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Florida residents get a jump on state parks camping

Florida residents will get a one-month head start to reserve campsites and cabins at Florida State Parks, under new laws that go into effect on January 1, 2024.

Included are cabins, RV sites, tent, boat and equestrian camping but not primitive backcountry sites and ‘glamping’.

The changes come in response to residents’ complaints that out-of-state visitors dominate campground bookings, especially during the prime winter season. The new law received unanimous support in the Florida Legislature.

30-day edge to reserve campsites, cabins

The new law allows Florida residents to book sites up to 11 months in advance, while non-residents will have to wait another 30 days. An official Florida drivers license or state-issued ID are required for proof of residency.

The new rules will not have an impact on this year’s tourist season because sites have already been booked in advance.

Until now, residents have had to compete with visitors from out of state, who pounce on available campsites within minutes on the day they become available 11 months in advance. Residents have long felt disadvantaged by the swarms of out-of-state visitors booking those sites.

Residents’ frustrations are compounded when they see large numbers of empty sites caused by no-shows, although these new rules don’t directly address that problem.

Visitors argue they are the ones paying the bills in Florida through sales and tourist taxes, not to mention spending in support of local businesses and jobs. Florida residents pay no state income tax.

Florida State Parks manages 65 campgrounds within its 175-park system, which has won numerous awards for quality over the years.

The new rules follow major changes to the state parks reservation system last year, including a new online reservations system and a $7 per night utilities fee added for electric and water hookups.

Resident-preference rules still do not apply to Florida State Forests, which aren’t as much in demand as state parks. Nor does the new law apply to National Parks or National Forests in Florida or public campgrounds in the state’s city and county parks, which are managed by their respective government agencies.

Many county parks already have an advance reservations window for their residents.

Read the bill

$7 utility fee for state parks camping, cabins

Florida State Parks added a $7 per day utilities fee in 2022 to campsites and cabins with electric and water connections, marking the first increase in camping fees at state parks since 2009, according to the DEP.

The fee is not subject to discounts. (See below)

A new online reservation system was also implemented at Reservations can still be made by phone at 1-800-326-3521.

Other changes recently implemented include:

  • A two-night minimum for state park cabin rentals. Prior to 2022, the two-night minimum applied only to weekends.
  • A $17.50 cancellation fee to discourage overbooking;
  • A one-time, non-refundable $6.70 processing fee is charged with each reservation.
  • State and local taxes are additional. Some counties charge a lodging fee.

Discounts for seniors, disabled still apply

Florida residents 65 and over are entitled to a 50% discount, but only on the base camping rate, which varies from park to park. The discount does not apply to the $7 utility fee, nor does it apply to cabin rentals.

A 50% discount is also available to Florida citizens possessing a current Social Security disability award certificate or a 100% disability award certificate from the federal government.

A 50% discount on the base camping fee is also available to families operating a licensed family foster home. 

Proof of eligibility is required upon arrival at the campground.

Visit Florida State Parks Reservation Information page.

Florida Rambler stories about Florida State Parks

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Colleen Richardson

Saturday 25th of November 2023

Well from years of travelling to the state parks i am really dissapointed. I find that the problem is that there is no one following up on the empty sites and penalizing the people that leave the site empty. No one drives around to check the sites and the system is never correct. 5 sites had 4 vehicles in 1 spot for 2 days. Wheres the rule enforcement? Many people i have talked to will no longer be coming to your parks and you will loose alot of money from travellers. Sure your weekends will be filled by florida residents which is at a diacounted price but it doesn't compare to what you will loose on a weeks income from out of states travellers. All you are doing ia penalizing people who are not actually part of the problem.

Patricia Leeds

Saturday 2nd of December 2023

@Colleen Richardson, a lot of generalizations there. Not sure specifically which park you're referring to, but it's nothing new to see an occasional rude or non-compliant camper as far as parking and I highly - highly - highly doubt that it's making Florida parks at all less desirable to non-residents of our state. If it affects you or a few of your friends, fine, but there are hundreds if not thousands of people vying for the spot you don't reserve.

