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Reserving a camp site in California just got more complicated, but here's a guide

Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach
Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach
Jed Kim/KPCC

It's getting to be that time of year, when families get out of town and pitch a tent.

But this camping season, some in California are having difficulty securing the sites they'd like because the web site to make reservations in our state parks was recently changed.

Orange County Register reporter Laylan Connelly explains the changes to

How the reservation system has changed

The old system, Reserve America, on the first of every month, six months ahead would open up. So on January 1, the entire month of June would open up. People would scramble online at 8 a.m. and pick the date they wanted, and if they were lucky they'd get their spot.

Now it's a rolling system. January 1 opens up only June 1. January 2 only opens up June 2, so it's a rolling system day by day.

Problems campers are experiencing with the new reservation system

You're allowed to have a set number of days reserved and then roll it to another day ahead, cancel and tell a friend. You can do that an unlimited amount of times.

There's also complaints about a third party operator called First Choice Reservations. They charge a fee to get your desired site. Someone calls in and says I want a site on this date at this site, and if they're successful in getting that for you, you pay a fee. So some people are saying that's not fair — that it edges out people who can't afford to do that. That's the whole thing with these camp sites is to keep them affordable.

Advice for nabbing a camping spot

Stay flexible. Look toward those weekdays if you can take your kids out of school or take time off during the week. There's a lot more available during those times, especially off season, maybe not the middle of summer. Also look for those last-minute cancellations.