6 Best Campsite Availability Checker Apps

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The 2021 RV camping season had a lot of “No Vacancy” signs at campgrounds, making the best campsite availability checker apps popular. The technology has been around for several years, but with millions of American’s and Canadians wanting to head to the best National Parks in the country, it’s been a struggle to find a place to set up.

We’re going to explore how these campsite availability checkers (CAC) websites and apps work, the best ones out there, and some considerations you want to know. Overall, you’ll find that these programs work great with plenty more potential to come. 

Why is it so Hard to Find a Campsite?

Now that over 20% of Americans have joined the RV lifestyle, it’s hard to find a campsite at the top destinations across the country.

A survey conducted by the RVIA in 2020 around the holiday season showed that 61 million Americans planned to take an RV vacation in 2021. And that number jumped to 72 million for the 2022 RV camping season. Who knows what the future holds.

With even more RVers out there and the Great American Outdoors Act still in the process of updating our public national park campgrounds, how can people get out and enjoy the RV lifestyle?

RVers are doing the smart thing by booking their campground reservations during the off-season months in advance. Others use the best campground review websites and trip planner apps to find chain, corporate, and privately-owned campgrounds nearby. Yet when it comes to that impromptu last-minute RV trip, many are finding it impossible to find a fantastic campground. 

How Do Campsite Availability Checkers Work?

New campground apps have become popular to solve the campground openings issue in the past few years, but people want to know how these campsite availability checkers work. Do they have some special hacking software? Are they using tactics they shouldn’t be? More importantly, are they safe to use?

First and foremost, campsite availability checkers are safe to use, and they’re not doing anything that’ll get anybody in trouble. 

When you boil it all down, they’re simply hitting the refresh button many times

Campground reservations have become so valuable that people and bot software will book reservations 6-12 months in advance. The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), National Park Service (NPS),  and other organizations are doing their best to crack down on this objectionable practice. However, if bot sellers can’t resell the campsite, they’ll cancel the reservation.

When campsites open up within a week or two before the arrival date, it’s due to the original reservation holder canceling based on scheduling conflicts. The campground then updates its booking website accordingly. The availability checkers monitor these openings since they’re refreshing the website every few seconds, minutes, or hours, depending on how the system works. 

Based on how you set up your profile within a particular campground availability checker’s app, you’ll receive an alert via text or email if the campsite meets your needs. Most of them can’t let you book the campsite through their system, so you must make the reservation on the campground’s website. If you’re fast enough, you can reserve that open campsite.

6 Best Campsite Availability Checkers

We’ve looked through a number of the best campsite availability checkers to help you discover the right one for you. Some have been around for several years, while others are new to the market.

Each offers different features and advantages that make them worth considering. You’ll find them directly on their website, Apple App Store, or Google Play store. Pricing for the campground availability checker (CAC) can be included within a membership plan and/or pay per transaction.

1. CampersAPP

  • Available: Apple and Google
  • CAC: Site Tonite- Pay per translation outside the CampersAPP membership
  • Notification: Text Alert
  • Scans per Transaction: One check of multiple campgrounds in the geographic area
  • Website: https://www.campersapp.com/index.html

At hotels, when you turn on the TV, the first channel you see is the information guide for that particular location. It lists activities, who to contact for various services, and other helpful information.

CampersAPP does the same thing to the next level. When you stay at a participating campground, you can interact with the front office and other departments to see a location map, an up-to-date schedule of events, order firewood, and interact with the staff directly. 

The Site Tonite side of the app keeps you aware of those participating campgrounds near you. Whether you’re trying to find a last-minute camping reservation or need to pull over for the night, the Site Tonite campsite availability checker can help you find that open site. As a CampersAPP member, the Site Tonite feature has a fee of $2.30 per transaction with the platform fee. 

2. Campflare

  • Available: Web browser only
  • CAC: Free
  • Notification: Text or Email
  • Scans per Transaction: Choose multiple campgrounds to run continuously
  • Website: https://campflare.com/

Campflare’s Manifesto supports the idea of equal access to the best campsites for everyone. The website gets its booking information from Recreation.gov but doesn’t have a direct affiliation. Compared to the other campsite availability checker apps out there, they may seem like that stripped-down Chevy with manual windows and door locks. However, when it comes to finding a campground opening, they still have the horsepower to succeed.

The organization is doing everything they can to counter the bot buying practice by complying with the Better Online Ticket Sales Act (a.k.a. “Bot Act”), so you’ll want to have Recreation.gov on an easy to open icon or bookmark to book your campsite. In addition, phase two plans include launching a Campalytics feature that breakdown campground reservation data so you can get more detailed estimates on when your favorite public park has better open campsites.

