The Best Florida Trip Tips
We chose Florida for our vacation because, well – it’s Florida! It has 1,200 miles of coastline filled with blissful beaches (sun, sea and sand – my heaven!), some amazing theme parks (although they’re not always very budget friendly), shopping to die for (my husband and I switched credit cards for the trip so we couldn’t shop indiscriminately) and a pretty awesome nightlife (the kids weren’t even really a problem and we were out almost every night!).
I know from experience that if you’re going to Florida you need sunblock so the first thing I did was check for the appropriate product. I found a pretty affordable bottle of 30SPF water resistant sunscreen so I bought it immediately. Our family loves the sun and we spend every minute we can outdoors, and even when it’s snowing or overcast sunburn is a risk so it definitely won’t go to waste!
The water resistant kind is best for any waterside activities and also for those hot sweaty days, although it is horribly greasy most of the time. Arizona Sun also has an SPF 45 oil free/water resistant spray which is perfect for faces or midday touch ups though so I got that as well. I also got a few of those travel size bottles which I filled with the SPF 30 and gave to everyone to put in their backpacks because there was no way my holiday was getting ruined by sunburn!
Travel and accommodation
The kids saw an advert for Aquatica in Orlando and they had been begging us to take them there or to any waterpark like it ever since. We decided why not grant their wish and take them, so we knew we were going to Orlando for our vacation. Once that decision was made it was easy enough to visit Rome2Rio.com and find out about different routes from our home to anywhere in the area. Then I went looking all over the internet for the cheapest flights I could find.
I found the most adorable condo on AirBnB, close to SeaWorld, with a pool, and it had its own free parking which was a huge plus. My husband works in the automotive industry so it was easy enough for him to wangle an amazing deal on a hire car through one of his contacts. If you’re going to Florida then hire a car – things are not as close together as you might think and having your own transport comes in pretty handy. You can rent one without spending a fortune too, the only things you need to do is use an appropriate Hotwire coupons from Discountrue.com.
Aquatica Theme Park
And then it was time for us to start planning how we were going to entertain ourselves for the trip. Aquatica was definitely on the list and I knew it was going to be the most expensive adventure on our trip so I went looking for free (or almost free) options to occupy the rest of our time. And I can honestly say that I don’t regret a single choice we made. We had tons of fun, there are loads of pictures and nobody got burned (thank goodness!)!
The kids weren’t too interested in any of the combo offers I found on the Aquatica website, their only stipulation was that they wanted to ride the Dolphin Plunge so we chose a single park ticket. But we wanted to make a full day of it so I added a Banana Beach all day pass (it’s an all you can eat buffet and we could go back as many times as we wanted throughout the day). Because I made the purchase online I got a 50% discount on the admission fee so altogether it cost me only $212.50! Now that was a saving that came in handy on the rest of our trip!
Lukas Nursery Butterfly Garden
Our family is 3 girls and 2 boys so the girls won and our next adventure was a visit to a butterfly garden. There are two well-known gardens in Orlando, but eventually we decided on the one at Lukas Nursery. I have no words to describe the experience and although they will never admit it, even our boys loved it! We got to feed the butterflies from our fingertips and the girls learned about creating their own butterfly garden back home which is a fun project that won’t cost us much (always a plus!). Plus the entrance fee was only $6 each!
Black Hammock Adventures
We like to play fair in our family so our next trip was especially for the boys with a visit to the Black Hammock on Lake Jesup. They got to go look at some alligators and we took an airboat ride out to Bird Island which even us girls enjoyed! We went later in the afternoon because afterwards we visited the Lazy Gator bar for dinner. And of course the boys just had to order some Gator Bites (fried alligator tail – yugh!) while we enjoyed the free live entertainment they have every weekend.
Winter Park Farmers Market
Our next trip to the Winter Park Farmers Market was more for the adults than the kids, but fairs fair and all that! We had our own kitchen so we’d stocked up on things to make our own meals and snacks, but nothing beats farm fresh produce so we made a day out of it. We visited the tiny little History Museum attached to the Market, then all chose different street foods (along with sweet treats of course), sat on the patio and enjoyed people watching while we tried each other’s meals. We even got to listen to a street musician or two although not in the market itself.
Finally we visited Fleaworld just outside of Orlando which is the largest flea market in the United States and took up a whole day for us to explore. Even then we didn’t get to see all the vendors, acrobatic shows, magic acts or exotic animals! We also took a day and explored Disney’s Boardwalk although between the two our shopping for souvenirs budget was completely shot! And there you have it – our trip to Orlando, not free but not completely exorbitant either! We spent a lot of time by the pool and as much time around water as we could and the rest of the time we just relaxed!