Travel USA: Planning a Florida Camping/RV Trip?

Long Beach State Park campsite

Travel USA: Planning a Florida Camping/RV Trip?
Long Beach State Park campsite

Travel USA: Planning a Florida Camping/RV Trip?

By Dan Dudek

Your thoughts drift to lying on a soft, sandy beach, tropical weather, warm breezes and a maybe a margarita. Understandable, the cold, wet weather has invaded many parts of the country and you want a break from the miserable conditions.

You can pack your tent or get into your RV and drive to sunny, warm Florida. You will find places to camp, but probably only at the more expensive private campgrounds; and they might not be on the ocean. Not exactly what you had in mind. The popularity of camping in Florida from January to March makes it extremely difficult to find any reasonably priced ocean front campsites – for the current year.

So, come on down now if you desire, but consider that this is the perfect time to plan a Florida trip for next year.

Why? First, many Florida state parks have ocean campsites; others provide river or lake sites. These parks are some of the best maintained in the country, they are safe, pet friendly, have clean, modern bathhouses, spacious private sites and amenities. In addition, they are relatively inexpensive with nightly rates ranging between $16 and $42 depending on the park. In addition, state parks do not increase their nightly rates by season or during special events. The issue – they book up extremely quickly for the peak months of the year. Reservations are taken up to eleven (11) months in advance.

When planning your trip, you should be aware that private campgrounds and theme parks do increase rates as much as 20% during certain time periods. For example, during the Daytona 500 race period (in February), or Bike Week (10 days in early March), camping sites in the Daytona area are difficult to find, and most private campgrounds will charge a premium for sites. (The rate for a small site at a private Daytona RV facility on the ocean during the week of the Daytona 500 Race costs $110 per night + tax; a similar ocean-front site at the state parks in the same area costs between $24 and $28 a night.)

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World

Also consider college spring break. The spring break season runs from mid-February to mid-April; with a peak period, the last two weeks of March.

Going to Walt Disney World (WDW) or another theme park while you visit Florida? Find a great rate via an on-line source? Check the fine print, i.e. the “excluded” dates for your pass. Do not be surprised if the dates you intended to visit are on the “excluded” list. By the way, The World of Avatar has made WDW a hot destination. If you intend to visit WDW, be aware that you can obtain online a FastPass for the major attractions up to 60 days in advance of your visit if you are staying in one of the park’s accommodations; 30 days in advance otherwise. Since the line waiting time for such attractions as Avatar Flight of Passage averages 2 to 4 hours, you really should try to obtain a FassPass before the daily limit has been committed.

Do you know about Manatees? These huge, gentle mammals (frequently called Sea Cows) come into the warm water of natural springs during the winter months. You can swim with the West Indian Manatees in several locations, including Crystal Springs, Florida. Local operators provide snorkeling tours; operators provide all the gear you will need, but not food or drinks. Also, the “warm water” of the spring is a constant 72 degrees all year. If this is a bit cool for you, you might want to obtain an insulated swim shirt or vest. A typical tour lasts two hours and you want to be comfortable enough to spend as much time in the water as possible.

Recommendations for a camping/RV trip to Florida:

  • Make reservations at Florida State Parks when possible
  • Make reservations months in advance (eleven months for State Parks)
  • If going to Theme Parks, schedule trip to avoid “peak periods”
  • Try to avoid dates that overlap “events” in the area you wish to camp
  • Bring Fishing and Snorkeling gear
  • Consider special opportunities as Swimming with Manatees

After visiting Ft. Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach, Florida for several years, we decided to retire and move to this area. As Florida senior residents, we qualify for a 50% discount at all Florida state parks; thus, we try to stay at state parks when we RV in the state; and have visited and enjoyed many of these excellent camping facilities. We encourage you to do so as well; you will be pleased staying at a Florida state park whether you are tent or RV camping.

Fishing on Pier at Ft. Clinch State Park

Fishing on the 1,200-foot Fishing
Pier at the Ft. Clinch State Park

Bio:

Dan Dudek has travelled extensively domestically and internationally, has been to most U.S. states and Canadian provinces and about 30 countries.

In his business career Dan had the opportunity to spend weeks on assignment in many overseas locations and has learned to observe the “frame of reference” others have of culture and political ideologies. He has a private pilot’s license (now inactive), and as an Eagle Scout, he practices the scout motto to “Be Prepared” for all situations and confesses to being a person who likes “electronic toys”, especially those security related.

 

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