Last updated on June 18th, 2021 at 02:32 pm
A new Florida State Parks campground reservations system is online after moving off ReserveAmerica.
As part of the transition, Florida State Parks is adding a $7 per day utilities fee to campsites and cabins with electric and water hookups. It marks the first increase in camping fees at state parks since 2009, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the state park system.
The new fee has still not been implemented. I booked a site on June 18 and was not charged, but that could change any day.
“DEP is actively working with the vendor to get this fee change incorporated into the new system. Once the fee is made active, it will automatically apply to all future camping reservations,” assistant press secretary Alexandra Kuchta said on Friday. Existing reservations will not be affected.
If you want to plan a camping trip to Florida State Parks, I suggest you book those campsites now before the new fee is activated. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance, and the fee will not be implemented retroactively.
The new reservation system is online at https://reserve.floridastateparks.org and is accessible from all pages on the Florida State Parks web site.
You will need to create a new account if you did not already have a reservation pending after May 24, the date of the transition. If you already had a reservation after that date, your account and reservation should have transferred.
I found the new site easy to navigate (as of June 18). Finding available campsites at specific parks was easy and intuitive, and it offered a visual campground map with site availability once you select your dates.
You might be disoriented the first time you use the new reservation site because it’s different from ReserveAmerica. Many of our readers have reported problems, but once you get used to it, I found the experience is improved.
If you do have problems online, we recommend you book your campsite reservation by phone at 1-800-326-3521.
ReserveAmerica has also been dropped by Florida’s federal campgrounds at national parks, forests and seashores, turning over reservation responsibilities to local private entities. The federal parks reservations web site remains at recreation.gov.
Other changes include a two-night minimum for state park cabin rentals. Prior to May 24, the two-night minimum stay for cabins only applied to weekends.
Let us know in the comments below if you like (or don’t like) what they’ve done to “improve” the system.
Should we be upset about the $7 utility fee?
The $7 daily utility fee and recent changes in the cancellation policy could discourage snowbirds from loading up on campground reservations at state parks as they develop winter itineraries, only to cancel overlaps when their itineraries take shape. Once a reservation is made, the account holder must now wait 18 days before a cancellation can be made, and duplicate bookings on the same dates are blocked.
Between the $7 daily utility increase, the blackout period on cancellations, and the $17.50 cancellation fee implemented two years ago, overbooking becomes costly, likely resulting in more availability to others. A common complaint, particularly among Florida residents, is the lack of availability while witnessing empty, unused campsites.
By itself, the $17.50 cancellation fee may actually discourage cancellations, but now there’s more at stake with the price of campsites going up another $7 per night for the utility fee. There is more incentive now to pause before making a reservation that you might have to cancel later.
Personally, I think the $7 daily utility fee is appropriate and long overdue. As a Florida resident over 65, I get a 50% discount on the base camping rate for my travel trailer, reducing my nightly fee to as little as $10 at some parks, hardly enough to cover costs. I certainly use electricity, especially for air conditioning in the hot Florida sun. Water, electric and sewer service to my campsite all require expensive infrastructure to install and maintain.
State parks are a far better camping experience than most private campgrounds, which charge three times as much — or more.
Let us know about your experience with the new reservations site in the comments below.
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