computer sitting on the end of a sleeping bag inside a green tent with the tent door open showing a number of other tents set up beside a lake

8 Tips for Successfully Using the New Ontario Parks Online Reservation System

At the end of 2019, Ontario Parks announced the release of their new online reservation system. Since that time, the new system has seen a significant backlash in the outdoor travel community. As the window for booking has now entered the heavy camping season, travellers are struggling to work through glitches and errors. While there is no perfect fix on the part of us users, today I’d like to share some tips and tricks to help increase your success rate when booking using the new Ontario Parks online reservation system. Let’s get started…

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This isn’t the first time that I’ve brought up the subject of the new reservation system. In fact, shortly after it was released, I published a review including my thoughts, observations and criticisms. At the time, I discussed the fact that the system was running slow and predicted that we would only see more problems as traffic increased.

I wish I could say that I was wrong…

Log onto any of a number of Facebook groups dedicated to camping in the province of Ontario, or more specifically the Ontario Parks, and you will see the constant complaints. In fact, the complaints are so common that they seem to be overtaking all else in these communities!

Let’s start by clarifying something: I’m going to share some tips to make the most of the system that is available to us, but they certainly aren’t going to correct the problem. There are clearly some issues with the system itself that need to be addressed.

Complaining constantly online in these communities is not going to address the problem. Nothing good will come from it… it simply breeds negativity. As more people jump on the thread, adding their own complaints and frustrations, the group begins to spiral into a dark place. For this reason, many group admins have made the decision to shut down these conversations.

Rather than wasting our time and energy complaining to other campers, frustrated individuals that are fighting with the same complications and have no power to fix the situation, why not reach out to those that can make a difference?

Contact Ontario Parks:

  • By Phone: 1-800-668-2746
  • By Email: Using their Online Email Contact Form
  • By Mail: Ontario Parks, 300 Water Street, Peterborough, ON K9J 3C7

What can we do right now? While we can’t fix the system, we can learn how to best use the tools at our disposal. By understanding how the system works, what glitches are most common and the best ways to prevent or overcome these glitches, we can improve our experience and continue to enjoy the camping season.

Once again, I reiterate… I am in no way saying that I think the system is without errors. In fact, I have been clear with my concerns here on the blog. I’m not, however, going to let that rob me of my camping vacations at my favourite Ontario Parks.

Book Your Next Campsite with These 8 Tips for Successfully Using the New Ontario Parks Online Reservation System

Before Booking, Clear Your Browser Cache

What is the Browser Cache?

If you have ever had to contact tech support due to errors with a website, you’ve likely heard the phrase ‘clear your browser cache’. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that it’s coming up here as well. After all, the new reservation system is website based. However, this advice leaves many travellers confused, wondering what is a browser cache and how do you go about clearing it?

The browser cache is a tool that was put in place in order to speed up your internet browsing experience. The first time that you visit any website, your internet browser had to download a lot of information. For example, looking at this blog post, it would download the logo at the top, the text you’re reading, the images I include, the menu bar, etc. If you’re visiting the same page multiple times, or multiple pages on a single site, the cache can speed up the process by keeping the data that has been downloaded. Let’s look at the logo at the top – If you were to close this window and reopen it, your browser will use the logo it has already downloaded rather than re-downloading it.

When you clear your cache, you are telling your browser to delete all of this previously downloaded content. Not only does this ensure that you are seeing the most up to date version of the site, it will also help to reduce or eliminate many browser related errors.

How Do I Clear It?

The process to empty your browser cache will differ slightly depending on which browser you are using. If you are using Google Chrome, the most commonly used browser globally, begin by accessing your ‘Settings’. Scroll down to the section titled ‘Privacy and Security’ under which you will see the option ‘Clear Browsing Data’.

When you click on that, it will open up a window where you can select which files you would like to clear. Make sure that ‘Cached Images and Files’ is checked off before clicking ‘Clear Data’. Be patient while it carries out the process – Don’t close your browser until it is completed.

screen shot of the Google Chrome browser settings
screen shot of the Google Chrome settings for clearing browser data

Refresh Your Computer

We often take our computers for granted. What do I mean by that? The level of technology today has led us to expect our computers to stand up to a beating and continue operating seamlessly. When was the last time you shut down your browsers let alone restarted your entire computer (or phone)?

