The Best Affordable Florida Vacation Spots for Your Next Getaway

Estimated read time 12 min read

Looking for an affordable Florida vacation for the family? Millions of people each year flock to Florida for its warm climate, stunning beaches, and endless attractions.  It’s an amazing place to unwind and explore. However, the cost of traveling to and staying in Florida can quickly add up, especially for families and budget-conscious travelers. That’s why it’s important to find affordable vacation spots that won’t break the bank.

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Fortunately, Florida offers a variety of places to choose from for affordable family vacations. Look for options like camping in state parks, exploring free attractions, staying in budget-friendly hotels or vacation rentals, and taking advantage of local deals and discounts. With a little research, you can enjoy all the fun and beauty of Florida without overspending.

Three great options to consider are St. Augustine, Tampa, and Pensacola.

affordable florida vacation - room inside castillo de san marcos

St. Augustine, located on the northeast coast of Florida, is the oldest city in the United States and offers a charming historic district that’s perfect for a budget-friendly getaway. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets, visit the many museums, or relax on the beautiful beaches.

Tampa, on Florida’s west coast, is another affordable vacation spot that’s perfect for families. From the low-cost entertainment options at the Tampa Riverwalk to the free admission at the Tampa Bay History Center, there’s plenty to do without spending a fortune.

Pensacola, located in the northwest corner of Florida, is known for its beautiful beaches and laid-back vibe. Visitors can spend the day soaking up the sun on Pensacola Beach or exploring the Naval Aviation Museum, which is free to the public.

Overall, when planning your next Florida vacation, it’s important to consider your budget and look for affordable family vacation spots that offer plenty of fun and relaxation. St. Augustine, Tampa, and Pensacola are just a few options to consider that won’t break the bank.

History and Charm: Exploring St. Augustine’s Historic District

St. Augustine, being the oldest city in the United States, is an ideal spot for families seeking economical ways to indulge in history and culture. The city offers several complimentary and low cost attractions, such as Fort Matanzas National Monument, Castillo de San Marcos, and the historic district, which visitors can explore without spending much.

Free and Low-Cost Attractions: Budget-Friendly Things to Do in St. Augustine

Rates provided are not guaranteed as prices can change, always verify current rates directly.

  • Visit the Castillo de San Marcos (adults 7 day pass: $15, children 15 and under are free ).
  • Take a guided walking tour of the historic district ($25 per person).
  • Stroll through the St. Augustine City Market in search of local handmade crafts (free).
  • Visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse ($14.95 for adults, $12.95 for children).
  • Explore the Fort Matanzas National Monument (free including the ferry to the fort).
  • Visit the St. Augustine Wild Reserve (adults: $35, children: $25).
  • Take a dip at Anastasia State Park ($8 per vehicle).
  • Walk through the St. Augustine Art Association (free).
  • Check out the Old Jail Museum ($13.95 for adults, $6.95 for children).
  • Visit the Mission of Nombre de Dios and the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche (free).

*SAVE* – National Parks are free on these days in 2023:

  • January 16: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • April 22: First day of National Park Week
  • August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 23: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

Urban Adventures: Exploring Tampa’s Downtown and Riverwalk

Tampa’s downtown and Riverwalk offer an abundance of budget-friendly things to do, making it a great destination for travelers looking to save money without sacrificing fun. The Riverwalk is a 2.6-mile pedestrian walkway that runs alongside the Hillsborough River and offers stunning views of the city skyline. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll, jog, or bike ride along the Riverwalk while taking in the sights and sounds of Tampa.

In addition to the Riverwalk, Tampa’s downtown area has many free and low-cost attractions to enjoy as well. The Tampa Museum of Art offers free admission on Thursdays after 4 pm. Visitors can also take a self-guided walking tour of the city’s historic landmarks or catch a free concert or movie at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

For those looking to shop and dine, Tampa’s downtown area has many options to fit every budget. The Tampa Riverwalk features several restaurants and cafes that offer affordable meals and drinks with a view. Visitors can also check out the Tampa Bay History Center or the Florida Aquarium, both of which offer discounted rates for seniors, children, and military personnel.

