Reserve America and the Florida State Park system is being hacked by people profiting from their automatic reservation system.

Our goal this year was to slow the pace of each move such that we aim for fie to seven day stays everywhere we go rather than the less than three day average we pushed ourselves with in 2015.  Unfortunately, the extremely popular state park campgrounds in the Florida Keys do not lend themselves to easily obtained long stays.  Even during the low summer season you have to be extremely flexible about the dates, reserve very early, or hope for cancellations. During the peak winter season about the only legit way to get a stay is to frequently check for cancellations during a flexible window.  It is almost impossible to get a reservation any other way; they are fully booked within seconds of the maximum eleven month in advance reservation window.

Last year we spent a week waking up earlier than our usual leisurely hour, logging into the Reserve America site with three different laptops and tablets, opening multiple windows for the various individual sites scheduled to come available that morning, and feverishly hitting “refresh” in an attempt to secure a site at Bahia Honda within the first few seconds it became available.  We had no success.  At the time I became suspicious that someone or some organization was hacking the system, i.e., using a script/program to automatically reserve sites and somehow profiting from the process.

During our recent short stay in Long Key we had a knock on the door from someone advertising a “booking service” with 95% success for the hard to get parks.  He handed us a cheap, hand written brochure, explained that he was drumming up business, and that they focused on the hard to reserve parks in the Reserve American system, specifically mentioning Bahia Honda as one of their primary targets.  They charge $60 for a successful reservation.

This confirms my suspicion, and it pisses me off.  I may be a touch hypocritical about this in that I have used a script to check on the cancellations at the popular Reserve America parks, but it was free, didn’t automatically reserve a site, and no one profited.  The state parks are not for-profit private resorts operating in the free market system.  They are tax payer subsidized places that allow all citizens to enjoy the public areas at a reasonable cost.  Now these jokers come along and turn the system on its head,  basically making them almost primarily available for those that can afford to pay more.

Anyway, just thought I would rant.   The group or individual in question is likely within the law since they are not technically selling sites, they are merely providing a booking service.  I strongly suspect they are in violation of the Terms of Service for the Reserve America site and the Florida State Park system, but don’t have the knowledge level to explain it beyond that.  Any thoughts or recommendations?

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14 thoughts on “Reserve America and the Florida State Park system is being hacked by people profiting from their automatic reservation system.

  1. Seriously??? This is crazy and it makes me mad, too! No wonder we’ve had so much difficulty getting reservations in the Keys. When we lived in Oregon I would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to try to book sites — and was always shut out. The only success I’ve ever had is finding sites in November or December, and those were only because of cancellations. This seems like it’s totally illegal. Those scammers should be fined big time.

    • Read my post below, you should change your mind. There are thousands (yes, thousands) of people trying the very same site you’re trying to book, at 4:30. Do some googling and you’ll notice you are not alone. Blaming all of this on some “hack” is not the way to go. But then again, I’ll let you think it out for yourself, that’s like some sort of moto for me.

    • Fascinating, thanks for the link! The infuriating thing about that report is that after a pretty detailed review of the problem, with experience from several other parks including Yosemite, the official recommendation is to develop a course of action! That’s it, their recommendation is to eventually decide to do something, but without saying what that will be. And that was 17 months ago.

  2. Ah! here’s another good example of “don’t believe everything you read on the web”. Especially from some people’s little blog… I could put up a very long explanation here and convince you guys, but I won’t bother. Believe me, there’s not “hack”…. 🙂

    • So you just post a “its not true” without any explanation at all? Look, the Florida State Park system acknowledges the problem, see the links from Eric above. Maybe you are using a much more restrictive definition if “hack.” The bottom line is that some dudes have written a script that enable them to lock in reservations far faster than anyone else and they are making a profit off it it. Its been hacked.

      • I never thought I’d be back in here after my what I thought should be my first and last post. The system warned me of a reply and brought me back here. First, I think I should ask you to define the word “Hack”, because I have a feeling you have not a slight idea of the right definition of it.

        The Florida State Park system has acknowledged with MANY problems concerning the site and I’ve read that document the month it came out. You would have a very difficult time pointing me to the exact paragraph in that whole document where it talks about hacking, even in other words or in an indirect manner.

        So, EVEN if you were right about someone running a script, that would not even be considered a “HACK”. A hack doesn’t give you an unfair advantage at winning, it MAKES YOU WIN. And I highly doubt the site has been hacked.