3. Campnab

  • Available: Web browser only
  • CAC: Membership plan or Pay-per-transaction
  • Notification: Text message
  • Scans per Transaction: Choose multiple campgrounds to run continuously up to 12 months
  • Website: www.Campnab.com

Richard Franck’s ‘Northern Memoirs, Calculated for the Meridian of Scotland in 1821 is where we see the quote, “…Necessity is the Mother of Invention,” although various translations of Plato’s ‘Republic’ gets much of the credit due to a similar phrase.

A great example of this quote comes from a campervan couple in British Columbia, Canada. Eric and Kim Shelkie couldn’t find a campsite opening within driving distance to start their RV adventures. Determined, Kim continued to hit the refresh button on her web browser until she eventually found an open campground reservation. Inspired, Eric created an algorithm that repeated Kim’s process, and Campnab was born!

Tiered pay-per-transaction or membership plans let users create scans based on their profile needs, RV category requirements, and other selections. Each has additional features, but higher tiers run campsite availability checks more often on multiple campgrounds. You can set a scan for up to 12 months and narrow it down for a specific campsite if you want that premium spot next to the lake.

4. Campsite Photos- Campsite Assist

  • Available: Web browser only
  • CAC: Bundle scanning packs
  • Notification: Text and email
  • Scans per Transaction: 10, 20, or 40 bundle packs
  • Website: Campsite Assist

As a member of Campsite Photos, users can search through over 2,000 public and private campgrounds. You’ll find national parks, U.S. Forest Service locations, state parks, BLM, and other locations throughout the country. 

The Campsite Assist feature is a campsite availability checker that runs specific scans or broad matrix scans for you. Users can purchase scanning packs to run several checks for your ideal date or within seven days. When a campground has an opening, you’ll receive both a text alert and an email. Campsite Photos has links to the specific campground within its website, but you can’t book the reservation directly. 

5. Campsite Notifier- Campsite Reservation Hack

  • Available: Apple App Store (Android’s coming soon)
  • CAC: Free for a limited time
  • Notification: Messaging through the app
  • Scans per Transaction: One campground for one date
  • Website: Campsite Notifier

Campsite Notifier’s Campsite Reservation Hack comes from the mind of a family man with three children. Like everyone frustrated with the endless campground opening search, he designed his iPhone App to find those national public campgrounds we all want to enjoy. The campsite availability checker algorithm works differently from most to maximize your chance of finding the best campsite in the NPS system.

Finding a three-day block of open campground reservations has a higher failure rate than searching for a single night. The Campsite Reservation Hack algorithm focuses its search on the campground of your choice for a single date. Once the app finds it for you, you can log into Reservation.gov or the RV park’s website directly and look at the date yourself. You may find the date is the beginning, middle, or end of that three-day block you want. 

6. RVSpotDrop

  • Available: Web browser only
  • CAC: Membership plans
  • Notification: Email only
  • Scans per Transaction: Sent per availabilities at your favorite campgrounds
  • Website: RVSpotDrop

If your cubicle, home office, or the kids make your cabin fever alarm echo loudly in your head, check your email. For $9.99 a year (Yes, a “Year!”), you can set up your profile on RVSpotDrop to send you last-minute campground reservation alerts at your favorite locations to your inbox. Upgraded memberships allow members to follow up to two different locations.

Jenn and Kendall Jennings know the frustration of finding an open campsite in the U.S. and Canada, so their website works for both countries (except for Hawaii). The email will include all the essential information about the campsite and a direct link to the webpage. The Jennings are also partnering with other campgrounds so that you can track both national and private campgrounds.

Are Campsite Availability Checkers Worth It?

As you read through the best examples above, you may be asking yourself, are campsite availability checkers worth it? Each one has a different approach to the scanning methodology and offers a wide variety of features. The technology isn’t fully evolved yet, so there are some considerations you want to keep in mind. 

1. Cash on the Barrelhead

These last-minute campground reservations will want cash on the barrelhead, so be ready to pay the entire amount. Most of the time, these campground openings come from canceled reservations so that the campground will expect full payment. 

At the ARVC’s Outdoor Hospitality Conference and Expo (OHCE) in Raleigh, NC, this past November 8-11, one of the significant conversation points dealt with non-refundable deposits. The plans for the future talked about standardizing the deposit to 50% and adding a premium if guests wanted to make the deposit refundable. Within the next 3-5 years, the non-refundable deposit forecasted plan raises the percentage to 90%. 

2. Speeding During Rush Hour for Your RV Reservation

Speeding during rush hour to make your RV reservation on time is the worst idea in the real world. Yet, in the cyber world, wall street firms pay millions of dollars to get their computer servers as close as possible to the New York Stock Exchange servers. They do this because milliseconds count. 

When you get your text or email alert from the campsite availability checker, you must assume others received the same message. The first person that’s fast enough to book the campsite reservation wins. You may want to use more than one availability checker to give you alerts on many campgrounds in the area you want.

