Every summer my family has one “must do” on our activity list – camping. I love how it brings us all together and even though I’m still cooking so it’s not a full vacation, cooking over a campfire is completely different from cooking in a kitchen. Plus when you’re in the great outdoors, the kids help with dishes because it’s different than home (or maybe because there are threats of leaving them to the bears). It seems like half the province feels the same way by the speed at which campsites book up. National park campsites opened up for reservations way back in January (when most of the province was dealing with bone chilling cold temperatures and few were thinking of camping), while provincial campsites open for reservations in early April.
Most campers think that if you miss out on these two windows, you’re out of luck for camping for the year but they’re wrong! With a little patience and these tips, you’ll have a great campsite for your family to enjoy the great outdoors.
- Think off-peak. Summer long weekends are the most popular time for campsite bookings – these are the ones that fill up fast. So if you can camp at another time, then do that. June and September weekends are often open when midsummer is booked up. The weather is usually still great for camping (maybe even better if you camp in tents and don’t like humidity) and the parks are less crowded. It’s the best of both worlds – you’re camping but without the crowds and the heat. There will probably still be bugs though – so don’t forget the repellent. Another thing that works well if your schedule can accommodate it is to camp mid-week and head home come Friday. Most parks have different weekend and weekday rates so you can get great deals by camping Tuesday-Friday instead of Friday-Monday.
- Go local. The national and provincial parks fill up first but there are lots of local ones and regional ones to try out. Close to me there’s a regional park, Wakamow Valley, that is administered by the regional conservation authority. It’s close to the city so if (when) we forget things it’s easy to go back and get them. It’s also a little less expensive than the provincial and national parks which means I can stay an extra day or two. Most regional campgrounds have as many amenities as the provincial or national parks too – and some even have more amenities at a lesser price.
- Go Private. Many people think that private campgrounds are only for full season campers and those with trailers. That’s their loss because most of the private campgrounds have nightly and weekly rates as well as seasonal ones and many have tenting sites available at great prices. They often have some extras that are unavailable at other parks – such as mini golf or waterslides. These attractions usually have an extra fee attached but sometimes there’s a discount for campers staying on site. It’s a nice change of pace and the kids love it!
Whether it’s by going off peak or exploring different types of campgrounds, it’s not too late to have the best summer of camping ever!