Florida Feature



I'm not crazy about spending seven nights in hotels. Any affordable alternatives? If you want to pretend you're lucky enough to live here, try a vacation rental. Aside from providing privacy, rentals let you set your own schedule and do your own cooking. The caveat is that you may have to rent in weekly—not nightly—increments. Several companies specialize in the Orlando area, Magical Memories (866/535–7851 www.magicalmemories.com) being one reliable bet. But in terms of coverage, geographically and pricewise, HomeAway (877/228–3145 www.homeaway.com) wins, listing more than 20,000 Floridian condos, cottages, beach houses, and villas.

Will I need a car? Public transportation is limited here. So unless you'll be spending your whole vacation on-site at Walt Disney World (where complimentary shuttles are available to resort guests) or in Miami Beach (where dense traffic and limited parking is the norm), having a vehicle is recommended. Renting one on arrival is wise, unless you drive your own. To make car time less tedious, consider occasionally taking the road less traveled. The National Scenic Byways Program website (www.byways.org) spotlights memorable routes within the state, including the Overseas Highway, which has been designated as an "All-American Road" and is one of only 31 roads countrywide to be so honored.

How do I pick between Orlando's parks and Tampa's Busch Gardens? That's a tough call, especially if you haven't yet seen newer attractions like Manta at SeaWorld or Jungala at Busch Gardens. The good news is you don't have to choose, because the Busch Gardens Shuttle Express (407/423–5566 www.mearstransportation.com) offers same-day round-trip service between designated locations in Orlando and the Tampa venue for free when you buy a ticket to Busch Gardens, but you may arrive at the park as late as 11:30 am and will return whenever the park closes.

Is Miami OK for families? Absolutely. Despite all the attention paid to G-strings, it retains areas with genuine G-rated appeal. Beyond the beaches, attractions like the interactive Children's Museum and MiaSci (a museum of science) draw kids in droves. Want to go wild? Bypass the nightclubs and head instead to Zoo Miami or the Seaquarium. If you dream of being named "best parent ever," sign your offspring up for a sleepover at the former or a dolphin swim at the latter.

What about hurricanes? The hurricane season begins on June 1 and lasts through November 1 (roughly half the year). However, big storms are much more likely in August and September. Chances are, you'll be just fine if you travel to Florida in June or July, though it's always a good idea to buy travel insurance in case something does happen. In the summer, frequent afternoon thunderstorms are common, especially inland in places like Orlando. On the coast, the weather is almost universally hot and muggy, and rain is common, especially later in the summer.

Updated: 2013-10-10

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