3. Try a Flexible Travel Dates Strategy

If possible, try a flexible travel dates strategy. You may run across a “partially available” message. Instances like that mean some of your travel dates are open, but not all. For example, suppose you’re trying to book a two-day quick RV trip. A partially available message could mean that only one of the days is available. If you move your trip a day earlier or later, depending on the situation, you could be successful.

Many of these campsite availability checkers have the flexibility feature built-in or encourage you to use this strategy. However, your last-minute camping reservation quick RV trip timeframe could be a gap in a set-in-stone schedule. Don’t forget there are other quick trip alternatives like Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, or Campertunity for our Canadian friends.  

4. How Can I Support the National Parks Without a Campground Reservation?

All campsite availability checkers use Recreation.gov to find campground openings at the U.S. national parks, forest service areas, and other National Park Service locations. Remember, there are over 44,000 campgrounds in the United States. Whether it’s a national, state, or county campground, every public park usually has a private counterpart nearby.

The Great American Outdoors Act will update and expand the majority of national park campgrounds, but you’ll see modernized pricing increases to maintain it all. The chain, corporate, and family-owned RV campgrounds have excellent amenities that are family-friendly. Also, these RV parks are close enough so you can still visit the national park, explore the best America has to offer, and return to a comfortable setting. 

Those behind the campsite availability checkers are working hard to evolve into the private campground arena. Recreation.gov and Reserve America (most state and county parks) work with public campgrounds. Gaining permission to connect to names like KOA, Jellystone Parks, and others takes a lot of work. But, once the spring RV camping season begins around the end of March, we may see these websites and apps keep the impromptu last-minute campground reservation dream alive.

Conclusion: Turning a Worst Case Scenario Around 

Imagine driving down a lightless highway in the rain; you’re nerves are fried, the kids are restless, and your hours away from your pre-planned stop-over campground. Then, like a message from beyond, your spouse receives a text alert. There’s a campground opening five miles up the road. After a quick review, your spouse calls the location and books it for two nights. 

You lost your deposit at your pre-planned stop, but you’re off the road, and everyone is safe. Staying the extra day to recuperate, you find out the campsite availability checker found a beautiful hidden gem campground that’s going on your best campground list. They even took your camping club discount membership too.

Have a Backup Plan

Having backup plans is one of the universal truths of the RV lifestyle. The best way to create your plan B, C, D, etc., is to have expert knowledge and experience from those that came before you. RVBlogger provides this through its many resources. 

It starts with our hundreds of blog articles written by real RVers. You’ll gain a combination of their hours of research and practical wisdom. Then, if you want another point of view, join the conversation with our RVBlogger Facebook friends on RV Camping for Newbies. You’ll meet thousands of people with a wide range of RV experiences that can offer you great tips in a positive online environment. You can even join us on Instagram to see where and how we live the RV lifestyle. 

Try Before You Buy

If you’re looking to buy a new RV or upgrade to the current year models, we always recommend trying before you buy through a peer-to-peer RV rental company like Outdoorsy, RVshare, or RVezy. During the research process, join us for our weekly RV walk-throughs by topic on the RVBlogger YouTube Channel and see Mike and Susan pick their favorite. Then, once you have your perfect motorhome or travel trailer, check out our essential accessories and gear through our website for the best products and best deals.

Stay Informed on the Latest Developments in the RV World

To top off your RV experience, make sure you sign up for our FREE monthly digital magazine. RV Camping Magazine discusses many of the best topics every RVer wants to know. For example, in our “Are We There Yet,” destination section, we join guest writers on their RV adventure through some of the best destinations, including America’s favorite National Parks. After reading through the article, you may want to set your campsite availability checker to one of the parks’ campgrounds.

Other sections focus on keeping your RV healthy. Our friends at the National RV Training Academy write and provide a video on excellent maintenance procedures that are easy to perform. Our “RV Gear” section discusses the latest gadgets and gizmos recently released into the market. We also feature interviews with the top RV influencers on YouTube, the latest trends, and incredible RV restorations. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

RVBlogger’s resources have you covered whenever you’re ready to Shift Ctrl, & Esc into the RV lifestyle. So, as Mike and Susan say, always leave your campsite better than you found it. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time.

Related Reading:

8 Best RV Discount Clubs to Save Money

RV Life Pro App, GPS & RV Trip Wizard at a Discount

11 Essential Tips for RV Camping in National Parks

Best Places to Go RV Camping for FREE

35 Biggest RV Beginner Mistakes to Avoid!

About the Author:
Although he’s from Motown, Brian Newman is a legacy RVer that grew up on I-75. He, his wife, and two working-class fur babies have enjoyed the full-time RV lifestyle since 2017.

Like John Madden, he hasn’t “worked” in years because he gets to write about his passion. When he’s not working, he supports his daughter’s dog rescue efforts and disability causes.

Brian Newman and dog

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