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first-time family beach vacation in Florida

Fithian
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first-time family beach vacation in Florida

We are considering a beach vacation in Florida at the end of May/early June and have been considering Sanibel/Captiva. Our children have never been to a beach before and have never flown before, so we want to ensure the best experience possible. Priorities are: excellent beach experience (sand and shelling), family-friendly accommodations with lots of activities for the kids or located close to other activities, and simple travel. Any input would be greatly appreciated! Kids are 6 and 8 years old. If you have location suggestions other than Sanibel/Captiva, we would love to hear those as well.

Fort Lauderdale...
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1. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

budget and an idea of where you're starting your trip from would be most helpful

Fithian
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2. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

We are travelling from central Illinois, so we could fly out of Chicago or Indianapolis. Budget...trying to stay under $4,000 total if possible.

Orlando
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3. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

"Lots of activities" ? If you are talking about things outside of nature, you may want to look somewhere more populated. For good beaches and shelling, Sanibel and Captiva are very nice. Look at flight prices into Ft Myers. You will need a car there.

UK
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4. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

There will be activities from shelling and beach side things, to kayaking, boat trips, fishing, cycling. I doubt (apart from places like South Seas resort) you will find a lot in the way of 'kids clubs'.

The beauty of this part of florida is the beach life incl shelling. that and swimming in the pool are enough for most families.

Cocoa Beach, Florida
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5. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

We just flew non-stop from Central Illinois to Orlando MCO yesterday via Frontier Airlines. The 2-hour flight was very pleasant, on a 137-passenger AirBus 319, with seatback in-flight entertainment, free beverages, and meals for purchase. The round-trip fare out of Bloomington (a little over an hour on I-74 from you) was $179, including taxes. In December, we went down for a weekend, and the RT fare was only $128; fares that cheap are sale prices, available only on certain days, but we just booked the busy Easter weekend for $327.

Also, Allegiant Airlines flies non-stop from Bloomington to Orlando Sanford. The advantage of Bloomington is that they promote the airport there with free parking, something that will cost about $15 a day at Chicago or Indy.

We are currently at Cocoa Beach, which is about 45 minutes drive from Orlando airport (it was 84 degrees when we arrived). For a beach holiday, you will probably want to have a rental car. The rates for a full-size car at Orlando are typically around $12-24 per day plus taxes and fees. Like the airfares, the rates can go crazy over major holidays. We usually use Hotwire.com or bid on Priceline.com with good results -- this trip we bid $16 a day and got a Hyundai Sonata from Budget (after we finalized our bid, we got an email offering us $11 a day). We find that Orlando, which is the largest rental car market in the world, usually has more competitive rates than other Florida cities.

Hotel rates here in Cocoa Beach (and adjacent Cape Canaveral) are very affordable. There are no 5-star resorts here, but plenty of upper-middle hotels like Hilton, Doubletree, Radisson, Sheraton, and Marriott Courtyard, often at $90-140 a day. The major chains right on the beach are Best Western, La Quinta Oceanside, Doubletree, Hampton Inn, Marriott, and Hilton. Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort is a newer beachside resort with a great pool area (lazy river, waterslides, sprays) and lots of kids' activities. Right on the ocean, there are also places like the Discovery Beach Resort and Resort on Cocoa Beach that have 2-3 BR units with kitchens.

For airfare, rental car, and hotel, you should be able to come in under $2000 for a week. You don't mention any theme parks, but they can add up quickly; Disney will be almost $400 a day for a family of 4, plus meals and souvenirs. It's about 60 minutes from Cocoa Beach to Disney if you did a day trip. Take a look at the TA forums and hotel/attractions pages for Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral for more information. Also see www.visitcocoabeach.com .

The main difference between beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and those on the Gulf of Mexico will be the surf. The Ocean has waves, and kids often enjoy boogie boarding and jumping in them. The Gulf has finer, whiter sand but very little surf. Sanibel Island is nice, in that it is serene, with restrictions against dense development, but does not have as many kids' activities as some other places. It does have good shelling. The toll bridge is the only way to drive on/off the island. The hotel rates will be higher than someplace like Cocoa Beach, but you should still be able to stay within your budget.

Hope this helps. Wherever you go, have a great trip!

Tampa, Florida
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6. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

Not sure what you mean by "simple travel". Do you not want to rent a car when you get to your destination but rely on local transport? If so that will narrow down your choice of places by a lot.

Fithian
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7. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

Thank you for your input! We have looked at South Seas, but do you have a particular hotel/resort you would recommend? Or would we be better off renting a condo/cottage? It appears that wherever we stay we'll need to rent a car and either eat out or prepare our own meals.

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8. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

Sanibel and captiva are great if you are interested in shelling. If you are looking for touristy type activities such as mini golf, theme parks, etc you should look elsewhere as neither island has anything like that.

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9. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

Sanibel and captiva are great if you are interested in shelling. If you are looking for touristy type activities such as mini golf, theme parks, etc you should look elsewhere as neither island has anything like that.

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10. Re: first-time family beach vacation in Florida

Sanibel and captiva are great if you are interested in shelling. If you are looking for touristy type activities such as mini golf, theme parks, etc you should look elsewhere as neither island has anything like that.