When it comes to camping in Yosemite during the spring and summer there is no let’s just head to the valley and see if there is anything available. My family and friends have been camping in the Upper Pines Campground every summer for almost a decade. Each year as we log on to book a reservation the fear of not getting a campsite for our annual vacation has us chomping our nails with anxiety. Here are a few things that we have learned over the years to help you plan your camping vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world!
Here is the challenge: Reservations become available to book at 7am Pacific time six months before your planned camping time and are all reserved by 7:05am Pacific time. So how on earth are you supposed to get a site? Here are my best tips…
Get up early! We get up and get online 30 minutes before the sites become available. This gives us time to make sure that all of the things we need to make a reservation are available to us and we are not fumbling for things at the last moment.
Get on the fastest internet connection you can. In this game micro seconds matter! There are thousands of people trying for hundreds of spots. Make every click count!
Don’t bother with the phone. The reservation agents use the same system that you would to book it online. why add a middle man to slow you down?
Enlist the help of your friends. Every year we have four people trying for one or two sites. There have been years where we didn’t get a single site and other years where we ended up with three. It only costs 10 dollars to cancel a reservation. I feel that is a small price to pay to ensure that we get our vacation spot.
Be logged in to recreaction.gov ahead of time. If you don’t do this you could lose your spot when you have to log in. There is only a limited time you have to pay before it put the site back out to be booked. This has happened to me! The worst is to get a campsite and then lose it because you have to log in. Or worse re-log in don’t think that you can log in the night before and be okay. The website will log you out automatically after a certain amount of time and you won’t know this until you try to book a reservation.
Be ready to book your first choice right a 7am but don’t put all of your hopes in that campsite. Here is what I do… I try for my favorite spot (wouldn’t you like to know which one that is). If I don’t get it as quick as I can I jump to the campground map and grab whatever is left as quickly as possible. Don’t think! just go you don’t have time to be choosey at this point.
Okay it is now 7:10 am and your emotionally spent and you didn’t get a spot should you just give up and cry into you coffee? Well, not yet. There is still one thing you can do get a campsite. This last tip is just about pure determination and not your speed on the computer. Because campers into Yosemite Valley are forced to book 6 months ahead of time the campgrounds get a lot of cancellations over time. So, if you are willing to call the reservation center every day for six months you still might have a chance to make your dream camping trip in Yosemite a reality.
I hope that this helps you get a spot this summer in Yosemite. If you have any other tips or tricks I would love to hear them. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If this blog post was in any way helpful to you look for me every June in the Upper Pines Campground I would love to meet you!
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my children’s book The Story of Elmer in Yosemite to read around the campfire. It is about a Yosemite legend that dates back as far as the 1930’s .
If I were to sink back into my memory to the moments that I cherished the most it would be the ones spent outside. Our family vacations consisted of trips to different National Parks, local lakes, and to the giant redwood forests of the northern California. It installed a love of the outdoors in me that I hope to pass on to my boys now. My wife and I have wasted no time to get the kids out and enjoying all that nature can offer them. In fact, we started camping with the little rug rats as young as 5 months old. Here are 5 “Camping Hacks” we found through the years that you will want to try so that your kids will love camping too.
Playdoh- Developing a love of camping is all about starting with fun memories to build on. There WILL be times where Mom and Dad are tired and need some quite time. The best tool I have found for this situation is Playdoh. It doesn’t melt like Crayons, the little tubs are easy to pack, and cleanup is wiping the dried up bits of dough into the trash. So, when you are between lunch and dinner and you hear “I’m BORED!” whip out a can of the salty wonder then kick your heels up and enjoy the quiet.
Sound Machine – Do you have a nervous or sensitive sleeper? Tent walls don’t do much to block out the nature sounds around them. Or maybe the neighbor’s campfire chat is going a little later than your kid can handle. A battery powered sound machine will do wonders for little one. The white noise that they create eases the sensitivity to all that is going on around the tent and gives them something else for their little brains to focus on. Don’t be surprised if the little battery power miracle doesn’t help you saw some logs too!
