Family Fun,Family Travel,Florida,Tampa Life,Tips for Family Adventures

Florida Family Vacation Destinations For Every Budget and Travel Style

black kids swim

My son snorkeling at Devil’s Den

Some of my favorite memories with my son are Spring Break  and summer vacation trips.  I’m coming to grips with the fact that soon he will be a college kid, making his own plans and trips for Spring Break, centered around hot girls and parties. The very thought makes me need a glass of wine.

I think I’ve done pretty good for a single parent with limited resources on making sure we have always managed to have some fun, even if I couldn’t take off from work for his entire break.   Spring Break dates for elementary, middle, and high school usually ranges from March to April  so it’s time to solidify those Florida family vacation plans toward the end of the year.  I usually start to plan our summer getaway around February.

Whether you plan way in advance or are a last minute kind of planner, I have some great Florida family vacation destination for every budget and travel style.  I’m happy to share with you some of my family’s favorite trips and I’m sure you will find an idea that fits your interests and your wallet.


Outdoorsy

Visit Rainbow Springs

rainbow springs

Headsprings at Rainbow Springs State Park

Our camping trip to Rainbow Springs in Dunnellon, Florida for Spring Break 2013 is one of the most memorable.   It was a first time tent camping experience with 2 adults a teenager and a pre-schooler sharing a 10 person tent.  

There is beautiful scenery, swimming is possible even with cooler weather because the water is a constant 72 degrees, activities like fishing, swimming, kayaking, and tubing available on site, amenities of electricity and bathrooms and showers, and a general store in walking distance.  Camping is a great time to unplug from our digital world and spend some real time bonding as a family. 

Weeki Wachee Springs

Weeki Wachee Springs River

Weeki Wachee Springs River

We love this place!  Weeki Wachee has animal shows, the world-famous underwater amphitheater and a mermaid show. Buccaneer Bay features a white sandy beach where you can picnic, swim, rent a float for the natural lazy river current, or slide down one of the cool refreshing water flumes fed from the spring water.  

This is also my absolute favorite kayaking destination in all of Florida.   They also have a boat ride in the river where you can see all types of wildlife and an animal show. There is plenty to do whether you can take off for a few days or you are looking for a fun day trip with the family.

State Parks

 

cayo costa state park

No matter what state you live in the state park website of your state of residence or a close state nearby is a great place to start your planning.  I think planning a family vacation around a visit to the state parks is one of the most under utilized vacation planning ideas, at least in my circle of citified friends.

 

Cayo Costa Cabin

Many of the state parks offer campgrounds with tent sites, RV sites, or even cabins (if the idea of sleeping outside is daunting) for rent at a very low cost.  Mayakka River, Florida Caverns, and Cayo Costa State Park, and Hillsborough River State Park are 4 awesome state parks with campgrounds.

Blue Spring, Lake Louisa, Wekiwa Springs, and Suwannee River are also a few state parks on my list of Florida state parks to visit. That’s just a small sampling but there are many more to explore on the Florida State Park website.

fort yargo yurt

Fort Yargo Yurt

I know this post is about Florida but I have to mention our very close neighbors to the north in Georgia. It’s still reasonable driving distance to some pretty great travel destinations.

We had a great trip in Georgia at Unicoi State Park for a summer vacation (detailed account of that trip can be found here: Unicoi State Park).   Fort Yargo State Park in Georgia was also a great glamping destination.

No matter what state you live in or the state you are thinking of visiting, state parks are a great, budget friendly option with a wide variety for those that want to incorporate a bit of nature and history into their Spring Break vacation.

National Parks

Florida is home to more parks in the US National Parks system than most people realize. Check out my guide to Florida’s National Parks.

A great Florida family vacation destination that happens to be a national park is the Everglades. You can stay nearby in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami as your home base.  There are activities like airboat rides, alligator wrestling, and scenic walks through some of Florida’s most beautiful wetlands.

A national park that is still on my bucketlist is the Dry Tortugas National Park in the Florida Keys. You can plan to go for just a day or  plan an overnight camping trip for the family.

Dry Tortugas National Park/ Photo Credit: National Park Service


Theme Parks/Kid Resorts

Annual Passes

disney annual passholder

One way I found to have cost-effective family friendly fun is through the purchase of annual passes at various theme parks. Granted for those of you with multiple children this may prove to be a bit costly.

However, with just me and my son this was an excellent option for us.  If you are a single parent, single child home and you can spare $55 a month you can have the premium Universal Orlando passes to both parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) including parking and no blackout dates for both of you.  Trust me we get our monies worth with those passes.

hogwarts castle

Hogwarts Castle Universal Orlando

In Tampa there is Bush Gardens and it’s pay for a day come back all year. We had passes for Busch Gardens  when my son was much smaller. It’s a great park for the littles and very cost effective. The other parks in that network are Adventure Island waterpark and Orlando Sea World.

Orlando has Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach, and Typhoon Lagoon.  There is also Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter).

Legoland in Winter Haven is another great option for those with younger kids.  All of these parks offer flexible payment options that may work nicely for those with a limited budget providing family friendly fun year round.

