As RVing becomes more and more popular, it’s getting harder and harder to find a nice campsite – or any campsite – during the high season in popular areas. And RV destinations don’t get much more popular than Florida in the winter. More and more RVers are making reservations at their favorite Florida campgrounds a full year in advance. Others find themselves constantly on the phone, spending three nights here, and two nights there, wherever they can find a vacancy.
And did I mention that most Florida campgrounds are expensive?
This year we made it our goal to spend as little as possible on campsites, while maximizing our experience of the “real Florida.” We did it using five resources:
- Our Thousand Trails membership. Technically this is not free because we paid a one-time fee for our membership, and pay about $500/year in dues. But, once in the system we can stay up to three weeks (sometimes two weeks in high season) at any Thousand Trails campground at no additional cost, and from there we can move directly to another TT park for another 2-3 weeks. Many RVers spend 100% of their time moving from TT to TT, making it a sweet bargain any way you slice it. There are three Thousand Trails parks in Florida, and all are quite nice.
- We also buy an annual membership in Thousand Trails “Trails Collection” that allows us to spend up to two weeks at a time at any one of hundreds of Encore RV Parks across the country. With the Trails Collection we have to spend a week out of the system before coming back in to a different park for another two weeks.
- Harvest Hosts. Harvest Hosts is a nationwide network of wineries, breweries, museums, farms, and even golf courses that one night of free overnight parking. There is a small annual membership fee that pays for itself with as little as one use. Harvest Host sites have provided some of the most wonderful and memorable stays in our RVing experience.
In case you missed it, you can see another of our favorite Harvest Host experiences .
- Boondockers Welcome. We’re new to this club of RVers that invite other RVers to spend anywhere between 1 and 3 free nights on their private property. In the video in this blog we had the time of our lives staying at “Cop-a-Squat” where we made new friends, had a great base to explore Monticello, Fl, and they were even kind enough to provide us with free electricity so that we could stay warm on what turned out to be very cold Florida nights. (If you are thinking of joining Boondockers Welcome, please send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll send you an invitation that will add one free month to your membership.)
- Public Land. When we think of public land for camping our minds usually go west to properties overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. But Florida has some well-hidden pieces of public land where you can camp as well. We enjoyed two on this trip. In the video you’ll see the Bayside Wildlife Management Area near Navarre (at the far tip of the panhandle). We found a waterfront campsite with a beautiful view and lots of opportunities for hiking and exploring the surrounding area. There are no hookups, so you’re on your own for electricity (batteries, solar, and generator) and water. You’ll have to dump your waste tanks after you leave. In a future video you’ll see the Deep Creek coming area that’s part of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Yep. Free. No hookups. Beautiful.
Even in an RV, some of the best things in life are free!