With everyone taking to the great outdoors in droves, it’s harder than ever to get great reservations at premier campgrounds.
At least not without making your reservations half a year or more in advance, which make predicting your schedule nearly impossible.
Fortunately, savvy campers and RVers have learned a few tricks along the way to give you your best chance at getting reservations at popular campgrounds that are almost always sold-out years in advance.
The best way to do this, without wearing your own fingers to the bone refreshing campsite reservation websites is to use one of the new cancellation alert websites like CampNab, Wandering Labs, Campsite Assist, or UPCamp.
Though different sites have different strengths and functionality. They aren’t exactly a one-size-fits-all solution.
To help you find the best websites for getting reservations at a sold-out campground, we’re going to have to take a closer look at each of them, and what they do best!
How Do Cancellation Alert Websites Work?
These days more people than ever are trying to get out camping at some of the most popular campgrounds all across North America.
With so much demand, campground managers are trying to make the most out of the opportunity and maximize their profit margins by always operating at maximum capacity.
So, it was only a matter of time before a few savvy web developers came up with sites that use scanning algorithms to spot last-second cancellations.
When you subscribe or sign up for them, they automatically alert you when they find last-second cancellations at one of your preferred campgrounds!
In this niche, there are four big ones that most experienced RV travelers use to get reservations at sold-out campsites.
The algorithms of these sites help find available spots in sold-out campgrounds by putting in a “Scan” with one of the sites.
It will then periodically check the reservation website for any cancellations. If the site finds one, it instantly sends you a message letting you know about the opening.
This sophisticated algorithm uses coding that “Scrapes” the reservation listing of every website you enter in your preference list every few minutes. It actively looks for openings for what you requested.
Each of the four sites has different mechanics, preferences, and costs. They are CampNab, Wandering Labs, Campsite Assist, and UPCamp.
You can sign up for one or all four depending on how avid of a camper you are and just how many sold-out campgrounds you want to stay at in any given year.
CampNab is one of the best value campsite finder apps. It’s chock-full of features, and they offer a wide variety of plans to fit just about any budget.
They’re also very transparent about their tracking practices and provide you with information about key things like scan intervals, pricing, and campsites easily found on its website.
Just like buying a grill with a long warranty, the transparency of Campnab gives you some confidence that you are getting real value for what you’re paying.
CampNabalso has a very intuitive interface with refined searching tools. This allows you to filter for features such as electric hookups, ADA accessibility, and more.
You can even search for specific campsites by number or campground loop, which is handy in some locations.
CampNab also has the rare ability to search for coveted backcountry permits. These allow you to camp in a park’s interior, away from roads and other campers, which is often required to camp in some public land camping areas.
While CampNab does offer single-use scans, they fall short of their $10 value.
Instead, it’s probably more cost-effective to sign up for an entry-level monthly plan that gives you two or more scans every 10 minutes instead of 60.
CampNab plans start at $10/month for 3 concurrent scans and go all the way up to $90/month or $800 a year for more avid campers.
You should forgo their less economical, pay-as-you-go options to get the best value.
Wandering Labs is a somewhat barebones campsite scan site. They originally started out as a free service but have been moving toward a profit model.
So, don’t be surprised if the stripped-down free service side of Wandering Labs goes away someday soon.
Wandering Labs has a “Donate” button, but the “Premium” membership plan is where you want to be if you want truly have the best chance of getting reservations at a sold-out campground.
Wandering Lab’s premium service offers flexible date searching. This means you can scan an exact date, multiple days, or even months! Other competitor trackers don’t offer such wide-date parameters.
The free scans have very limited functionality. They also only run the scans for a week, which is a pretty small window when you’re hoping for cancellation at a sold-out campground.
The free version also sends e-mail alerts rather than text messages, which are slower and require you to keep a sharp eye on your e-mail.
If you are trying to choose between CampNab and Wandering Labs, CampNab is more likely to get you the specific reservation date you want.
Whereas Wandering Labs is more likely to get you into a sold-out campground in a wider window of time, and you have to be ready to pounce!
Campsite Assist is one of the newer websites in the realm of scan sites to get reservations at sold-out campgrounds.
It does a pretty good job of giving you clear information about their pricing, and they even offer single-use options for times when you just have one special trip in mind.
This means purchasing one scan or buying batches of multiple scans without signing up for a monthly plan.
Campsite Assist offers more scans per hour than other tools, and they are set at three-minute intervals. This is a handy way to get a campsite in that one campground of your dreams.
Of course, you pay a premium price for this service as the cheapest three-minute scan is still $14.
Campsite Assist also offers a relatively new feature that allows you to set up a scan window of time set for specific dates.
Known as a “Matrix” scans it typically spans up to a week. If you’d like your search to cover a longer period, then Wandering Labs becomes a better option
Though you should note that these Matrix scans do cost more money and some packages run less frequently.
Their highest-priced scan with the most frequency costs $25, and scans run every 15 minutes for up to 6 months.
So Campsite Assist is better set up for trying to get a campsite reserved as a special campground for a bucket list dream trip like Yellowstone, Glacier, or Yosemite National Park.
It’s probably not the best value choice if you want to stay at Uncle Rico’s privately owned campground on a specific day.
UpCamp is a mobile app that’s meant for the IOS platform. You can buy it at the Apple store, but it has a higher price than the other three campground scan sites, and the app itself feels a little bit like it’s still in the Beta stage of development.
However, it is the only site on this list that features a mobile app with instant notifications.
Information on the app is minimal and the log-in process is slow. Yet the prices continue to increase, and they don’t disclose just how often they perform scans.
UpCamp typically sells scans in bundles that start out for $14.99 for three single scans.
UpCamp probably isn’t the first or second choice for getting reservations at a sold-out campground.
Instead, it’s probably better to wait for a few years for them to evolve competitive functionality and pricing.
This is more of a “One to Watch” rather than “One to Use” as your go-to campsite finder.
The internet keeps offering innovative ways to solve many of life’s modern problems.
If you want to get a campsite at a highly popular campground, you either have to make your reservations a year in advance.
Though if you have some flexibility in when you want to go, there are a few options to consider.
CampNab is probably the best all-around scan site to get reservations at a sold-out campground.
They have competitive pricing and they’re transparent about their operations. If you pull the trigger on just one scan site, they should stand as your top option.
If you are willing to work with a broad window of time, Wandering Labs might also be a good option.
They offer the widest date parameters, which can come in handy if you are more about the destination than you are about the date you go.