PLANNING A FLORIDA ROAD TRIP : ITINERARY, BUDGET & TIPS
Now I have finally come to the end of my Florida road trip posts, I thought I would write a little more on actually planning a road trip (*as a side note I will be doing the same for our epic Pacific Northwest Road trip too but I haven’t even started writing the posts for that yet)- what we do in terms of budget, costs, an overall itinerary and tips as well.
You can see from the map above the route that we took for our trip. We spent 16 nights travelling around the state of Florida. We kicked off our road trip by flying into Miami and staying for two nights. We then headed to the Florida Keys (Key Largo) where we spent two nights, before heading back down to Fort Lauderdale for two nights. After Fort Lauderdale we headed to Anna Maria Island for two nights, Crystal River for two nights, Panama City Beach for three nights and Pensacola Beach for two nights, before leaving Florida and heading to New Orleans, Louisiana where we flew home after one night days. We covered 1825 miles in total.
WHERE TO START
I think planning a road trip (or indeed any holiday) is an incredibly personal thing. Obviously people have different interests, different budgets and different ideas on what constitutes an amazing trip for them, but I thought I would give an idea into some of the things we do before we go on a trip like this.
1- Start planning a route
Florida is full of destinations you are no doubt going to want to visit, but unfortunately you aren’t going to be able to fit everything in. What we tend to do is either buy a cheap state road map off Amazon or print out a map of the state we are visiting, and pinpoint areas we absolutely want to visit. In the case of our trip we knew that we 100% wanted to visit Miami, Florida Keys, Anna Maria Island, and finish and fly out of New Orleans (Louisiana). We use the map to trace the route and then look at destinations nearby that sound interesting- whether that be places by the coast, big cities etc. We make notes of places that sound intriguing and then we go off and research them.
2- Where to research your trip
I research our trips in a number of different ways, but as a little disclaimer I will spend hours looking. One of the main ways I get inspiration is via instagram. I will either save posts that look interesting as I do my regular scrolling, that I use for future trip inspiration, or I will search a destination. So for example I will either search via the location feature or I will search via a hashtag, for example #annamariaisland. I will then save all the posts I find interesting- it could be anything from a pretty photo location, a restaurant, or something the kids might enjoy.
I am also a big fan of travel blogs, you can’t beat a good old google if you are looking for specific destination ideas, as well as You Tube of course. And I also love a guide book, I have a whole shelf of books I have collected over the years. I also love to fill notebooks full of inspiration and ideas.
2-Work out how long you want to be driving for
Our children actually don’t mind the car. We find on a road trip that the drive is part of the adventure. We find it gives us downtime, gives us a chance to recharge our batteries after lots of exploring (ie let the kids go on their ipads so we can have a few minutes peace!), and we get to experience the scenery of somewhere different.
The amount of driving you are going to want to do is entirely up to you, but we find that we can break it up by driving shorter distances to certain destinations and then every few days having a driving day to get a big distance done. The most we would drive in a day is about five hours, but we would have regular stops and make it an adventure for the kids. Lots of snacks, lots of car games and lots of fun- we actually love it.
3- How long should you spend in each place
The whole point of a road trip is that you travel so we don’t tend to stay in a place for any longer than four nights. The average is usually 2 nights in a destination, but we will do 1 night stopovers as well if it’s a place in the middle of a long drive that doesn’t appeal for any longer than 1. We will do 3 or more nights if it is somewhere that appeals to us a lot- for example a city where there is more going on or a beach destination where we can chill and have some downtime for a few days.
4- Book your flights as soon as you can
Obviously depending on what time of year you visit, flights will fluctuate. But my rule of thumb is book your flights as soon as you can. There are some exceptions to this, you can generally book flights 12 to 11 months in advance for long haul flights, but prices are generally at their lowest if you book as soon as flights come out. That said, sometimes airlines can be conservative in terms of their initial prices. My advice is to keep an eye on the flights for a few weeks once they go on sale, and just watch what they are doing in terms of the prices. All of our recent ‘big’ trips (so our Florida road trip and our Pacific NorthWest road trip) have been booked in the flight sales- I truly do think flight sales are worth holding out for. All the main airlines (e.g BA, Virgin, Ryanair etc) will do seasonal flight sales, and we have managed to get to great value seats in the December sales. Depending on how in advance you are planning and also when you want to go, it is definitely worth holding out if sales are coming up.
