket - the same kind you'd see for any concert or sports event. I thought it was just a bearer instrument like an admission ticket, but I could be wrong.

Did they eventually change the system taking the name of the purchaser?

Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 25, 2009 06:38PM
The current system takes name, address, etc. of the purchaser. Seems like no big deal to either have them be the ones to check in, or have them list the names of friends or family who will be staying there. That way, anyone on the list could check in.

If you have any type of discount card, they supposedly require ID at checkin, so the discount isn't abused.

I've driven 40 miles and taken a couple of hours to avoid Ticketron. The idea of a "convenience fee" (or calling it that) is a bit ridiculous...WHOSE convenience? 8^) I'd rather buy from the ticket office if there's a fee, even if it costs more in the long run.





Gary
Yosemite Photo Galleries: http://www.pbase.com/roberthouse/yo
avatar Re: Campsite reservation FAQ
March 25, 2009 09:17PM
Sierrafan wrote:

> I've driven 40 miles and taken a couple of hours to avoid
> Ticketron. The idea of a "convenience fee" (or calling it
> that) is a bit ridiculous...WHOSE convenience? 8^) I'd rather
> buy from the ticket office if there's a fee, even if it costs
> more in the long run.

I remember staying at Fallen Leaf Campground (Lake Tahoe area) on Memorial weekend 2007. It wasn't site specific and because it was a holiday weekend, they required a 3 night minimum stay and charged an extra $2/night. I also got dinged for an additional "reservation fee" (was is $8?). I didn't think that they'd do that at a Forest Service campground. I booked through the ReserveAmerica website; you can't actually do that any more - it refers you to Recreation.gov. I wasn't sure if maybe the Recreation.gov website wouldn't have charged the reservation fee or not, but it sure won't now.



Post Edited (03-25-09 21:41)
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