Heading to the Sunshine State this summer? I have rounded up some practical tips for saving money on your 2019 Florida summer vacation.
Bid Like a Boss
Winning bidders on Florida Vacation Auction can save up to 80 percent off retail on their vacation. There are no hidden fees or membership fees. Bid on stays at hotels, resorts and campgrounds. Or, bid on attraction admissions and other activities. At the time of this writing, activities available include a swim with the manatees package at the Plantation on Crystal River and a Pure Florida Jet Boat Tour in Naples. Bid away at www.floridavacationauction.com
Card Membership Has Privileges
Bank of America®, Merrill Lynch®, and U.S. Trust® card members receive free general admission into participating museums on the first full weekend of the month. All they need to do is present their credit or debit card with picture ID. Included in the Museums on Us program are the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, and History of Diving Museum in Islamorada. Find a list of participating museums and attractions at www.bankofamerica.com/museumsonus.
Beyond Hotel Discounts, Maps and Towing
AAA membership allows me to travel with confidence, especially during road trips. But, I don’t utilize all the groovy benefits it offers beyond the occasional car tow. AAA membership affords discounts at select hotels along with select attractions, big and small, when purchased in advance. A sampling of attractions are Discovery Cove, Segway of Naples, and Walt Disney World Resorts events, like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas. Learn more and how to become a member visiting autoclubsouth.aaa.com
Psst. If you use that link, we’ll both save $20 on our AAA membership renewal!
Sales come and go on Groupon and Living Social but every so often the right deal comes along fitting your vacation plans. Browse attractions, dining, and activities to inspire your plans. You may find something fitting your budget. Subscribe to their newsletters and occasionally, receive extra discounts.
Tip: Before making a purchase, read the fine print about redemption and expiration.
Explore America’s Treasures with Your Fourth Grader
Let your fourth grader lead the family on an adventure. Through the federal government’s Every Kid in a Park program, fourth graders during the 2018 to 2019 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. This includes Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida’s Panhandle and Everglades National Park. The program expires Aug. 31, 2019. Learn more: www.everykidinapark.gov.
Fee-Free Day(s) at the National Parks
Celebrate the 103rd anniversary of the National Park Service on Sunday, Aug. 25 when entrance fees are waived in all national park units. A few days after summer ends, entrance fees are waived again on Saturday, Sept. 28 which is National Public Lands Day. Visit www.nps.gov for additional information.
Did you know, of the 418 National Park Service parks, only 115 charge an entrance fee?
Older and Wiser
Throughout the state, attractions offer discounts to people over a certain age. The website Senior Citizen Discount List has rounded up several Florida spots extending discounts to those over 60 years old. Visit www.seniorcitizendiscountlist.org.
Thanking Members of the Military
Organizations across the state extend discounts and deals to active duty members of the United States Armed Forces and veterans. Following 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 percent discount on Florida State Parks Annual Passes. Free Florida State Parks Lifetime Military Entrance Passes are issued to honorably discharged veterans. They must have service-connected disabilities. Surviving spouses and parents of deceased veterans who have fallen in combat are eligible, too. Learn more: www.floridastateparks.org/fees
Note: Even without a military discount, annual entrance passes for Florida State Parks is a bargain. An individual pass is $60 and a family pass (up to 8 people in a group, except Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is valid up to 2 people) is $120.
Blue Star Museums
Between now and Labor Day, active military personnel and their immediate families receive complimentary admission into museums and attractions in the Blue Star Museums program. Edison & Ford Winer Estates in Fort Myers, Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce, and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami are some of the participating Florida attractions. Learn more and view participating attractions www.arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums.
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.
A Troop ID is needed to secure complimentary and discounted tickets through the Blue Waves program. Tickets must be secured in advance. Learn more www.wavesofhonor.com.
Veteran Appreciation at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is offering U.S. veterans a complimentary single-day ticket, plus, up to three complimentary guest tickets before July 15, 2019. Tickets must be secured by June 9, 2019. A Troop ID is needed. Learn more and secure your tickets www.wavesofhonor.com.
Speaking of Busch Gardens, the park is celebrating its 60th anniversary. In the spirit of its Anheuser-Busch roots free beer has returned for the year. Guests 21 years old and older can enjoy up to two complimentary samples by visiting Garden Gate Cafe or Serengeti Overlook Pub.
A free smartphone application published by the Florida Humanities Council shares some of the Sunshine State’s most intriguing stories. Called Florida Stories, users can download the free app to explore more than a dozen downtowns through self-guided audio walking tours. Being added this summer are tours of Downtown Miami, DeFuniak Springs, Indian Key, and Little Haiti. Available for download for iOS and Android. Learn more www.floridahumanities.org.
Happy and Safe Travels!
Remember to hydrate, slather on the sunscreen, keep the insect repellent handy, and wear comfortable footwear during your adventures. Doing so will keep you out of the doctor’s office and not take away from your travel budget.
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