I will also use websites such as Skyscanner to see what I can find flight wise- sometimes going indirect (not always practical with kids) can be cheaper, as well as checking the search radius of the airports you are flying from and to- sometimes you can get a much cheaper seat if you are willing to travel a bit further to get to the airport. Likewise make sure if you are flexible on dates that you check the surrounding days, flights can vary dramatically day by day depending on whether for example it’s the weekend or the flights are in demand.
5- Likewise book your car hire and airport parking as soon as you can
Once you’ve booked your flight you want to make sure you book your car hire as soon as you can. With car hire and airport parking, we have always found that the further in advance you book, the more likely you are to find the price at its lowest. So as soon as you book your flights, book these two things too.
In terms of car hire, when we visit the US we tend to always book with either Hertz or Alamo as we have found them to be reasonable but also safe and with good customer service. But there are comparisons websites so you can see different prices and compare them. I also get asked a lot but we tend to hire car seats while we are there, rather tthan take the kids car seats from home.
In terms of airport parking, we have found that the sooner you book the more likely you are to similarly get a good deal. One of our favourite tips is to check the different parking options. We have found that you can often get valet parking for only slightly more than normal parking. Valet parking means that you can drop your car off and pick it up from a car park literally on the airport- so handy when you have got off a long flight, especially with children.
6- Plan an itinerary… but not too much
I like to make notes (I have notebooks and also on my phone where I write trip inspiration constantly) on places we would like to visit and I also use google maps to work out a vague plan for the day depending on what is near and in the same vicinity. But we won’t make our itinerary too rigid… inevitably along the way plans change, kids get grumpy, you might need some downtime, or you might see somewhere you really want to visit. It’s ok to change the plans and some of our favourite adventures happen when we take it easy and go with the flow.
Of course everyone’s budgets are different, and also your trip is going to dramatically change price wise depending on the amount of people travelling and when in the year you travel. But I know that some people find it helpful to know approximate budgets- I have included this below, but I also wanted to give some budgeting tips as well for when planning your trip.
1- Know what’s important to you
People will want to spend their hard earned money in different ways on a trip. For some they will want to stay in quirky hotel rooms or luxury properties, some might want to eat all the expensive food, and some might want to do loads of amazing experiences. Prioritise more of your budget towards things that mean the most to you and save on the bits that aren’t as important.
2- Avoid peak times
If you can try to avoid going away in peak times. We are unfortunately tied a little to school holidays as we have three little people, but if can it’s definitely better to travel outside of peak times and in shoulder seasons. Research what are the high and low seasons for the destination you are visiting.
3- Think about what you eat
We love to eat while we are away, for us eating out while away really helps immerse ourselves in the location we are in. But you can still eat out and budget. We often (even in hotels) will decline booking the hotel breakfast and instead buy our own breakfast from the supermarkets, even if we take a box of cereal and a small pint of milk to pop in the minibar overnight. We tend to stick to the rule that while we are away we have one meal out a day- by ‘out’ that could be a takeaway pizza on the beach or a restaurant, but we tend to only do this once. Other than that we will go to supermarkets to get snacks and plan our budget accordingly. This obviously massively varies but we find eating out fast food wise will cost around $20-30 and in a restaurant can be $50-70. Some of our favourite experiences come from eating sandwiches in the car or finding some snacks to eat on a picnic blanket in a beautiful location. (On a side note US portions are huge, we find that we only need to get two kids meals between three as our children will never eat it all). One plus point of staying in apartments/airbnb’s is that you can cook and that can be good fun as well.
4- Mix up your accommodation
We really try to be clever when it comes to booking accommodation as obviously a huge amount of your budget will go on where you stay. We like to mix up where we stay with a mixture of hotels, caravans (airstreams), and airbnbs. We love an airbnb because it really feels like you are immersing yourself in a place when you stay somewhere local. We often stay somewhere basic for a night, then treat ourselves to somewhere a bit nicer, then go basic again- we find by breaking it up it means that it helps us save but doesn’t compromise on comfort.
One great tip is to use a website like booking.com- most of the time they will allow a really flexible cancellation policy (unlike airbnb which is so strict), meaning you can book really far in advance and then cancel nearer the time if you find a room or place much cheaper. It’s a great of securing rates without losing money. On a big trip like this I will constantly be checking and looking at hotel prices to see if I can find them cheaper, hotel prices just like flights do fluctuate depending on demand. I’ve even been known to cancel a room while we are on a trip and book a cheaper one if I find a last minute deal (only if it’s a flexible cancellation policy).
