This post may contain affiliate links to products we recommend. This full disclosure policy is pretty boring, but can be found here
Vacations can be pricey, but if you’re looking for a Florida vacation on a budget, look no further! Find out how our family of 5 went to Florida for under $800. No credit card points, no vacation memberships. All that we did were simple things that anyone wanting a Florida vacation on a budget can also do!
Florida Vacation on a Budget
Our family of 5 just returned from a quick, 3 day trip to Florida. We went to Florida to find a winter vacation rental, but decided to take all the kids and make it a mini-vacation. We wanted to do it on a budget, and share how we did it! We spent under $800, including flights, lodging, parking, car rentals, attractions and food. It wasn’t a huge fancy vacation, but we were able to do what we needed to do, and the kids had a blast! Keep reading to find out how we took our mini Florida vacation on a budget of less than $800!
Flights are usually the most expensive part of a vacation, but they don’t have to be. We wrote a blog post about how to save money on flights. If you would rather watch than read, we also made a video about it!
For this trip, we flew with Frontier Airlines. We flew from St. Louis to Orlando. Our total cost for flights was only $280. Orlando was not our final destination in Florida, but it’s almost always cheap to fly into Orlando, especially with Frontier. Tampa would have been closer, but we choose to save a few hundred dollars by flying into Orlando and driving.
Parking at the airport can be pricey. If you don’t have anyone to drop you off, it’s probably better to use off-airport parking. We always park at the same place outside of the St. Louis airport, it’s $8 per day. The total cost for airport parking was $32.
If you’ve ever read any of our posts or watched any of our videos, you probably know how much we love AirBnb. However, we choose not to stay in an AirBnb this time. AirBnb’s are almost always a better deal in the long term. For shorter stays, staying at a hotel might be cheaper. We booked three nights through Hotwire. One halfway between the airport and our final destination, and one in our final destination. The total cost for hotels was $195.
The downside of choosing a hotel over a vacation rental is food options. Eating out is expensive, but it can be difficult to eat meals in a hotel room. We did choose a hotel with free breakfast, but the breakfast options at the second hotel were very limited. Instead of eating out, we did things like sandwiches and fruit for lunch, and then ravioli and other microwavable things for dinner. Not the healthiest, but it was only for three days. We don’t even have a microwave at home, so the kids enjoyed it.
If you’re staying for longer than a couple of days, I always recommend using a vacation rental through AirBnb. This is particularly true if you have food allergies or intolerance in your family, like we do. Having a kitchen just makes life easier. It’s much healthier, cheaper and safer (with allergies) to be able to cook your own food. I didn’t track the exact cost of our food, but it was probably around $100. Remember that you have to eat no matter where you are, so it won’t cost any more if you eat the same way that you do at home
The best way that I have found to rent a car is through Hotwire. The best way to rent through Hotwire is to wait until the last minute. This can be a little bit scary, but it can get you a great deal! Our car rental was originally less than $50. We ended up upgrading to a slightly larger car and adding an additional $30. Having three kids, and two car seats, it was worth it. That’s still cheaper than renting for four days at normal prices. Most of the time, car rentals are around $30/day plus taxes/fees for a very basic car. By booking last minute, you can get deals as low as $9/day. With the upgrade, tolls, and fees, our rental ended up being about $115. We also spent around $60 in gas, which isn’t bad considered we did a lot of driving.
Things to do
The best part about our trip is that we spent $0 on attractions. Instead, we choose to beach hop for the whole weekend. We only spent a couple of dollars to park, once. Most of the beaches have free parking, and hanging out on the beach is always free! The kids absolutely loved it. You can always go and spend a few dollars on sand toys at the Dollar Tree, and then donate them on the way out.
Once we return to Florida for a longer stay (I guess I just announced that!) we will be doing lots more blog posts about free things to do.
I bet you already know how much we spent in souvenirs, $0. Souvenirs are an absolute budget killer, and they’re also terrible if you have minimal packing space. If you must buy souvenirs, buy something useful like t-shirts. We let the kids bring home a few seashells, and promised them that they would have a lot more when we return in October.
On a side note. Places like Target near Orlando have tons of Disney stuff. So if you are planning on doing anything Disney related, you’ll save a fortune by buying souvenirs outside of the park.
Could we have done it cheaper?
Now we ask the question, could we have done it cheaper? The answer is yes. While this Florida vacation on a budget was cheap, it could have been less. We could have stayed closer to Orlando, which would have meant less money in gas. We could have rented a smaller car, but putting three kids in the back of a car was bad enough as it was. We have a van at home, and we will definitely continue to drive a van or SUV and enjoy the space!
We could have saved money on food with better planning, but I don’t think that we did to poorly overall. We could have also stayed in cheaper hotels, but under $200 for three nights in 3 star hotels with free breakfast is still a good deal, if you ask me!
How did it go?
Overall, the trip went very well. We did exactly what we came there to do, and didn’t spend a fortune doing it. We were actually there on a mission, but the kids saw it as a vacation, which is a win-win!
If this is your first time on our blog, welcome! You’ll want to sign up for our weekly newsletter to make sure that you don’t miss any great travel tips or sales that we send to our subscribers first. Also, if you loved this post, make sure to use those share buttons and share it with your friends! If you prefer things in video form, we also have a YouTube channel.
Thanks so much for reading! If you have any travel tips that we didn’t already mention, please share them in the comments!