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Florida State Parks adding $7/day utilities fee for camping, cabins

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.

It’s easy to find available campsites once you pick 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.


Florida State Parks

Camping and Cabin Reservations


Florida State Parks are adding a $7 daily utility fee for campsites and cabins with electric and water as they transition to a new reservations system. There is now a two-night minimum for cabins. New accounts may be required: If you had a pending reservation as of May 24, your account should have been carried over to the new system. However, if you had no pending reservations, you will have to create a new account.
To reserve a campsite: Go to reserve.floridastateparks.org or call 1-800-326-3521, Monday-Friday, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. up to 11 months in advance. (TDD 888-433-0287) Maximum stay is 14 nights. Editor’s Note: Readers report security issues blocking access to the new web site. Try again with another web browser, or call the number above.
Camping and Cabin Fees: Base rates vary from park to park. Additional fees include $7 per day for utilities with power and water, a $6.70 booking fee per reservation, state and local taxes. Cancellation fee: $17.50. Change fee: $10.
Pets: OK in campgrounds but not cabins, playgrounds or beaches.


Let us know about your experience with the new reservations site in the comments below.

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

This article is the property of FloridaRambler.com and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


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Cheryl

Monday 6th of September 2021

We have been camping in Florida during Winter months for 10 years using Reserve America online for reservations. This new system is horrible. It is extremely hard to navigate and often makes it necessary to renter information if we change our search. and only allows one small window to view nearby parks that may have availability.

Bob Rountree

Tuesday 7th of September 2021

Hi Cheryl, I also had trouble getting used to the new system, particularly the shortcuts nobody tells you about. It certainly takes some adjustment. I learn more every time I go in there, though, and it does get easier. Watch out for those new utility charges! At $7 a day, they add up wickedly fast. Good luck! -- Bob Rountree

Dennis Beek

Friday 20th of August 2021

I just was told there would be a $7.00 per day utilities charge for a camp site at Shangri-la Trailhead State Park. I told the reservationist there is no electric no sewer no water and you're going to charge me $7 a day for utilities? They said yes. I said thank, you have a good night, goodbye.

I know why there is only a couple sites book and you can have your choice of any site you want.

My electric bill my three bedroom two bath ranch home in Florida last month was $48 this month it will be $62. And it's August. I could understand a $2-2.50 surcharge for electric, but give us a break.

If the Florida State Parks wish to commercialize concessions to private corporations, and campgrounds than it might be time to look elsewhere. The history of the CCW, program development of Florida Lands to be enjoyed by the public is fading to corporations.

Brandon

Sunday 15th of August 2021

$7 for electric is a rip off. Even in the summer. Imagine winter when it's hardly used. They should offer a way to opt out of using their high priced electric and not be charged. What about tent campers staying in a site that has electric? Or like us that are self contained and don't need electric? Until then I will opt out of staying in campgrounds that offer electric. Whoever wrote this article sounds like a lobbyist for the state park. The website is horrible. $7 is not fair. If someone wants to book 2 campsites on the same day they will simply make 2 accounts. The state took a good thing and ruined it. The only good thing happening here is there is about to be a lot more vacant sites. People are not going to pay the extra fees and will just stay home. My home in summer uses on average $4 per day. That includes washing and drying which I never do at campgrounds.

Bill

Tuesday 10th of August 2021

I just booked a site and was charged the $7 per night fee. It seems excessive for electric used by most campers. My two story 3000 sq ft home only uses $5.60 per day in August here in Florida. I have no problem paying for the service given but this amount is gouging.

Shirley Jarvis

Sunday 29th of August 2021

@Dennis Beek, Totally agree it is to much to pay daily! Please do not ruin a good thing like ⛺️! $3.00 is fair …but 7.00 will light up rest areas on the interstate instead!

Dennis Beek

Friday 20th of August 2021

@Bill, I agree with you.

Sandi

Thursday 15th of July 2021

As someone who works for a web team for a living, I can tell whoever designed this site (reserve.floridastateparks.org) did not design with mobile first in mind. With more and more web visitors using smart phones, that is the most important consideration, and this mobile design is very, very user unfriendly, especially the maps.

We have stayed at Manatee Springs 4 times in the last 5 years, but all of our past reservations are gone, so there are no records of our stays. When trying to identify the past sites we stayed at, it doesn't seem that the website will show you all of the sites, no matter what days you put in. There are no descriptions for the loops and no way to easily browse the sites to see what they look like. I finally relented and grabbed my laptop thinking it would be better, but I was wrong! The maps are absolutely useless on the desktop version as well. Did they even bother to do user testing with people who are not familiar with the system? Did they test each park?

The actual reservation part worked well, and the confirmation came through right away, and I was able to see my reservation when I logged into the reservation system, so all that worked nicely. But trying to find the campsites to book was a nightmare!

One thing though that is wrong with the article is that the utility fee does not apply to all parks for RV and trailer camping. Here is what is says from their site: Effective June 22, 2021: All new reservations for boat, bungalow, cabin and yurt units at all parks will be assessed at $7 nightly utility fee. Additionally, all new RV camping reservations at Anastasia State Park, Bahia Honda State Park and Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach will be assessed a $7 nightly utility fee. This fee does not apply to tent camping. Senior and disabled camping discounts do not apply to the $7 nightly utility fee.

Dennis Beek

Friday 20th of August 2021

@Sandi, I just got off the phone and they are now charging seniors the $7. per day. The reservationist even put me on hold to double-check and came back saying yes we are charging you the $7. More of the insult was the campsite I was reserving did not have electric, sewer, or water.

It's not ok.

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