While there have always been people who enjoy camping, the limited travel options during the COVID-19 pandemic had people sleeping under the stars (or in a tent) who wouldn’t have considered it previously. Though we’re several months into the vaccine rollout, only about 30% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated, so it’s not like everything is back to “normal”—including the way we travel.
This means that for the second summer in a row, campsites are going to be a hot commodity. Yes, it’s a good idea to reserve a campsite as soon as possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get one the week you want to travel. In a recent article in the New York Times, Megan Michelson shares some tips for snagging a last-minute campsite reservation. Here’s what to know.
Check both public and private campgrounds
Beyond that, there are so many other options for camping on private property—as in, websites that allow you to book a spot for your tent. (Don’t just wander onto someone’s land without permission and set up for the night.) These include Hipcamp, Tentrr, Harvest Hosts, GlampingHub, Campspot or Airbnb.
Find a first-come, first-served campground
Some campgrounds—including many on state parks and some national parks—set aside a certain number of campsites for walk-in customers who need to book a spot for that night. To find one of those, check this list of first-come-first-served campsites around the country compiled by RVShare.
Consider roughing it on (specific areas of) public land
Another option is to look into public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service, which is free and doesn’t require a reservation. Basically, you’ll be sleeping in the wilderness, without the amenities of even the most basic campgrounds, and will need to do your homework on what is and isn’t allowed on that particular land, including the “leave no trace” principles and campfire regulations. Check sites like Campendium and Freecampsites.net to find a place to camp.