A Florida road-trip is the picture-perfect family holiday. Affectionately known as the ‘The Sunshine State’, Florida’s iconic family beaches are perfect for both a low-key relaxed getaway or activity-fuelled family fun. Florida’s coastline is riddled with idyllic beaches and impressive natural scenery. Important wildlife and marine life reserves are sprawled across the state with countless opportunities for close-up animal encounters in their preserved natural environment. Orlando is a must-see destination for young and pre-teen kids. Stay in one of Disney or Universal’s themed resort complexes to truly immerse the family in the experience.
There are wildlife and nature preserves across Florida. Some of the best parks for children include Everglades National Park for alligators, flamingos and kayaking; McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary for a world-class animal rescue refuge; Loggerhead Marinelife Centre for its turtle rehabilitation centre and children’s programs; Biscayne National Park for impressive snorkelling and glass-bottom boat expeditions; and Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge for swimming with manatees.
Florida’s coast is covered in an amazing diversity of beach towns perfect for any family holiday. Although many become major tourist hubs during peak seasons, there are many less frequented gems to be found, often protected by wildlife and nature reserves. Some of Florida’s best family-fun beaches include Florida Keys, St Pete Beach and South Walton, or there’s Vero Beach, Anna Maria Island and Gasparilla Island for a more low-key family getaway.
This theme park capital of the world will have children entertained endlessly – Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and Legoland are among the best.
Miami has several kid-focused museums and performance activities, among them – Miami Children’s Museum, Adrienne Arsht Centre for Performing Arts, Miami Children’s Theatre, as well as Grapeland Water Park for younger kids and Miccosukee Indian Village for learning about Native American history.
The best time to travel in Florida is any time between September and February. This encompasses the low and shoulder seasons. Florida experiences the mildest winters in the United States, meaning it is a suitable destination for almost all activities year-round.
The low season lasts from October to December, excluding Christmas and New Year period. Accommodation prices for hotels and resorts drop by around 50% and Florida’s beach towns are particularly quiet during this time. This low season is the best time for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and visiting Florida’s many wildlife parks and sanctuaries.
The shoulder seasons, February and September, are still great times to visit Florida. Warmer weather in both months attract the beginnings of somewhat larger crowds at popular destinations, particularly the more southern beach towns. Prices are dropped around 20% to 30%.
High season throughout all parts of Florida is March to August. Southern Florida is consistently overrun by teenage spring breakers and the most popular tourist destinations, such as Orlando, are overcrowded by tourists. It is not recommended to travel during this season unless you are okay with the crowded atmosphere.
Young children will love Florida’s super family-friendly beaches! You are spoilt for choice between the more crowded and activity-filled hubs or the hidden, low-key beaches that sprawl the coastlines between ubiquitous nature reserves.
Car is the best way to travel around Florida. Convenient and efficient, rental cars are available at airports and most major destinations for around $35 to $55 per day or $200 to $400 per week. Insurance is required by law for car travel throughout Florida and optional Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) extras are highly recommended. Travel insurance often includes cover for rental cars. Check when purchasing travel insurance if you are planning to do any travel by car, as this often creates great savings in the long run.
Recreational Vehicle (RV) hire is a great option for larger families. There are some great deals available with ‘motorhome relocations’, if you are able to keep to the dates and routes required. There are a variety of RVs available and it is recommended to research size, mileage and insurance costs before booking. www.rvda.org is a helpful resource for information and advice on everything related to RV rentals.
Air service is frequent and reasonably priced between Florida’s four main airports in Orlando, Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. Prices between these cities are usually reasonable, but the less frequented destinations often have much pricier fares. Air passes are available to non-US citizens with itineraries planned well in advanced. These can significantly save expenses for those planning on undertaking a lot of air travel.
Train travel is generally only useful between the major cities Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami. National company, Amtrak, run inexpensive and efficient daily services between these three cities.
Bus company, Greyhound, has direct routes to most major destinations throughout Florida. Greyhound also runs regional services that extend to more limited and less tourist-populated destinations. Bus travel in Florida is extremely affordable, though can be time consuming.
Cruise ships abound along the coasts of Florida. The major companies include Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and Walt Disney World’s themed Disney Cruise Line.
Lillian, 13, tells us what she loves about Walt Disney World Orlando. Which rides are the best? And what do kids really want to see?
Real giraffes, real zebras and every detail spot on – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is an imagination immersion.
Chase the sun to Orlando in Autumn. Celebrate Halloween, Christmas and holiday fun at Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and beyond.
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