If you know that you are planning on using the reservation system, take some time to show your computer a little TLC. Run your antivirus and malware scans to ensure that you aren’t dealing with any unnecessary ‘friends’ on your computer. You can also use a program like CCleaner to speed up your computer by cleaning out unnecessary junk. The better your computer is running, the more likely the reservation system will run without errors.

Make Sure You Have a Reliable Internet Connection

If your internet speed is slow, it can prevent the reservation system from operating optimally, either leaving you a step behind other users (who, in turn, get the site you wanted before you have the chance) or causing it to error out.

For the best experience, make sure that you are using a private internet connection as shared connections (at your local café, library, etc.) are often slower and unreliable. You can check your internet speed using the website If you don’t have a reliable internet connection at home, consider asking a friend or family member about using theirs in order to boost your chances of success.

Watch the Clock (The Right Clock)

The new Ontario Parks reservation system is designed to work ONLY if you wait for the window to open at 7 AM. That being said, it is important to remember that this is 7 AM according to the system time, not necessarily 7 AM on your clocks at home if they aren’t in sync. You can check the time (even sync your own personal clocks) by clicking where it says ‘Time’ or ‘System Time’ (depending on which device you are accessing the site on) in the top righthand corner of the reservation window.

screen shot of the ontario parks reservation system showing system time

Wait For 7:00 AM

You may be tempted to start your booking early, caught up in the need to rush and get the site that you want. However, there is no secret way to get in before the 7 AM window. Don’t lose out on your chances simply due to a lack of patience! Feel free to get logged into the system and ready to roll, but you need to hold off to actually click that ‘Reserve’ button.

Note: The system DOES time out if it’s inactive for too long. If you log into your account in advance and leave it sitting on your site, walking away to make coffee, let the dogs out, etc. before the window opens, you are going to be kicked out and have to start all over again. Make sure you are moving around/clicking occasionally within the system to stay active and ready to reserve leading up to that window of opportunity.

If Necessary, Update Your JavaScript Software

The new Ontario Parks online reservation system utilizes JavaScript in order to provide its online time clock. If your JavaScript is out of date, it may not be able to operate properly meaning that the time you are seeing could be out of sync from the system’s actual time. It’s not likely going to be off by far, but even the slightest difference could impact your ability to book the site that you have been eyeing up. For example, if it’s running a little ahead of the system, it could prevent you from booking as you are technically booking before the 7 AM window. If, however, it’s running a little late, it could mean that you aren’t getting the same ‘edge’ that other users are getting to get right in there when the window opens.

If you want to have the best chance at using the system glitch-free, you need to ensure that all systems necessary are updated and functioning optimally.

family gathered around a campfire pit beside a lake, roasting marshmallows

Make A List in Advance

The hard reality is that we are all competing on this system to book our favourite sites. The reason why you are in love with a specific site may very well be the same reasons why someone else is in love with that same site. You can take every step to optimize your experience and boost your chances leading up to the window and still lose out – that’s the nature of the booking game.

Honestly, it was the nature of the booking game when it was all done via phone as well. Someone could have called in before you did and secured the site just seconds before you. This is nothing new.

The difference is that there are more people booking now than ever before. It’s not just that your ‘perfect site’ may book up quickly but waiting to find another site may lead to all sites that work for your needs booking up for a specific weekend in that park. You need to be prepared in the event your ‘perfect site’ is no longer available.

In the days leading up to making your reservation, take some time to research the different sites that are available. Read the site details, look at the pictures and take note of which sites are going to meet your needs. Looking further in the future, this can also be done by walking around the park when you are there, making a list of sites that you see in person and could picture yourself camping on.

My husband and I use a star-based system, ranking sites as 1, 2 or 3 stars. If a site is ranked 1 star, it’s going to meet our basic needs but doesn’t really stand out all that well. However, if a site is ranked 3 stars, it not only meets our needs, it goes above and beyond. On booking day, we are going to try to get our 3-star sites first and then work our way down, settling for a 1 star only if there are no other options available and we are set on being at THAT park on THAT weekend.

When you log in to book the morning the reservation window will open for your big trip, have your list close by. That way, if you notice that your top sites are gone, you know which sites to book immediately without having to stop and think giving others time to get in and book before you make up your mind. A nice site at your ideal park is a better option than no site that meets your needs.

Try A Less Popular Park

I’m sure that this isn’t going to go over well with some people, but an open mind may lead to a great adventure. If you notice that you are having a really hard time booking a site at a specific park, it may be time to consider branching out and trying a nearby park that you haven’t tried before.

