We just had our first snowfall here in West Michigan. Autumn isn’t even officially over yet. It may seem like it’s too early, but now is the time I start booking camping reservations for next summer.
Camping is more popular than ever, which mean campsites fill up fast. Just in Michigan state parks, bookings were up by over 12 percent in 2016. Many of the parks were filled to to capacity on holidays, like the Fourth of July. I know from personal experience, if you wait until April to start making reservations, you probably won’t get the dates and locations you want.
Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer and the camping season, and it’s just six months away from this Thanksgiving weekend. It’s also one of the most popular weekends for camping, and sites don’t last long. At Michigan state parks, you can make reservations up to six months in advance. So you may want to take a break from your Black Friday shopping and start working on your summer camping plans.
Private campgrounds have different bookings policies. Some take reservations all year round. However, I’ve found that most don’t start booking for the following summer until after January 1st. But that’s less than two months away! National Park campgrounds have the same policy as Michigan state parks, allowing you to make reservations up to six months in advance.
Of course, making plans so far in advance means that plans can change. Don’t worry! The good news is that most campgrounds have very fair cancellation policies. Michigan state parks allow you change or cancel your reservation up to one day before your arrival with a full refund, minus a $10 fee. Once we had to cut our stay short at a Michigan state park in the middle of our trip and still received a refund for the unused nights. National Parks also have a similar refund policy. Private campground refunds vary, but I’ve found most also only charge a small cancellation fee.
So after you’re done stuffing yourself with turkey this weekend, get out the calendar and the laptop and start planning next summer’s camping trips. One added benefit I always find to this is that it gives me something to look forward to all winter, while the snow piles up on top of the camper in the driveaway.
Here’s to lots of happy campers in 2017!