On a quiet corner of Pensacola Naval Air Station, one of the base’s most popular retiree perks, the recreational vehicle park, is readying itself for the annual snowbird migration.
The Pensacola Press reported that tucked in a shady live oak grove on the north shore of Pensacola Pass, the RV park sees a surge of visitors each winter as retirees venture south to escape the frigid winter.
The park is one of more than 200 military RV parks and campgrounds scattered across the country at military bases from Key West to Seattle.
For many retirees, RV parks are more than just rustic getaways — they’re home.
“We’ve been all over the country, from Nova Scotia to California, staying at military bases,” said Navy retiree Bob Hutchens, 76, who was halfway through a two-month stay at Pensacola NAS with his friend, Jo Ann Beauchamp.
On a recent September afternoon, the pair lounged in the shade of a pull-out awning beside Hutchens’ 35-foot motor home.
The two became friends after both of their spouses died. For the last five years, they’ve been traveling companions, living on the road and staying at military RV parks.
They’re not the only retirees enjoying a traveling retirement.
“RVing has taken off so much in the last three to five years. A lot of times you’ll get people doing a ‘staycation’ and living here for three to four months,” said Kerry Shanaghan, director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Pensacola NAS.
Hutchens said military RV parks, which only admit people eligible for military benefits, have some of the lowest rates around.
At Pensacola NAS, sites with utility hookups cost $19 to $29 per night, with discounts for extended stays. Private RV parks in the area charge $32 to $50 for similar services.
In Key West, Hutchens rented a military RV site for about $20 a night. A civilian RV park nearby charged $120.
Not bad for a home in paradise, Hutchens said.
“Home” is an accurate description of many of the RVs, which look more like rolling condominiums than campsites. They come in many forms — camper trailers, motor homes and monstrous motor coaches the size of Greyhound buses.