Yes, it's still January, and here in Winnipeg we are surrounded by a ton of snow and ice. My current pre-occupation is finding ways for the four of us to practice and improve our alpine skiing skills within range of our prairie city. While planning for spring break in March, I suddenly realized that I might have missed the opening day for reservations at Canada parks! That's right folks, reservations are currently open and filling up fast for long weekends all across the country. I snapped up one of the last spots in Riding Mountain National Park since we had a great time kicking off the camping season last year there. This year marks Canada's 150th anniversary and to celebrate, admission to all National Parks, National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic sites is free for all of 2017! Get your free Parks Canada Discovery Pass here.
Why you should plan for summer camping Right Now!
I know it seems soon, but believe me, it's not. When we first started to become interested in camping, it would drive me CRAZY that I could never make the reservations I wanted when it seemed like everyone already had all their choice sites booked. I'm a pretty spontaneous person, so it's been a learning curve realizing that if I really want to get the most out of our camp days, i'm going to just have to fall in line and book well ahead. If you're like me, you'll find it stressful to set your alarm to 7am on the day reservations open, and to battle crashing sites just before you need to run off to work. Not fun. Suck it up, and you'll enjoy the rewards though!
Getting the most out of your time off
Plan out your long weekends to match up with the campgrounds that are the furthest away. I have the luxury of working the school year, so summers are open for me, but Todd has to book his holidays a week or two at a time. Long weekends allow us to travel further, and stay longer. They're popular and always fill up fast, so check far ahead (like right NOW!) to see when reservations open and book your long weekends ASAP. Why waste vacation days when you don't have to?
Pay now, Play later
Camping sites are cheaper than hotel stays, but the fees sure add up! Booking and paying for your reservations well ahead of time lets you pay the bill now, allowing you to spend summer funds on fun things like a new bathing suit, or hammock. You know, the important stuff!
Not all sites are equal, so get the best!
Last year I started making note of the most private, pretty spots in the campgrounds we frequent. Not all sites are equal my friends! Things that are important to us are privacy, trees that are close enough together to string a hammock, electricity, and close proximity to washroom facilities without being directly on the path toward the washroom. It's not great having the whole campground traipse through your site day and night for a pee break. We also enjoy easy access to hiking trails and try to be as far away from main roads as possible. If you're not sure of what sites might be best, take a look at provided site maps on reservation sites and cross reference them with Google Maps to give you a good idea of what the area looks like. Sites toward the outside of the campground are usually good, unless they boarder a main road or highway (this isn't always shown on res. maps). Lake views can be wonderful, or not so great depending on how popular a public park or beach is. No matter where you end up, be sure to make notes for next time by taking a walk around the campground and writing down what sites you liked best, and why. A bit of pre-planning can make a good trip even better the next time around.
Tenters get the best spots!
You know what I've noticed? Tenters get the very best private spots. Second place goes to tent trailers and tiny units like our 13 ft fiberglass Boler. What you sacrifice in amenities, you gain in privacy and view. I think it's a fair trade. After all, when you don't have a fully equipped living room to retreat to, natures oasis should be your comfort. This tip is best considered before making the big decision to buy a trailer or RV. Without fail, the biggest drive through spots with full sewer, water and electric fill up in a flash! If you can fit in a small spot, you have a much better chance of grabbing up a great little site off the beaten path. When we book, we only require electricity which I like to have for lights, a tiny fridge and a small ceramic heater if the nights get cool. If no electricity is available, we'll run on battery for the lights and eat out of the coolers. It's not perfect, but at least by camping small, we have the option.