Come with me, my husband and our two children as we travel the state seeking out the things to see, do, eat and explore that your whole family will enjoy.
More From the Family Insider
Q: What are the rules for car seats in Florida?
Florida uses the national safety regulations for kids and car seats. They follow a "4 Steps for Kids Guidelines," which is also posted on the website for the Florida Highway Patrol:
Step 1: Babies from birth to one year AND 20 pounds ride in rear-facing child seats.
Step 2: Toddlers from one year to age four ( and 40 pounds) ride in forward-facing child seats.
Step 3: Children ages four (and 40 pounds) to eight (or 4'9" tall) should ride in booster seats.
Step 4: Children over age eight (or 4’9" tall) may use vehicle's seat belt.
ALL children 12 and under should ride in the back seat of a vehicle.
Regulations change so to make sure the information is current, visit this website: http://www.fhp.state.fl.us/CPS. In addition, the Florida Highway Patrol has officers in locations throughout the state who can assist you with any child seat safety questions/concerns. They will make sure your seats are properly installed. You can bring your own or rent your car seat/booster when you visit Florida. For example, Hertz Rent A Car charges an average of $10-$12 per day for a car seat. If you plan to fly without it, you can check yours with your luggage.
Q: Vacation home rentals: Where and how can we rent a big place?
For vacation home rentals, check out ResortQuest. They have accommodations up and down the Florida coast including the most beautiful, white-as-snow beaches in the Emerald Coast area, in northern Florida. Another one that I like is HomeAway. I like their website as it's clear and concise, and you can see prices at a glance.
Q: On Spring Break in Florida, how can we avoid the crazy college crowd?
Daytona Beach is a fantastic family-friendly spring break destination! Back in the 80s, they were stained with a poor spring break image when MTV hit their shores and they've worked hard for years to reverse that reputation – and have succeeded. They market to families and cater to their needs, especially over spring break. In fact, it has become a favorite destination for families. Now, that being said, for ideas on the Gulf side, the further south the better, I am definitely thinking Naples. It's a pretty big town and there is plenty to do for all ages. The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club is a good option because they are like a one-stop-shopping-spot for vacationers. Meaning, they have everything right onsite: beach, amazing pool complex, restaurants, shopping, spa and golf... love it! I also love Marco Island. It's a bit more laid back than Naples (which is just up the road) so it just depends on how much additional action you seek. The islands of Captiva and Sanibel are viable options. No spring break college crowds, but plenty of glorious beaches, loads of seashells, good shopping, dining, eco-tours, boating and fishing. However, there’s definitely more night life in Naples. And I can't forget to suggest Fort Myers Beach. It's an affordable destination, so you may find some college kids around but nothing crazy by any means. They require those who rent hotel rooms during spring break to be at least 25 years old, so that keeps many collegians away. On the east coast, you’ll love Hollywood Beach with its 2.5-mile Broadwalk of shops and restaurants – the broadwalk also runs parallel with the Atlantic, so the beach and water are right there! Super nice. Martin County is great for families on spring break.It has nice beaches, nothing crazy and great fishing. And Jupiter is a favorite of mine. Be sure to visit the Loggerhead Marine Science Center.
Q: What are the average temperatures in winter? Is it too cold to swim?
Daytona Beach: High 70°- Low 47
Florida KeysCity of Miami: High 73°- Low 63°
Panama City Beach: High 62°- Low 39°
Sarasota: High 70°- Low 52°
The logical rule is that the further south you go, the better off you are going to be for water temperatures. And since everyone has different sensitivities, I'd definitely dip in a toe before jumping in. Here are some average water temperatures in popular areas. The first temp is January, and the second one is February:
Q: We want to move to Florida; where can I find helpful info?
MyFlorida.com is a sister site to VISIT FLORIDA and it's filled with great information. You can check out the cities you are interested in, as well as research important things like schools, neighborhoods and such – even job searches are available
Q: What's the best time of year to visit the theme parks?
Here is a link to the "Best Times To Visit Walt Disney World." The site has a great calendar to feature not only when the lines should be the shortest, but when the great events take place. My vote is for the end of October or beginning of November (before the Thanksgiving holidays). The weather will be wonderful then too, so you can spend time at the pool.
Q: Can you tell me a resort with a great kids' club? What about age restrictions?
Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Resort offers a club for ages 5-12 (sometimes resorts do allow younger ones if they're birthdays are close or if they are mature for their age so definitely ask). Palm Beach has a club that starts at age 3. The Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale has free kids clubs (5-12 year olds). The Sundial Resort on Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach has the amazing Splash Kids Club, and it’s totally free and it’s all day (from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or later). Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanwalk Resort has D-Dawgs Kids Zone for 5-12 year olds and it’s fantastic. They have supervised and unsupervised time, from noon ‘til 8 pm. Oh, and Hawk’s Cay has the only full-day program in the Florida Keys. It’s not free, but it is awesome. Club Sandpiper Resort in Port St. Lucie offers an all-day kids program, and the ages are from 4 months up to 17 years! There are lots more; just ask me about the area you’re visiting and I can provide the answer.
Q: Where can I get discounted theme park tickets?
Everyone wants to save money so here are my top tips: Each theme park runs specials, normally online, so be sure to log on to each park you are visiting and click on their “specials”' or “offers.” However, if you are a Florida resident, be sure to purchase your tickets online at the theme park's website. Fantastic offers at SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort, Walt Disney World Resorts and other attractions as well. For visitors, I love to recommend ticket brokers. First up: Mousesavers. They list all the discounts in a row so you can easily see which one(s) you qualify for (military, GE, AAA, Hilton, and Costco). Another fantastic and super reputable one is The Official Ticket Center. They have discount tickets for all the Orlando theme parks as well as dinner shows and other attractions. UnderCover Tourist is another – oh and Orlando Fun Tickets. They are also licensed and bonded. Also, if you are a member of AAA, you can get discounts. Check out the AAA website. The final secret is there is no shortcut better than a little elbow grease. You definitely have to shop around.
Q: Could you please share some ideas for toddler-friendly beaches?
Clearwater Beach is a family favorite for its soft sand and up that way is where you'll find Siesta Key, consistently rated one of the top beaches in North America for families because of its gradual sloping shores – which are ideal for toddlers. But here's another suggestion, the South Walton area beaches are like baby powder – soft, silky and white as snow. What makes them great for little ones is that the sand does NOT get hot under your feet because it’s comprised almost entirely of pure Appalachian quartz! For that reason, they don't soak up the sun's heat and scorch tender tootsies. Another favorite for little ones: the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. Toddlers are fascinated by all the seashells (and parents are, too)!
Q: What's the closest beach to Orlando?
Cocoa Beach would be the closest to Orlando. It’s on the Atlantic side and only about 55 minutes away. It's also home to the Kennedy Space Center. Daytona Beach or New Smyrna would be about a 75-minute drive. If you seek Gulf coast beaches, head to St. Petersburg/Clearwater Beach (less than two hours). The beaches are beautiful and there is plenty to do for families – we love Pier 60 in Clearwater.