If I actually live anywhere, I live in Florida, along with 20 million other people. I also am in residence over the holidays and into spring, which is peak snowbird season here, so to say it’s hard to get a decent campsite down here on short notice is an understatement. However, I’m finishing up my fourth visit this season to Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area, one of the hottest of the hot spots. How do I do it?
The first year we were here, I liked this park so much I reserved a two-week block the following November, which is fine, but put me in the position of guessing what I’d be doing far off in the future, something I like to avoid in order to stay spontaneous. I also prefer shorter mini-visits of three of four days rather than a huge block of time. I’m visiting my family and doing maintenance on my and other vehicles and other projects, so a few days of relaxation is nice. How to get this done on short notice when this park is usually booked solid for months?
People cancel reservations at high demand campgrounds, and when they do, the early bird will get the worm. When I’m tired of driveway camping and want a little beach therapy, I start watching the Reserveamerica site (all Florida state parks are on the Reserveamerica system). I make it a habit to check it several times a day – an easy way to remind myself is to check it whenever I check my email. Somewhere, somebody will develop a medical situation or car trouble or win the lottery, they cancel their reservation, and voila, there’s a window of opportunity.
Every once in a while, you’ll see a week or more in one big block, but more frequently it’s a day or two here and a day or two there. I’m not picky – I’ll move every day if that’s what it takes to put together a pleasant four-day stay. Roadtreks are the easiest RVs to relocate within a park – sometimes I just drag the hammock and satellite dishes down the road a few spots to save the trouble of packing them up. It’s a fifteen minute job to get set up and back working on your tan. Work with the park staff and they’ll let you move as soon as the previous occupants clear out, so you won’t have to wait until check-in time.
If I see two or three days in one spot I grab it and look for the day before and after as the time gets closer. More often than not, you can start with two days and it will be a decent stay by the time everyone finishes canceling and rearranging their schedule, but you’ll miss out unless you’re checking the reservations website several times a day. Watch that thing like a cat watches a gopher hole.
Like I said, the highest-demand spots here are booked solid for the next umpteen months, but I have managed four nice short visits in the last three months using this technique. California state parks are notoriously in demand, as well as those in the Northeast, but I bet this system would work fine anywhere they use an online reservation system. I live too far from this park to show up in person and check on the walk-up sites that aren’t reservable, but if you’re close enough, that will work as well.