March is here….and while saying “March is here” comes with some small promise of Spring – it was 5 degrees outside this morning! Frigid!
I’ve always been a little envious of my snowbird friends….but I guess I don’t need to feel that way next winter, because we’ll be joining them! I really hope that all of my Indiana friends still love me after they read this post.
For the Lancaster’s, next January & February will are going to be full of Sunshine, Fun, and Opportunities to SERVE!
UPDATE #1 – THE TRIP
We are going to join the Snowbirds for the months of January & February. We are going to have a lot of different experiences while we are wintering in Florida, and it’s sure to be an adventure.
FLORIDA STATE PARKS
Let me tell you, competition for good RV sites in South Florida is FIERCE, and they can be really expensive!!!! One affordable option is the Florida State Parks. You can stay at a private RV Park on/near the ocean for $150/300 night – OR if you’re lucky enough to get into one of the ocean-front State Parks, you are looking at $30/40 night.
Cost isn’t the only perk – Private Parks in Florida tend to be full of semi-permanent trailers and feel more like parking lots than campgrounds. They cram people in as tightly as they can and you have no privacy & no shade. State Parks generally have lots of shade, larger sites, and some natural vegetation that creates privacy between you & your neighbors. Since we are camping with our dogs as well, it’s such a bonus to have nice places to walk, hike, and be active within the park.
Reservations for Florida State Parks open 11 months in advance! If you want to camp in South Florida on January 1st, 2020, Sorry Friend, you are out of luck….you needed to make that reservation on December 1st 2019.
They use an online reservation system called Reserve America which opens at 8am, EST, every day. Parks right on the beach book up completely by 8:01. Seriously. I’ve tried every morning for a solid MONTH to get into Curry Hammock State Park & Bahai Honda State Park – which are both oceanfront in the Florida Keys – and have been unsuccessful. Bummer. But I eventually accepted it because life is too short to be frustrated…and we shifted our focus and found other options.
Instead of looking for parks on the beach, we decided to look for parks that would keep us in warm weather, have good hiking trails, and keep us within driving distance to the beach so we can take some good day trips to the ocean.
Park 1 – Little Manatee River State Park – This State Park is near Tampa, has good hiking trails, canoeing, and fishing. We’re less than a 20 minute drive from the beach, and we should have good cell phone signals & internet access so the kids can stay caught up with their schooling and we can stay in touch. Plenty of room for campfires at night. It’s nothing special, but we did get a spot for $22/night, and it will make a good base camp for a few weeks.
Park 2 – Hillsborough River State Park – This state park is in Central Florida – good hiking, fishing, canoeing, and geocaching (which is new to us, but we hear is super fun). In addition, they also have a HUGE pool, which I’m sure the kids will enjoy – as well as tours of Fort Foster, which will give us a hands on history lesson. We got this spot for $28/night.
While getting a great deal on campsites that have electric & water hook-ups is really wonderful, we still wanted to be as close to the beach as possible for some of our stay – so we’ll be alternating stays at those affordable & spacious State Parks with pricier privately owned parks.
Naples/Marco Island KOA – Naples, FL. This Park is a part of the KOA network, it’s a family friendly RV Park (which is hard to find….so many of the parks in South Florida are exclusively 55+), and we can walk to the Gulf of Mexico. That’s what I’m talking about! My grandma Nancy lived in Naples while I was growing up, and I LOVED going down to visit her. I’m really looking forward to being back in Naples with my family and walking the same beaches that she loved and shared with me. We’ll spend 10 days here, looking for seashells, sharks teeth, and enjoying the beach!
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort – Orlando, FL ——Ok….so this is our BIG SPLURGE. This campground is owned by Disney & is considered the #1 RV Resort in the US. Huge private campsites, mature trees, swimming pool, movies every night…..and tons of other fun options.
Because this is considered a Disney Resort, we also have transportation – and get to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours at all of the Parks – which we could only do because the campground also offers a DOGGIE DAYCARE for Max & Millie Mae. How great is that!? There is no way we could leave them crated in the camper while we did Disney, so this really is a great perk.
Those of you who know us well know that we are not fans of Disney. In general, it’s just not our vibe – but we’ll be a full 7 months into our journey by this time, and a little something different might be just what we need. The kids were in elementary school when we took them to Magic Kingdom and they hated it (not an exaggeration…..my kids are weird, like me) SO, maybe we’ll try Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or one of the water parks this time around. We did say “NEVER AGAIN”….but when in Rome….
And it might be that the campground is enough for us! It really looks beautiful.
For those who are curious we paid $115/night for our campsite, which includes water/electric/sewer onsite – and free access to the pool, as well as free transportation to all the parks OR free parking if we choose to drive in & out.
BUT THE MOST EXCITING STOP SO FAR…..
So, if you’ve been reading the blog posts you know that this isn’t just a road trip, or a long vacation. God confirmed that we go in such a way that I know this is really a Pilgrimage. (if you missed it, you can read about that here)
Part of the plan is to pray daily that God opens our eyes and uses us to love and help others. Most of the time we are expecting The Lord to lead us spontaneously, but I do want to be sure to plan some stops where we can be intentional about serving. Mini “Missions Trips”
I’m excited to share that our first planned “Mission Trip” is a week long visit to the Taunton Children’s Home in Wewahitchka, FL. These folks have a great story & their obedience to God has brought hope to HUNDREDS of kids over the years.
I really want to encourage you all to watch the video that they have on their website. I cried through the whole thing – not because it’s sad – but because what God is doing through them is Powerful & Beautiful.
My mom took Edie there to serve a few years ago with her church group, and we though it would be really special to take her back there to reconnect, meet the Taunton’s for ourselves, and serve them in whatever way we can. I am SO excited.
That’s the first Family Mission Trip – but we hope that it won’t be the last. I’m praying that God will lead us into other opportunities to be a blessing.
If you have suggestions for other missions that could use a helping hand, please comment below. Leaving your comment below will help me find the information easily, and might help someone else along the way.
We just never know!
Thank you all for reading this, and praying for us, and cheering us on.
Here’s to the journey.