No-Show Campers: 8 Reasons Why They Don’t Cancel


No-Show campers who don’t cancel their reservations seem to be a growing pandemic of their own. Here are the reasons why it’s happening and what you can do about it…

A member of our RV Lifestyle Facebook group recently brought up how she pulled into a supposedly booked campground yet many sites were open. Apparently, she’s not alone in witnessing this growing phenomenon. 

With over 100 comments on the post, other members chimed in on why this may be happening and how it interferes with other campers who wish they had that empty spot! 

Getting a reservation these days is so difficult that it’s frustrating to see empty campsites. You think about all of your fellow RVers who are camped out at a Wal-Mart or stuck at home because they couldn’t get a spot. Yet, lo and behold, one empty spot is staring you in the face next to your own hard-to-get campsite. 

Furthermore, it makes you wonder about all of the places you tried to book but couldn’t get into. Were there empty spots that could’ve been yours?!

Why are there so many empty campsites when campground reservations are almost impossible to get? Well, I’m gonna tell you.

8 Reasons No-Show Campers Don’t Cancel Their Reservations

While you may chalk it up to inconsiderate people not canceling their reservations, that’s not the only reason this is happening. There are some logistical and understandable reasons why some people don’t cancel or a campsite sits empty. But, of course, there are less forgiving reasons, too!

No-Show Campers empty campground

1. Minimum Night Requirements

Several commenters pointed out that some campgrounds require a minimum number of nights to book a campsite. Some even require you to book starting on a certain day, like Friday. 

So, it’s not uncommon for campers to book an extra day that they aren’t going to be there in order to book the campsite at all. 

If they’re willing to pay for an extra night, you can’t really fault them for that. They’re just trying to work within the restrictions the campground has placed.

2. More Flexible Travel

Some travelers also have a looser itinerary and aren’t sure exactly when they’re going to arrive. They sometimes prefer to have a buffer before and even after their main stay to have more flexibility in their travel plans.

As serendipity travelers ourselves, Jennifer and I can understand this thinking. Though, it’d still be nice to cancel as soon as you realize you’re not going to make it that first night. That way, at least an overnighter has the opportunity to stay there until you arrive.

No-Show Campers at a campground

3. Early Arrival or Late Departure

Speaking of flexible travel, some people book a day early or late in order to have more flexible arrival and departure times. So, the campsite may sit empty the first night but the campers arrive earlier the next day. Or, vice versa for tacking an extra night on the end.

This strategy gives campers more time to set up and enjoy their first actual day on-site. Or, they sleep in and enjoy the last day more before packing up. 

Since they are still using the site for the majority of the time, this seems like a reasonable and understandable strategy.

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4. Holding Their Spot

This reason often overlaps with the minimum night requirements. But some people will reserve an ideal campsite for a prolonged amount of time so they can use it whenever they want. 

It’s not unheard of for someone to rent a spot for a couple of weeks or even a month, and then come and go as they please. 

This strategy reminds me of the people who claim a table at an order-at-the-counter restaurant before they even order their food. On one hand, you understand that they want to make sure they get a table. On the other hand, more people could cycle through if they just waited until they really needed a table.

5. Too-Strict Cancellation Policies

All of the common reasons so far have been because people want to use the campsite at some point. However, there are plenty of no-show campers that are exactly that: complete no-shows. 

“Why oh why don’t they cancel their reservation?!” we wonder. Why not spend a few minutes to cancel the reservation?

The interesting point that a few FB members brought up is that a lot of cancellation policies don’t offer any money back. So, why bother canceling if you have to pay for it anyway? The answer is so other people can use that spot, but some people don’t really care about that. (We’ll talk about that shortly.)

Some commenters suggested that more campgrounds should give an incentive for campers to take the time to cancel their reservation. Although, another member made a very good point that if that campground is getting paid without the work of having someone there it’s easier for them to leave it empty. They’re getting paid either way.

Perhaps even a small refund would be enough to satisfy both parties. The no-show campers can at least recoup some money. And the campgrounds get to make extra money from the no-shows and a rebooking. Something for more campgrounds to consider, I suppose.

No-Show Campers  empty campground

6. Inflexible Cancellation Systems

On that same note, some booking/cancellation systems make canceling difficult. One key problem a commenter brought up is that a lot of systems don’t let you make partial cancellations.

For instance, if you’re running behind and only need to cancel the first night, you can’t. 

Hopefully, this problem will gradually go away as more and more campgrounds update their systems.

7. Just Plain Lazy or Inconsiderate

I know what you’re thinking at this point. Lots of campgrounds do offer money back and partial cancellations! So, what’s wrong with those no-shows?! Why don’t they just cancel so others can enjoy the spot?

You’d certainly think that recouping their money is incentive enough. I mean, why throw that money away? But, for whatever reason, some people just let it go. It’s apparently not worth their time to cancel. 

But, in reality, it’s not just about the money. Whether or not you get money back, the considerate thing to do is cancel so others can enjoy the spot. 

Unfortunately, some people just don’t care. They’re either too lazy or too inconsiderate to cancel the reservation. They just don’t show up. 

It’s easy to get frustrated by those people, but it’s not worth it. We all know those kinds of people exist.

8. Life Happens

The thing that is worth remembering is that life happens to everyone. Sometimes, no-show campers don’t show up or cancel because something unexpected happened to prevent them. Sometimes, they have something truly more important they need to focus on. 

Whether it’s a family emergency, stress at work, or simply feeling overwhelmed, we can all relate to some things slipping through the cracks. 

This leads me to my advice…

What to Do About No-Show Campers

No-Show Campers

My advice is to always give no-show campers the benefit of the doubt. Instead of assuming they fall into the category of lazy and inconsiderate, wish them the best. 

Hope that whatever prevented them from coming and enjoying a camping trip is a fluke. That they’ll soon be back enjoying the RV lifestyle like the rest of us. 

And if those campers fall under the first few categories and they do show up at some point, don’t begrudge them. Who knows how long they’ve been trying to make this trip happen and how many obstacles they’ve had to overcome. Be happy for them that they made it and hope they make the most of the time they do have there.

Because the truth is, there’s not much we can do as campers. It really comes down to the campgrounds changing their policies and creating incentives. So, the best advice I can give you (and which was shared by several commenters) is to focus on your fun. Leave a message in the campground suggestion box and carry on.

And, of course, always cancel any reservation you can’t use! Freeing it up for someone else to use is always enough incentive. We can thus lead by example!

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