Michigan is one of the most popular states for recreational vehicles and camping which can make it difficult to get reservations at your favorite Michigan State Park. The current online reservation system is the best and most intricate one the DNR has created and is a long way from the days when you had to send in a check by mail to hold a spot so you could choose what was available when you got to the campground. The current system lets you choose a date to see what is available in the state or you can pick a campground and see what dates they have an opening for that specific campground. I am not associated with the state parks and have no “inside knowledge” but I have learned some tips over the years to help with getting your reservations. If you don’t already know it, here is the link to make reservations https://www.midnrreservations.com/
Make them as soon as you can
The Michigan DNR will let you make reservations for a campsite six month to the day before the first day of your reservations. If you want to make reservations for 4th of July you will be making them the 4th of January. The system starts taking reservations at 8 am weekdays and 9 am weekends. For the most popular parks like Ludington, you will need to try to make reservations when the system opens for the day since the park is so popular. (if you are wondering I have yet to get a site reservation at Ludington)
Most people want to stay at the most popular sites in the most popular parks on a holiday weekend. If you are like me and are restricted by when you can take your vacation because of work, you need to be flexible on when and where you want to stay so you can find a campsite. It may not be exactly what you want but a day relaxing next to the campfire is better than not going at all. The system lets you pick your dates and then you can look on a map to see what campgrounds are available for those dates. Make sure the pull down with the lists of all the campground is set to the Michigan State Parks and it will show all the parks on the map and if they have availability
Maybe you are retired and the dates you go are not that important but you have a campground you want to stay at you can search for days the campground has openings. If a site you want is reserved you can click on it and see the schedule to see what days it is reserved and what days it’s available.
Do your research
If you are going to book six months to the day #SMTTD be sure to check the campground map ahead of time to know what site or a couple of sites that you want so you are not trying to figure it out while other people are clicking on sites. You can check the night before you make your reservations to see what is available.
Go a day early
Because the system lets you reserves sites starting with the day you arrive if you go a day earlier you can make your reservation before others do. I know this is not always feasible but if for instance on a holiday weekend you take Friday off from work you can go up Thursday and get a chance for a campsite before someone else who is going up Friday.
Please be considerate. Because the system will let you make reservations starting with the day you arrive and will let you reserve 15 days. Some people will make reservations 15 days before so they can get the site they want first. Then, later on, cancel the early days. I don’t do this and although it is legal it is really inconsiderate. Like people who cut the line or save seats for people. The DNR has changed the cancellation policy to help curb this. I am not sure how many people do this and I am thinking it is not as common as some people think. I know there are a lot of retirees who stay at the Michigan State Parks and are fortunate enough to camp for two weeks at a time. There are also more and more Michiganders who are going camping so some of the parks are really hard to get reservations for.
If you are staying at a park for a week for your summer vacation it can be hard to get a campsite on the weekends since that is when they are usually full. I know you don’t want to give up time for relaxing but I have waited until Sunday to head to the campground. You can have more choices to choose from since the park may not be as busy during the week. Plus traveling on Sunday you may be going the opposite direction as the weekend crowd, so traffic is not that bad. Plus you will have Saturday to pack your trailer for the trip.
Check for cancellations
If that park you want to get into is full keep checking back to see if a site has become available. People can cancel their reservation and you may be able to snag it before someone else does.
Check for festivals and events.
Don’t forget about local events near the campground you are thinking about. Events like the Cherry Festival in Traverse City or the Cheeseburger Festival in Caseville will cause the parks to have a large number of people at them. If you are going to a festival or not there may be one that weekend, be sure to book early. Don’t forget about the harvest festivals most parks have in the fall. They are very popular and fill up the campground. If you want to go to one or avoid them check the list of events on the DNR website here. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79133_79205_84073—,00.html
Be sure to check the pull-down menu for trailer size. If you have a smaller trailer like I do, make sure you don’t have a larger one selected otherwise it will only show you sites available for a larger trailer.
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