By John Marucci – On The Road

If you currently camp at Florida State Parks or might want to someday, the next story is a big deal. So we turned to veteran RV blogger John Marucci, who summed it up very thoroughly in the following article:

I live in Michigan and have stayed at Florida State Parks in the past to escape the cold winters, and without question for RV camping, Florida State Parks have been an exceptional value.

A recently signed bill CS/HB 109 allows Florida state residents to book campsites 11 months in advance with proof of citizenship of a Florida driver’s license or identification card. Non-residents will now be curtailed to book ten months in advance, a month later than residents. Before this change, non-residents could also book 11 months in advance. According to, “The legislation was introduced in response to complaints that third parties were taking up reservations that were made available by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).”

To be clear, this was a fully bipartisan bill— the Florida state house voted 107-0 to approve the bill, and the Florida state senate passed the bill 39-0. The governor signed the bill into law on May 11th, with the law going into effect on January 1st, 2024.

As I have had no issues booking campsites for peak season, I don’t think the real reason for the bill is to restrain third parties from reselling campsites. Giving Florida residents priority access is likely the main reason for the recent changes– residents pay taxes; thus, they should have first dibs on the parks. It is understandable for residents to have this access since the parks are in their state. As we’ll discuss, I think there likely is a better solution.

Obviously, for residents of Florida, this is a huge win as they can get a jump on reserving some of the best campsites without directly competing against people out of state. Contrarily, for those of us who like staying at Florida State Parks and live in other states, it is a huge loss with major future travel implications. Creating a timing differential between state residents and out-of-state visitors creates an attractive incentive to warehouse bookings for resale at a higher cost to out-of-state visitors.

The Data

Let’s look at some data. In January of 2022, for example, 57,945 nights were booked by out-of-state parties vs. 34,863 for Florida residents. These numbers flip during winter months vs. non-winter months. All to say, there are large numbers of out-of-state visitors who camp using Florida state parks. Moreover, the average length of stay for January 2022 was 3.824 nights for out-of-state parties vs. 2.654 for Florida residents. This indicates that out-of-state visitors stay longer and thus pay more per stay.

Secondary Market

The downstream effects of creating a timing differential between in-state residents and out-of-state visitors are significant. We need to understand that Florida State Park campsites are subsidized below the market rate. A recent 14-day stay of mine at Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, Florida, cost $488.44 or $34.89 per night. Looking at a future stay in April 2024 for a 14-day reservation at Thousand Trails RV Park just a few miles south of Lake Louisa is $808.08 or $57.72 per night for a full hookup site. The Lake Louisa RV site is underpriced by $22.83 per night vs. Thousand Trails. This pricing subsidy and differential from the market price is one of the main reasons why out-of-state campers go to Florida State Parks. I would also argue that state parks generally have better natural surroundings than private campgrounds.

How much would I be willing to pay for a full hookup site at Lake Louisa State Park, given the actual market price? I think I would be willing to pay at least $60 per night if and only if I can secure a long enough stay to plan a prolonged trip. I may even be willing to pay up to $70 per night, given the surroundings. Thus, the problem with a subsidized platform– it creates an incentive for a secondary market.

Suppose the price that a Florida resident can secure a prime Lake Louisa RV site is only $35 per night, and an out-of-state winter camper would be willing to pay up to $70 per night. In that case, it creates a considerable incentive to warehouse the asset and try to resell it to out-of-state campers. In essence, the state government (both parties) invited into the market the very third-party players that the bill proposed to exclude.

My Take

If I am correct, then two things will happen: First, state parks will see a significant drop in future winter revenue as those who need to secure longer blocks can’t get inventory due to the timing differential and forgo state parks altogether. Second, residents will continue to have a hard time getting reservations, even with no out-of-state competition for sites. This eliminates the very thing desired while lowering revenues.

A Better Solution

Given the apparent pricing differential, the State should instead have increased pricing for out-of-state parties to the market price and kept the reservation windows equal. Price is the primary determinant of the demand for any product. Given a high enough price, out-of-state demand would have naturally waned, opening more capacity. The same outcome would occur if the subsidy remained for state residents while increasing revenue and curtailing the secondary market. It amazes me that no one from either political party saw the adverse downstream effects of such a solution.

As for me, should I desire to RV in Florida in the winter, I’ll have to look at non-state park locations and now pay the market price. This is why, according to, “The bill’s passage has been welcomed by the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds and the Florida Recreational Vehicle Trade Association.” Of course, with more winter demand, these private campgrounds can raise prices.

You may not see all these secondary effects show up immediately, but give it 5-10 years, and the State Parks will be short financially, and prices will have to be raised to compensate for the revenue shortfall. At that point, out-of-state RV’ers will have adjusted their habits permanently. If I am correct, it is a lose-lose-lose: for out-of-state campers immediately, for Florida residents and for State Park revenues in the longer term.