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What To Expect When You Camp In Florida

A look at everything from the weather to what might "bug" you camping in Florida

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There is no doubt that Florida is a camping paradise. Still, while the Sunshine State's mild climate allows for year round camping and nearly unlimited outdoor activities, there are things that you should know before planning to pitch your tent or hook-up the RV at a Florida campground.

Rules of the Road

First of all, if you'll be traveling to Florida for your camping vacation, you need to be aware of Florida's traffic laws. One is especially specific to those pulling camping trailers or fifth wheels.

  • Florida requires all trailers exceeding 3,000 pounds in weight to be equipped with brakes on all wheels in accordance of Florida Motor Vehicles Code Section 316.261.

  • Every passenger in a motor vehicle MUST be restrained by a safety belt or by a child restraint device, regardless of seating position. Effective June 30, 2009, Florida's "click it, or ticket" law enables law enforcement to pull over any vehicle for this violation even if there has been no other traffic offense.

  • Florida’s “Move Over Act," passed in 2002, requires drivers to move over to the next lane or slow down (at least 20 miles below the posted speed limit) while approaching emergency vehicles that are stopped on interstate or other highways.
Look for more information and tips in my Florida Driving Guide

Bugs and Critters

I'm not sure who said, "Campers are nature's way of feeding mosquitoes," but mosquitoes certainly aren't a laughing matter. Mosquitoes. Those pesky bloodsuckers that leave you scratching are more than just a nuisance... they are a menace. They carry diseases – encephalitis, malaria, West Nile Virus – and cause heartworms in your canine friends. What should you do to prevent getting bit by them? Anything and everything, including these tips:
  • Wear clothing that covers most of your body.
  • Use a mosquito repellent. Sprays or lotions containing DEET (NN-diethyl-meta-toluamide) at a concentration of 7.5 percent to 100 percent is suggested and a 15-percent concentration is recommended for children. A great alternative and DEET-free Crocodile!® is an all-natural herbal insect repellent available directly from the manufacturer. Avon's Skin-So-Soft is a weak, short-lasting (less than 20 minutes) mosquito repellent. Permethrin, an effective pesticide, should be used on clothing only – never apply to your skin as it is a neurotoxin.
  • Stay inside! Avoid times of the day (early morning, dusk, and evening) that mosquitoes are most active.
  • Help control the mosquito population by eliminating sources of standing water where they may breed.
Other pesky insects that may "bug" you during your Florida camping trips are ants, noseeums (a.k.a. sand fleas) and wasps. To relieve the inevitable bites that you will get, it is good to have some type of hydrocortisone "anti-itch" cream on hand in your first aid kit. Do carry an EpiPen if you are allergic to insect bites and stings and know how to contact medical personnel if needed.

I have been asked what kind of wildlife might a person encounter while camping in Florida? I think you might encounter wildlife much like you would camping in any other state. I also think it depends on the region of Florida, the time of year, and how remote your campground location. While camping in Florida over the years, I've seen the typical small wild critters — raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, snakes, tortoises, fox, skunks, alligators and armadillos. However, I know that black bear, panthers and other large cats also roam Florida's forests. I just haven't seen them. Also, some non-native species are on the prowl in Florida these days — iguana and Burmese pythons. These creepy critters are primarily a problem in South Florida.

It is worth emphasizing that although many of these critters are cute, they are still wild animals and should be left alone. About.com's Camping Guide, David Sweet, offers sound advice when encountering several nuisance pests. Additionally, I think it is prudent to know which venomous snakes inhabit Florida.

Fishing Licenses

August 1, 2009 Florida's new shoreline fishing license requirement took effect. Florida residents (except those over age 65 and under age 16) who fish in saltwater from shore or a structure affixed to shore must have a $9 shoreline fishing license or a $17 regular saltwater fishing license.

The new shoreline fishing license is not available for non-residents. Regular non-resident saltwater fishing licenses are $17 for three days, $30 for seven days or $47 for one year, regardless of whether you fish from shore or a vessel.

Handling fees apply when the license comes from sales agents is 50 center per license; $2.25 plus 2.5 percent of the total sale, when purchased on the Internet; and, $3.25 plus 2.5 percent of the total sale, when purchased over the phone.

Other exceptions apply for those who qualify for temporary cash assistance, food stamps or Medicaid, residents who are age 65 or older and children under age 16 may all fish without a license. Active-duty military personnel may fish without a license while home on leave in Florida. Licensed fishing piers have licenses that cover everyone who fishes from them.

The new shoreline fishing license requirement allows Florida residents to be excempt from a more-expensive federal registration requirement that will take effect in 2011. For more FAQs about the new shoreline fishing license visit www.myfwc.com.

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