Sample 2 week Florida budget
This really is just an idea, but I have priced up a holiday for the dates we stayed last year in the accommodation we stayed in. We are a family of five so often need a larger (therefore more expensive) room, so that often adds up for us. We also booked our flights much earlier than I am searching for (we got flights in the sale which from memory were approx £1.8k altogether for 5 return flights- a very good deal for 5 people )
Return flights for a family of 4 (British Airways) departing end of March for 2 weeks- approx £2050
Best Western on the Bay Inn and Marina Miami £95 a night for 2 nights- £190
Ocean Pointes Suites Key Largo £167 a night x 2 – £334
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina (I remember for us it was a last minute deal £80 a night)- £160
Tropic Isle Beach Resort Anna Maria Island- Website can’t be reached £95 a night – £190
Plantation Resort Crystal River- £108 a night- £217 total
Tidewater Beach Resort Panama City Beach- £155 a night- £465 total
Holiday Inn Pensacola Beach £180 a night- £360 total (total for accommodation approx £1916 but we didn’t spend this as we booked more in advance)
Car hire for 2 weeks- £500 approx (more if you want car seats depending on the age of your children)
We usually budget for about £50-100 a day spending money, whether that be for attractions, food or petrol. I have kept the daily budget while on the trip out of it as I know this varies massively depending on what you do/where you eat etc.
TOTAL- Approx £4466 for flights and accommodation and car hire (then you will need to budget more for your daily spend while on the trip, including petrol. At the time of writing the average U.S. gas price is $2.202 (£1.54) per gallon (so much cheaper than UK fuel!).
As mentioned you do need to take this quite loosely as our trip certainly didn’t cost this much as we booked more in advance and our flights/accommodation were therefore cheaper. But hopefully this will give you a vague idea for a budget for a Florida Road Trip at a similar time of year to when we visited. We were also lucky to work with Visit Florida on some discounted stays on accommodation, but hopefully you will find this useful.
TWO WEEK FLORIDA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
Like I said, we will always try and do a loose itinerary but I thought I would share our one for anyone who might find it useful…
DAY 1- TRAVEL DAY/MIAMI
If you are flying in from the UK then you will more than likely land later afternoon or early evening. If you are travelling with kids everyone is likely to be tired, or in our case often really over hyper, so we tend to grab some fast food on the way to our hotel. We stayed at the Best Western on the Bay and Marina hotel so we checked in there and had a reasonably early night.
DAY 2- MIAMI
On our first full day in a destination we always try and take it easy. We woke up to heavy rain on our first morning in Miami so decided to do some indoor activities. First stop after breakfast (IHOP of course cause you can’t beat American pancakes), we headed to the Frost Museum of Science.
Based in Downtown Miami, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is a leading science museum dedicated to sharing the power of science, sparking wonder and investigation, and fuelling innovation for the future. It is divided into four buildings: the Frost Planetarium, Aquarium, and North and West Wings. There are loads of interactive exhibits for the kids and the most beautiful aquarium (perfect for a insta pic!). It was the perfect rainy day activity and we all really enjoyed it.
After that we headed to Bayside which is nearby, which is a great area to people watch and grab a bite to eat/and or shop. From there we decided to take a boat trip as you can se the whole of the Miami skyline from the water. We used Island Queen Cruises and they were great. They pass through Biscayne Bay where you can see the entire downtown Miami skyline, the Port of Miami – with the cruise ship and cargo districts, Fisher Island, and then Millionaire’s Row – the homes of the rich and famous. It was really interesting having the guide point out where some famous celebrities and business people live.
Our children were a bit too little to really listen to what the guide was saying, but they just enjoyed being on the boat and seeing all the nice houses. But it was really informative for myself and Jon and I would thoroughly recommend it.
By this point we were all quite tired so we took a drive to South Beach and grabbed a bite to eat at Pizza Bar, before heading back to our hotel.
