Trip Date 02/19/2020
Posted On 03/23/2020 16:45:00
Destinations | Camping | RVing | Hiking | Florida | Campgrounds | Florida State Parks Annual Pass | Benefits | Camping Discounts | Save Money
Through our years of traveling, we have saved so much money with both our home state Annual Parks Pass and our America the Beautiful Annual Pass. Before traveling to Florida, we decided to dig in to learn all about the Florida State Parks Annual Pass to see if it would make sense for us as well. Since we did the leg work, we're sharing our analysis to help you determine whether or not you will benefit by purchasing the pass as well.
Florida has some awesome state parks! We made it to 11 state parks in just under a month. There's not a single park that we would not want to return to. To top it off, the day use fees are very reasonable - in fact, much more reasonable than day use fees charged by parks in our home state.
If you are in search of camping discounts or ways to save money when visiting Florida, this post is for you. If you are wondering whether or not the Florida State Parks Annual Pass is worth the up front cost, this post will help you answer that question as well. If you are unfamiliar with the pass and plan to stay at any Florida campgrounds or spend time hiking, camping or RVing in the state, this post is also for you. We'll start with an overview of the pass benefits followed by a cost vs. benefit analysis. By the end of the post, you should be able to answer the question of whether or not purchasing the pass will be a good value for you.
Benefits of the Florida State Parks Annual PassIt's all about the benefits! While some people might just want to make a donation to the state, let's be honest. The reason most people consider purchasing the Florida State Parks Annual Pass is for the benefits that they will receive by being a pass holder. Here's what you can expect:
- waived daily entrance fees at most Florida State Parks through the end of the twelfth month following the purchase date for the holder of an Individual Pass;
- each additional guest entering most Florida State Parks along with an Individual Pass holder pays $2.00 per visit;
- waived daily entrance fees for a carload of up to 8 people all entering together at most Florida State Parks for Family Pass holders through the end of the twelfth month following the purchase date.
As we said, the entrance fee is waived at "most" Florida State Parks. Some of the exceptions that you can expect include:
- Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, where the discount is 33%;
- the number of people whose entrance fees will be waived at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and Weeki Wachee Springs State Park are limited to 1 (Individual Pass) or 2 (Family Pass), with each additional guest paying the standard entrance fee; and
- local and/or special use (camping, tours, boat launch, etc.) fees are not waived.
Example of Fee Calculation with Florida State Parks Annual PassHere's a quick example of how entrance fees are calculated at many Florida State Parks. The daily fees at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park are:
- $2.00 per person entering on foot or bicycle;
- $4.00 per vehicle with driver and no additional passengers;
- $6.00 per vehicle with driver plus 1 to 7 additional passengers; and
- $2.00 for each additional passenger.
When a couple enters the park together, the fee would be:
- $6.00 without a state parks pass;
- $2.00 with a valid Individual Pass; or
- no additional fee with a valid Family Pass.
A family or group of 4 to 8 people (all entering together in one car) would pay:
- $6.00 without a state parks pass (or with a valid Individual Pass); or
- no additional fee with a valid Family Pass.
Cost of Florida State Parks Annual PassExcluding tax, the cost of the Florida State Parks Annual Pass is currently $60.00 for an Individual Pass or $120.00 for a Family Pass. Passes are valid until the last day of the twelfth month following the purchase date. (By buying the pass near the beginning of a month, passes are valid for nearly 13 months!)
Military families, families of Florida Law Enforcement or Firefighters, those operating a Florida Foster Home and families with an adopted special needs child should refer to Discounts On Annual Passes for potential discounted or free passes.
Passes can be purchased at most Ranger Stations. Full price individual and family passes are usually available online with an additional $6.00 processing and convenience fee.
Cost vs. Benefit Comparison of Florida State Parks Annual PassThe example above shows that there is value to having a Florida State Parks Annual Pass - but only if you put it to work for you! Here's a summary of the Florida State Parks that Scott and I were able to visit in less than four weeks. We've also included the potential savings by being Annual Pass holders:
- January 22 - Topsail Hill Preserve State Park: No savings on camping for pass holders;
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
- January 24 - Henderson Beach State Park: $6.00 savings with Family Pass or $4.00 savings with Individual Pass;
- January 25 - Eden Gardens State Park: $4.00 savings with Family Pass or $2.00 savings with Individual Pass
(No discount on house tours for pass holders);
Eden Gardens State Park
- January 28 - Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park: $6.00 savings with Family Pass or $4.00 savings with Individual Pass (No discount on boat tours for pass holders);
- February 1 - Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park: $26.00 savings with Family Pass or $13.00 savings with Individual Pass;
- February 2 - Weeki Wachi Springs State Park: $26.00 savings with Family Pass or $13.00 savings with Individual Pass;
- February 4 - Lovers Key State Park: $4.00 savings with Family Pass or $2.00 savings with Individual Pass
Lovers Key State Park
- February 8 - Little Manatee River State Park: $5.00 savings with Family Pass or $3.00 savings with Individual Pass;
- February 12 - Manatee Springs State Park: $6.00 savings with Family Pass or $4.00 savings with Individual
Manatee Springs State Park
- February 14 - Fanning Springs State Park: $6.00 savings with Family Pass or $4.00 savings with Individual Pass; and
- February 16 - Falling Waters State Park: $5.00 savings with Family Pass or $3.00 savings with Individual Pass.