Overall, Tampa’s downtown and Riverwalk offer an excellent opportunity for budget-friendly fun and adventure. Whether you’re a family with kids, a solo traveler, or a group of friends on a tight budget, there’s plenty to do and see in Tampa.

Cheap Things to Do in Tampa

Families visiting Tampa can explore the Lowry Park Zoo, splash and picnic at the Water Works Park, or enjoy the beautiful beaches at Honeymoon Island State Park.

  • Explore the Lowry Park Zoo (adults: $45.95, children: $35.95).
  • Splash and play at the Water Works Park (free).
  • Visit the Florida Aquarium (adults: $34.45, children: $29.45).
  • Take a nature walk at the Hillsborough River State Park ($6 per vehicle).
  • Visit the Henry B. Plant Museum (adults: $10, children: $5).
  • Explore the Lettuce Lake Park (free).
  • Take a self-guided tour of the Ybor City Historic District (free).
  • Visit the Tampa Museum of Art (adults: $20, children 6-18: $5).
  • Take a wild dolphin cruise with the Florida Aquarium ($17 for adults, $15 for children +costs of admission).
  • Visit the Glazer Children’s museum ($16 per person ages 1+) FREE on Tuesdays.

Beach Life: Enjoying the Sun, Sand, and Surf in Pensacola

Pensacola is a picturesque beach town located on the Florida Gulf Coast. It offers families a chance to enjoy a relaxing vacation while also exploring affordable attractions that will create lasting memories. Pensacola has a rich history and cultural heritage that can be experienced through its numerous museums, historic sites, and attractions. This town is known for its white sand beaches, emerald green waters, and a plethora of outdoor activities that are perfect for families.

Family Fun: Budget-Friendly Activities for Kids in Pensacola

  • Take a short hike along the Gulf Islands National Seashore 
  • Access Perdido Key at 5 access points each with their own amenities 
  • Take a 5 min Go-Kart ride at Pensacola Beach ($15)
  • Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum (free)
  • Walk the Edward Ball Nature Trail through Thompson’s Bayou (free)
  • Explore America’s First Settlement Trail (free)
  • Visit the historic Fort Pickens ($25 for a vehicle pass good for Fort Pickens Area, Opal Beach at the Santa Rosa Area, Okaloosa Area, and Perdido Key Area in Florida.)
  • Climb to the top of the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum ($9.50 adults, $6.50 kids under 12)
  • Be surrounded by nature at Bay Bluffs Park (free)
  • Catch a minor league baseball at Blue Wahoos Stadium (from $10+)

Which City is Right for You? St. Augustine, Tampa, or Pensacola?

St. Augustine, Tampa, and Pensacola are all some of the best vacation spots in Florida that offer a variety of activities and attractions for travelers. When it comes to having an affordable Florida vacation, there are several factors to consider, such as accommodation prices, food costs, transportation expenses, and entertainment options. Here’s a comparison of the three destinations as affordable family vacations:

Accommodation prices:

St. Augustine has a variety of accommodation options, ranging from budget-friendly motels to luxury hotels. However, during peak tourist seasons, prices can be quite high. The average nightly rate for a budget hotel in St. Augustine is around $80-$100, while mid-range hotels can cost around $150-$200 per night. Luxury hotels can go up to $300 or more per night.  Expect peak prices during March and December and moderate pricing in May and June. Prices began to decline in August and September which is also the heart of hurricane season. 

Tampa has a similar range of accommodation options, with budget hotels costing around $70-$100 per night, mid-range hotels costing around $120-$200 per night, and luxury hotels costing around $250 or more per night. However, prices can skyrocket during major events such as the Gasparilla Festival. Expect moderate pricing throughout most of the year with peak rates from January to April.  Showers can be expected daily during summer but they are often short and the sunshine quickly returns.

Pensacola is generally the most affordable of the three destinations when it comes to accommodation prices, with budget hotels costing around $60-$80 per night, mid-range hotels costing around $100-$150 per night, and luxury hotels costing around $200 per night.  March to August are the pricier months of the year while December to February are the least expensive in contrast to St. Augustine and Tampa.

Food costs:

St. Augustine has a diverse range of dining options, including seafood, Italian, and Southern cuisine. Prices can range from affordable to expensive, with a typical meal for two people costing around $30-$50 at a mid-range restaurant.

