January 30, 2017 (by Angela)
As we’ve said more than once in this blog, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him what you plan.” There’s planning and there’s “planning.” Once Jim and I knew when we could actually leave Arkansas, we developed a plan. Unlike our travels to Vermont this past summer, where we had our reservations for each stop made well in advance, we did not make any reservations far in advance for this trip to Florida. All seemed to go well until the last two or three days.
We chose Shady Pines, and we made our reservation to stay there two or three days before leaving Arkansas. The day before leaving Shady Pines, we called to make a reservation at Cajun Palms. In the same manner, the day before we left Cajun Palms, we made a reservation for Indian Point. It was all so easy!
Saturday before leaving Indian Point, we decided that we should set up our month-long stay as well as our last two-night stop before getting to the area in which we hoped to spend a month. He and I had no problem reserving a site for two nights in our current campground, Triple C Campground; however, this is where our good luck ended, and our planning came to a screeching halt. God surely laughed because we had several campground managers laugh at us for asking about availability for the whole month of February just a few days before the end of January.
In our defense, we knew that getting a camp site in Florida is much more difficult during the colder months. In the lower two-thirds of the state, and along the coast in particular, a camp site is something one must book 10-12 months out. In years past, we’d not had trouble finding availability in the winter months along the coasts of Alabama and Mississippi, so we hoped the same would be true of the northern third of Florida. Our inability to plan well in advance for this was mostly due to the fact that we had no clue when Jim would actually complete the project in Arkansas. It was two months; then it was three months, and we were into our fourth month with a good deal of uncertainty as to when he would be cut loose. We literally had just three days notice of what would be the date we could actually leave.
Still, things had been going well until we made the call to the campground, located about 20 miles inland from St. Augustine, in which we hoped to stay for a month. They had no openings until April. As we called around to other parks in the same general area, we heard similar responses, along with the chuckles. A couple of times there were sites available, but the parks required a three-month minimum reservation, and we could not commit to that. If it was not a lack of availability or length of stay requirements, then it was the cost to stay a month. In some parks the amount is what we’d normally pay for four months! That was a budget breaker! Below are the rates for one such park. Please keep in mind that $1,600/month is for ocean view sites (and what we normally pay for a site for four months). The ocean sites were about $3,000 a month!
This morning, Jim and I both went to work looking for a park with availability that met our amenities and budget requirements located in the northern third of Florida. It was about 11 a.m. today, 24 hours before we would be “siteless,” that we found a park that matched. It is not on the coast, nor is it on the eastern side of the state. Going to St. Augustine, which is still in our plans, is now going to be a long day trip (or overnight in a dog-friendly hotel). St. Auguatine is about 2 1/2 hours from where we will be. We’ll be about an hour from the Gulf of Mexico, and there are many day trips we can make to interesting places in northern Florida. The park has a heated pool and hot tub area (only closed if day time temps are below 60 degrees). There are socials and activities on the weekends (bingo, trivia, karaoke, etc.). Suwannee River Rendezvous is budget friendly, and when between jobs, it’s important to stay on budget.
While our plans did not work out exactly as planned, we are going to be able to camp for a month in Florida. Jim and I can stay warm through the month of February while exploring new areas and staying on our “not working” budget.
What are the takeaways from this?
- If you want to have a nice campsite during the colder months in an area of choice in Florida, reserve it well in advance.
- If you can’t reserve well in advance, then be flexible, but don’t give up hope.