Often, I see people posting in the camping Facebook groups, complaining that ALL sites are booked, and they have no options. However, the statement ‘no sites’ doesn’t actually mean ‘no sites’. Instead, it means that the sites they want at their particular site are booked and they refuse to entertain any other options. Meanwhile, there are some STUNNING but less popular parks sitting there with a lot of availability.

The reality is that you will never know if you love a park until you try it out. I’m not saying NEVER book your favourite parks. Try branching out occasionally. This summer I am booking 10+ different camping trips, a mix of weeks and weekends. Some of these will be to our tried, tested and true favourite parks, but we are also checking out a few parks that are new to us. Who’s to say that we won’t fall IN LOVE with one of these parks and it will be our new favourite by the end of the season? Only time will tell…

computer sitting on the end of a sleeping bag inside a green tent with the tent door open showing a number of other tents set up beside a lake with the title 8 tips for successfully using the ontario parks reservation system


At the end of the day, it’s important to not lose sight of the reason why we are making these reservations – You’re planning a great getaway, whether it’s a solo trip or with loved ones. Don’t allow a glitchy reservation system to ruin your excitement. There is much more to consider here than just the new Ontario Parks reservation system… That’s only the first step! It may not be ideal, but don’t let it ruin your vacation.

Take these steps to improve your chances and focus on the bottom line… The opportunity to get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Do you have a favourite park? If so, I would love to hear which parks get you excited in the comments below!

42 thoughts on “8 Tips for Successfully Using the New Ontario Parks Online Reservation System”

  1. Wow, that is a seriously detailed step by step for the Ontario Parks booking system – not something I’m ever likely to use, to be honest, but I bet it’s going to be super helpful to lots of other people. Really detailed and useful, Britt!

    1. Thanks! It’s a flawed system, but we can still take whatever precautions available to allow us to use it to the best of its ability at this stage. The fun of working with a new system! lol

    1. If you’re going to stay in Ontario, the Ontario Parks system really is beautiful. They also have cabins and Yurts that you can book, so you don’t have to bring all the gear necessary for camping if that’s a concern.

  2. A part of me always wanted to go camping, but I was always a bit unsure of the proper etiquette for which steps to take. Thank you for breaking down in detail with helpful tips ??

  3. It is amazing that technology has gotten to the point that we can now reserve a campsite (once thought to be roughing it) online. Next, you’re going to tell me that each campsite comes with a LAN line. 🙂 This was a very detailed post on the reservations system in general. Hopefully, it works itself out in the near future.

    1. The number of people camping in large trailers and RV is on the rise. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a lot of them ‘all hooked up’. I know that there’s been a lot of talk about Wi-Fi availability in the parks. Personally, I still stick to my love for tent camping with my husband and the pups 🙂 We love the ‘walk-in’ style sites and can usually get them easily enough.

  4. Great guide for using the Ontario parks reservation system. I didn’t realise it was so competitive to get the site you want.

    1. Some sites aren’t, but with the big rise in trailer and RV campers, it’s harder than ever to get the prime electrical sites with room for a fair-sized trailer!

  5. This is so interesting, as it’s the first time I’ve seen campsites using technology. Also, what great tips like, updating your JavaScript to ensure that you’re synced correctly.

    1. I love that the Ontario Parks system allows for online booking because it makes things SO much easier. They just need to fix the glitches in their new system to avoid unnecessary stress for those that are trying to use it lol

  6. Thank you for the detailed information on how to use the reservation system despite the issues the system currently has. These tips are very helpful. Hopefully, the glitches will be worked out soon. I like your positive attitude and how you focus on solutions rather than complaining about the problems.

    1. I LOVE camping and I’m not going to let a glitchy system take that away from me. The way I see it, I can choose to wallow in the complaints and let it bring down my excitement for the vacations that bring me joy, or I can make do with what I’ve got and focus on the relaxing time I’ll enjoy at my favourite campgrounds later this year 🙂

  7. I’m not a camper, but I have been on day trips to some of the many beautiful parks in Ontario and it’s always worth it. It’s really too bad that the system is still so buggy. You’re absolutely right — complaining on Facebook doesn’t do anything. You have to call and email the ministry directly to get any action at all

    1. It is a shame. I can see what they were trying to do with the new system, and I do love that they are trying to move towards something more mobile-friendly as the stats show that’s where most people are accessing the internet now BUT the glitches that have come with the new system make it feel like a total set backwards! Here’s hoping that they are able to make the necessary changes to solve some of the glitches and errors in the near future.

