Anyone who has tried to get a campsite reservation using ReserveCalifornia.com knows it is very difficult. This is especially true at the popular campgrounds like San Elijo State Beach, South Carlsbad State Beach, Doheny State Beach, Leo Carrillo State Park, Refugio State Beach and others. Demand far exceeds supply for the limited number of campsites and the 6-month rotating reservation window makes it all the more difficult. This is also why we launched CAMPSITE ASSIST – a popular app that will send you a text & email alert when a campsite becomes available on the dates you want to camp.
Our tips below come from the countless hours our team at CampsitePhotos.com has spent trying to get campsite reservations (sometimes successfully), as well as input from other campers.
1. Without stating the obvious, nail down what days you want to camp (arrival date and the # of nights), and of course research what campground you’d like to visit. You should also check out the campsite photos on our site to discover the campsite of your dreams. Trying for mid-week, non-holiday or off-season will also improve your chances.
2. Get organized and assemble your “reservation team” (the more people trying for your reservation the better).
3. Login to ReserveCalifornia.com 6 months prior to your arrival date and about 20 minutes prior to when the reservation window opens (8 a.m. PST).
4. Enter the name of the park/campground, arrival date and length of stay. For this example we will use San Elijo State Beach for an August 12th arrival. You’ll notice that August 12th is not yet available, but that’s okay – click on the August 11th date and then the ‘Search’ button.
5. On the next screen you’ll see that there are not any campsites available (for August 11th arrival). Click on ‘Camp Availability’ button for the section you want to camp.
6. The following screen will show you what sites in that section will become available on August 12th. In the example below, you’ll see that campsites 2 and 3 have not yet been reserved for an August 12th arrival (and will open up for reservations 6 months prior – on Feb 12 / 8am PST).
7. Lucky step 7. This is when it gets exciting. Have a clock that displays the countdown by the second. Also (IMPORTANT) – change the date of arrival to when you want to arrive (to August 12th in this example). Then at exactly 7:59:59 click on the ‘Refresh‘ link (located just above the ‘August’ bar and to right of ‘Filter’ box). The page will refresh and the green box showing available campsites for an August 12 arrival will now become clickable (solid green without the black diagonal line). CLICK ON IT IMMEDIATELY!
8. If quick enough, you’ll see a picture grid with instructions to verify you are a human. DO IT QUICKLY!
9. If someone beat you to it, you’ll get a message that the campsite is no longer available. As is most often the case, we didn’t have any luck in our example (see above). If you’re successful you’ll see a button to ‘Reserve Unit’. CLICK ON IT IMMEDIATELY! If you’re still successful, you’ll be able to take a breath and confirm/pay for your campsite. Congratulations!