Florida has plenty of gorgeous hotels and quaint B&Bs, but for vacation lodging, don't limit your search to just these traditional options. Consider these cost-cutting alternatives; you'll see the difference in your wallet.
A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend was coming from Ohio to Clearwater for vacation. She wanted to know if I knew anyone looking to rent out a beachfront property with sleeping space for eight adults for no more than $1,500 a week. I referred her to HomeAway.com, which is like having a personal concierge for vacation properties. You can even specify your budget. Click on the "Advanced Search" tab, and be amazed.
Foraging for edible plant life isn't my idea of a relaxing vacation, either. But after my friend Sharon described the cabins at Lake Louisa State Park as "a hotel in the woods," I had to check them out. Situated on a serene waterfront, the single-family cabins are fully furnished and even include linens and dishes - so you can cook your own meals, saving even more money. Lake Louisa is in Clermont, Central Florida, just a short drive from Orlando if you need a post-Disney retreat. At $120 a night, they sleep six. In fact, Florida is peppered with affordable camping options from the rustic to the "hotel in the woods" variety. Check out your choices here.
Florida is teeming with universities. (Hey, those spring breakers have to hit the books sometime, right?) During summers and holidays, many campuses offer a dorm room or student apartment for rent. Is it the Ritz? No. But will it leave you with enough money so you don't have to eat Ramen for every meal? Indeed. Call a few schools in your destination city; private colleges are your best bet. Ask for the student housing department and see if you can't work something out. See what I mean? Some of the most affordable lodging is found outside of hotels and B&Bs.
Readers, I invite you to share your alternative lodging finds.