Tips for Saving During Your 2018 Florida Summer Vacation

A Florida Summer Vacation Doesn't Have to Break the Bank!
A Florida Summer Vacation Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank!

Who doesn’t love saving a buck when traveling? I’m always looking for ways to stretch my dollars and with summer rolling in, I hope you find these tips useful for saving when visiting Florida attractions.
Museums on Us
Bank of America® and Merrill Lynch® card members receive free general admission into participating museums on the first full weekend of the month by presenting their credit or debit card with picture ID. Included in the program is the Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota and Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville. Learn more:

Speaking of gardens, if you love botanicals, admission to explore the Ringling Museum’s 66-acre Bayfront Gardens is free when you provide your zip code at the entrance. Stop to smell the flowers in Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden, smile through the whimsical Dwarf Garden, stroll along the Millennium Tree Trail, and stand in awe of the estate’s 14 banyan trees, the largest collection in the state.

And, every Monday, admission into the Ringling Museum of Art is free! John Ringling willed the museum to the State of Florida with the stipulation one day a week would be free. When I first moved to Sarasota in 2001, that free day was Saturday but eventually it was changed to Monday. Learn more:

AAA is More than Towing and Hotel Discounts
I admit, I don’t get the most of my AAA membership although I’m grateful for the times they’ve towed and helped me with other car issues. AAA membership also affords discounts at select hotels along with select attractions when purchased in advance, such as LEGOLAND Florida, Universal Orlando Resort and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. They offer tickets to other attractions as well as discounted Regal movie theatre tickets, perfect for those rainy summer days. As a AAA card member since 1992, I strongly recommend you consider being a member. Learn how and learn more by visiting

Discover Tampa with a CityPASS
If you’re planning on spending your vacation, or two consecutive weekends, in the Tampa Bay area, CityPASS makes sense. It’s valid at five attractions and the pass is valid for nine consecutive days beginning on the first day the ticket is used. It provides admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and either the Museum of Science & Industry or Chihuly Collection (pick one of those two). The savings is 51% if admission into those attractions were purchased individually. Learn more:

Sales come and go on but every so often the right deal comes along that fits your vacation plans. As I write this column, a couple of offers available are for discounted admission in Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg. These deals may be gone now but before heading out on your journey, look for discounts to other outdoor attractions and events.

It’s Good Being a Kid
Let your fourth grader lead you on an adventure to Everglades National Park, J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, or other public lands in Florida. Through the federal government’s Every Kid in a Park program, fourth graders during the 2017 to 2018 school year can obtain a pass permitting them and their family (children and up to three adults) entrance into more than 2,000 federally managed waters and lands within Florida and across the country. Seven federal agencies are participating including the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service. The pass needs to be printed out and shown upon entrance. The program expires Aug. 31, 2018. Learn more:

Inspire your fifth grader to reach for the stars with free admission into the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with its Join the Journey program. Through the end of 2018, students between the ages of 10 and 11 or fifth graders in 2018 receive free admission. To receive the complimentary admission, students must be visiting with a full admission-paying adult. The pass must be printed out in advance. Learn more about this offer under the “Offers” tab of

Thanking Members of the Military
Organizations across the state extend discounts and complimentary admission to active duty members of the United States Armed Forces and veterans. Here is a sampling.

Florida State Parks
Active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces as well as members of the National Guard, reserve units, and honorably discharged veterans can receive a 25% discount on Florida State Parks Annual Passes. Free Florida State Parks Lifetime Military Entrance Passes are issued to honorably discharged veterans who have service-connected disabilities and surviving spouses and parents of deceased veterans. Learn more:

Blue Star Museums
Between now and Labor Day, active military personnel and their immediate families receive complimentary admission into museums and attractions participating in the Blue Star Museums program. Bok Tower in Lake Wales, Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami are some of the participating Florida attractions. Learn more including a list of participating attractions

Waves of Honor
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment offers free tickets and special discounts at their parks for active duty military and veterans. The Florida theme parks are SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica Orlando. Discounts and free admission varies by park and a Troop ID is needed to log in. Tickets must be secured in advance. Learn more

Before heading out to any of these attractions, be sure to visit the respective website to read the details about each offer. Happy saving and exploring!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support this blog, my traveling habit and my special-needs dog.



Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

Photograph by Outdoor Afro from Nature Swagger by Rue Mapp, published by Chronicle Books.
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