Has this ever happened to you?
You try to reserve a campsite in a provincial park using the government’s website, and it’s like trying to get tickets to see McCartney or Rhianna.
Next to impossible.
Like so many other families, guest host Mike Smyth tried to book a spot three months in advance, only to be met with a fully booked campground within moments of the reservations opening up.
“And right at 7 a.m. – that’s when the sites become available – I was in front of my computer, I got my credit card…and I’m ready to book that campsite. And right at 7 a.m. when I clicked on that park where we want to camp, guess what happened? It said every single site is full, in the whole park.”
Granted it was a long weekend he had chosen, but he’s not the only one who’s had troubles finding a free site.
Not only is demand growing, but to make matters worse, there are some loopholes that people are reported to be taking advantage of in order to get the site they want, when they want it.
Chilliwack City Councillor Sam Waddington owns an outdoor recreation company and he says that a lot of his clients can’t find a place to camp in the provincial sites.
“It’s been a frustrating season, we’ve been hearing a lot of people who are coming to us and asking, ‘hey can you give us some advice on where else to go because provincial campsites are kind of out of the question.”
He says they try to book, but can’t get anything because the sites are already taken or the website crashes halfway through the booking.
“It is quite user-friendly, the maps of each site are very good – if the demand I think were lower, the availability to go on and look at all these different sites, and see some photos, and choose your date windows, that stuff’s all good.”
It’s the demand, says Waddington, that requires you to have everything in place, ready to click that button as soon as the clock hits 7:00 am. And even then there’s no guarantee.
And that is especially true for long weekends.
Some people have figured out to book a long weekend or other desired dates before the 3 months advance dates come up.
Campsites can be booked for a maximum of two weeks, and some people book a bunch of consecutive nights that include the desired dates at the tail-end of the booking, then cancel the days that they don’t want.
“We’re watching people standing on the side of the road on busy long weekend Fridays selling tickets for campsites. they’re selling their campsite reservations.”
Waddington has seen a $15/night campsite being sold for $150/night.
He says if people are willing to try something different, there are Forestry Recreation Sites, run by Forestry, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
“There’s a lot of beautiful campsites available that are not in BC Parks, but to the camper on the ground in a lot of locations, you would never know the difference.”