Family Friendly Resorts 

Here are some of our favorite hotel choices for the Orlando themeparks that are clean, fun, and usually have reasonable rates:

 


Florida Destinations

Orlando

I know many people think of Orlando and immediately think tourist trap. Ok, you’re right it is, but because it’s such a tourist friendly town, you can easily pack a lot of non theme park fun things into just a few days and your kids will feel like they had the time of their lives.   This is especially great for younger kids.

Spring Break 2010 my son and I spent 3 days  just doing fun things in Orlando. We went glow in the dark putt putt golfing, spent a day at Wonderworks, explored Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs), Go-Karts at Fun Spot America, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

With Orlando being such a tourist friendly town you won’t have any trouble finding a cheap deal on a descent place to stay. Best of all there are coupons for just about every activity you could possibly want to do.  Check out this list of 50 things to do on I-Drive to get you started with some ideas.

St. Augustine

St. Augustine Alligator Farm

St. Augustine Alligator Farm

This was a spring break trip in 2012 and I planned it just a couple of weeks before the break. We had so much fun that my son has actually asked me recently about driving back over for a weekend. Explore the touristy parts with all of the history of the city. But you can also go off the beaten track.

There’s the beautiful beach of Anastasia State Park, which is on Trip Advisor’s list of top 10 beaches in the USA.   There’s also the St. Augustine Lighthouse which is a functioning lighthouse.

The highlight of the trip for my son was the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.   He was able to zipline up in the trees high above the crocodiles and alligator pits.  Other fun attractions not to miss are Fort Matanzas National Monument, Fort Mose State Park the first African-American settlement in the country, and Castillo de San Marcos Fort.

Daytona Beach

Daytona is an awesome destination for a Florida family vacation. On our visit we took a tour of the Daytona International Speedway, enjoyed driving on the beach, and the boardwalk.  There are all kinds of neat things to do in Daytona in the surround area. Check out my post on our Daytona family vacation.

florida family vacation

 

Other Destinations

Other Florida destinations to consider in your family vacation planning:

  • Florida Keys – Catch an express boat from Fort Myers to the Keys
  • Cocoa Beach – Kennedy Space Center
  • St. Pete Beach – Beaches, Dali Museum
  • Pensacola, Florida
  • Wakulla Springs
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Amelia Island
  • Fort Myers and Saninbel Island

Check out the Family Travel Pinterest Board!


Cruise

Disney Cruise

Disney Cruise

If you have a bit more of a budget then a cruise may be another great Spring Break option for you.  For spring break 2014 we took a 7 day Carnival cruise leaving out of Puerto Rico with 5 ports of call in the southern Caribbean!!!

Whether you want something short or a whole week there are so many options available.   So far our favorite cruise has been on the Disney Cruise line to the Bahamas.  (Check out why a Disney cruise is perfect for teens). A cruise is a great way to have a lot of fun with minimal effort on your part.  Your meals are included as well as onboard entertainment.

You also have a chance to have an outdoorsy adventure of your own by booking an excursion.    Try vacationstogo.com for last minute cruise deals.


Animal Encounters

Lion Country Safari

Lion Country Safari

For those who want a more wild encounter consider visiting these destinations:

  • Lowry Park Zoo
  • Lion Country Safari (Get Groupon deal here!)
  • Discovery Cove
  • Swim with the Manatees at Crystal River Kayaks – Read about it here
  • Florida Aquarium
  • Clearwater Aquarium
  • Safari Wilderness
  • Big Cat Rescue

There are so many family vacation options to choose, from the more exotic, to right in your own backyard.  Just remember that this time with your children is precious and you don’t get these moments back.

Your Spring Break and summer vacations with them are numbered so make the most of it!  Whether it’s a day trip or you are able to plan an elaborate vacation, the most important thing is the chance to bond with your family and expose your children to new things.

Have fun and go create new memories that will truly last them a life time!

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    NikkyJ
    January 29, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Wow! Everything sounds great on here. Thanks for the ideas.

  • Reply
    5sOnTheFly
    January 31, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Your pictures of Weeki Wachee Springs and Rainbow Springs make us miss our visits there two summers ago as we drove the length of Route 1 (and made many side trips, especially in Florida). Our oldest is only 7, but we have no doubt we’ll be at the same threshold as you in the blink of an eye. Thanks for sharing your adventures 🙂

    • Reply
      outdoorsydiva
      February 1, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      Thanks so much for reading! I hope you follow along and I look forward to reading about your adventures as well.

  • Reply
    Talisa
    March 10, 2017 at 10:13 am

    FL is my favorite state. Haven’t been in ages! But this definitely came in handy. x

  • Reply
    Felecia Monique
    March 10, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    I love Florida. I’m more of the Disney or Miami gal though. Traveling from DC I’ve only heard about those spots. But this post definitely made me aware of other option.

  • Reply
    Jay Colby
    March 11, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Florida is such a beautiful state. Seems like an amazing vacation!

  • Reply
    Latoya Scott
    March 11, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    I want to put a family cruise and visit to Disney on my list. I wouldn’t mind seeing one of those beautiful beaches at the state park either.

  • Reply
    Ayak
    March 12, 2017 at 10:22 am

    What an informative post! Im from London & have only ever been to Miami. I might actually consider going back now. Thanks

    • Reply
      Lauren
      March 13, 2017 at 11:12 am

      I love London but yes, Miami is just a very small blip on the Florida map. That’s so much to see and experience here.

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