Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Changes in the Alabama Gulf State Park Reservation System

If you are planning a trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast soon, you should know about the changes they have made in their reservation system.  Both the Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores and Meaher State Park in Spanish Fort have both transitioned to site-specific reservations as of October 2015 and it is being met with mixed reviews.


We are currently staying at Meaher State Park, as we did last year this time.  The view of the water, large lots, great fishing opportunities on the Mobile Delta and Mobile Bay, plus tons of wonderful nearby restaurants keep us coming back every year.  When we asked for a reservation when we arrived the week before November, we were given the number of a site in the back just off the water.  Since we were traveling back from a long trip late on a Friday night, we really weren't thinking much about it since we had stayed before and knew we could actually select any available spot when we arrived regardless of what spot they gave us.  Last year, we stayed here for 3 months and stayed the entire time on the water, as long as we moved every 2 weeks.  


Meaher Park in Spanish Fort, Alabama

The evening we arrived, it was actually very strange when we pulled in and headed towards our site (it was after hours) because we passed 15-20 sites that were on the water and were just sitting there empty.  We were so confused as to why they didn't place us there when we called for a reservation. I asked the camp host if we could park in an available water site and she said something about a new system and said we would have to ask the office. We were exhausted and ready for sleep so we pulled into our back site and decided we would ask to move come Monday.

Come Monday, we went to the office and asked to be moved to a water site and they told us they were all reserved.  When we pointed out that we had been there for a couple of days and the same 20 sites were still open, they told us of the new policy: visitors could reserve specific sites and since we had asked to stay for a month and no one site was available for a solid month, they had to place us in the back.  We offered to move every couple of weeks like we did the previous year, but they again said the sites were reserved for one day here, two days there, and no site was available for any real length of time.  The two women in the office were wonderful and started looking into it and realized that they indeed had almost all of their water sites open, and if they rearranged a couple of reservations by only one site location, we could have one site for the entire month of November.  

It was during this time we learned that the Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores was doing the same reservation system this year.  RVers can make reservations for specific streets instead of a first-come, first-serve system like they had in previous years.  For some, this will be wonderful.  You can reserve your favorite spot, come in for two nights or two months, enjoy the park, and leave - without having to worry about what might be available when you arrive.  For others, it is proving to be less enjoyable.  Groups that have traveled together for years are unable to stay in spots near each other, RVers who did not reserve a specific spot in advance are having to pass primo empty spots that sit for weeks as they are directed to sites in the back of the park due to other reservations, and family members are being separated although available adjoining spots appear to be available. This system also eliminates the ability to move to better sites if they become available or to move from sites if you are having issues with neighbors during your stay.  


Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Some of the benefits to the system are when RVers do make a reservation, they will be guaranteed the spot they request for the season without having to arrive extremely early on November 1st to grab the spot on a first-come, first-serve basis, which is what has happened in previous years.  Groups that travel together can make reservations together and families can schedule trips without worrying about sites being available together.  (November 1st is when the parks begin their monthly rates.)

One more change in the Gulf State Park that you need to be aware of is the amount of deposit required for a reservation.  Previously, one night's rate was required, but the park said too many reservations were canceled and increased the deposit.  They now require a $200 deposit for a reservation and then they apply it to the first month's rent.  

Gulf State Park rates are as follows and they range depending on the site you select:
RV Sites: $37 - $49 per weekday night
Weekend Rate: $40 - $52 per weekend night
Weekly Rate: $221 - $293
Monthly Rate: $565 - $715 

Meaher State Park rates are as follows, regardless of the site you select:
RV Sites: $35 per night
Weekly Rate: $182
Monthly Rate: $623

Regardless of the changes, the Alabama State Parks on the Gulf Coast are beautiful and worth any effort you have to make to reserve a spot!  

Alabama's Gulf State Park Campground

Alabama's Meaher State Park Campground

Meaher State Park sunsets are the perfect way to end the day!