The Best Kept Secret Family Summer Beach Vacation on a Budget Ever!

Looking for a fabulous beach trip at an affordable price? Think flying to Florida for a family vacation is way too expensive? Tired of the traffic and over-crowded beaches in the Mid-Atlantic Region? Well I’m going to let you in on a little family secret. For the past 6 years, my family of 4 and I have been going to Ft. Myers Beach, FL on the Gulf of Mexico.

For 7 nights at a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, fully equipped kitchen, beachfront condo-style hotel, round-trip, non-stop airfare for 4 people and 7 day intermediate sized rental car we’ve been paying around $2,500! You can’t even rent a beachfront property at Bethany Beach or Rehobeth Beach for under $3,000.

I found this Ft. Myers Beach vacation deal right before having my second child and thought it was a great place to go because with younger children it’s easy to get to. Living in the Washington DC area, AirTran flies non-stop from Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) to Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) at ridiculously affordable prices. The flight is no longer than 2 hours. Flying in and out of Reagan National Airport with toddlers/babies is so much easier then Dulles. The fact that there is an Air Marshall on every single flight in to and out of DCA may provide additional piece of mind to traveling families.

Once you have landed in Florida it’s only about a 30 minute car ride from the airport to your beachfront hotel/condo with lots of places to stop and eat along the way. The non-crowded, pristine, white-sand beaches, cool Gulf of Mexico breeze, and smaller sized waves is the perfect place to take the family when the kids are young. Four years ago, we went to Bethany Beach with our 2 yr. old and 4 yr. old. Mom and Dad spent most of our time with our backs to the waves, catching our kids as the strong undertow tried to pull them out into the ocean. No rest time for Mommy and Daddy on that vacation.

Washington Reagan National Airport Tips

  • Departure check-in, terminals and gates are all in close proximity to the airport drop-off from parking lot. (no schlepping strollers, car-seats, toddlers and babies to the mid-terminal like Dulles Airport)
  • It’s helpful to fly in and out at non-rush-hour times to avoid Washington DC/Metro area traffic.

Southwest Florida International Airport Tips

  • The rental car area is a bit of a walk after picking up your luggage at the Baggage Claim area but there are lots of bathrooms in the rental car area that are never busy unlike the ones right off the plane that you always have to wait in line for.
  • There are very few restaurants in the airport.

AirTran Airways

Photo by Mara Conners

In the past 6 years, our flights have never been delayed or cancelled. We travel Tuesday to Tuesday or Wednesday to Wednesday when the fares are at their cheapest and there are less people traveling. AirTran is one of the airlines charging a luggage fee.

SunStream Hotels & ResortsI don’t know about you, but my husband and I found out really quick it’s no fun to share a standard hotel room with our kids. One nice feature of all the Ft. Myers beachfront SunStream properties is that they are all 1, 2 or 3 bedroom suites with a fully equipped kitchen and spacious living room/dining area. This layout makes them feel like a really nice condo instead of a hotel.

Because this property is a hotel and not a condo, you can book it Tuesday to Tuesday or Wednesday to Wednesday and save tons of money on hotel and airfare. We have stayed at all 3 beachfront properties in Ft. Myers Beach. They all have fully equipped kitchens and maid service. Diamond Head only has one-bedroom suites for smaller families that are okay with the kids sleeping on a sofa bed in the living room. This was a cheap option for us when 1 child was in the Pac n’ Play and sleeping in our room with us while the old child slept on the queen-size sleeper bed in the other room.

Diamond Head is also closer to downtown Ft. Myers Beach where there is a little more activity and you can walk to more places. Now that our kids are a little older we like the Pointe Estero and Gullwing properties because you can still get a beachfront 2 bedroom 2 bathroom with fully equipped kitchen suite for under $190/night!

The rooms at the SunStream properties have always been clean. The staff is very friendly and accommodating. They have videos and books to borrow at the front desk and offer a computer with internet service to print your boarding passed for your return trip home. They also have a closet full of sand and surf toys to use during your stay. Don’t worry about bringing towels for the beach and pool, they have them for you. Another feature about SunStream properties I find refreshing is they don’t charge you for internet, phone calls, parking, or towel rental. If you want a beach umbrella and chairs you do have to rent those for about $25/day or about $150/week.

Comparison Shop and Use the Travel Vacation Websites!I always add up how much the trip will cost individually through the airline website, hotel website and rental car. Then I visit multiple travel vacation websites too to see who has the best deal.

I seem to find the best deals when booking through a travel vacation website like Travelocity, Expedia and Yahoo! Travel. is a travel price comparison website that finds deals on all travel websites.

Getting Back To NatureOne of the reasons we love going to Ft. Myers Beach the wide variety of wildlife you get to experience. Between the palm trees, white sandy beach, starfish, sun-dollars, shells, pelicans, dolphins, sand turtle nests and stingray swimming right along the coastline, it is nature’s paradise!

Go In the Off Season

Photo by Mara Conners

Going to Florida beaches in August considered non-peak season. Florida children are back at school at the end of August so there aren’t even that many locals on the beach either. Most hotels are charging half price on rooms at this time.

Hurricane Season & other weather issuesPeople always ask me, “Isn’t it hot in Florida in August?” I always answer, “It’s hot in Virginia in August!” With the average temperature at Ft. Myers Beach being 83 degrees in August not including the light breeze, I’ll take it over the summer we’ve been having in the DC area this year!

In the past 6 years, we have not been threatened by a hurricane or tropical storm. That being said, most travel websites do offer Hurricane Travel Insurance when you book your vacation through them.

Bottom LineClearly we have thoroughly enjoyed our stays in Ft. Myers Beach because we keep going back! It is a great value for the money and the convenience of the whole trip is so easy with families with young children.

Helpful Resources

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OK Editorial Team

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