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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.



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 may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.

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J Ling

Saturday 21st of May 2022

I DO NOT LIKE THAT YOU CAN NO LONGER LOOK AHEAD MORE THAN 7 DAYS INTO THE FUTURE TO SEE HOW LONG A CERTAIN SITE WAS BOOKED FOR. This ability was very useful when a group who wants to camp together can plan when to try to get several sites starting close together.

Bob Rountree

Saturday 21st of May 2022

You can. Click 'Reserve" or "Check Availability" on the initial display page. You will be taken to a 7-day chart. Click on the arrow at the top to move forward a week at a time, or click on the double-arrow (green) at the right and it will display a month ahead of time. Keep clicking until your heart's content until you've gone through the entire 11-month reservation window. The new reservation system takes some getting used to, but it works pretty well.

Maryann

Saturday 29th of January 2022

When trying to book a reservation 11 months in advance and waiting Before 8 AM Eastern standard time which box do you click on? The green one with the slash on it that’s the accurate date that you want? Because the date doesn’t change until exactly at 8 AM so it has the previous day before is Xed out.

Lew Seward

Friday 4th of March 2022

@Bob Rountree, March 4, 2022 Good Morning Bob I hope you can help me.

I have tried for three days in a row to book a open site at Oscar Scherer State Park 11 months in advance to the day. I watch the countdown to zero and click the green open box and it takes me to the available campsite i tried to reserve which I already know in advance. It takes me to the campsite and shows me a picture of the campsite.

However there is NO reserve button and so I go back and click on another one that is available with a dark green square within 10 seconds of zero hour. Again no reserve button.

I did that four times today with four empty campsites all with a dark green able to reserve but there is no reserve button to click on. Within a few seconds of each failed reservation I then get a error message saying that someone else is already booking the site.

I don’t understand it when I click right on at the zero hour it takes me to the campsite but does not allow me to reserve it.

There must be some trick to game the system at the popular campgrounds. After 10 minutes of frustration I found some open sites at other campgrounds and as soon as I clicked on the dark green button it took me to the campsite with the Reserve button that I could reserve it.

Obviously there must be a lot of people online at the zero hour at 8 AM. I want to also book a two week stay in the Keys after Oscar Scherer but I’m going to run into the same problem.

Bob do you know anybody in the Florida State Park Resarvations system that can explain What is the trick when it goes to zero hour to reserve a site?

By the way I’ve called the reservation center twice to ask them about this issue. All they say if someone got in ahead of me by being Quicker to the draw. That just sounds like a standard answer.

Bob Rountree

Sunday 30th of January 2022

Not exactly sure of your question, but in my experience, it makes no sense to click on anything before 8 a.m. for openings that are only being made available at 8 a.m. There is no waiting queue. Same with the phone.

Joe Clark

Thursday 16th of December 2021

Electricity fee does not apply to tent campers, per https://www.floridastateparks.org/plan-your-visit/faqs?f%5B0%5D=question_type%3A87. I'm cool with that.

Rj

Sunday 21st of November 2021

An additional 128 dollars for a 2 week stay wow

thomas j semling

Sunday 5th of June 2022

@Rj, AGREE. I have a 20 year history going to St Andrews, Rocky Bayou, Fort Pickens, Big Lagoon...etc.... 8-9 weeks per winter... my increase....WOW !! Looking into other Gulf state Campgrounds...

Richard

Tuesday 16th of November 2021

The increase in fees is not a jump for joy thing. I am willing to pay this fee if it goes for utilities and improvements to the parks. This revenue source will find many hands out for this revenue. Is it's spending restricted to park utilities and park improvements?

thomas j semling

Monday 10th of January 2022

@Rj, The new Florida reserve Web.system STINKS compared to Reserve America. I spend about 45 days at various Florida campgrounds so looking at spending more than $300 of Wisconsin money !!

Rj

Sunday 21st of November 2021

@Bob Rountree, I propose you pay my $7 fee since you like it so much. I am sure not happy about it. What if they raise your housing taxes because you're driving more on the road in front of your house? I won't say it's not justified because I don't know the facts but $7 per day additional in comparison to what it was last year is a lot I could understand if they added an additional $2 for a couple of years and then a couple years later $2 but to get a $7 whack each day immediately is a bit much

Bob Rountree

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

Richard, I don't think there are any restrictions on how the new revenue is used, although the implication is that it's needed to maintain those utilities. Personally, I think it's justified. I just completed a six-week East Coast camping trip. Florida's State Parks were among the lowest fees of any state park I visited, even with the $7 utility fee.

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