Prospective campers excited for Canada’s provincial and national parks to open up for spring and summer bookings are going to be faced with a slightly different process this year as Parks Canada revamps its booking system and hopefully solves problems that have plagued the agency in the past.
The reservation system will be down completely from Feb. 27 to March 2 as Parks Canada makes the transition, according to the agency, which will include a new look but will “offer similar features and functions.”
Users will have to make a new account on the new system after it launches in order to book sites when reservations open up starting on March 13.
The announcement came on Jan. 30, along with the official list of reservation launch days for the 2023 camping season in provincial and national parks across Canada.
Reservation launch dates are often posted earlier, making this a later launch than usual.
In response to comments on their social media posts asking why the dates were being revealed so late in the season, Parks Canada explained that the announcement of the launch dates were delayed this year because of the reservation system being updated.
“Like a lot of technology, the platform currently housing our reservation service is becoming out of date. Our service provider is moving the Parks Canada Reservation Service to a more modernized platform to help ensure the continued stability of the service,” Parks Canada told CTVNews.ca in an emailed statement.
“The 2023 Parks Canada Reservation Service update is a transition to the newest version of the provider’s software, which will look somewhat different from the previous one, but will offer similar features and functions for making Parks Canada reservations.”
The updated booking system will apparently include more measures to cut down on bulk reservations and provide an equitable opportunity to get a spot at popular camping spots.
Starting on March 13, users will be able to begin reserving camping spots, roofed accommodations and activities at parks across the country. However, there will be a staggered launch, with some parks opening up their reservations across the following two weeks.
A full list of the parks and the days they open up to bookings is available on the Parks Canada website.
A SMOOTHER BOOKING PROCESS?
The staggered launch and the new booking system aim to help smooth out a booking process that has had more than its fair share of issues in the past.
In previous years, campers have often logged on as soon as reservations opened only to watch campsites be snapped up as heavy traffic slowed the website to a crawl.
When reservations opened for Banff National Park in Alberta in January 2020, so many bookings had overwhelmed the system that several campers reported the system appeared to be charging their credit cards multiple times for one booking.
The new system should not suffer from these issues, according to Parks Canada.
“Parks Canada has been working with its service provider to ensure that our reservation service is configured to accommodate the maximum volume of users,” the agency said.
“Throughout the launch period, a virtual waiting room will be in place to ensure equitable access to the reservation service for everyone. The addition of a virtual waiting room will help maintain optimal performance of the reservation service and mitigate the risks of access by automated programs and bots.”
Another feature to help stop bulk reservations claiming too many spots at once is that users will only be able to place up to five campsites in their shopping cart at a time before they have to checkout.
“Each camper can only be responsible for a single campsite on any calendar date,” Parks Canada added, stressing that it “understands the camping experience is very important for our visitors.
“We are working hard to ensure this transition is made as smoothly as possible.”
In a response to a comment on their Facebook post about the reservation dates, Parks Canada stated that while a camper can only be responsible for one site at a time, they can make multiple bookings at the same time for the same night as long as they name different occupants for each site, meaning a person will still be able to book several sites on behalf of friends if planning a trip with a group.
Parks Canada is encouraging users to log onto the old site during February in order see and note down sites they’ve booked in the past before that information disappears in the move to the new system.
Starting on March 3, campers will need to create a new account in the system in order to make future reservations.
Those with existing accounts on the current system will only be able to access their past reservations through the old webpage until Feb. 26.
The vast majority of reservations will open up between March 13 and March 31.
Reservations for the Lake O’Hara day-use shuttle in Yoho National Park do not open until April 12, and reservations for the shuttle to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in Banff National Park will open the next day.
The popular shuttles will also be seeing an update with the new system.
Parks Canada clarified in a comment on their Facebook post about the reservation dates that “due to the move to a new software system, reservations for the Lake O’Hara day-use shuttle will be using a queuing system, just like camping reservations, to help manage demand and ensure reliability.”
The queueing system will direct users to a waiting room thirty minutes before reservations open, and then exactly at 8 a.m. on April 12 those users will be randomly assigned a place in the queue, with the goal of giving everyone a fair shot at the reservation they want.