Many holiday weekend campers expected in Sonoma County, statewide

A record number of Californians have booked a state park campsite for the Memorial Day weekend, including those on the Sonoma County coast.

"We're totally full" for the weekend, said Damien Jones, supervising ranger at Sonoma Coast State Park.

The peak in camping reservations comes in a year when fewer state residents are expected to take a plane, train or bus for the holiday. And car travel will remain at about the same level as last year.

An uncertain economy is keeping more travelers closer to home and having them stay with family and friends rather than sleep at motels, according to AAA Northern California.

"People are still being cautious in their travel plans," spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said Thursday. For some travelers, that means taking to the great outdoors.

"People are opting for camping," said Harris. "It's cheaper."

An estimated 4 million Californians will travel at least 50 miles this weekend, a decrease of 2.1 percent from 2012.

In contrast, state campground reservations for the weekend increased 9 percent this year from 2012 to a record 26,791 nights, according to the parks department.

"For a lot of the coastal beach sites, they can be sold out seven months in advance," the maximum time to reserve beforehand, said state Parks spokesman Roy Stearns. Many families and groups "want to go back to the same spots each year."

Memorial Day is the second busiest holiday for state parks after Fourth of July, Stearns said. California has about 15,000 park campsites and about 11,000 of them can be booked through the state reservation system operated by ReserveAmerica.

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