March 15th is coming up fast. This is the day that the Discover Camping website opens up and you can start to reserve your favorite BC Provincial campsite for the 2016 camping season.
Every year I used to mark this day on my calendar, sit at my computer and watch the sites book up all over BC. I would check it every day to see what movement there was at my favorite campgrounds. In particular, a large group of my friends and family would book the end of June/beginning of July at Kettle River Provincial Park. That’s when I became a self-proclaimed pro so I wanted to give you some tips.
March 15th is the date that the lines open. 7am is the time. On March 15th at 7am you can easily book May long weekend or any other weekend in April, May, most of June. You need to be QUICK though. Be logged in already. Have all of your information ready – number of people, email address for the booking, address for the booking, etc. Make sure you look at the site map and photos if they are available, a couple days before so that you have a list of your desired 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice. May long weekend in particular will be snagged up within minutes for the most popular campgrounds. IE: In the Okanagan – Fintry, Bear Creek, Haynes Point.
Have you ever gone onto the Discover Camping website to book the weekend you want in July or August only to realize it’s booked up already? You think – “how is this possible? Today is 3 months before the date I want to arrive!” It is puzzling for sure. Until you learn “the tricks”.
Let’s use the example of July long weekend . On March 15th most people think you can book up until June 15th. That’s not the case. You can actually book until June 29th. This year July 1st is on a Friday which creates an actual “July long weekend” This is going to be your trick to getting a campsite for that weekend (or any desired week/weekend this summer). Wait until March 19th to snag your spot. If you log in on March 19th, you will be able to book 14 nights. June 19th-July 3rd. That brings you to Sunday after the long weekend. Even if you only plan on staying June 30th-July 3rd, you MUST book the full 2 weeks or you can kiss any opportunity of having a campsite on that weekend, goodbye. Don’t think it’s as easy as booking on March 19th though. It is possible that your favorite site will be snagged already by someone wanting the weekend before. Highly unlikely but this is why you need to be sure you have a backup plan. At 7am on March 15th you will be able to book the sites for dates up until June 29th BUT for you to reach June 29th, you are booking June 15-29. 14 nights is the maximum amount of days you can book for. There are a few exceptions – Haynes Point (Swiws) in Osoyoos is one of the Okanagan’s campgrounds that only allow you to book 7 nights.
Once you have booked your full two weeks (which can be quite expensive on your credit card), you can go back to the discover camping website and cancel the days you don’t want on the date 2 and a half months before you are expected to arrive. IE: June 15th arrival could be cancelled or changed some where around March 31st or April 1st.
A couple other tips I learned in helping people book popular Okanagan Provincial Parks for busy summertime dates:
– Watch the bookings. 1-3 week before you can book your max 2 week stay, watch the bookings. See when the people before you booked your favorite site. IE: You want campsite #3 for July 29-Aug 5th . A couple weeks before you can book it, you see it’s reserved from July 15-29. That means you need to do 2 things. Check back 2.5 months before July 16th and every single day afterwards to see if they drop the last half of their reservation. If they do, you snag it up – the week before you want to go, for 2 weeks. Then you drop the week you don’t want 2.5 months before you arrive. If they don’t drop it, maybe they are staying the full 2 weeks. So you need to be on high alert on April 29th to book the week you want.
– Pay attention to arrival and departure days. I find that people like to arrive on a Friday and leave on a Sunday. Or, if they are staying a week, they arrive on a Friday and leave 9 nights later on the following Sunday. This is KEY. Because when people “drop” the days they don’t want, you may have to scoop up a Sunday-Sunday of 2 weeks in order to get the weekend you want in between. IE: A site is available Sunday, August 21-Sunday Sept 4th and you want to camp the labor day long weekend. My advice! Book the 2 weeks starting August 21st. Then 2.5 months before August 21st, go in and cancel the Aug 21-Sept 1 and at the same time, add the Sept 5th departure date for the long weekend. Clear as mud? lol
– The most important thing I can tell you is that you need to be “that” serious about booking and “that” set on a specific campground and dates to go through the hassle of booking on discover camping. So do your homework. KNOW the dates you want. KNOW the campsite(s) you want at the park you want. Then log in every day for weeks before you can book so that you can see how long each campsite is booked until (You can look under the calendar feature to see when the site is booked until).
A couple things to note: You will pay $6 for each night (to a max of $18) to book your site online. That’s in addition to the nightly fee. Then if you come back to change/cancel, you will pay another $6 a night (to a max of $18) Add an additional $5 if you cancel via the call centre.
I know what you are thinking. The above sounds absolutely ridiculous. In my opinion, it is. It’s even more complicated when you are camping with a group and they are all arriving and leaving on different days and you want to camp together in one area of the campground.
Last year we hung our hats on provincial sites. We feel as though they nickel and dime us every step of the way. Reservation fees, cancellation/change fees, nightly costs $25-$35, plus $12 a night for any extra vehicle (strictly enforced) plus sani-dump, plus , plus… plus…. plus. Last year we stayed for 11 nights at Kettle River Provincial Park and we figured out that we paid approx. $46 a night in provincial park fees. Plus ice and firewood that we purchased on site. That’s a huge chunk of change.
So enter https://secure.camis.com/Discovercamping/ at your own risk on March 15th!
If you have any other neat tips/tricks to booking, please let us know by commenting! If you need clarification, feel free to send me a message!