DAY 3- MIAMI/KEY LARGO
We started off our final day in Miami by heading straight back to South Beach to have a walk along the beach there, and also walk down the famous Ocean Drive. Everything you will have seen about South Beach on films, tv and magazines is pretty much correct. It is a crazy, glamorous and pretty much an all day party. It is just a fun place to be, you can sit on one of the tables in one of the many restaurants outside on Ocean Drive and watch the world go by- people watching is the best thing to do here. While you are on the beach make sure you snap a photo next to the iconic Miami lifeguard stations.
After a good couple of hours in the South Beach area we headed to Wynwood Walls. Just minutes from Downtown Miami, near Midtown and the Miami Design District, there are streets and streets full of street art, and it has massively regenerated the whole area. There is an official Wynwood Walls which is pedestrian only (and free to get in!), but you can walk for blocks looking at all the unofficial art too.
It’s also a cool place to shop and eat and has become a cool place to hang out. Maisons du Monde have a furniture shop there, as do Glossier amongst others. It’s a seriously cool place and in my opinion no trip to Miami is complete without a little visit. While you are there head to Mr Kream Wynwood for some tasty treats. Described as a ‘hip hop ice cream shop’, as soon as you walk in you are created with hip hop memorabilia all over the walls and all the ice cream flavours are named after either songs or artists.
The ice cream is delicious and they have giant versions of some of your favourite games you can play while you eat- we had a go of giant Uno and giant Connect Four. At nighttime they hold events and parties with local DJ’s too.
After that we jumped in the car and headed to our next destination- the Florida Keys, most specifically Key Largo. Key Largo is approximately 69 miles away from Miami, it took us around an hour and 15 minutes and we made sure we set off so we could arrive in daylight.
We arrived in Key Largo (the drive down to the Keys is really something) and checked into our hotel- Ocean Pointe Suites. It is a beachfront resort that offers guests a variety of activities like tennis, swimming and nature trails. This all-suite resort features spacious Key Largo condo rentals overlooking the Atlantic Ocean; an ideal destination for enjoying the relaxing breezy days and abundant sunshine in the Florida Keys.
We checked in freshened up and realised we were ready in perfect time to watch an epic sunset. We asked the receptionist in the hotel the best place to watch the sunset and she recommended Bayside Grille, which has live music and tables right on the beach in the sand. The sunset was one of the best we have ever seen and the food was brilliant too.
DAY 4- KEY LARGO
We woke up the next day and headed out to another recommended to us restaurant, this time for breakfast. It’s called Made 2 Order and from the outside this little restaurant looks absolutely nothing special, so much so that we wondered whether to bother going in at all. But head around the back and you will find the most delightful little terrace overlooking the beautiful canals of The Keys.
It was so kid friendly with the staff just being brilliant with them (the Mickey pancakes were a great success too!), plus they had the usual colouring etc for them too.
Such a beautiful spot to start the day with a tasty brunch. Jon and I also had pancakes which were delicious.
After that we headed back to our hotel for some relaxation and some time in the pool. We definitely try to have a day of downtime every few days as our kids love splashing about in the pool so much.
A few hours later we decided to go for a drive. Where we were staying, Key Largo is both the first island and town of the Florida Keys to be reached from the Overseas Highway to Key West. Key West is obviously iconic but we felt it was too far to go seeing as we were only in the Keys for a couple of days. We did however decided to drive to Seven Mile Bridge as it is somewhere Jon and I have always wanted to see. It’s still a good 60 miles (about 1 hour 15 minutes away) from Key Largo, but we felt the trip was worth it.
There are actually two bridges in this location. The modern bridge is open to vehicular traffic; the older one only to pedestrians and cyclists. It really is incredible but I must admit it made me feel a bit funny driving across it- I can’t describe it but I just felt a bit nervous and I have no idea why.
On the way home we stopped at the gorgeous Morada Bay restaurant for another dinner sitting on tables in the sand. A bit less laid back than the restaurant the night before, but laid back all the same. I had the Morada Bay curry and it was delicious.
DAY 5- KEY LARGO/FORT LAUDERDALE
We woke up and headed straight to John Pennenkamp State Park to go on aglass bottom boat tour ‘The Spirit of Pennekamp’ (booking beforehand is advisable) which offers a 2.5 hour tour to the park’s coral reef. It cost us approximately $82 dollars for our family of 5 (under 3 are free). It was good fun, but we got really sea sick. The waves were so choppy and we spent the entire time trying not to be sick- Jon at one point was green! We don’t normally get sea sick, so the waves must have just been very choppy that day.
Still it was great fun, really educational for the kids- just make sure you take an anti-sickness tablet.
