Monday, October 21, 2013

Wintering in Florida

As the leaves fall off the trees and the cold weather approaches, many RV owners begin the process of winterizing their RVs and parking them for the winter.  For me, I use this time to prepare for a migration to a warmer climate and the start of a new camping season.

Ever since I retired 5 years ago, I've been lucky to be able to spend part of most winters in Florida.  We started out trying it for a month, then two months, and last year we were there for almost three months.  We've mostly rented condos and houses in Florida but last year we spent about half our time camping in our class B RV.

One advantage of having a class B RV is that you can park it anywhere.  It will easily fit into a rented condo parking space as well as a RV Park camping site.  Extended stay-put camping can be a little challenging in a class B, especially on cold or rainy days.  But we've found that mixing up our trip south with stays at a rented condo and then doing some camping is pretty enjoyable and economical.

Last year we started out renting an oceanfront condo in St. Augustine Beach for the month of January.  Then we went camping to the Fort Myers and St. Petersburg areas for three weeks.  Then it was back to New Smyrna Beach in a rented house for three weeks and then two weeks of camping in the Florida Panhandle.

Fort Myers Beach

This year we're doing something similar.  In January, we're heading for the warmer parts of Florida first.  We'll be camping for a few days at Turtle Beach Campground in Siesta Key and then we'll do two more weeks of camping in an RV park in Fort Myers Beach.  This is a big mecca for snowbirds with many RV parks.  The weather in January is warm (in the 70's during the day) and the beach is wide and long.

San Carlos RV Park
Staying in a RV park can be challenging for some, especially in a small class B. You're parked shoulder to shoulder and dwarfed by big class A rigs or 5th wheels.  But RV parks have many amenities, full hook-ups, and I've found most snowbirds to be super friendly.  In Fort Myers Beach, we'll stay at San Carlos RV Park.  Its a small park about a mile from the beach.  Its an easy bike ride or trolley ride to the beach and restaurants.  Everyday, the snowbirds all gather at 4pm for cocktail hour at an empty site.  Everyone is welcome and its a nice chance to meet people and socialize.

The RV park rates are pricey compared to state parks.  We'll pay $53/night for our stay, but for me its worth it for having full hook-ups, a pool, TV, laundry, internet, and be close to a great beach.  Just a quick note about the state parks.  Florida's state parks are beautiful, but getting into the ones in southern part of the state during the winter can be challenging.  Many are booked 11 months in advance.

View from St. Augustine Beach Condo

From Fort Myers, we'll head north to St. Augustine Beach to spend the month of February in an oceanfront condo.  We like this area.  Its a little cooler than Fort Myers (day time temps in the 60's), but much less developed and the beach is one of the best.  Renting a condo is a lot pricier than camping.  The monthly rate for the condo with taxes and fees is $2,800 or about $100/day.  You can spend a lot more in other areas or somewhat less for not being near the ocean.

In March, we'll head to the panhandle for a week camping at Navarre, near Pensacola.  We'll stay at Emerald Beach RV Park, which is on the water.  The rate at this park is also $53/night with full hook-ups, TV, internet, laundry, and pool.  The Gulf Islands National Seashore on Santa Rosa Island is right across the causeway and about a 3 mile drive away.

From Navarre, we're heading across the country for a 2 month road trip to Arizona and New Mexico, but that's a posting for another day.

For our stay in Florida, the expenses not including food (which is almost the same as being home) or gas to get there are as follows;
    • Camping fees     $1,156
    • Condo rental       $2,800
    • Total                    $3,956
So, its about $4,000 for our stay in Florida.  Cost for avoiding 2 months of snow and winter: Priceless!

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