        For me being pissed of at not being able to be ocean-front for 4 straight years, I was very happy to encounter the guy you’re talking about, this winter, at curry hammock. I’ve made business with him and was able to get a wonderful campsite and I’ve paid him the very little fee he asked in order to help me. He failed getting me a campsite on the 2 first mornings, and luckily, ended up booking me a site on the 3rd morning, which was actually the one I wanted more (trying the first ones as a ‘protection’). I was able to get a lot of information from the guy and, from what I know, it’s just another bunch of people grouped together trying to get the campsite. It’s the very same than my neighbours in Bahia who told me they had their whole family and friends trying for them back in Canada.

        What troubles me is how people have stopped learning to think for themselves… See how you’ve suggested there was a hack and that Laurel guy jumped in saying “this is outrageous”, “this is bad”, bla bla… QUESTION THE NEWS, people….. ask the trailing “Yeah but why”, or “what if”.

        If a “DUDE” has a way of doing it quick than you,…. where’s the problem? He’s more skilled than you? Frustrating – does that mean it’s a hack? Common, get real my friend. I’ve read tons of forums, and people have been frustrated about the camping sites in the keys since 2008. You’re gonna tell me it was hacked all the way back then?

        When you try to reserve, do you clean your cache, reset modem and routers, lower font size so the “book now” button is always at the same place, do you use IE or firefox and know the difference between them, do you use a VPN so that the reserveamerica servers are just as if they were on the other side of the street from you? There are many more tricks that helps that I will keep for myself, and even then, I’ve been struggling.

        I someone has a group of 20, 30, 50 or 100 persons trying to book a campsite for me, or whatever how, I will gladly pay and get in before you guys. So better luck next time.

        Bottom line: you have absolutely no proof it’s a hack, and my computer years push me to think it ain’t one. Believe what you want but still, you will get the weak-thinking people in your boat and that’s sad.

        Bring PROOFS or stop writing anything you want just because you feel frustrated 🙂 Sorry my friend but you know I’m right!…: you wrote this article out of some frustration and deductions. False deductions.

        See ya in the keys.. I’ll come say hello if I see you in curry, Bahia, longkey or Sebastian. Who know, we might have a beer and laugh about it!

    • As I figured, you have no information to add at all. First, your definition of a hack is far too constrained. A hack can be as simple as feature exploitation of a complicated system, it does not even have to be a modern computer system. Early hackers were using sound imitation to hack the telephone system to make free calls and participate in their own chat rooms. Also, you credulously assume the profit maker to whom you are giving your cash is using a bunch of people to make reservations. This would not be profitable, and that’s not how he is doing it. He is using a program. Its a pretty basic script, and it is in violation of the terms of service and use for the state park reservation system. You are feeding him money to do this, and you are part of the problem.

      What sort of hubris does it take to tell me to stop writing and that “I know you are right”? I don’t and you are not. Go pack sand. It’s my blog, I will write what I want, and I am quite comfortable with my evidence.

      • I’m with you, Jack.
        Hack, in common usage doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has compromised the security of the systems in question. Hack is also used to refer to as a “shortcut” or a method of gaming a system without actually compromising the systems that run it, just using some characteristic of the rules of a system to access a path of least resistance.

        In the original article you stated ” The group or individual in question is likely within the law “, which would clearly not be the case if they had actually violated the security of the reservation site or server. It’s the difference between breaking laws and violating terms of service. Phone Phreaking ( got your Captain Crunch whistle ready?) is illegal, this is almost certainly less so, though the DMCA has probably made the line a little more blurry and there may be a legal difference if the reservation is resold.

        I can’t speak to how all the folks that are doing this have accomplished it, in particular the guy at Curry Hammock, but at least one of the other parties is using a script more or less as you said. I imagine you could outsource the brute force to multiple low-paid parties and accomplish roughly the same thing, but that seems like a lot more costly an approach.

        You keep writing what you want, if Alfred wishes to not read your site in the future, I don’t think that’s much of a loss.

  3. My job is done here. People must try to think for themselves and not let them being fed with lies or, at best, unproven conspiracy theory. Keep on calling a script a HACK and we’ll argue to death. So, live your life happily by not giving intro frustration so quickly without proof and you should be good. It’s your blog, you can write whatever you want, I just HAD to add my 2 cents. Now that it’s done I wouldn’t care much about anything else you’d have to say, not to be mean, but you’re telling me I’m bringing no new information while you’re doing the same thing: trying to prove the world it’s a script while you have absolutely no clue or idea (because that would not be profitable?.. wtf! what a solid argument here jack!). And let me tell you what, you might be right, but you have NO CLUE. You’re like msn.com, kicking in with false/twisted news and there are many stupid people to fall into that. But that’s what blog has always cause. Nothing new here. No need to reply, this is dead 🙂 good luck RV’ing (and I’ll still come visit ya when I see you in the keys)
    PS: I eat paste.

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