The park itself is great for spending the day- it contains the first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles.
But there are also lots of fun things to do on land too, such as lovely walks, a playground, plus lots of places to picnic and chill out and enjoy the sunshine. There are a couple of small manmade beaches by the water. We grabbed a take out pizza and sat in the sunshine and it was one of my favourite memories of our trip. You do have to pay for parking in the state park, but once in there, it’s a lovely place to spend the day.
After that we headed to our next destination Fort Lauderdale which is approximately 92 miles and takes just under two hours.
On arrival in Fort Lauderdale we checked into our hotel the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, it is a little out of the centre of the city so we got a good deal. We were all pretty tired at this point so spent the evening chilling out around the hotel and in our room.
DAY 6- FORT LAUDERDALE
We spent our first morning in Fort Lauderdale having downtime by the pool in our hotel. Then it was time to get ready and head to Las Olas Boulevard. This is quite a famous street in the area, full of fashion boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and bars. We spent a fair while just wandering down the boulevard, taking in the sights and feeling the sun on our shoulders. It felt almost like a suburb upmarket village feel, even though we were in the heart of a city. If you have children, chances are they like pizza and if you are big pizza fans like us then you have to head to Louie Bossi’s on Las Olas Boulevard.
Try and get a seat in the courtyard, it’s full of greenery, festoon lights and a lovely spot to grab lunch in the sunshine. They also have a great kids menu too.
After a tasty lunch we decided to head on the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi. Fort Lauderdale has an incredible water taxi system which is a must if you have little ones. There’s lots of different routes, but the route we went was from our hotel (Hilton Marina) to Hollywood (not to be confused with Hollywood LA). You can hop on or off at any of the stops and the captain and staff were really knowledgable about the city and gave us a mini tour while we were on board- so you get to learn more about Fort Lauderdale while getting from A to B too.
Once in Hollywood there was lots to do. There is a 2.2 mile beach promenade full of the usual things you will find- ice cream shops, tourist memorabilia shops and beachfront cafes. It’s a tiny bit shabby round the edges but Hollywood Beach is absolutely beautiful (in fact all of Fort Lauderdale’s beaches are supposed to be stunning, so for that reason alone it is worth the trip. We hired one of those big family bikes from Sun and Fun located just off the promenade, and although it was a bit tourist cheesy, the kids were shrieking with laughter. We loved it.
Further down the beach on South Ocean Drive (still in Hollywood) is The Diplomat Resort. It’s a beautiful hotel which is sort of retro in styling, but yet has an understated chic about it too. There is a fantastic ice cream/sweet shop called Candy & Cones, so we headed there with the promise of an ice cream for three little people. We grabbed it to go and sat outside in front of a fire pit in the beautiful outside bar area. We spent a good couple of hours enjoying Hollywood before heading back to our hotel.
DAY 7- FORT LAUDERDALE/ANNA MARIA ISLAND
We woke up in the morning and pretty much checked out straight away as it was a fair old drive to our next destination Anna Maria Island- approximately 235 miles and a three and a half hour journey. Anna Maria Island is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited. It is a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast, known for its for its sugar-white coastline and emerald Gulf waters. Indeed both my husband and I commented that it almost felt a bit Caribbean esq, with it’s quaint Pine Avenue shops and beachfront seafood restaurants. Anna Maria Island is made up of the cities of Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.
We arrived and after driving around and getting our bearings, we checked into our hotel, the Tropic Isle Beach Resort. There had been thunderstorms in the area before we arrived and the sky was a beautiful colour, so we headed down to the beach to watch the sunset before having an early night.
DAY 8- ANNA MARIA ISLAND
We woke up in the morning and headed straight to Pine Avenue- a gorgeous little row of shops and cafes. No trip to Pine Avenue is complete without a trip to the Donut Experiment. You start with a delicious plain donut and then you can add a variety of different toppings, plus you can watch your creation being made. Make sure you try and grab a seat outside so you can watch the world go by while enjoying your donut masterpiece.
We then headed to the Shiny Fish Emporium. Owned by a very friendly couple Rebecca and Dan who moved to Anna Maria Island a fair few years ago, this little shop is a treasure trove full of gifts. It’s a beautiful place to wander around and perhaps buy a gift for someone back home or as a memory of your trip, but the highlight here is painting your own Sand Dollar. In fact our children said it was one of their favourite things they did the whole trip.
