When I was a kid, family vacation meant riding in the back middle seat of our family’s Subaru station wagon with my feet on the hump. As the youngest and smallest, I inevitably found myself sandwiched between my brother, Freddie, and cousin, Curtis, who often accompanied us on family getaways.
I can’t promise you children of today that you’ll never have to ride in the middle. But I can promise that if you’re headed to Florida, such a claustrophobic trip will be well worth it.
A handful of Florida resorts offer special perks just for kids. Check out the options, and start buttering up your parents. Nightly rates are listed below; keep in mind that the best bargains usually come in summer.
Harbor Beach Marriott Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale: Stay cool in the splash pool, then try out the surf simulator before you hit the real-life Atlantic waves. After some fun in the sun, refuel with complimentary cookies and lemonade, served at the pool at 2 p.m. daily. For March and April 2014, nightly rates start at $259.
Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach: Against the backdrop of the glistening Gulf of Mexico, kids can play at the Camp Ridley club, watch dive-in movies at the pool, roast s’mores on the beach or work as a trainer for a day at Clearwater Marine Aquarium -- home of Winter the Dolphin. And each evening, one special child is selected to ring the sunset bell. During March and April 2014, nightly rates start at $359; purchase in advance and get a 25 percent discount.
Marriott Stanton South Beach in Miami Beach: Who says South Beach is just for grown-ups? Enjoy meals and shopping on Ocean Drive, then cool off in one of this boutique hotel’s two infinity-edge pools. When you’re ready to ride the Atlantic waves, take a free surf lesson with one of the hotel’s instructors; lessons are available every Saturday and Sunday. For March and April 2014, nightly rates start at $399.
The Resort at Longboat Key Club in Longboat Key: While parents and older kids enjoy golf or tennis, younger ones can have their own fun. Enjoy nature walks, ice cream socials, PJ parties and more at Camp Loggerhead. Then take home a souvenir plush turtle to remember your vacation. For March and April 2014, nightly rates start at $419.
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort in Marco Island: Be a wildlife explorer at the resort’s Tiki Tribe discovery camp, watch a dine-in movie, get a behind-the-scenes tour of the bakery (cookies included) and relax with a complimentary freeze pop by the pool. For March and April 2014, nightly rates start at $319.