Campgrounds at North Carolina state parks have seen about 20% more use this year. State Park and Recreation officials credit a new reservation system for some of that increase, WFAE-Radio, Charlotte, reported.

Up until last year, the only way you could lay claim to a campsite or picnic shelter in North Carolina was to go to the state park, find an empty site and set up camp.

“You didn’t have reservations,” says Charlie Peek with the state park system. “You just picked out a campsite and the ranger would come around and write you a receipt.”

That works fine unless you’ve traveled for hours only to find an entire campground full. But since July of last year campers have been able to make reservations online or by phone up to 48 hours in advance. Peek says that has changed a significant part of the camping experience.

“Now you can plan a trip and rest assured even on Friday afternoon when you’ve been late in getting away because of the traffic you’ll have a place to stay,” says Peek.

If the campground you want is full, the website lets you easily search for other parks nearby. Peek says that’s helped spread visitors between parks and accommodate more people on busy holidays.

Campers can still show up at sites without a reservation and get a campsite. About half of visitors still do it that way.