While we’re currently on our boat in north Florida, we’re starting to make preps and plans to store the boat and return to our bus this winter. Out bus is currently stored in Texas, which is where we’ll pick that adventure up – which got me reminiscing today about one of our favorite state park systems.
I thought I’d produce some of the video content we filmed on our last RV trip to keep sprinkling in this boating season, and share some of our tips for RVing in the Texas State Park system.
So, first the quick video version of this:
If you’ve been following our content for long, you’ll likely notice that we stay in state parks a LOT. They’re one of favorite kind of RV stays – they get us more out in nature, usually have larger sites than many RV parks, provide some hook-ups and are generally pretty darn affordable.
But each state park system is different in what they offer and how they operate. Some charge entrance fees, reservation policies vary and amenities can be all over the map. That’s because each state operates their parks their way.
We track some of these variances in our mobile app State Lines to help make travel planning a bit easier.
One of our favorite state parks systems has always been Texas. And that’s not just because I grew up in Texas and was my first introduction to state parks. They just have excellent parks that get you out exploring the state’s natural features.
As Texas is a pretty big state and takes a few days to get through – you’re likely to cross through there at some point.
So here’s some things we’ve learned about the state park system over the years that might help you better plan your stay:
Currently, the Texas State Park system hosts their own reservation system at https://texas.reserveworld.com. It’s kinda archaic to navigate, but it’s functional. You can also call in to their hotline.
What I love about the current system is that at most parks you don’t book a specific site – you just reserve a site suitable for your RV size and hook-ups needed. Your site is actually assigned when you arrive.
This system sucks for those who have a favorite site they want to snag or are trying to coordinate booking several sites near each other – but overall, this system is super flexible.
It actually allows for us nomads wanting more than a weekend stay to stand a better chance at a longer reservation because we’re not trying to compete for ‘the good sites’ that usually have weekends booked out.
When you arrive if you have a favorite site, you can request it. And the rangers are usually pretty flexible in letting you either pick out the site you want or even switching sites if you find one you like better.
We’ve even kept our eye on prime sites in a park for when they’re vacated and requested a site switch to get an upgrade.
Unfortunately, the Texas State Park system is working to switch reservation systems to a site-specific reservation system – so this could be changing state wide. But until it does – use the flexibility to your advantage. We’ll definitely miss this feature of the current system.
By the way, Georgia State Park systems work similarly.
Pricing & Entrance Fees
Texas State Parks camp site fees are pretty darn reasonable – they’re usually in the $15-25 range per night, including water & electric hook-ups (some of their rare dry camping sites are under $10).
But what’s not included is the state park entrance fee – which is charged per person per day.
As an example, our video above was filmed at one of our all time favorite parks – McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, TX. The per night fee is $20, but the entrance fee is $6.
For the two of us, that would make the site $32/night.
Still a bargain given other options in the area.
But the way around this is getting a Texas State Park annual pass. They’re $70, and it waives the entrance frees for all occupants in the vehicle (and includes both your RV and tow/toad). And it gives you 4 coupons for 50% off your second night of any unique reservation.
It’s a pretty good deal – IF you’re going to be staying in the state park system more than a few nights. For us we figure it’s worth picking up on our first stay if we’re planning to be in the park system more than a few nights in the next 12 months. And allows us to bring in visitors (if we’re in the vehicle with them) without paying entrance fees.
You can pick up your park pass at any check in counter, and it’s good for 1 year from purchase date (it actually expires at the end of the month – so you might get some bonus time).
We got ours this past February on our first stay this year – and have already redeemed two 50% off coupons (saved $20) and stayed 14-nights in the park system (saved $168). So we’re already well ahead of the park pass purchase price. We’ll be planning some additional stays as we head west this winter as well.
Refunds on Unused Nights
We actually only learned this trick this past year – thanks to a Texas State Park ranger who filled us in.
First of all, like most public campgrounds – there is a 14-night limit in each park.
When you book your site, you’re only asked to make a 1-night deposit. And the cancellation fee is pretty darn reasonable (I believe just $10). And when you arrive on site, if there’s availability, you can usually adjust your reservation if your plans have changed. We’ve often checked in a day or two early or extended our stay. We’ll sometimes calls the park in advance to know if early arrival is possible, and sometimes a small change fee is charged.
When you arrive you pay the balance of your stay.
But if you leave early, and request it, the park office will refund your unused days – with no change or cancellation fee charged.
This makes our reservation planning better mesh with our no-schedule philosophy. We’ll book a stay for the period of time we think we’ll need to ensure we have a spot in popular parks (especially over weekends!) – and even pad in extra nights to give us flexibility to extend. Then we can solidify things once we’re onsite – even up to the day we leave.
Combined with sites not being assigned in advance (ie. no one has your site reserved should you be able to extend), this makes navigating the Texas State Park system super flexible.
You are allowed to drink within your own RV- that is not considering public, but your private accomodations.
Some park rangers are also lenient on drinking alcohol at your campsite (not considering that public) – as long as it’s not obvious.
Put your wine or beer in a plastic cup instead of drinking right out of the bottle or using an obvious wine glass. You might want to confirm with the specific park before assuming (or be careful to not call attention to your drinking) – not all are lenient on this. Especially in some of the more restrictive areas of Texas.
The fines can be stiff for being caught drinking in public.
And definitely don’t walk around the campground drinking alcohol, no matter the container. That is for sure public.
Some of our favorite Texas State Park Stays over the years:
So there you go – we love the park system and try to integrate in stays at new-to-us parks on each pass through Texas. It’s a big state and a lot of parks available in amazing locations. We’ve found each to be fairly unique and offering so much to explore and learn.
Ps. For those following along in ‘real time’ – we are currently still in Jacksonville, FL and had no impacts from Hurricane Florence here.