Baby Wipes- Marshmallow covered sticky hands with dirt and bug spray coated faces are all signs of a good time! Keep in mind tough getting to the bathroom is a walk to and crawling into a sleeping bag in this condition is not a great way to keep ants and other creatures out of the tent. Baby wipes are a bath in a bag! From cleaning eating surfaces to washing hands you will find 100 plus uses for these damp little miracles. I bring these along now even if I am not camping with my kids!
A hammock- Go to any playground, kids love to swing and what is a hammock but a big swing! This little 2 pound device will give your little one a place to nap, read, swing, and (the best part!) to snuggle with you. There are many choices in the world of hammocks so get a sturdy one because kids have a way of testing the limits of these products. I would also supervise your child in the tree sling for a while until they learned that: Yes, in fact, they can fall out to the ground. Oh, did I mention that if you have a hammock this is a good place for you to lay down when you crack out the Playdoh?
Stories and traditions- A fondness of the great outdoors is built on a foundation of great memories and traditions. Having yarns to tell around the campfire is the place that those are formed. Come armed with a story or two to tell. It doesn’t matter if it is the same story every year as long as you tell it well. The story that I tell every year when my family goes to Yosemite is The Story of Elmer. It is about a little boy that gets lost in the woods and the whole campground shouts out to find the little boy. It’s a story that dates back as far as the 1930’s. I loved the tale so much that I published a children’s book about it. So, if you need a story to tell you can use mine! Elmerinyosmite.com
Developing children who are outdoor enthusiasts is about having fun adventures that will create deep memories in your little ones. Remember, the trip doesn’t have to be the best most perfect trip ever. In fact the stories my kids re-tell over and over again are the ones that did not quite go according to plan. We can now sit around the fire and laugh about that one time that dad dropped the dinner in the fire and we had to have marshmallows and graham crackers for dinner.
Get your copy of The Story of Elmer in Yosemite On Amazon Today!!!
Just in case you are new to the Prepared Idiot Podcast and Blog we did a 3 Part series on how to publish your own children’s book. (You can still get those shows on this website). It took a year of dealing with illustrators and figuring out what shape the story should take. BUT IT’S DONE!
Since the 1930’s Yosemite campers have long been confused and amused by shouts from all directions calling the name “Elmer!” Imagine sitting in your campsite, enjoying an evening campfire and the quietness of the evening is suddenly interrupted by all of your neighbors erupting into a shouting match calling for the little boy that got lost decades ago. The inescapable exchange is often heard in the campgrounds in Yosemite Valley. A tale that has survived for years around the campfire is now a children’s book to read around the fire by flashlight. So cuddle up in your sleeping bag and learn The Story of Elmer and a little bit about Yosemite National Park.
If you have follow the blog for a while you will have seen some of the early proofs that I had done trying to find someone to illustrate the Story of Elmer for me. It turns out that my friend Alden Olmsted was the right guy for the job!
Alden is a filmmaker, photographer, and artist, and is the youngest son of California naturalist and parks crusader John Olmsted. Growing up in Sonoma with his older brother and history major mother, he was often out past bedtime, exploring most every creek and canyon within bicycling distance. Distant cousin to famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Alden continues his father’s dream of an across California hiking trail at ACTrail.org.
Because you are listeners you can get your copy now! Before the masses get their grubby little hands on itt! That is why I have created a special discount just for you. For the next 2 weeks only enter the discount code (PapaBob) upon checkout and get 2 dollars off of each book you order! Get your copies before it is on-line and in stores go to Elmerinyosemite.com now and help Elmer find his way into your home!
How to Publish your Own Book Part 1 (Re-broadcast)
How to Publish your Own Book Part 2 (Re-broadcast)
How to Publish your Own Book Part 3 (Re-broadcast)