Savvy coders find way to nab coveted B.C. camping spots

·3 min read
Campers are pictured at Garibaldi Provincial Park on Aug. 15, 2020.  (Shutterstock / CDeWeger - image credit)
Campers are pictured at Garibaldi Provincial Park on Aug. 15, 2020. (Shutterstock / CDeWeger - image credit)

Booking reservations through the B.C. Parks website can be a headache, but those with a little coding knowledge seem to be finding a way around that.

According to comments on a Reddit thread, some savvy individuals have figured out how to write a coding script that fully automates the booking process and allows them to quickly reserve the spots they want as soon as they become available.

The camping-inclined coders are using a program called Selenium, a plugin that automates web browsers.

Reddit
Reddit

An assistant professor at the University of British Columbia's computer science department says Selenium allows you to write a script so that you only have to fill out a webpage form one single time.

"Inputting some text into a text field or taking some checkboxes or filling out a web form — you do that manually and Selenium is a tool which you can actually record the actions, maybe once when you use a page, and then you can just redo those things automatically," explained Aastha Mehta.

She says the program wouldn't even require a user to be constantly monitoring the site for openings.

"You could just have the script literally running on your computer throughout the day," she explained. "And it can keep periodically just making a request to the system, asking them to fetch the latest available information about the availability for reservation slots."

Mehta says using the program is fairly straightforward for anyone with experience in web development or coding. She guesses that computer science students in the final two years of an undergraduate program would likely be able to write similar programs to automate B.C. Parks bookings.

According to the Reddit post, a user was able to write a coding script in approximately five hours. Mehta says that script could then be shared with others who could use it for the same purpose.

B.C. Parks investigating

In an emailed statement, B.C. Parks says it has tests in place to prevent against this kind of work-around and is investigating the Reddit claims.

"B.C. Parks has received assurances that these tests and prevention mechanisms are in place and operating effectively at login and checkout within the Discover Camping service," the statement reads.

The B.C. Parks website has caused frustration for users in the recent past when thousands of people have logged on simultaneously and crashed the site.

Last year was the busiest in recent memory, with more than 50,000 people trying to book at once on opening day.

Screenshot
Screenshot

This year, campers are only able to book two months ahead of their arrival date — meaning, for example, that reservations for the August long weekend only became available in early June.

Camping reservations are also not transferable to prevent individuals from purchasing multiple bookings and then reselling them at a markup.

Diligence pays off

Rohit Grover, who lives in New Westminster, is no coding expert but says he was able to book coveted August long weekend reservations for Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park simply by logging on early and having all his information entered before 7 a.m.

"I think if someone is able to do what I did and they're diligent with that … the system will work," he said.

But Grover feels for those who have an advantage, it's all fair game.

"If someone is able to use their knowledge and do it for their own good, I guess it's OK as long as I'm able to get my stuff."

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