It's that time of year when you should be planning your national park getaways for the year, particularly if you need to reserve a room or a campsite. But just how accurate are those on-line reservation sites?
I ask because the other day I went to Xanterra Parks & Resort's website for Yellowstone National Park. It was only the third week of January, and I figured finding a room at the Old Faithful Inn wouldn't be too terribly hard. I should have known better, as last year when I looked on January 29 there was nothing in the Old Faithful complex and I had to settle for a room at Grant Village (more on that later), which is a great location if you're paddling Yellowstone Lake, but the ambience simply can't compare to Old Faithful.
So I was somewhat hopeful when I logged onto Xanterra's page and went to book two rooms at the inn. Well, it took the site about 5 seconds to inform me there was not a room to be had at the inn in August. Or, for that matter, June, July and all but one day in September.
Thinking this might not be right, I called the reservations desk. The clerk quickly found me two rooms with queen beds, but the community bathroom was down the hall. I asked if there was anything else. She checked, and came up with two accessible rooms, with queen beds and full baths. Now, we didn't need accessible rooms, and told her I didn't want to take a room from someone who might really need it. She told me that if someone did need an accessible room for those dates, they would place me in "an equal room type." That left us both wondering if a number of rooms is held out of the reservations pool for just this situation.
Anyway, the point I'm driving home is that on-line sites aren't 100 percent accurate. Another point well worth remembering is that, should you not find a room in your desired location, you should check back every few weeks. Last year, when I called the reservations desk back to make dinner reservations for our stay in Yellowstone, I casually asked if, by chance, there were any rooms available in the Old Faithful Inn. Amazingly, there were, and we were able to relocate from Grant Village to Old Faithful.
What experiences have you had, travelers, with national park lodging websites?