  8. This is fantastic, thanks for writing this up! I like that parks make it easy to make reservations online now instead of calling in.

    1. I do love that online booking is available. Still holding out for theme to fix the reservation system, but I’m sure that we’ll see updates as they work through it all (one would hope, right?)

  9. I totally agree with you that we often expect computers and phones to constantly work without even a rest and restart. When was the last time you went without sleep for a week straight and never shut down? I always ask people that and then tell them electronics work the exact same way. Let them rest too. These are great tips. I had no clue about the 7am window either. That would be my source of frustration right there if I hadn’t read this.

    1. Yes! I will admit that I am totally guilt of forgetting to restart or rest my devices for a length of time. However, I acknowledge this and if I notice they are bogging down, I usually take that as a sign that I’ve dropped the ball and need to get on top of it lol

    1. One thing I LOVE about living in Ontario is that there are SO many beautiful parks available! We are big outdoors lovers, and this allows us get out and enjoy it without having to go too far.

  10. One of the best things they can do is change the shade of green they use to identify available sites. Majority of males have some color blindness, and the most common is red/green colors. The red and green on the site are so close that it is almost impossible to tell them apart and makes it a nightmare to reserve.

  11. The system is terribly flawed. It has loopholes and backdoors that are being exploited by people with good knowledge, so that they secure reservations before they are accessible to most campers. I wish more people complain to OntarioParks and they get to do something about it. They know all the issues but don’t do anything because change is hard and they don’t want to risk changes.
    I don’t mind competing for the same spots with other 5,000 people at 7am, but I do mind not having a chance to compete because all sites have been booked for weeks, outside of the 5 month reservation window.

    1. There definitely seem to be some flaws. I personally believe that the cancellation fee needs to be addressed, as it’s not high enough to discourage people from booking 23 days and then cancelling a month later to get the dates that they want.

      1. So true! I don’t want to be a jerk and book nights I know I won’t use, but I also want an even playing field when it comes to booking opportunities. Thanks for the tips. Helpful. Booking for this summer has become a part-time job :-0

        1. Keep at it! We managed to score my favourite waterfront site at Six Mile for a week in July, we just had to be flexible with dates. Luckily, my husband hadn’t put in vacation time yet, so that flexibility was still a possibility.

    2. I agree with you. I think they need to at least add the ‘I’m not a robot’ feature. I think in addition to gaining early access by exploiting the interface, there are bots purchasing sites. Easy enough for anyone with some coding knowledge. I have been trying to book a campsite for 3 weeks at 7 am, using 5 different devices, some wifi, some data, different sites, different parks. It really doesn’t matter. If you are lucky you will get a campsite. Otherwise while I appreciate the great advice here, it won’t make any difference when bots are used.

      1. I am definitely surprised that they haven’t put a bot control feature in place. I know that a lot of the demand this year is also due to the travel restrictions that are in place. That’s why there has also been a HUGE increase in trailers being purchased over the last year. People can’t leave the area but still want a getaway, so they are looking to camping instead. The good news about that is that I’m sure we will see a drop in traffic when things start to open back up again.

    3. I agree! I don’t mind competing in a fair fight but it’s clear that some people know loopholes because I’ve tried all these tips and it still doesn’t work. We have a high risk kid so we need campsites near hospitals or we don’t get to camp at all. This of course makes my choices limited. I wish they figured it out better.

      1. I’m honestly surprised that we haven’t seen more changes with all of the outrage as of late. That being said, keep at it! We’ve scored 3 waterfront sites so far for 2022, so it can be done! No tricks or anything, just logging on at 7 AM (both my husband and I) trying to get a site with a list of ones that we want most lol

  12. What parks have you tired and recommend? Would be interested in your feedback. Traveling with a senior, teens, preschooler and a puppy. I was a faithful Killbear camper for 30 plus years but have only been able to get in for Thanksgiving camping for the last 10 years. Did some cottage time but it is not the same. Any suggestions? A wheelchair senior may join on a second site too.

    1. Killbear is definitely a high popularity park. That means that it’s even harder to book than ever. This year, quite honestly, I recommend booking where you can find a site. Park booking is up MASSIVELY since the lockdowns came into place, making it difficult to get a site. The demand is most likely going to go down again when the travel restrictions are lifted – it’s just making it difficult for us in the meantime. If you’re able to go further north, those campgrounds often have more availability due to the fact that it requires more travel time for the majority of campers.

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