Monthly Archives: March 2015

Overnight Parking Demystified

Campgrounds are not a Place to Park
One of the great advantages of RV life is being able to park overnight near where you are spending your day, whether you are in town visiting family or friends, or at a festival or event. Most people assume RVers must always stay in campgrounds. However, a campground is not usually a good choice when you just need a place to park for the night. Campgrounds are often located in out of the way places; they do not usually have staff on hand to register a camper arriving late or assist with an early morning departure; other campers generally do not appreciate when rigs pull in late at night or leave early in the morning; navigating narrow, unfamiliar campground roads in the dark with an RV is a risky venture.

We made the mistake of parking our RV at a private campground when we weren’t camping once before. James’ family had rented a cottage outside Tobermory but there was no room for us to park our rig on site. We wanted to spend time with the family and stay in our RV so we booked into the closest campground we could find. It was a lovely campground with great amenities but we were not there to enjoy them. We left early each morning and were away until late each night visiting and touring with family. The location wasn’t convenient either and to rub it in, after we got there we discovered a lovely, treed town parking lot that allowed free overnight parking in a much better location.

Campgrounds are for Camping
The money we spent on that campground could have been better spent enjoying restaurants and attractions in the area. Instead we paid for access to facilities that we did not require or use. Because the campground was so far away, we couldn’t easily pop back during the day so we had to bring our dog with us everywhere we went. It would have been handy to be able to leave her inside for a morning or afternoon nap. We learned a valuable lesson from that experience: campgrounds are for camping; if you just need a place to park for the night because you are engaging in other activities, a campground is not the right choice.

Etiquette Guidelines for Overnight Parking
Overnight parking in parking lots is a widely accepted practice in the full-time RV community. There are some etiquette guidelines that the majority of RVers follow: ask permission, park out of the way, do not set up camp (no awnings, chairs, bbq grills), keep slides in, no jacks on asphalt, one night limit, buy gas, food or supplies, and leave the area cleaner than you found it. Many large retailers not only allow but welcome overnight RV parking since RVers will frequent their stores and restaurants. In particular, Walmarts are known for promoting overnight RV parking. There are some stores or even communities that do not allow overnight parking; usually these are located in popular tourist areas. In cases where entire communities do not allow overnight RV parking, word gets around the RV community fast and RVers avoid the area completely at an unfortunate loss to the local businesses.

Government Ban?
A Canadian economist completed a fascinating study in 2005 of the effect on RV tourism of an ill-conceived provincial overnight parking ban in Nova Scotia. Prompted by campground owners who wanted to try to “force” RVers into their campgrounds, the ban in the Tourist Accommodations Act of 1994 had the opposite effect. Though never enforced, the mere existence of a province-wide ban coincided with a notable decline in tourist activity as RVers chose not to visit the province. Nova Scotia tourism quietly lifted the ban in a 2010 revision of the act and they now confirm that overnight RV parking is not considered camping and is not illegal in the province. As a side note, according to the Federal Department of Tourism, a province does not have the jurisdiction to ban RV parking in commercial parking lots. Whether to allow overnight parking is a private matter between a business and their customers and falls outside the scope of governmental control.

Our RV History

Early RV Experiences
James and I both had previous experience camping as kids: James traveled to the east coast in a 1980s vans and Margot around Ontario and to Florida in a 1981 Taylor Coach travel trailer.

Bai Campervan Aug 1973-2 edit (Medium)As adults, we got our first camping trailer brand new from Taylor Coach in spring 2010: a 15′ 1700lb beauty that had everything and could be towed by our car. Since we were both working, we kept her in storage pulling out for 13 trips over the season. We camped at Valens Conservation area, provincial parks including Six Mile Lake, the Pinery, Bon Echo and MacGregor Point; Mosport racetrack (3 times!), plus private parks in Bruce County, outside Tobermory, near Quebec City, Wasaga Beach and event parking in Toronto.

MosportJuly1_2010Grace (Medium)
Track Day for James on our 1993 Honda CBR600F2 at Mosport with our little 2010 Taylor Coach travel trailer Grace on Canada Day, July 1st, 2010.

New RV & Winter Camping
The next year we upgraded to a slightly larger Taylor Coach: 2012 17′ 2300lb dual axle. We loved the additional space but could no longer tow it ourselves. We enjoyed the winter camping program at MacGregor Point from November 2011 to April 2012 where we had our trailer parked and enjoyed multiple weekend getaways in the unseasonably mild weather.

Winter Camp MacGregor LandscapeNov 2011 (Large)
Our winter campsite at MacGregor Point Provincial Park in Ontario in November 2011. It was a mild winter which suited us just fine.

On April 15 our friends Stuart and Ashley towed us with their pick up truck to a seasonal site at New Lowell Conservation Area. Our site was unusually spacious, backing onto a deciduous forest but fronted by a stand of mature white pines. Having a smaller trailer makes it easy for us to maneuver in and out between the trees.

New Lowell April 2012 (Medium)
Just arrived at New Lowell Conservation Area Campground in April 15, 2012.

Seasonal Camping in the Georgian Triangle
We spent the next 3 summers parked at our lovely, forested campsite enjoying the many benefits of the beautiful Georgian Triangle area! We were drawn to this area in 2007 when we considered moving up to Wasaga Beach for a change of pace; instead, we decided to stay put in Markham when James got a promotion at work. So it was a fulfillment of our earlier dream to station our RV in New Lowell enjoying many days at Wasaga’s dog beach, cycling the trails in Collingwood, Barrie’s vibrant waterfront and downtown area, beautiful motorcycling roads leading to wineries and waterfalls, and area attractions like historic Saint Marie Among the Hurons and the fantastic Elmvale Zoo.

ElvaleZooJuly27_20120 (Medium)
James feeding the giraffe at the Elmvale Zoo in July 2012.

Trackside Camping
We also had friends tow us out in August 2013 and 2014 to Mosport racetrack for the annual Canadian Superbike Races. Having a trailer trackside adds to the fun and enjoyment of the weekend and getting all those moving parts moving helps keep our coach in good condition. It also reminds us that we did buy a travel trailer in order to travel, and 2015 is the summer we planned to do it! With over 10 years use out of our Mazda 3 hatchback, the time is right to replace it with a tow vehicle and hit the road again! The plan is to travel the north eastern states this summer since we can only be in the US 6 months per year and we have one more winter in Canada.

20140817Mosport (Medium)
Towed trackside to Mosport near Bowmanville Ontario by our friend Daniel Ciccone in August 2014.