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Challenges of Campground Bookings

Battling Bots and Scalpers: the Challenges of Campground Bookings

Published on March 30th, 2024
Updated on April 1st, 2024

Have you ever wondered why snagging a campsite reservation feels as elusive as finding a needle in a haystack? As an avid camper myself, I’ve experienced firsthand how the excitement of planning a camping trip often dims when faced with the realities of today’s campground booking systems, overwhelmed by increasing demand and exploited by scalpers and automated bots.

This article examines the complexities of campground reservations, covering everything from how booking systems operate to the effects of scalping on the camping community.

Campground Booking Challenges

A booked RV in the campground

As an avid camper and RVer for years, I’ve witnessed firsthand the evolution of booking campgrounds—from phone calls and mail-in requests to today’s online reservation systems. While this transformation has brought convenience, it has also introduced noteworthy challenges.

One of the most pressing issues in securing campground reservations involves scalpers and automated bots.

The folks who use bots do so to quickly book available spots when they come online, often reselling them at higher prices or monopolizing prime locations. As a result, regular campers and RVers are scrambling to find available spaces.

Note: By the way, this isn’t a novel concept, as the practice is also used for big sporting events and concerts.

These practices have a profound impact, affecting not just individuals looking for a peaceful getaway but the entire camping community, including families who plan their vacations months in advance, only to find no availability.

Many campers, particularly those who are less tech-savvy or do not have immediate access to high-speed internet, are at a disadvantage. They are unable to compete with the speed and efficiency of automated systems.

For RVers, the challenge is even more significant. The size of RVs requires larger spots and more specific amenities, such as electrical hookups and waste disposal facilities, which are not as plentiful. This scarcity means that when scalpers or bots book these spots, the impact is magnified, leaving RVers with fewer options and often forcing them into less desirable locations or to book far in advance, sometimes a year or more, to secure a spot.

The Mechanics of Campground Booking Systems

Travel days in the campground

Let’s dive straight into how campground booking systems operate and pinpoint where scalpers and bots find their way in.

At its core, these systems are designed to offer campers an easy way to reserve spots at campgrounds, whether they’re managed by state parks, national parks, or private entities.

Typically, you’d go to a website, pick your dates, and reserve a spot. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, this simplicity also opens doors for those looking to exploit the system.

Scalpers and bots thrive on the vulnerabilities present in these booking platforms. One major issue is the lack of robust measures to differentiate between genuine users and automated scripts.

Bots can flood the system the moment new slots open, booking up vast numbers of reservations within seconds, far faster than any human could.

This makes it tough for regular campers to find a spot and provides scalpers with inventory to sell at inflated prices.

I’ve heard numerous stories from fellow RVers and campers who have faced these challenges firsthand. One friend spent hours refreshing a booking page, only to find that all the spots were taken within minutes of becoming available, likely by bots.

Another had to pay triple the standard rate for a site through a third-party reseller.

These stories are becoming all too common and highlight a growing barrier to accessing public lands and facilities meant for everyone’s enjoyment.

Comparing the booking systems across different types of campgrounds, we see some variations. For example, state and national parks often use centralized booking platforms that release slots at specific times, making them prime targets for bot attacks.

Private campgrounds might use a variety of systems, some of which may have better security measures in place, but these, too, are not immune to scalping and automated bookings.

This exploitation has serious consequences, making it increasingly difficult for regular campers to secure spots, especially in popular locations.

Solutions and Strategies to Combat Scalping

RV campground near the picturesque lake

Securing a campsite has become a battle against scalpers and bots. It’s frustrating.

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You’re up early, coffee in hand, ready to book that perfect spot, only to find it snatched away by automated systems before you can even click ‘reserve.’ This isn’t just annoying; it’s reshaping how we access our public and private camping grounds.

Let’s talk straight about what’s being done and what we can do. On the prevention side, booking platforms are waking up. Some now implement CAPTCHA challenges or require accounts with verified personal information to book.

These steps help, but they’re not foolproof. Bots get smarter, and scalpers find new loopholes. It’s a game of whack-a-mole.

Innovative solutions are on the horizon, though.

Think reservation lotteries, where everyone gets a fair shot at booking sites, or dynamic pricing that adjusts rates based on demand to deter bulk buying and reselling.

Some systems now limit how many reservations one account can hold or how far in advance bookings can be made.

These measures aim to level the playing field, ensuring that real campers get real chances to book.

Advice for fellow campers: Stay informed about each campground’s booking system and any updates to its anti-scalping measures. Consider less popular sites that may not be on scalpers’ radar. Join camping communities online; they’re great for tips and sometimes even for legally swapping reservations.


Campground booking challenges are rising because of higher demand and scalpers using bots.

To make campground bookings fair and easy for everyone, we need to work together, using new tech and smart rules while supporting each other as a community.

How to Book National Park & State Park Camping Reservations (Video)

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