10 Ways to Save Money on a Florida Vacation
A Florida vacation, especially for those looking to escape the cold weather of the north, is a dream come true, filled with world-class attractions, sandy beaches, and plenty of sun and warm weather. Discover vibrant cities, small rural towns, lots of lakes and streams, and miles of coastland for the best in water sports.
While Florida remains one of the most affordable destinations in the U.S., these days it never hurts to find some ways to save money on your next visit, providing more dollars with which to enjoy Florida's abundant sunshine and ample attractions. Here's a list of the 10 best ways to get the most value for a Florida vacation.
- Book a vacation package – Regardless where in the Sunshine State, it's often best to book all your needs – air, hotel, rental car – at one time and in one place. This can be done through any of the major vacation clearinghouses, like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, or Kayak, and through most airlines. Combination bookings often realize considerable savings over individual bookings. Not convinced? Price everything separately just to be sure and then choose the better deal.
- Travel off-season – Florida is lovely all year round, though many people prefer not to head there in the summer, when the heat and humidity can indeed be high. Instead, try the "shoulder season", which generally includes the months of October, November, March, and April. During these times one will often find the best hotel rates and airfares. However, be sure to avoid the holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and spring break.
- Purchase attraction tickets before arrival – In the case of attractions such as the theme parks, there may be some savings (and save a lot of time as well) when park passes are purchased before arrival. Some attractions offer food and merchandise coupons when you order tickets online and at the ticketing stations. Busch Gardens in Tampa also offers ticket discounts, though prices may vary according to season.
- Search the internet for coupons – The internet is one of the best travel tools for searching for discounts. Coupons are often also available from Convention and Visitors centers for particular destinations.
- Consider a vacation rental – Vacation rentals are plentiful in Florida, including coastal destinations and inland areas near Orlando. They range in price from very reasonable to quite costly. However, if you're on a budget, they're often a much better choice than a hotel room, especially since rental homes/condos with kitchens can save you from buying all your meals in a restaurant. Note that minimum stays may be required, especially during peak season. However, during off-peak or shoulder season, deals are very attractive.
- Take advantage of free attractions – While Florida is full of pay-to-see attractions of many different types – from museums to aquariums – there are also plenty of places to visit where you won't need to pay any sort of fees, including the Sunshine State's many national, state, and regional parks. These parks are a joy to explore and give you a good look at local flora and fauna up close and personal. In addition, you'll find free or low-cost activities inside the parks, such as bike riding, canoeing, fishing, hiking, and more.
- Look for membership type discounts – If you're a member of AAA or AARP, many Florida hotels and attractions offer discounts in conjunction with your membership. Ask for these discounts when booking accommodations, and when visiting a museum or other attraction, inquire as to special rates for members of these and other organizations when purchasing admission tickets.
- Use your credit cards – If you have a credit card that offers "points" for spending their money, use them for your travel to Florida, including airfare, lodging, dining, and other travel-related expenses. Though you might not enjoy immediate savings, you will eventually get money back or receive perks for using them.
- Look for hotels that are kid-friendly – If you're traveling with children, where you stay in Florida may determine how much money you save on food and activities for the little ones. Some coastal resorts, like the Don Cesar Beach Resort in St. Pete or the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort on the northwest Emerald Coast, offer kids and teen clubs for ages 3 or 4 and up. These not only include activities but often lunch or dinner, too. Some do carry a cost but others are free. Some chain hotels also offer "kids eat free" deals, so check those out as well.
- Ask the locals – Anyone who travels frequently will tell you that locals always know the best deals in town. So, don't be afraid to ask Florida residents what they like best about the area, where they enjoy eating, and what they would do if they had a week or a few days to spend in their town. Also look for the local travel discount booklets often found at tourist brochure stands at fast food establishments, hotels and visitors centers.