As far as vacant sites, I agree as a camper struggling to find a good site only to see a great one sitting vacant is frustrating, but the camper paid for it and has a right to be there at any point during the reservation. There is a rule that you have to be onsite the first night of the reservation but being realistic, a lot of things happen that could prevent that, and when it happens to us, I call the ranger station and let them know. I agree it could be a good idea to, for example, have to forfeit a site if you do not occupy the site by the 2nd day of the reservation.

I am happy to pay the increased fees (long overdue) and will gladly do whatever it takes to help keep our beautiful state parks clean and open and operating safely. All of my camping friends feel the same way. Those who don't can and should camp elsewhere :)


Sunday 28th of May 2023

As an out of state person, I understand the issue and see reservations as an issue everywhere I have looked. I’m from Alabama and have been coming to the Destin area for 15 years are better in late Spring/early Summer and play strictly by the rules with reservations, well within all the rules. We enjoy it, so we will continue to try for a site. They are already hard to get and usually require multiple attempts. I see where third parties snapping up the reservations are an issue, much like they do with concert tickets. What a shame.


Wednesday 13th of September 2023

@Gary, Let the tourist stay at the over priced private campgrounds and let the taxpayers in Florida have access to their Parks.


Thursday 18th of May 2023

I am a Florida Disabled Veteran and a senior citizen and since the reservation system took affect many disabled individuals my self included do to ongoing medical conditions and appointments are now denied the use of State Campgrounds especially during prime season. Disabled individuals do not have to ability to make reservations months in advance they need to have access on a daily basis or with a minimal time frame for reservations. Whatever happened to FF sites? It seems the entire system is in violation of the American with Disability Act and needs to be changed. At least this is the start in the right direction. Let the tourist stay at the over priced private campgrounds and let the taxpayers in Florida have access to their Parks.


Saturday 13th of May 2023

Alabama is looking better by the minute. I was on the fence about DeSantis. Who in the world discourages tourism in a tourism state? What next, Disney?

Colleen Richardson

Saturday 25th of November 2023

@Lorrie, its really sad how you group everyone else as the villan when we are just trying to enjoy Florida. We have the same option as you when it comes to reserving a site. Go online at 8 am and click reserve and book it. No way of booking before anyone else . Why such hate to people who have the exact same choice as you?


Saturday 20th of May 2023

@SteveG, I completely agree with everything you said here. Not only have they devised their system to pounce on the reservations within seconds after they are posted, they are rude to the locals who support Florida all year long. They should go ahead to Alabama and hope for good luck treating the people in that state the way they behave toward Floridians. They are so entitled. Bye bye now. Thanks for freeing up the extra campsite.


Sunday 14th of May 2023

Bye, Felicia!

I am a Florida resident, teacher, and volunteer firefighter, and it ticks me off that I cannot camp in my home state in winter, due to all the snowbirds.

These are not "tourists". These are low-budget retirees living cheap off the state park camping system, instead of renting a spot in a RV park.

They will still be here, they will find another place to stay, maybe some of the under-utilized state forests and such


Saturday 13th of May 2023

Talking to the Top Sail park Manager, he said that part of the issue is that the reservation system allows multiple concurrent reservations by a single email address and permits robot programs to scan for open campgrounds and a cancellation is filled with in a minute after the reservation was cancelled.

When we were there even though the reservation system showed no open sites, there were a number of sites that stayed unoccupied for days. This was in April 2023.

Bob Rountree

Saturday 13th of May 2023

That's something I'll have to check out. Under the old reservation system (ReserveAmerica), you were blocked from making multiple reservations at another Florida State Park for the same or overlapping dates. I tested it many times (albeit accidentally), but have not tried since the new reservations system was put in place last year. The problem, under your scenario, is winter campers who book as much as they can on the first day sites are available, then go back and cancel the days they no longer want as their itinerary takes shape. Unfortunately, higher cancellation fees and low daily camping rates make it easier for them to eat the loss without bothering to cancel sites they reserved.

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