Florida’s pluses for a fun family vacation are almost endless. This state really has it all whether you like to travel with all the members of your family or have a little fun. What’s more, the state has perfect year-round weather that’s surprisingly full of kid-friendly attractions, exciting wildlife, outdoor adventures, and gorgeous beach resorts that are perfect for family fun.
There are several things you should keep in mind when planning a family-friendly trip to Florida: From Orlando’s theme parks to the mysterious and immersive Everglades and Key West and Key Largo in the Florida Keys, the length and breadth of the state offers amazing and enticing family-friendly options. . But planning a family trip isn’t just about figuring out what to do—you also need to make sure it fits your budget.
Planning a family vacation can be an expensive task. Including attraction entrance fees, hotel rooms, and dining out, costs can add up very quickly. Trying to coordinate how to get the whole family from point A to point B, making sure the vacation itinerary is suitable for the whole family, and keeping the trip within budget is a feat in itself and takes some serious planning.
Fortunately, the Sunshine State is full of possibilities for affordable family vacations and day trips. Despite its reputation for Miami Beach luxury resorts and Hollywood’s glamorous oceanfront hotels, there are plenty of ways to plan a family-friendly trip that won’t break the bank, without compromising on your family’s enjoyment.
Today’s post is mainly about sharing some of the best destinations, attractions, and experiences as well as some great tips and advice that you must consider when planning your next family vacation to Florida.
Natural Springs in North & Central Florida
Want to spend four or five days well? Do what visitors to the Sunshine State and native Floridians have been doing for generations: spend time at Florida’s natural springs.
The highest concentration of natural springs in Florida is in the northern and central regions, making it extremely easy to create your own personalized trip based on your budget and how much of the area you’ve traveled before. If you haven’t had the chance to visit many Florida Springs in the past, here’s a sample trip that you can save at your convenience. So let’s discuss the natural springs and attractions in Florida:
Wakulla Springs State Park
Wakulla Springs State Park is located just 15 minutes south of Tallahassee. The perfect northern anchor for a road trip exploring the springs of North Florida.
For starters, it’s the world’s deepest freshwater spring; Don’t miss the chance to perform your best cannonball from the swim platform. If nature and movie buffs don’t like the scenery in history, Wakulla Springs State Park is the place to visit. Because it looks like a Tarzan movie that anyone likes. Wakulla Springs is the location of many Hollywood movie classics, including “Creatures of the Black Lagoon.” Don’t forget to take the famous river cruise while you are there.
Ichetconi Springs State Park
If you’ve lived in Florida for any length of time, it’s likely that the fountain your parents told you about is Aitchetcony Springs, State Park.
There are several places around the state where you can take a tube trip, the Ichtacony River rules them all. It’s a no-frills, easy-going adventure that can be enjoyed by everyone, whether you’re 4 or 90, at Aichetcony Springs State Park. While there, hang out at the headsprings and take the half-mile trail to Blue Hole Springs, another outstanding gem located in the park.
To my knowledge, this is Florida at its best and one of the best springs in North Florida.
Fanning Springs State Park
The next three stops happen right along Florida’s Nature Coast along the U.S. Nature Reserve. Head to Fanning Springs State Park for a relaxing afternoon of swimming and picnicking.
If you have a kayak, be sure to bring it—Fanning Springs feeds the legendary Suwannee River, so you’ll definitely want to spend some time paddling while you’re there. Alternatively, Manatee Springs State Park is located a few miles north of Fanning Springs in Chiefland, so you have several great options in the area.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park,
Three Sisters Springs
Think, this is Manatee country. While you’re out on the water at Homosassa Springs, you’ll be entertained by the many wildlife exhibits and attractions. Be sure to visit one of Homosassa’s most famous residents, Lou the Hippo. Famous in fact, he was granted special Florida citizenship by Governor Lawton Chiles in 1991.
You have another option for adventure just seven miles away – the Crystal River Three Sisters Springs, one of the state’s great gems. In the winter, expect to see more manatees than you’ve probably ever seen at one time. Most visitors access the spring via tour boat, kayak or paddleboard, but the new Three Sisters Springs Boardwalk is open on a limited basis.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
For the grand finale—or a great start if you’re starting your trip south—you’ll be greeted by the world-famous mermaids who made Wickie Wachee Springs State Park beloved by visitors from around the world.