After a lovely few hours on Pine Avenue we headed to the beach. You need to factor in lots of time to spend on the beaches of Anna Maria, they are stunningly beautiful. We spent the rest of the afternoon down there and it was perfection.
After a lovely few hours at the beach we headed to a gorgeous restaurant called Sand Bar, which has tables right on the beach and is the perfect spot for watching the sunset. It gets really busy as it’s one of the most popular places on the island, so get there early if you fancy it. It’s a great atmosphere and there was a man playing drums on the beach.
DAY 9- ANNA MARIA ISLAND/CRYSTAL RIVER
We started off our morning by booking a trip with Paradise Boat Tours in the hope we could spot a dolphin or two. This was a fantastic trip, with our captain being incredibly knowledge about Anna Maria island and the surrounding area, as well as teaching the children about respecting the ocean and the marine life. We all really enjoyed it and loved being out on the crystal blue waters (the water truly feels like you should be in the Caribbean).
It was then time to head to our next destination Crystal River, but not before a couple more hours on the beautiful beach. This time we headed to Cortez Beach which also has a great kids playground too.
Crystal River was a stopover destination for us for one main thing- to swim with the manatees.
Crystal River is approximately 124 miles away from Anna Maria Island, and took us around 2 hours 15 minutes. We checked into our hotel the Plantation on Crystal River which is a 232 acre eco-friendly resort offering a spa, swimming pool, fun things for kids, and is surrounded by the natural springs of Kings Bay- the main area in Crystal River that over 400 manatees migrate to each year because of the warmth of the springs.
Bar dinner at the hotel we had an early(ish) night ahead of the excitement of the next day.
DAY 10- CRYSTAL RIVER
The main reason for our stay at Crystal River was to swim with the manatees. Swimming with manatees is extremely regulated in Florida, they are a protected species and before we left on our boat trip we were given a serious talk about how to safely swim with them. Manatees are gentle creatures, they aren’t aggressive, and it is so important to treat them with respect. We were told NEVER to touch a manatee and never to swim over one either. They don’t have great eyesight so they rely on thousands of little hairs on their body to keep them alert. You have to be so careful not to touch them, hence why you shouldn’t swim over them.
It truly was one of the most incredible experiences we have ever had and we were in awe of these amazing creatures.
After our amazing morning we spent the rest of the day chilling out by the pool before having another lovely dinner in our hotel that evening.
DAY 11- CRYSTAL RIVER/PANAMA CITY BEACH
Day 11 was our biggest travel day of our trip, so we got up and pretty much checked out of our Crystal River hotel straight away. Panama City Beach is approximately 266 miles away from Crystal River and will take just under 5 hours- and that’s without stopping. It wasn’t actually that bad though. We had great fun on the way there, looking at the funny little small Florida towns we passed, and getting excited because we crossed a time zone and went back in time by an hour.
We arrived in Panama City Beach late afternoon and checked into our hotel Tidewater Beach Resort (can’t find the website for some reason). They are privately owned condos within a huge high rise block. We were all tired and a bit restless so we headed out for dinner and then went to bed.
DAY 12- PANAMA CITY BEACH/SEASIDE
We woke up to a huge storm that was forecast to last the entire time we were in Panama City Beach, so we had a low key morning in our hotel. With it not looking like it was going to improve anytime soon we headed to Rock It Lanes to have a game of bowling, which was a perfect rainy day activity. We spent a couple of hours there before the weather improved so we headed to Seaside, which is about 30 miles away from Panama City Beach. This Northwest Florida beach community is best known as the location for the film The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey. It is beautiful- made up of pastel coloured houses, a stunning beach, and a more laid back vibe than it’s slightly more lively neighbour Panama City Beach. We spent a couple of hours running around on the very windy beach (still stormy but the rain had stopped and there was a slight inkling of blue sky), before wandering around the little town centre. Think take out pizza windows, trendy food carts, and people chilling out in beach bars, and you will start to get a little idea of just how chilled and pretty Seaside is.
DAY 13- PANAMA CITY BEACH
f you have children (or indeed just love donuts!) then you need to visit Thomas Donut and Snack Shop. Apparently a bit of a local institution, we headed here for breakfast. You can sit in or order to go and sit on one of the brightly coloured benches in their little courtyard area. The donuts are tasty and well worth a little holiday treat.