Don’t Miss these Cheap Eats in St. Augustine

  1. Island Donuts, 400 A1A Beach Blvd, Saint Augustine Beach, St. Augustine, FL 32080-7900
  2. Crave, 135 King St Parking Behind the Building on Sebastian Harbor Drive, St. Augustine, FL 32084-4477

Tampa also has a variety of dining options, with a focus on seafood, Cuban cuisine, and craft beer. Prices can be similar to St. Augustine, with a typical meal for two people costing around $30-$50 at a mid-range restaurant.

Don’t Miss these Cheap Eats in Tampa

  1. Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Temple, 5306 Palm River Rd, Tampa, FL 33619-3746 (Only available on Sundays)
  2. La Segunda Central Bakery, 2512 N 15th St, Tampa, FL 33605-3406
curtis hixon park fountain

Pensacola is known for its seafood and Southern-style cuisine. Prices are generally more affordable than in St. Augustine and Tampa, with a typical meal for two people costing around $20-$30 at a mid-range restaurant.

Don’t Miss these Cheap Eats in Pensacola

  1. Coffee Guy Cafe, 6700 North Davis Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32503
  2. The Garden At Palafox + Main, 501 S Palafox St, Pensacola, FL 32502-5932

Transportation expenses:

St. Augustine is a walkable city, and many of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other. However, if you need to travel further, there are options such as taxis, ride-sharing apps, and trolleys. The cost of a taxi or ride-sharing app can vary depending on the distance, but it typically starts at around $10-$15.

Tampa is a larger city with a wider range of attractions spread out over a larger area. There is a public transit system, including buses and a streetcar, but it may not be as convenient for tourists. Taxis and ride-sharing apps are available and can cost around $15-$20 for a short trip. A car is recommended though.

Pensacola is also a walkable city, and many of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other. However, if you need to travel further, taxis and ride-sharing apps 

are available and can cost around $10-$15 for a short trip.

splash pad at the florida aquarium

Entertainment options:

St. Augustine is known for its historic sites and attractions, including the Castillo de San Marcos, the Lightner Museum, and the St. Augustine Lighthouse. There are also beaches and outdoor activities, such as kayaking and fishing. Many of the historic sites have admission fees, which can add up, but there are also free activities such as walking tours and exploring the city’s parks.

Tampa has a range of attractions, including theme parks such as Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, as well as museums and a zoo. There are also beaches and outdoor activities such as kayaking and paddleboarding. Admission fees for attractions can be expensive, but there are also free activities such as walking along the Riverwalk or exploring the city’s many parks and splash pads.

Pensacola also offers a variety of attractions, including historic sites such as Fort Pickens and the Pensacola Lighthouse, as well as beaches and outdoor activities such as fishing and snorkeling. Many of the historic sites have admission fees, but there are also free activities such as walking along the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk or visiting the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Overall, all three destinations offer a range of affordable vacation options, with Pensacola being generally the most budget-friendly. St. Augustine and Tampa have more expensive accommodation and entertainment options, but there are still plenty of affordable options available for budget-conscious travelers. When planning a trip to any of these destinations, it’s important to research and compare prices for accommodations, dining, transportation, and attractions to find the best deals.

More Affordable Florida Vacation Spots for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Fort Myers: Located on the Gulf Coast, Fort Myers offers affordable beach vacations with plenty of outdoor activities, including fishing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing.  Fort Myers is still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Ian.  It may be understandably difficult to find affordable hotel options for a while but May through August can range from $90 – $250 for a 3 star hotel.

Daytona Beach: Known as the “World’s Most Famous Beach,” Daytona Beach is a popular spot for budget-conscious travelers, with affordable accommodation options and plenty of free activities, including strolling the boardwalk and visiting the Daytona Beach Bandshell.

Sarasota: With its beautiful beaches, cultural attractions, and affordable dining options, Sarasota is a great option for those looking for an affordable vacation with plenty of activities.

These are just a few examples of the best places for cheap family vacations in Florida. With a little research, families can find many other budget-friendly destinations throughout the state.

Happy Wandering in some of Florida’s Best Vacation Spots!

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