Mermaids have been delighting guests since 1947 and the tradition continues with several regular performances 365 days a year. Also, during the summer months, hang out at the park’s Buccaneer Bay attractions, water slides, and a white sandy beach perfect for getting the ultimate Florida tan. Round out the whole experience with a kayak trip on the Wicki Wachi River, one of the most scenic paddling trips available anywhere. No equipment is needed – just head to the park’s outfitter paddling adventure.
performances 365 days a year. Also, during the summer months, hang out at the park’s Buccaneer Bay attractions, water slides, and a white sandy beach perfect for getting the ultimate Florida tan. Round out the whole experience with a kayak trip on the Wicki Wachi River, one of the most scenic paddling trips available anywhere. No equipment is needed – just head to the park’s outfitter paddling adventure.
The majestic Suwannee River stretches from southern Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico, reaching the heart of northern Florida. At more than 240 miles long, this “Outstanding Florida Waterway” offers an incredible array of activities for traveling families. The “Suwannee River” can be a great way to start planning your budget-friendly vacation
The main attraction on the Suwannee River is to rent a canoe or kayak and spend the day paddling. The gentle flow of the river makes it perfect even for beginners, and a day or two of lazy paddling will take you on a journey through amazingly beautiful flora and fauna. Which makes North Florida a special attraction for tourists. Once there, you’ll walk past live oak and cypress trees, and keep your eyes open for a stunning variety of birds, including ‘gators, and turtles.
There are cheap accommodation options here so ATU is best for families on a tight budget, great along the length of this river. Camping is permitted at several locations, including Suwannee River State Park. which offers several campgrounds. If you prefer something other than traditional camping, the state park has made the riverside cabins even more appealing. Which offers charming, rustic comfort in a beautiful location.
No two sights are ever the same on the Suwannee River, and whether you’re looking for ancient natural springs, sunken paddle steamers, or exciting wildlife, it’s an exceptional choice that’s great for exploring the outdoors with family members.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Centre State Park
Slowly on the banks of the Suwannee River, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park provides the touch of culture combined with the experience of classic nature-filled North Florida to tourists.
The museum itself is a great tribute to Stephen Foster that the song “Old Folts at Home” has made the Suwanne River famous. It shows Foster’s most important songs. Besides, there have been demonstrations for guaranteeing quilting, lust, and stained glass making to entertain tourists of all ages.
The foundations of State Park are pleasant, walking, hiking, or shaded trails for riding a bicycle, as well as the natural beauty of the banks of the Suwanne River. There are also opportunities for phishing and riding on horseback. The families here can camp in one of the perfectly decorated campgrounds. Or you can rent a cabin for some more comfort if you want.
Liki Tiki Village and Disney Springs
Orlando is obviously a huge draw for families looking to vacation in Florida, but planning a vacation to Disney World, Universal Studios, or any of the big theme parks can be an expensive proposition. Theme park entry can cost you a bit more, and food and drinks at these parks aren’t cheap either.
However, it’s entirely possible to have a great time in Orlando without spending a fortune. For starters, Disney Springs offers a taste of the Magic Kingdom at no cost. You can enjoy spectacular street parades and world-class dining, as well as fantastic shopping without paying any entrance fees.
Often overlooked in favor of Florida’s more glamorous cities, Tampa is one of the best places to go for a family vacation. For starters, this space has been used for all kinds of blockbuster movies, from Edward Scissorhands to Magic Mike. So you’ll be sure to recognize a lot of its surroundings from before.
In terms of entertainment, the city is full of family-friendly attractions that are guaranteed to fill a vacation itinerary. The bush gardens here are incredible, a great combination of animal adventure experiences and theme park excitement. Scattered across the city are water shoots, flume rides, fountains, and swimming pools, while Glazer’s Children’s Museum offers a more peaceful yet equally engaging experience.
