The Big Winter Decision

When you live in an RV and want to stay where it’s warm, your choices for winter are limited.

Florida 2020-21

As you guys know, we totally spoiled ourselves by spending our first winter in southern Florida: Thanksgiving in the Everglades, December at an RV resort near Naples (top photo), and January and February in the Keys.

We traveled up and down the state staying at beautiful Florida state parks, and we loved the diversity of the state’s ecology—but most of all the warmth!

Yes, Florida in the winter is idyllic, but everyone knows that, so everyone goes there. This makes it very difficult to book spots and very expensive (unless you have amazing skill and luck in your planning). So, we’ve done Florida and are moving on.

Arizona 2021-22

The first photo below is our first Christmas day on the road, near Naples. The second photo is our second Christmas, on Mars. I mean, near Yuma, Arizona, at the Imperial Dam Long-term Visitor’s Area, technically in California.

Now don’t get me wrong: we loved many aspects of spending this past winter in the desert. We met friends we hope to continue to see and travel with; we visited gorgeous Death Valley and Joshua Tree, Organ Pipe Cactus Nat’l Monument, on and on. I learned about the subtle and precarious beauty of the desert.

But there was one day in March when we were driving from one desert camping spot to another, and the view out the truck window was brown as far as I could see, and I declared,

I don’t want to spend next winter in the desert!

We Gotta Decide

You’re probably familiar with my Google My Maps record of where we’ve been (first year on the road is the unconnected blue icons, second year is yellow, current year is purple) and where we’re going (the blue connected route).

Note the three red circles: where we spent last winter on the left, the winter before that on the right, and the third choice right in the middle: the southernmost tip of Texas.

Where did this place come from?

Tracy created a graphic of average monthly temperatures across the southern U.S. plus other pertinent data like budget and travel time and fuel prices and the reviews of snowbirds, and I basically stared at photos of the Keys.

We thought about bumming around the southwest back to only the favorite places we’d stayed (instead of so much time on Mars); we thought about Naples again (I put our names on the waiting list for where we’d stayed last year, but they didn’t call me); and we thought about that southernmost area of Texas, same latitude as Naples.

And suddenly, while we were camping in Arizona at that Wildlife Refuge where the border patrol kept almost running us over on the dirt roads, we realized we had to just make a freaking decision. That day. In the camping world, March is almost too late to be making reservations for December.

Third Choice: Texas

So this is where we picked. Ta da! We’ll be spending three months next winter at the glorious small town of Brownsville, Texas, in the family-run mobile home park called Honeydale. I think this photo from their website sums it up.

Specifically, we’ll be in that red circle.

Brownsville is the towny town people drive through to get to South Padre Island, the beachy vacation destination. There’s camping on the island, but it’s expensive and crowded and you’re stuck there; you have to drive out through traffic to go anywhere for errands or exploring.

Within Brownsville, we considered several fancy RV Resorts built exactly for people like us, looking for a winter getaway. I have a spreadsheet listing pools and yoga and bands by the community center. But they all seemed so antiseptic: newly built, isolated on the edge of town (where land is less expensive), and, frankly, kind of boring-looking.

Would you want to spend three months sitting right there? I do not. So I picked the older mobile home park that’s wooded, is inside the town so we can ride our bike to places (if there are interesting places), and, importantly, is a fraction of the cost of the boring-looking new resorts. And I booked it! Just like that.

No online reservations system, no waiting list, no price tiers for certain spots. I spoke with the park’s owner on the phone (she lives there), and she helped me pick out the spot we might like best, and then she wrote our names down. When I asked about an email confirmation or a deposit, she said, ”If it would make you feel better to send me $100, you’re welcome to. But that spot will be here for you when you get here.” See, that’s a good sign. I hope.


That was in early March. Fast forward to last week (early May) when we were with very little cell service near Big Sur, California, and a voicemail message slips through to my phone from … that danged gorgeous RV resort in Naples. They suddenly have a premier river-front site for us. Do we want it?

Yes, I want it! We’re there in the photo above, having happy hour with our neighbor in our shared ”yard” by the river. Below, I’m sitting on the other side of that yard watching manatees visit.

We kayaked there, we competed in the Retiree Pentathlon, we biked to a farmers market and a brewery. Yes we want the spot!

But here comes Tracy with actually thinking about this decision instead of acting on impulse.

Back in March when we were deciding, if it was hard to book spots getting in and out of Florida then—imagine how hard it will be to do all that in May! And we’re on the road to explore, not to go right back to where we just were. Plus, we’re thinking about heading to Alaska the next summer, and starting from Florida instead of Texas would add miles and weeks to that trip.

We settled on the idea that: I want to go to Florida especially, so if we pick it, I will especially be in charge of booking our trip in and out. I’ve found campgrounds and picked campsites and booked them, but I’ve never booked an entire leg of a trip. At the last minute. For Florida in the winter. But I was willing. Did I mention the heated pool?

So I walked out to the group camping area near Big Sur where I got two bars of signal if I stood on the trash can (kind of joking) and called the resort to confirm we’d take it.

“Oh, by the way, how much will that spot be per month?”

“It’ll be $2,441 plus utilities”

“What?!? We payed about $600 when we were there.”

“That was for December, which is off-season. Plus, that was two years ago.”

“No, thank you. We won’t be joining you this upcoming winter.”

Man oh man, $2k/month is closer to what we paid in the Keys. And it’s not the Keys. So here we come, Texas!

There’s no pool, no yoga, no catamaran sailing trips, no bands on the patio, no group BBQs or tennis tournaments.

But it looks homey, and we could use a little homey feel, especially by the time we’ve spent all of the spring and summer in vacation campgrounds up the west coast and across Canada. We’ll consider this a respite, our own kind of resort. And, if we actually like the spot, maybe we’ll buy it so we don’t have to make this choice again every winter.

Stay tuned.

3 thoughts to “The Big Winter Decision”

  1. Hope it all goes well. We’ve heard similar stories from our RV friends Stu and Caryl about prices skyrocketing! You made a wise choice.

    1. Oh, and the one my folks stayed at (early 1980s?) was called Breeze Lake campground, on Vermillion in Brownsville, so not the same place.