The Sunshine State is a popular tourist destination. As a result, it can be very difficult to snag a campsite and hotels can be extremely expensive. Many nomads who struggle to find a place to stay in these areas will go stealth camping to get some rest at the end of the day. But is stealth camping in Florida even possible or legal? It might even be how you spend your next trip to Florida! Let’s take a look and see!
What Is Stealth Camping?
Stealth camping is a type of camping that involves camping in non-typical places while also trying to go undetected. Stealth campers typically use parking lots and city streets to park their RVs while they get some rest for the night. While the most popular vehicles of choice for this style of camping are conversion vans and box truck conversions, it’s possible to turn almost any vehicle into a stealth camper.
Most stealth campers aim to attract as little attention as possible to avoid any potential conflicts or safety concerns while sleeping. It can be a great camping option when you’re in a pinch and looking for a place to stay for the night.
Why Do People Stealth Camp?
There are many reasons why people would need to or choose to stealth camp. Sometimes your travel days don’t go as planned, or you get stuck in traffic. As a result, you may be unable to drive to your final destination before fatigue sets in. Stealth camping can give you a few hours of rest before you and your vehicle return to the road. Nearly 100,000 accidents are the result of drowsy driving each year. You should never drive when you’re too tired.
In addition, stealth camping can also help you save a tremendous amount of money. You may want to explore some parts of the country, but finding an affordable place to stay can be challenging. Campgrounds may be fully booked, and hotel and motel prices can be through the roof. When you travel with your bedroom in your vehicle, you only need to find a place to park for the night. If you can move from one spot to the next for a few nights, you can experience all that an area has to offer without paying a penny for lodging.
Is It Illegal to Stealth Camp?
The legalities of stealth camping vary from one location to the next. Some locations, particularly urban areas, will have strict rules and regulations. They typically prohibit overnight parking in public areas to battle homelessness. You’ll want to check the rules and regulations for any place you want to stealth camp.
However, just because a city or town allows stealth camping doesn’t mean you can park just anywhere. While an empty parking lot may seem like a great place to stealth camp for the night, it’s more than likely private property. You should never park on private property without permission from the owner or manager of the property.
Can You Stealth Camp in Florida?
It’s possible to stealth camp in Florida, but it can be challenging. The extreme summer heat can even make it dangerous to try to stealth camp.
If you want the best stealth camping experience in Florida, you’ll want to plan your adventures between November and March. The Sunshine State typically experiences cooler temperatures, especially at night, which can make it more enjoyable.
It’s important to remember that rules and regulations will vary based on specific cities. Large urban cities like Orlando, Tampa, and Miami will likely be much more challenging to stealth camp than in smaller, rural cities throughout the state.
Pro Tip: Make sure to Avoid These 7 Things That Will Give You Away When Stealth Camping on your next adventure.
Can You Stealth Camp in the Florida Keys?
If you drive through the Florida Keys, you’ll see plenty of “No Overnight Parking” signs, especially in parking lots. In general, there are no public lands where you can try to park for the night. However, this doesn’t always stop stealth campers willing to gamble.
Stealth camping requires campers to camouflage themselves to avoid attracting attention. They’ll look for areas to park where their vehicle won’t stick out like a sore thumb. If you can find a spot where no one will notice you’ve parked for the night, you can stealth camp in the Florida Keys. Is it legal? Probably not! Are you taking a risk? You bet!
That being said, we don’t recommend trying to stealth camp in these types of situations. Law enforcement and property owners are on the lookout for violators. If you’re stealth camping to try and save money, receiving a citation or fine will likely do the exact opposite of what you intend. However, the choice is yours. Are you feeling lucky?
Pro Tip: We stealth camped in the Florida Keys back in 2016. A lot has changed since then, but here is what we learned.
What Happens If You Get Caught Stealth Camping?
When stealth campers get caught, it typically goes a couple of ways. The most common scenario is that law enforcement or the property owner knocks on your vehicle and informs you that you’re trespassing or violating a local ordinance. They’ll most likely request that you pack your things and move on your way. If you’re respectful and comply, they may even offer tips on where to park to finish sleeping for the night.
The second common scenario is that you choose not to comply or that you’re disrespectful. We don’t recommend this as it typically escalates the situation. You can pretty much guarantee you’re kissing goodbye any chance you have of not receiving a fine or citation. However, officers may still issue you a citation in some areas that frequently deal with travelers trying to camp overnight. These communities often hope to inform the nomadic community that overnight parking is not allowed in their community.
Common Stealth Camping Spots in Florida
If you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine State and want to stealth camp, there are some options to consider. Here are some of the common stealth camping spots in Florida.
Legal Street Parking
One of the most common places for stealth camping is along streets in cities and towns. You’ll want to be on the lookout for any signs prohibiting overnight parking. However, depending on your vehicle, it can be easy to blend in and not attract attention.
If you’re unsure whether an area allows overnight parking, it’s best to call the local police department and ask. Being ignorant of the law will not exempt you from any potential consequences that you could face. It’s your responsibility to be aware of the local rules and regulations where you’re trying to stealth camp.
You can find plenty of 24-hour businesses, especially in urban areas. These are great locations because vehicles sitting in the parking lot aren’t going to attract attention. If you’re able to park between vehicles and limit the visibility inside of yours, there’s a good chance no one will notice you while you’re stealth camping.
Fitness centers are a popular 24-hour business type that can be easy to overlook for stealth camping. People are constantly coming and going to get in their workouts throughout the night. If you’re a member of one of these fitness centers, you might be able to get in a workout and a shower before or after you get some rest.
Hotel Parking Lots
Hotel parking lots are another common option for stealth camping in Florida. Since the state has several popular tourist destination cities, hotels are readily available. Many people don’t pay much attention to the vehicles parked in a hotel parking lot overnight.
It’s important to know that many hotels have caught on to stealth campers using their lots and will keep a watchful eye on their parking spaces. You may be able to find a hotel right off the interstate that won’t notice if you discreetly pull into a parking spot.
Truck stops are one popular option and typically require less stealthiness than other options. Many of these locations will have large lots for big rigs to park for the night and get some rest. However, just because you’re not an 18-wheeler doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of them.
We should warn you that truck stops can be very busy, and the noise levels can be excessive. Trucks will be coming and going throughout the night, and they’re typically very loud. Many truckers will leave their engines idling throughout the night to power heaters, air conditioners, and other appliances that can make them more comfortable inside their rig.
Pro Tip: Don’t just sleep at a truck stop, shower too! Use our guide on How To Shower at a Truck Stop.
Another common place stealth campers park for the night is in big-box retailers’ parking lots. Retailers like Walmart, Lowe’s, and Costco are typically some of the most hospitable when it comes to sharing their parking lots with travelers.
However, local rules and regulations in these areas will overrule a retailer’s desire to be hospitable. Since these are considered private property owned by the retailer, it’s a good idea to receive permission from the establishment before getting too comfortable.
Is Stealth Camping in Florida Worth It?
Florida is full of adventurous activities for all ages to enjoy. Stealth camping can be a great way to camp while you explore the state. However, you don’t want to park your vehicle anywhere to get some sleep. If you research to find places to park and plan your trip during the right time of year, stealth camping can be an incredible way to travel throughout the state.
Have you ever stealth-camped in Florida? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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