It's January and the snow is blowing. Hardly the time to think about summer camping. But put your thinking caps on because this is when you need to book your vacation, hit the RV show and decide where you want to take the family for those 2 precious weeks of vacation.
Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario Canada is where we have spent the last 4 years camping. Each year we book in March for a campsite in July or August. Each year we search the Ontario Parks Website and reserve online. We do this without any idea of what the site looks like. Just a hope and a prayer that we are not beside the outhouse, beside Highway 60 or the site that has the Comfort Station in the backyard (everyone cuts through your site to get to it.)
Here is how you avoid our mistakes:
1. Check out Algonquin-Campsite-Review - this site has pictures and descriptions of every single campsite at Lake of Two Rivers. The most popular of the Algonquin Provincial campsites. Excellent for first time or short term campers. If you just want the pictures check out Lake of Two Rivers.
2. Book any campsite, even if it's not the one you want. Crazy right? Wrong! The online reservation system is a work in progress (this is year 3 of the Ministry of Natural Resources tweaking their system) but at the actual campground the system for those who have no reservation is on first come first serve basis.
Here's what happens: In January to March people are booking on line for July & August. All the premium sites are taken. So you book any site you can for the total amount of time of your vacation. On the day of your arriving at the park get there by the time the park office / gate opens of the park you are staying at. ASK to put your name on the first come / first served list. Then find out which non-reservable sites are available.
At 12:00 pm the computer resets and shows which sites are available. This is crucial to your plan - you want a non-reservable site. The non-reservable site is usually bigger because it can accommodate the large motor homes that come in late at night and its location is usually a great one.
Between the time you get there and the time the computer resets you need to look at the non-reservable campsites that are available. This is where it can be a pain driving around (towing your trailer). It might be easier just to get the bikes out. If you have a good cell phone with a data plan you can look at the above website and check out the campsites sites without ever having to leave your vehicle.
Just get back to the office before 11:30 am. You might notice other people waiting around. This is a good time to be brave and compare notes. You may find others looking at the same site you had in mind. If you got there first you get it but bad luck if you didn't. You need to make sure you have two or three other back up campsites in mind.
IF you do not get the campsite you want and the first day is just too much of a hassle (it's hot, the kids want to go swimming, you want a nap after all that packing and driving) your original reserved campsite is still waiting for you. Do a quick and dirty setup for the night and come back to the park office in the morning. You can always move to another site when the traffic from the weekend is gone.