Savvy Snowbirds

We were hoping to go to the Florida Keys next year. Other Airstream bloggers like Riveted, Malimish or Where is Kyle Now have had great success this year with getting into the various state parks there.

Since we have a Monday through Friday work week and we don’t have the luxury of being able to move the trailer mid-week, we really need reservations. The Florida State Park reservation system allows you to make a reservation 11 months in advance, and I’m a planner, so this is something I thought I could do.

I mapped out our route starting in September, going across the country and figured out when we would arrive in the Keys. I then put on my calendar the day I should go online and make a reservation for each park. Initially when I looked at the reservation website it seemed like all of the days that we would stay would have to have passed. For example, if I wanted to book January 4-10 2014, I would have to wait until February 11, 2013 to make that reservation.

Unfortunately, that’s what I did. When I logged on February 11 there wasn’t anything available. So I called the reservation number and the lady told me it had to be 11 months before the START date of my reservation and then I could book up to 2 weeks and she also recommended using the online reservation system and doing so at 8am EST.

The next morning I tried to make a reservation for an arrival of Sunday January 14. I set the alarm for 5:50am mountain time since we were in Arizona and there wasn’t anything available. I realized I needed to see what spots become available the night before so I could request a reservation for the specific spot at the second it became 8am EST.

Now I have to wait a week for a Saturday arrival. That puts me at February 18 to make an arrival reservation of January 18. I set the alarm for 5:50am. The night before bed I find available spots for the 18th at Bahia Honda and Curry Hammock. Alarm goes off, I hop online, and they’re gone. My bad – we recently moved back into Pacific Time and I should have set the alarm for 4:50am. UGH.

Ok, Sunday let’s try this again. I set the alarm for 4:50am. I have 3 spots available at Bahia Honda open in 3 tabs. I hit submit at 4:59am, it says wait until 8am. I hit submit at 4:59:30am, it says wait. I continue every 10 seconds until 5am PST and the site is gone. I try the other 2 sites and they’re also gone.

I give up on trying to reserve the Keys. I know Malimish just kept their eye on the reservation system as they got closer to the area and were able to get in because of cancellations. I think that’s what we’ll have to do. We’ve got our heart set on New Orleans in November, but from there we could either go to Florida or to Texas and head back west to boondocking country. So if anything opens up by November we’ll do it, if not we’ll be heading back west. (At least that’s the current plan).

I wonder what those savvy snowbirds are doing in order to get their reservations in the Florida Keys State Parks. Ideas?

Pictured above:
I don’t know the name of these guys but there are a bunch of them here in the lake.

2013 Cost of Camping:
14 nights paid camping
37 nights free camping
Total spent on camping this year: $407.75
Daily average cost of camping: $8.00

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  • Reply amanda February 21, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Wow that’s frustrating! I wonder if the private parks down there are easier to get into. Maybe you could stay at one of those in the meantime and then pop over to the state parks when cancelations show up. Marlene and Dan also told us that most of the state parks have non-reservable walk up sites that you may be able to get into. We’re planning to use my dad’s place in Big Pine Key as a home base and then try to visit state parks when we can get sites. I know his driveway is too small for two airstreams, but I could ask if he has any friends down there who would be willing to host you if you need a place to park. We’re really looking forward to spending time with you guys down there next winter so I want it to work out for you!!!

  • Reply terrie February 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

    we call those coots….you are running into the same thing Florida residents do for the high season… almost any Gulf or Atlantic campground is already taken up by those from “away”….also I have not ever thought the Reserve America system truly represents what is available….but hard for you to go down in to the Keys w/o knowing where you will set up….they do keep aside some sites for walk-ups, I believe….I wonder if you placed a Wanted Ad on Criag’s List, if you could find someone on Sugarloaf Key, or Big Coppitt Key that would have a side yard you could boondock in for a nightly fee same as the State Parks? We will keep thinking about it…and you know all of you are welcome here in Manatee County…but we are 8 hours from the Keys….there are so many properties in the Lower Keys that are abandoned due to somebody’s failed dreams of paradise…it is too bad those can’t be put to use but you would probably get busted squatting on any of those….the Key West Citizen is their local paper…maybe run an ad asking for what you want for however long you want to stay there….I predict it will work out for the Golden Family…

  • Reply Doug February 21, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    We have encountered the same problem with the Florida Keys. We are going next year in late December and early January. We planned ahead and Melizza and both fired up the laptops before 8 and tried to get in Long Key, Curry Hammock or Bahia Honda. We didn’t have a chance. We are conditioned for precise planning from our travels to Michigan on summer weekends but this is a whole new level of ridiculousness. We did secure a spot at John Pennekamp for a couple of nights but we couldn’t get any State Park campground. We will look for cancellations but we have booked Boyd’s near Key West as an alternative. We are extreme planners and usually can score a sight. However, the Keys is the toughest place we have encountered. We are going to Maine in August and it was much easier. They open the whole season on one day so that everyone is not waiting six or eleven months in advance to take my site. Good luck.

    • Reply Leigh February 22, 2013 at 7:05 am

      Thanks for the tip Doug, that sounds like what we’ll have to do. (I’m an “extreme planner” too!)

  • Reply Roger February 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I tried for years to get on the valley floor of Yosemite. I finally did it by checking every 10-15 minutes for MONTHS. Cancellations do pop up. Not a very fun thing to do however.

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