Thursday, July 22, 2010

Provincial camping: a CHEAP vacation?

Okay, so here I am, still visiting at my sister's place in Southwestern Ontario.

She says, 'Let's go camping for a few days along Lake Huron'. 'Great', I say. I view this as chance to enjoy some of Ontario's beautiful natural conserves without having to fork over pots of money for overnight accommodation. We will use tents! We will bring our own food and cook it over an open fire!

However, to camp in the Provincial Campgrounds in Ontario one must reserve a campsite via telephone, on-line, for $8, or go in person to the desired campground ahead of time and pay $9. The cost of the cheapest site weighs in at $28.00 per night. This is basic camping, folks: a place to put your tent up, a firepit, drinking water from a nearby tap and an outdoor biffy (called a 'vault') within walking distance of your set-up. If you want a campfire, you must buy pre-approved wood, off-site, at $7-8 a bag, plus tax. No sinks or showers for this price and not all campgrounds offer the low rate.

If you cancel or change your reservation, 10 -15 percent is held back, while the reservation fee is non-refundable.

Then there is the HST.

Hmmmmm, and what if you are one of the many 'working poor' who want to take your family for a vacation, where the 'basic' rate for a campsite might only pay a small portion of the vehicle operation/running costs to get you there?

By now I am beginning to get the picture that camping is not the cheap vacation I was anticipating. I wonder how I would make the reservation if I did not have a telephone, were not on-line or could not afford to drive to the campground ahead of time to request a site?

Sigh, if only I were a homeless person in BC, I would be allowed to camp in the local parks overnight~for free.


Jo said...

I'm an avid camper and lived in a converted van for four months, once. I could only afford 'real' campgrounds every third or fourth night, mostly for the shower. I had a couple of books that advertised free or cheap camping (had to be under $12 to qualify, and sadly, it was almost all American -- ) but more often than not, I did 'urban camping' which is parking in a 24 hour Walmart parking lot and putting window coverings on the van and sleeping on the cot inside. I could use my butane stove to heat water in the morning and make an instant coffee, or my DC mug that heated up with the sickarette lighter. In local circles, it's called "vandwelling".

Daphne Moldowin said...

I know a number of working poor people who live - year round - in their cars or campers, because rental units are too expensive, not by choice.

Where I live, camping overnight in store parking lots leads to much trouble. I don't know how that would go over in the rest of Canada, though. It may be alright in some of the other provinces, but not BC.

Jo said...

I never had any trouble. My van had window coverings, so you couldn't see in and wouldn't know anyone was even in there. I would also stay at truck stops and anything 24 hour... gas stations, whatever. Once I got VERY sick and had to take painkillers that knocked me out for about 16 hours in a parking lot at a casino on a native reserve in Oklahoma. I thought it was 24 hour, but got awoken by a flashlight in my face (was too sick to even put the window dressings up). The security guard saw me stir and sit up, must have assumed I was drunk and at least I wasn't driving, and left me alone. I didn't even speak to him.

Throughout my BC travels, I stayed mostly in hotel parking lots. I got wifi there, too, and my out-of-province plates didn't stick out too much. I know a lot of hotels do check plates at night, but I was lucky and never got 'caught'.

Daphne Moldowin said...

Glad to hear you have had such safe experiences, Jo. I hope it is the same for others.