We then headed to Pier Park, Panama City Beach’s premier entertainment destination. If you have kids, love shopping, love eating, watching a movie or all of the above then the Pier Park is the place for you. During the day or at night, there is so much to do here. Head up Sky Wheel too which gives you views for miles. The kids loved going on it. Pier Park is typically touristy but still a good deal of fun.
In the afternoon we headed down to the beach outside our hotel for some well needed downtime. We love trying random, unique experiences while we are travelling, so we spent a lovely couple of hours having a sandcastle lesson with Beach Sand Sculptures. Who knew just what you could do with some buckets and spades! I definitely recommend it if you have kids and are looking for a fun, different activity to do with them.
In the evening we headed on to the beach as there was an epic sunset over the ocean. Finishing off a lovely day watching the sun go down is possibly one of my favourite things to do.
DAY 14- PANAMA CITY BEACH/PENSACOLA BEACH
We checked out of our Panama City Beach hotel ready to make the drive to our final destination of the Florida part of our trip Pensacola Beach. It’s a journey that will take you approximately 130 miles and 2 and a half hours. On arrival into Pensacola Beach we couldn’t check into our hotel Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach straight away, but they kindly let us use the pool facilities so we had an afternoon of downtime in the fantastic hotel pool.
We eventually got into our room, freshened up and headed out for dinner at Red Fish Blue Fish which we highly recommend. Overlooking the beautiful Santa Rosa Sound, Red Fish Blue Fish’s mission is to serve good food using the freshest local ingredients. According to their website their restaurant walls have a story to tell. The wood planks in their entryway were reclaimed from an old Coca-Cola warehouse north of Pensacola. You’ll also notice many sustainable features in their colourful design, like solar power panels and repurposed shipping containers. The big plus side of this restaurant though (bar the food which is delicious!) is the back yard where there are games for the kids to play while you sip a cold drink and admire the view.
DAY 15-PENSACOLA BEACH
We woke up and headed straight to downtown Pensacola to experience this historic center. Downtown Pensacola is definitely worth a walk around. It’s really pretty and it’s main shopping street Palafox Street holds the title of one of the ’10 Great Streets in America’. We spent a morning wandering around and taking it all in. We stopped at a great sweet shop for the kids called Bubba’s Sweet Spot, where they spent ages (literally ages!) choosing sweets to take home for their classmates. We also stopped at a great coffee shop called The Bodacious Brew as well if you are a coffee fan.
Also in Downtown is the Wish You Were Here wall. Being an utter instagram cliche I really wanted to get some photos by the wall. It’s colourful and vibrant, and was commissioned by local artists Veronique Zayas and Some Choi. You can find it on the corner of Palafox and Romana streets on the side of the Zarzaur Law Firm.
Located just a few blocks from Pensacola Bay, the Historic Pensacola Village includes 27 properties in the Pensacola National Register Historic District. Eleven of these properties are interpreted facilities that are open to the public. You can go in the properties and learn all about the town and the 450 years of history behind it. Founded by Spanish sailor Don Tristan de Luna in 1559, the Pensacola Bay Area was the first European settlement in the New World. Over the centuries, the flags of Spain, Britain, France, the Confederacy and the United States have flown over the “City of Five Flags.” It’s really interesting and well worth a visit.
DAY 16-PENSACOLA BEACH/NEW ORLEANS
We spent a couple of hours on the beach in the morning before heading to our final destination and where we were flying home from- New Orleans. We decided to fly home from there for a couple of reasons. Firstly it was cheaper than flying from any of the nearby Florida airports and secondly it was somewhere we have always wanted to visit and as we were (sort of) in the area, we decided to just go for it and spend the final couple of days of our trip there. I won’t include this in this itinerary as it’s not technically Florida and most people probably will finish their trip flying home from one of the Florida airports. But just for reference it was an approximately 210 mile trip that took us 3 and a half hours.
And that is it, I really hope this post was useful. Just for reference I have included all my detailed Florida posts below- if you click on them you will get a much detailed post about each destination we stayed in, plus links to the You Tube videos I have made too. It really was the most incredible couple of weeks and I hugely recommend doing a Florida road trip.
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NB We were working in partnership with Visit Florida on parts of this trip and some of our accommodation and activities were given to us in exchange for content. Check out their website for lots more advice and inspiration for planning your road trip.