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Are you planning a trip to Florida? The Sunshine State has a lot to offer, and unless you have a specific destination, it can be a bit overwhelming. Are you doing theme parks or beaches? Looking for wild Florida or cultural city escapes? What about Florida’s rich history (Oldest city in the US, anyone?) Florida has it all. Plus, the weather makes it a fantastic year-round
Start off by visiting the following sites to start planning your Florida vacation.
Visit Florida – My number one favorite website for all things Florida. The Visit Florida website is a great place to start your family vacation planning. From beaches, cities, things to do and deals, it’s an all in one-stop-shop for your Florida vacation.
Finally, Visit Florida has my favorite Twitter Chat, #FLTravelChat once a month. It’s a whirlwind chat, but may give you several ideas on where to go, what to eat and what to see while you’re in Florida.
Walt Disney World – The main site, of course, has all the information you’ll ever need.
WDW Radio – The WDW Radio show is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to. I recommend subscribing to get your Disney fix, as well as searching the 10-year archive to find information specific to what you want to know.
WDW Info – This unbiased information site lists articles, news, discounts, and how-tos. It is a comprehensive site. Check out the forums for other travelers’ experiences, questions, and trip reports.
Best of Orlando is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Yes, you can contact a travel agency to plan your Disney vacation. It costs nothing to you, and you’ll get a wealth of information and insider tips. Plus, your travel agent will find you the best discounts, even if it’s after you’ve booked.
My Disney Experience App – The up to date official app in the parks. Download and review maps, park hours, wait times, and more. Use this app even if you’ve booked with a travel agent above.
Touring Plans – This neat website is a paid service, but well worth the $15 you’ll spend. Get custom touring plans that tell you how to attack the parks, what to see when, how to navigate, and more. They use an extensive time-tested tracking process that tells you when the best wait times are. It is also downloadable as an app. Use their recommended plans, or create a custom one of your must-see rides and attractions.
Undercover Tourist – This site is both a travel planner and ticket seller all in one. They are an official ticket seller, but also offer first-time tips and travel planning. **Bonus** – check out their Crowd Calendar to plan the best times to visit.
Universal Orlando website – The main site will also give you information on events, showtimes, and on-site hotels.
Undercover Tourist – While all-inclusive about all the theme parks in the area, Undercover Tourist excels at Universal related information. **Bonus** – check out their Crowd Calendar to plan the best times to visit. (see above for Disney too!)
Sea World Website – Sea World Orlando has 3 theme parks, the main Sea World, Discovery Cove where you can swim with dolphins and their water park, Aquatica.
If you’re ready to buy for any of the theme parks for your Florida vacation and want to do it on your own, Best of Orlando offers discounts on ticket packages, shows, and attractions. Some of their current best offers:
- Universal Orlando – 5 Days for the Price of 3 Days!
- Orlando Flex Ticket Save Over $60!
- SeaWorld – Save 35% on Admission!
- Disney – Buy 4 Get 5th Day Free
Florida has some of the best beaches in America. In fact, Siesta Key is frequently rated #1 by Dr. Beach. Rounding out the top 10 for 2017 is Caladesi Beach near Clearwater and Grayton Beach in the panhandle.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many beaches there are in Florida. From the Panhandle to the Keys back up to Jacksonville, NOAA rates Florida with 8,436 miles of coastline. That’s over 13,000 KM for you metric folks!
My favorite way to find a beach is by using Visit Florida’s Beach Finder. Use the sliders to choose between Adventurous or Laid back, Family Friendly or Romantic, Action-Packed or Secluded and Manicured or Au Naturel.
If you’re looking for a specific area, select the Choose Region in the upper right-hand corner to further narrow your results. When you hover over each beach photo, it gives you a percentage match for your designations.
If you crave a little history on your Florida Vacation, look no further than the Nation’s Oldest City, St. Augustine. The Old City website gives you a complete breakdown of what to see and do, as well as the historic sites to see.
St. Augustine isn’t the only historic place in Florida, however. Two of my favorite resources are books rather than websites. The Historical Traveler’s Guide to Florida, available on Amazon & Kindle provides historical sites by area, with details, hours and websites. If you’re looking specifically to visit an era, the appendix has that guide too.
Time Traveler’s Guide to Florida, also on Amazon, is a great resource for over 140 historical style events in Florida. Think reenactments and fairs, the book is organized by time period, as well as a calendar of events in the appendix. If you’re visiting St. Augustine, this is a great companion book as I’ve found there seems to be an event nearly every weekend.
When you’re in Florida, you need a place to stay. Choosing a hotel room can be just as daunting as figuring out where to go in Florida. You can stay in a name brand hotel, or decide if you want something more unique in a hotel room. Click on How to Choose a Unique Hotel for more info.
One of my favorite overall sites is Hotels Combined because it looks at all the top sites and compares prices. Try it out here, by searching the area you desire.
Within Florida, we have Superior Small Lodging, an organization of independently run small hotels. These are "mom and pop" hotels that are held to a higher standard. Many of these have kitchens making it a perfect place for a family vacation.
If you're looking to go the home rental route for your Florida Vacation, there are several sites to use. Home rentals can be great for large, multi-family use, or simply for a closer more authentic type of family vacation.
A few links to use:
- Airbnb – This is my link, click here to get $40 off your first stay.
- VRBO – Vacation Rental by Owner
- TurnKey Vacation Rentals
- Top Villas Vacation Rentals
Food & Visitors' Bureau
Finally, the last site to use once you've narrowed down an area (unless you're just hitting the theme parks) it's time to figure out where to eat. For this, I turn to the Convention and Visitors' Bureaus, also known as CVBs. These little-known sites are as great as the Visit Florida site, just pared down to the city.
To find them, search City Name + CVB.
What does this have to do with food? These sites not only list the different types of restaurants in the area, they often group them by type. Some, such as Visit St Pete Clearwater, will blog about different styles of food such as where to get the best grouper or beer.
From where to go, what to do, where to stay, and what to eat, this should be everything you need to plan your Florida vacation. What sites are your favorites to use? Any that I missed? Please comment and let me know.
Save it for Later. Pin your Florida Vacation Here.