The Ultimate Florida Road Trip on a Budget

Are you planning a road trip to Florida? Good news. Florida is one of the best states to cover by car. The sunshine state is diverse and rich in natural resources, history, attractions, and even the unusual. Florida is rimmed with endless miles of pristine and sandy beaches, has exciting marine life and beautiful keys, each with a different personality. You'll find natural springs, the Florida everglades, and all of its mysteries, and tons of lakes and ecosystems full of exotic and exciting wildlife. 

florida road trip

If you are for a little more urban experience, Fort Lauderdale Beach has grown up and is no longer for spring breakers. The gorgeous beaches afford the opportunity to bask in the sun, swim in the surf, and take a break from the beach at one of the many restaurants and shops that line the strip. Thinking of something more adult? Iconic South Beach awaits with its international flair and beautiful people. 

If this is a family vacation, it won't be easy not to include a stop in and experience Orlando's magic. World-class theme parks, attractions, and dining await. Disney is not known for being budget-friendly, but you can do Disney on A Budget with a few of our tips.

It is possible to take a fantastic Florida road trip on a budget. Here are some tips!

  • Planning is everything! And planning a roadtrip to Florida on a budget is where the fun begins. You can enjoy a fantastic trip, even on a budget, with the proper planning. Planning and booking as early as possible is critical. Florida is a popular destination, and many of the spots you'll want to visit fill up quickly, and they often offer early booking perks. So start your research today! Visit travel blogs, Instagram, Florida Visitor sites and decide precisely what kind of trip you plan to take. Choose the areas that are non-negotiable and go from there. 
  • Investigate your memberships like AAA, AARP, your credit card points, and any corporate or military benefits or perks that you may be able to take advantage of. 
road trip on a budget
  • If you can avoid flying and make the entire trip by car- Score! No expensive airfares and no car rentals. Take advantage of the extra sightseeing and adventures along the way. If this is not feasible, the good news is that Florida is super-connected with major airports like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa. Ft. Lauderdale often has the least expensive flights. 
  • Florida is quite affordable for car rentals, but book in advance! Some consider hiring a campervan, an entirely different type of vacation, but it may make sense for the outdoorsy types. They run around $150 per day but can offer tons of savings on accommodation and food and make an unforgettable vacation. You may consider doing a let of your road trip in a car and a few days at one of the state parks in an RV. The best of both worlds! There are many campgrounds in Florida with hookups and facilities that are well located near the parks. Even Disney has a camping option! 
  • For more tips on The Ultimate Florida Vacation on a Budget
planning a trip to Florida on a budget
  • Hit the beach! Beaches are one of Florida's most fantastic attractions, and they also happen to be FREE. Swin the surf, watch the sunset, cast fish off the piers, or just bask in the sun. 
  • Look for other free tourist destinations to take advantage of. Check with the online visitor sites of the areas you'll hit for lots of tips on low-cost or no-cost things to do in the area. You'll find some unique treasures. 
  • Save on food! Even foodies can find savings here. Splurge on the exceptional restaurants you're dying to try, but three special meals per day can add up quickly. Consider trying that special restaurant at lunch instead of dinner. Many hotels include continental or even full American breakfasts. Take advantage of this by snagging a piece of fruit for later. Buy snacks, water, and non-perishables, or pack a lunch for travel days so you can find a pretty spot and picnic. That's all part of the experience. Buy a bottle of wine to enjoy at the end of the day overlooking the view and skip the room service or happy hour spots. 

How much do you want to drive?

As you plan your itinerary, be realistic about how much you want to drive. There is so much to see in Florida, and you'll want to see it all. Florida is a huge state! Plan out which days will be travel days and check out the travel distances online, which is very easy to do, before committing to an itinerary. Generally, a long day of travel is best when you know you don't; have to get in the car and repeat the next day! 

Try to mix it up and stay in one spot for a night or two, keeping the driving to short trips while there. 

When is the best time of year to make a Florida road trip? 

Avoid peak seasons when you can. It will save you money on tickets to attractions, accommodations, and more. Florida is a year-round destination with the coldest times in January when the temps may drop to 60 degrees or so. July is super warm and humid, so be prepared for that. A great off-season and reasonable rated time to travel to Florida is between September to November, with average temperatures in the 70's. You'll avoid snowbirds and holiday visitors and take advantage of reasonable rates and special offers. 

Researching and planning your itinerary 

Planning a Florida road trip itinerary is a very personal thing. An excellent place to start is to have a family discussion about expectations, budget, and how much time you have to spend.

There are hundreds of good sources of information about traveling in the state of Florida. Start with a map of the state and agree upon the "must-visits." Research the state and area visitor sites for a treasure trove of inspiration. IIf you have a specific interest like museums, search those topics. Find travel bloggers who specialize in budget travel, road trips, or Florida travel. There are plenty. The time you spend now will pay off big time once you get in the car. 

planning a trip to Florida

If you are a family of beach babies or are traveling with teens, there's a good chance a visit to one of the east coast beaches like Ft. Lauderdale or Delray will be involved. If you have surfer dudes in your party, a visit to Cocoa Beach and the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop will be in order.

A good compromise of nature, beaches, and night action would be South Florida. Fly into Ft Lauderdale International Airport and use it for a hub for a day or two. Pick an affordable hotel off the beach and spend a couple of days exploring the city, the beach, and nearby Everglades for a hit of Florida's amazing nature. From there, you can head south for a visit to the pristine and quirky Florida keys, west to the Gulf Coast, and all of the sugar sand beaches of the west coast like Anna Maria Island or Clearwater Beach. Head north to hit some of the more remote beaches and smaller beach towns. 

Hint- The more remote the beach town, the more budget-friendly the pricing will be. Don't expect to find budget-friendly accommodation close to the water in South Beach, Ft Lauderdale, or even the Keys. 

History buffs will want to travel to beautiful St. Augustine Beach, the oldest city in the United States. Beaches surround it, and you're sure to find something at one of the neighboring beaches. 

If you are looking for more of a nature vacation, you will find much more value heading to central and northern Florida. 

What will a Florida road trip cost? 

That depends on you! Florida is one of the least expensive states in the US. The trick is to find affordable parts! If booked well in advance, a rental car would run up to about $400 if you aren't adding frills and driving the top of the line. Plan a few hundred dollars for gas- again, and it depends on how many miles you plan on logging. 

Accommodations will be the priciest in Miami, while you'll find some bargains outside the Orlando area and in Central Florida. Camping in the state parks can run from $30-$50 per night. Your dining budget depends on you. There is no shortage of cheap chain outlets that will save you big money. If you limit restaurant dining, prepare some snacks and meals yourself, and keep the fancy restaurants for a splurge, you don't have to break the bank. We suggest you sit down and set a budget for dining, so it doesn't get away from you. 
Florida is full of destinations you'll want to visit, but you will not be able to fit it all in. Do your research, decide how long you want to be in the car, and when kind of vacation you want to take. We suggest a couple of days in each of two or three areas to maximize your experience and allow for chilling out, relaxing, and getting to know the destinations. After all, that's what vacations are for.

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