If you camp – tent, van, or RV, you know the frustration of not being able to get a reservation at your preferred campground, let alone the site you wanted. Reservations for camping have become a huge problem as the pandemic suddenly opened up the possibility of traveling the old-fashioned way by road trip and RVing became super popular. ARVIE is a new company trying to take on the confounding experience known as campground reservations.
Most government campgrounds open their reservations six months in advance on a rolling basis. People get up on the appointed day and sit ready with their fingers poised over their keyboards ready to reserve. The clock strikes midnight, they scramble like it’s Ticketmaster, and everything is already sold out. How can this be? I wrote an article to describe why and the associated dilemmas of Ghost campers that never show up for all these reservations –The Empty Campground and Why You Can’t Get a Spot. Bots are snagging spots and campers make multiple reservations and don’t cancel. You show up at the campground and the place is empty, except for all the reservation cards posted. It’s a real problem.
Today there is a new player in the camping reservation world – ARVIE. This subscription-based company will help you find a reservation at not just government parks, but commercial RV/Camping parks as well. They have a centralized database that scans the national availability of spaces and gets you a spot. While this is a huge convenience factor – because their bot is faster than your fingers, there is an extra feature called, Sold-Out-Search. You tell them where and when you want to camp and the search feature will monitor your requested place and date and slide you in when a cancellation hits the campground’s system. There are a couple of states that offer this for their state parks and there is one other commercial service that has a limited number of states or campgrounds but serves the same function. No one wants to go back day after day in hopes that something has opened up. Maybe it did and you missed it. With Arvie, they’ll be checking back 24/7 for you.
I love a good entrepreneurial venture and always support those visionaries who see a problem and find a solution. The guy who created this is a camper himself and came up with this approach out of his frustrating experiences in trying to snag reservations. Think of this as the Hotel.com for camping. A disclaimer – I don’t know if every campground in the country is in on this because a lot of small, mom&pop campgrounds don’t have online reservations. I don’t know if they charge campgrounds to be part of this – and I’m pretty sure government campgrounds with their own dedicated online reservation systems would not pay, but their reservation systems are open for everyone to see for free. I applaud their efforts and figure it is worth looking into for those that have certain dates and destinations or routes they are traveling.
I think this venture will serve a purpose. I’m old enough to remember when travel agents had to book your flights because there was no such thing as central booking. I would be on the phone or in their office while they worked their magic going from airline to airline to book my flights and then handed me paper tickets! ARVIE might be that magic threshold for the camping/traveling world.
Here’s my cautionary question for this venture – what will you do about Ghost Campers?
What will be in place to incentivize those with an Arvie reservation to cancel? One of the problems at government campgrounds is that the rates are low and people don’t bother to cancel, just in case they can go at the last minute. Ugh. Or people forget they made a reservation six months out. It happens more frequently than you would think. Arvie, I suppose, can send out ticklers and offer to book alternate dates – eliminating the hassle. Unless you incentivize people, though, they may not cancel, thus adding to the problem.
While this convenience service is a wonderful end-around to the madness of the six-months-out daily keyboard frenzy or endless calls to private campgrounds, it leaves in the dust all those who continue to try to blitz the system at home. It will make that old way of doing things even more hopeless. But that’s what progress is about – inventing new ways to more efficiently address an issue. Imagine if you still had to ask the operator to place your call on the telephone or worse, to send a hand-written message by errand boy instead of texting. See, we adapt as we adopt.
Best wishes to ARVIE as it launches today. I’m really happy to see someone take on the industry that is collapsing under its own weight. Safe travels and see you down the road.