Based on the above, having a Family Pass would have saved us $94.00 and with an Individual Pass we would have saved $52.00 in under one month. After deducting the upfront cost of the Florida State Parks Annual Pass ($60.00 for Individual or $120.00 for Family Passes), we wouldn't quite have broken even. But - there were still eleven months remaining in the year!
Is the Florida State Parks Pass Worth the Annual Fee?The decision as to whether or not the Florida State Parks Annual Pass is a good investment is a personal decision based on each person's / family's potential visits to Florida State Parks. Here's a few examples to help you make your decision:
- A large number of Florida State Parks charge $4.00 for an individual arriving via car. Someone who enjoys hiking may
wish to spend a couple of days each month hiking within the state park system. Rather than paying $96.00 in entrance
fees for two state park visits each month, this individual could purchase an Individual Pass at a cost of $60.00.
(Anytime they decide to bring a family member or friend along, there would only be an additional $2.00 per person fee.)
Little Manatee River State Park
- Many Florida State Parks charge $6.00 for vehicles arriving with 2 - 8 people or $2.00 per person accompanying a valid Individual Pass holder. Assume that two people visit one state park each month with the above fee schedule. Paying the per vehicle entrance fees would result in a total cost of $72.00. Should they choose to purchase a $60.00 Individual Pass upon their first park visit, they would be responsible for the $2.00 additional person fee at each park ($24.00) for a grand total of $84.00. The benefits would not outweigh the the cost!
- Do you have kids that enjoy water parks? Just one visit to Weeki Wachi Springs State Park would cost two
adults plus two children aged 6 - 12 a total of $42.00. A Family Pass would deduct $26.00 off of the entrance fee.
Multiply that times five visits during the year, and the family would save $10.00 by purchasing the Family Pass. Any
additional visits to Florida State Parks throughout the year would be icing on the savings cake!
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
- Are you a couple with plans to winter in Florida? If the two of you make 20 visits to Florida State Parks with an average fee of $6.00 per vehicle, you would break even with a Family Pass. (You could actually purchase an Individual Pass at a price of $60.00. Then, you'd pay an additional $2.00 at each of the parks for the extra person. Your grand total would be $100.00 rather than $120.00 with the Family Pass.)
Our VerdictIt's not an easy decision - especially for visitors who plan on spending a limited amount of time in the state. Unlike in some other states, there is no reduction in camping fees with the Florida State Parks Annual Pass. Most parks charge a per vehicle (rather than per person) day use fee. Standard entrance charges range from $5.00 to $8.00 for 2 - 8 persons.
A family would need to visit state parks on approximately 20 days during a valid pass period for the pass to pay off. You really need to take a look at the Florida State Parks Fee Schedule and make plans for the upcoming twelve months. Then, do a quick calculation to see if purchasing a pass makes sense!
If you decide that you won't make enough state park visits for the pass to pay off, don't miss spending time in Florida State Parks. They are some of the best in the nation, are very reasonably priced and as advertised, are an awesome way to see "the real Florida"!
We fully planned to purchase a pass upon our arrival into Florida. At check-in, we learned that the daily use fee for campers is included in the camping fee which we had prepaid. With no discount on camping for pass holders, we decided not to purchase a pass. This ended up being the right decision based on the limited time that we had in the state. We will potentially be visiting southern Florida two times later this year. If we decide to visit three or more state parks, we may, however, regret our decision!
America the Beautiful National Parks PassIf you are considering visits to some of the national parks in the United States, take a look at our post titled "Is the America the Beautiful National Parks Annual Pass Worth the Annual Fee?". After two years of being holders of the national parks pass, we provide a similar analysis to help you decide whether or not this pass is right for you.
Best State Park Annual PassesWhich state park passes have you found to have benefits that make having the pass worth the cost?
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