Places and Spaces

8 Tips to Make Booking an Ontario Parks Campsite Easier

Have you started booking your spring and summer camping trips yet?  If you are a back country or crown land camper, you don’t need to worry about registering far in advance as much as the rest of us. But if you plan on staying in an Ontario Parks organized campground you need to plan ahead and get yourself booked to avoid disappointment.  Here are eight tips to help you book your trips to Ontario Parks.

 1) Be aware that Ontario Parks and Canada Parks are run by two different governments and have two different registration systems.
The Canada Parks Pass does not apply to any of our Ontario Parks, and camping is not free in any of the parks – provincial or national. I could write a lot more about this, but the fine folks at Ontario Parks have already done a great blog about it. Check it out here:

2) Consider trying a place you’ve never been or is a little further than you would normally travel.

Ontario boasts more than 100 parks, but if I asked you for the name of the first park that pops into your mind, there is a good chance your answer would be one of the “top five”.  These campgrounds are often  the hardest to reserve – especially if you haven’t planned five months in advance. The top five provincial parks in Ontario are:

• Algonquin
• Killbear
• The Pinery
• Sandbanks
• Bon Echo

3) Do your research in advance and choose your park and campsite BEFORE the registration date opens.

One of the best features of the Ontario Parks reservation site is the availability of photos for each campsite. Pay attention to the site description and compare it to the photo to be sure the site is right for you.

4) Have a first, second and third choice of campsites.

Competition for great sites is fierce, especially for sites that are beside water. By having three choices planned in advance you have a good chance of securing a site that meets your needs when you log on to register.  Over the last two years we have rarely been able to book our first choice site. But because we were prepared, we were happy with our second or third choice sites.

5) Set-up your Ontario Parks Reservations account BEFORE the date you plan to register for a site.

In the time it takes for you to register your account (just a couple of minutes) you could lose your first, second and third choice site to someone who was more prepared. Being familiar with the site and registration system will allow you to make your booking faster.

6) Book exactly five months before your departure date.

Mark the reservation date on your calendar. Turn on notifications for a reminder. Don’t forget!
I recognize that some people can’t book months in advance. If you can’t book five months in advance, I still recommend you look at the Ontario Park’s registration site before you leave home. I’ve been a witness to far too many people who have driven hours to go camping, only to be turned away from a park office registration desk because the campground was full and they didn’t have a pre-registration.


7) Get up early and log in to the Ontario Parks Reservation System before the reservations open.
 The system “opens” at 7 am, but you can log on to the website and be on the reservation page earlier.

What if advanced booking is not possible? Sometimes it’s tricky to book your trip five months in advance. Sometimes you find yourself at the last minute with a free weekend to go camping.

8) Starting in May, you can find out which parks have available sites on the Ontario Parks Campsite Vacancies page before hitting the road or trying to book that last minute reservation.

Even with a lot of planning and preparation, it is never guaranteed that you will get the site you want on the days you want it.  In fact, we’ve had to make some snap decisions at 7 am in the morning, before we’ve even had our first coffee,  to ensure a trip we have planned actually happens. We didn’t get our first or second choice of a site, but at least we know we have a place to lay our heads when we get to the park.

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