Reservation Wrinkles


Habits are great things.  Habits are horrible things.  And no one really likes change, do they?

Just because we aren’t actively RV’ing any more doesn’t mean that all the things we loved about RV’ing dont continue having some hold upon us. img_3732Peg and I were talking about places we’ve visited at this time of year and that got me to looking at the website recreation.gov for a refresher about some piece of information and I was surprised at how many changes have been made to the website since last we used it.

You’ll remember that 2017 we spent in Wisconsin, Texas and going back and forth between the two — by car.  We did not make a camping reservation all of that year, and our last recreation.gov reservation would have been during October of 2016.

Websites, and APPS have a way of constantly updating; for content, for delivery, for security — for all sorts of reasons — and many of those changes are not seen by the using public as “improvements” no matter how hard the content-creator tries to convince us that they are, in fact, “improvements.”   So, when I went looking for information about the campground where we last camp-hosted I was surprised at how many details about the reservation website had changed; but also about how many details about the campground itself had changed.

All of which brings me back to a topic that has been recurring in my blog about how RV’ing is changing with the increase of baby-boomer retirees, the increase in the number of RV’ers in general, and the decrease in state and federal budgets for recreational facilies.

Looking at just one single campground I was surprised to see the number of sites changed.  Also, whereas the website used to show all of the campsites, not it only shows those sites that are reservable — details about walk-up sites is harder to find, if they even exist.  I say that because, for example, at Highland Ridge the year before we camp-hosted there had been nine walk-in sites; the year we hosted that was reduced to five; and this year we found zero sites so identified.  We also noted that a group of eleven sites — all of them in one secluded circle were shown as “X” — or unavailable all the way through the summer season.

Out of curiosity I looked at a couple other federal campgrounds and found that they too were differently laid out than they had been.  True, each campground gets to manage their property in a way that works for that facility, but the differences we noted were differences from the way that same agency had previously ‘advertised’ their facility.

Now — from the standpoint of an RV’er who for a couple years followed a similar route — significant changes in what campgrounds are doing can hugely impact your movements. And unexplained increases or decreases in campground capacity affect not only RV’ers (full time or otherwise) they impact the entire recreation facility using public — many of whom do family reunions and other group events at the same time yearly.  And I have been thinking about just how this sort of change affects the user.

We can be straightforward here, between ourselves, and admit that as much as we know we have to stay flexible and adjust to change — most of the time we really aren’t happy with the FACT of change — any time something forces us to do things differently than we have become accustomed to doing them.  That’s the good thing about habits.  They save us time and effort and conscious thought.  Change messes up those time savers.

I’m sure in certain forums there’s a good deal of discussion going on about this year’s changes.  It’s going to be harder still to make reservations for a year’s travel with the changes that I saw in just an hour or so of investigation.   And some of the changes seem to be nonsensical.  For example, if I created a search the availble site results were shown not in numerical order — in fact, not in any obvious order (not by electric, non-electric, numerical site number, or even area within the campground) but if I refreshed the site or changed the criteria without forcing a new search then the sites came up in numerical site order:  so a campsite that appeared at “first glance” not to be available on the first search wasn’t actually reserved — it was just to be found on another page further on down the list.  It’s good when there is some consistency in a website; websites that keep you guessing for no good reason end up not being used.

Recreation.gov is not operated by the Federal Government.  It is in fact a site provided by a private contractor to the federal government.  They get commissions for their sales and they get paid for maintaining the website.  So, making changes makes them money.  So does making and cancelling reservations.  They have you coming and going, you see.

I also noted that this year there is an addition to the website all about using the information about you as users that the website has accumulated.  They are promoting using their data for the development of private websites.

img_3733

I thought that this was interesting in light of the attention presently being given to Facebook about the selling of data.  This is NOT the same. They are not talking about selling your information, but there is clearly a push to use data differently than in the past.

If you are still out there doing the RV thing I am happy for you.  For myself, this just seems like another reason why I’m glad we got out when we did.  I found the whole plan my life months ahead to be stressful enough when the tools were easy to use; either I’m getting older or the websites are just getting harder to use. I’m glad I’m not doing that job now.

Change will continue.  There’s no way around it.  We might as well get used to the idea. And change will not only be about how things happen — as in website changes; but also in substantive change — the WHAT of what’s happening — the whether-the-campsite-exists-or-not, and can-I-reserve-it-for-next-weekend or tonight.  We can’t get away with just doing what we did last year, or what we “have always done.”

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