A highlight of Tampa’s family offerings is the Florida Aquarium. This wonderful attraction gets the little ones in your family up close and personal with everything from alligators and otters to sharks and manatees.
The best part about Tampa’s family attractions is that, for parents on a budget, most of them are part of the Tampa City Pass scheme, which offers big discounts across the city, and will save you a lot of money if you decide to visit.
There are also plenty of other great family vacation destinations on the Gulf Coast around Tampa. St. Petersburg, across Tampa Bay, is a delightful little city filled with waterfront parks, great museums, and a couple of great golf courses. Just up the coast, Clearwater Beach was declared the best beach in the country by TripAdvisor a few years ago and its calm waters are perfect for paddleboarding, water sports or just gently splashing around! The winding boardwalk has some great restaurants and cafes and the street entertainers at Pier 60 are sure to delight your little ones. Another option is to drive a little further down the coast towards Sarasota. This charming town was once the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus and is still a great center for arts and culture.
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No discussion of vacationing in Florida would be complete without considering the wonderful ecosystem of the Florida Everglades. This extraordinary expanse of red mangroves and dark, alluring lagoons and channels is teeming with some of the most amazing, exotic, and downright stunning wildlife you’ll find anywhere in the world. Children and adults alike will get into the Everglades adventure, and excitement can be found around every bend in the river.
Exploring the Everglades by airboat or on a tour can be a bit expensive. But take matters into your own hands and you’ll have a unique experience you’ll never forget. There are two campgrounds within the national park that are accessible to visitors – Long Pine Key Campground and Flamingo Campground – and a stay at either is a great way to explore.
With your campground as a base, you can embark on a self-guided adventure through sawgrass swamps and forest trails, spotting gators, turtles, crocs, and hundreds of bird species. There are plenty of amenities to make your stay comfortable, as well as ponds for fishing with canoes for paddling.
Florida beach resorts, especially in South Florida around Miami, can be a little expensive. But everywhere you turn in the Sunshine State, you can find gorgeous golden and white sand beaches.
Jacksonville Beach has 22 miles of stunning golden sand, perfect for lounging and relaxing while the kids play in the gentle surf of the Atlantic. There are fewer tourists, fewer crowds, and significantly cheaper rental and dining options for vacationers. You can spend your holidays at a low cost.
All in all, if you and your family are looking for a beach getaway, Jacksonville is a vibrant, exciting city for family vacations on a budget. From culture and beauty to the St. John’s River and Amelia Island. Johns River and Amelia Island is a great small town that makes a great addition to a Florida family vacation. Just down the Atlantic coast, St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, and Fort Myers are all worth visiting.
Hints and tips
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning a budget-friendly family vacation in Florida that can help keep costs down.
Transportation can take up a huge chunk of a family vacation budget, so make well-thought-out decisions about where and how you’ll get there. Having your own car in Florida is a huge bonus, places like Pensacola in the Panhandle and Panama City Beach, for example, are much cheaper than other options near the airport.
If you fly, you’ll almost always find the best deals flying into major airports like Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, or Orlando. Low-cost airlines like Spirit, Frontier, or Southwest serve the entire state, and you’ll likely be able to find great low-cost fares year-round.
How to save money on activities
Before you leave for your family vacation, search the internet to reserve your convenient spot. And if possible you can book online. Because some excellent deals and money saving possibilities are offered in online booking.
Booking online and in advance is usually much cheaper than paying directly. There are almost always discounts or good deals for canny travelers who come prepared.
Another tip, along more traditional, almost unconventional lines, is to pick up the brochures you find in restaurant and hotel lobbies. They are often equipped with lots of money-off vouchers and coupons, which can be a creative way for you to save money.
Finally, check out the various passes and memberships that offer discounts and deals in Florida. Things like The Undercover Tourist, CityPass, Groupon, and AAA/AAARP are great ways to get the most out of the cities you visit on your vacation.
A family trip to Florida is a wonderful experience. With our guide to family vacations in Florida on a budget, you’ll be able to combine a wonderful experience with a vacation that won’t empty your wallet!
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Hope you will be able to save your money by using the suggestions from our article to spend the holidays with your family.