Some people love the chance to sip a fruity cocktail under a cabana. Others want to get into the water. For me, it’s the sound of the ocean and the feel of silky white sand between my toes that draws me to Florida’s beaches year ‘round. The challenge is to figure out Florida’s seasons and use that knowledge to get the best value.
Although the traditional high season falls during the winter months, when northerners flock to the Sunshine State to escape slush and snowdrifts, there are plenty of pricing nuances that vary according to the state’s regions and the time of year.
During almost any month, at a beach somewhere in Florida, you’ll find some of the hottest deals around. The key is to identify that region’s off-season when demand is low. The so-called “value” season is different everywhere; sometimes it has to do with the timing of a major event; other times it’s just the month. For instance, from June to September, South Florida slows down, and sun-loving visitors can find huge discounts.
“This way, people can come and enjoy the summer, when it’s a little bit quieter and a little bit easier to get around,” says Jessica Taylor, media relations director for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. On sunny.org/lauderdeals, visitors will find special summertime offers such as stay two nights, get one free, and 2-for-1 deals on attraction tickets.
Decades ago, resorts in Southwest Florida closed in the slow months. Today, instead, many offer whopping summer discounts. At Fort Myers Beach, where you can bask in the Gulf of Mexico, the SunStream Hotels & Resorts group offers major discounts off its rooms during the summer. The company, which owns three properties in Fort Myers Beach, three in Naples and one in Cape Coral, offers a variety of discounts, depending on the property. Go to sunstream.com for details.
Don’t fret if you can’t visit in the summer. Fall is typically more cost-effective than summer. During the fall and winter, Northwest Florida in particular has lots of rooms. In Panama City, hotels offer discounts from October to February. Visitor bureaus like the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau post discounts for accommodations and attractions.
Northeast Florida also offers deals for its beaches during the fall and winter. The perfect time to search for seashells and sharks’ teeth in Amelia Island is September through November, when the beaches are less populated. “And to me, it’s the prettiest time on the island,” says Holly Germano, general manager of Amelia Hotel at the Beach.
Farther south on the Atlantic coast, in places like Ormond Beach, you can save by visiting in the off-season or by considering a weekly rental. Any destination with a large number of weekly properties will often have three or more tiers of rates, depending on the season.
Finding the best deals may mean opening up your thinking. Consider staying at a smaller establishment, or look for a room a couple of blocks from the shore.
If you haven’t booked ahead, call your destination’s local visitors bureau just before you travel. Very often, they can point you to deals at hotels that have extra rooms, are under renovation or are new. And before making a reservation, call up the hotel reservation desk and ask about specials.
Most of all, don’t give up. Because, just like the beaches, the perfect deal awaits your discovery.