How to fill your family getaway to the warm and wacky shores of Florida with fun, affordability and ample intrigue.
Florida is quite the enigma, as it both pulls travelers to it with its pristine beaches, famous amusement parks and cheap-ish prices, and yet also repels many explorers (at least the younger one) with its strong association to retirement, stranger-than-fiction crimes and gators, lots of gators.
But we enjoy the eccentric paradox that is Florida, and have had numerous bizarrely fabulous adventures there. These adventures served as a thorough education in how to navigate the realms of Florida in a way that takes advantage of the aforementioned cheap-ish-ness, provides curious encounters, and above all, allows for straight-up, unpretentious fun.
Here’s how to make a Florida journey memorable in all the right ways.
Look up all the weird stuff that has happened there.
Florida is one of the strangest places on Earth - so much so that entire books have been written, and social media accounts created, that are completely devoted to the wild, weird, and creepy of Florida. So to increase the intrigue of your vacation, look into all the bizarro Floridian happenings. If you’re really into eccentric activities, you can put a visit to the locations of some of the abnormal events on your itinerary.
For example, you can check out the supposedly haunted Spook Hill at Lake Hills where cars are said to roll uphill if you put them in neutral. A visit to Coral Castle, Cassadaga (the unofficial psychic capital of the world), and Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee (especially if you’re a Big Foot fan) may also be in the cards if you’re a seeker of the strange.
Visit in May for ideal beach weather.
May is Florida’s sweet spot for weather, offering warm temps and water, and a fairly low chance for downpours. However, Florida’s weather is predictably unpredictable, so don’t be surprised if you get caught in some showers.
Book a vacation rental.
There are some lovely hotels in Florida, especially in ritzier areas of metros like Miami. But if you’re hoping to save money, and get more authentic Floridian vibes, book a vacation rental through a site like Airbnb or HomeAway.
Not only can you select a rental that has chill beach vibes, art deco decor, or a contemporary ambiance, but you can also save big by utilizing the kitchen almost all rentals provide. If you’re really looking to be thrifty, deny your urge to book a place directly on the beach and get something a few blocks away (a great excuse to hop on some beach cruisers!)
Skip Disney World in favor of other lesser known, but just as cool, amusement parks.
We know, we know, most peoples’ only reason for going to Florida is to check off the Disney World milestone. However, if you’ve already been there, done that, or cringe at the idea of paying over $200/person/day to enjoy the parks, you can skip Mickey’s realm in favor of other popular destinations like LEGOLAND Florida, SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa or Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. These parks often offer lower rates and better packages, and aren’t as overwhelmingly crowded.
Spend ample time at the beach.
If you want to utilize the best Florida has to offer, while also spending close to no money, head to the beach as much as possible. Florida beaches are known for their powder soft sand, warm water, and hilarious people watching. Just grab some towels, an umbrella, water, snacks, and non-digi tools for entertainment, and you’re good to go for the day.
If possible, say yes to a Duck Tour.
Yup, these are super cheesy, but they’re also a great way to get to know an area, as they help you discover many locations you’ll want to circle back to later on your trip. In addition, the chatty (and sometimes catty) guides of these land-and-sea tours provide insight on the history, folklore and gossip of the town.
When booking your flights, do a multi-airport search.
There are A LOT of airports in Florida, many of which are within 30-45 minutes of one another. A major benefit of this airport infestation, is that if you check the “search nearby airports” box many flight search engines provide, you could possibly save hundreds on airfare by selecting an airport that’s just a tad out of the way. In addition, if one of the cheaper airports is also one of the smaller ones, consider this a major perk as the modest airports often have fewer crowds, nicer security agents, and less wait time.
Take alligators seriously.
Unless you’re on a guided alligator tour (which we highly recommend), it’s unwise to go looking for these vicious creatures, or ignore “beware of alligator” signs. There are endless tragic tales about tourist-gator encounters – don’t be the next one.
Book a rental car and skip ride shares.
In the age of Uber and Lyft more and more travelers are skipping rental cars in favor of ridesharing. This is a great choice for many areas, but as most sites in Florida are so spread out, those rideshare fees can easily get expensive, whereas rental car fees in Florida are usually reasonable.
Our Go-To Florida Destinations:
Favorite Beaches: Destin
Favorite Snorkeling Spots: Florida Keys
Favorite Architecture: Miami
Favorite Food: South Beach
Favorite Stretch of Nature: Sanibel Island