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Travelling to Florida at Christmas


Have a few days off at Christmas (Dec 29-Jan2) and thinking of going somewhere warm with the kids (19 and 10). All inclusives are tough to find (and expensive) for 4 nights. Decided possibly Florida (not Orlando) but St Petersurg, Clearwater, Miami, Tampa, something like that and need ideas on which one is best. Son wants to see stuff. Daughter wants to hang out by the pool/beach so hoping to do some sightseeing stuff in the morning when it's cooler and then spending the afternoon at the pool/beach.

What would be the best area to go?

In that best area, looking for hotel that hopefully has family suites, or two rooms to accomodate the four of us. Would like hotel to have a pool and hopefully be on or near a beach. If the hotel has breakfast included, that would be great but not mandatory.

Things to do: dolphin/whale watching? Miami everglades tour?

Don't really want to do Busch Grds since it will likely be super busy.

Any ideas/suggestions would be great

Posted by
10516 posts

At that time of year just about every Florida Metro area is hosting a college football bowl game so finding bargains is hard to do.

Also at that time of year the mid day heat will not be oppressive so you do not need to limit your activities to just the AM hours.

Key West may be worth considering.

Posted by
7046 posts

Captiva/ Sanibel Island is my favorite - close to nature preserve, nice area to bike around, seashells on beach, etc. The Florida Keys are another great choice. Every time I have gone to Florida during winter, the hotels have been quite expensive because everyone from a cold winter location is trying to escape to Florida at the same time.

Posted by
4087 posts

We went to Key West in March one year and loved it. If any of you are cat lovers, you must see the Hemingway cats.

Posted by
13237 posts

I agree with Agnes! I spent ~10 days in the Sanibel area last January and I would return to Sanibel in a heartbeat. Funny thing is, I lived in FL for 30+ years and never visited there!

I’d check to see if you have non-stop flights from Toronto to Fort Myers (RSW) as it is an International airport.

Posted by
36 posts

I had never heard of Sanibel island before. Looks beautiful, thanks for that suggestion, though at a quick glance, not sure if there is availability for my dates.

Re: Hemingway museum, do you actually get to see the cats?


Posted by
1987 posts

We have visited Sanibel and Captiva several times over the years and often at this time of year when we were teaching. Sanibel had the wonderful Ding Darling Nature preserve, great beaches, and shops.It was pricey then, way too pricey for us, and we stayed in Ft Meyers. It could be an option for available or more affordable lodging for your family, and is only about 30 minute drive. I can’t comment on activities for your kids, as we pretty much avoid everything they’d want! It is primo high season down there, you’re looking at New Year as well; I’d be making plans and reservations ASAP. Key West is funky and fun but also $$ in my book. The Key West beaches in my mind don’t hold a candle to Sanibel, but the vibe may appeal to your family. Good luck, safe travels, and THANK YOU for visiting us!

Posted by
4356 posts

The coldest Christmas of my life was spent in Orlando. An endless, drenching, driving rain barely above freezing. The second coldest was -22F in Minneapolis.

I’ve also been in Miami in December (different year) when it was too cold to eat lunch outside— but I bundled up and grimly “did it.”

Posted by
4356 posts

OP: Just saying Florida is not 100% reliably warm till mid-February.

Posted by
548 posts

Christmas weather can be iffy. I would suggest going as far south as possible. If not Key West, maybe Key Largo.

Posted by
429 posts

My extended family went to Sanibel Island about three years ago right around Christmas/New Years and we loved it. We rented several condos right on the beach - lovely. I'm not sure you can rent a condo for less than a week, but you might want to search. They were perfect for each family. The one we stayed at had both beach access and several pools. If anyone likes to bike, there are wonderful bike trails all over the island and rentals are easily available.We ate breakfast and lunch at the condo, and went out for dinner. Get reservations for dinner well ahead of time!

Posted by
2677 posts

If you're open to other alternatives you might consider Mexico. Back when we lived in the Pacific Northwest we discovered the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, which is located in the mountains about an hour from Mexico City. The winter weather there is about as pleasant as we've seen anywhere - mid 80's (and low humidity) during the day and getting down into the low 40's at night. Over the course of 4 annual winter visits, each between 1 and 3 months in duration, it never rained once. It's far away from the troubles near the border so safety and security were never issues, and with the very favorable exchange rate it's an extremely cheap travel destination too.
Believe there are cheap non stop flights from Toronto to Mexico City, although our preference was to fly into the nearby Leon-Guanajuato airport, from which it's an easy 45 minute bus ride (the buses are terrific) to get to SMA.
There are interesting day trips to be had, to the pyramids and to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary for example, but the little town is so pleasant that you'd never want to leave. We always considered it the place where stress goes to die.

Posted by
3972 posts

Captiva/ Sanibel Island is my favorite - close to nature preserve,
nice area to bike around, seashells on beach, etc.

Agnes, perhaps a silly question and, if so, my apologies. Do you worry about alligators if you're not paying attention? Don't they have crocodiles too? Or are they solely in the nature reserve? I think about that little child at a Disney resort a year or two ago who waded in the water and was grabbed by an alligator. That's why I ask.

For beach time, I've only been to Boca and Miami Beach and never came across them. I did come very near to a Portuguese man of war -- very scary!

Posted by
7046 posts

Yes, J.N. Ding Darling is a real nature preserve so you can see alligators there, along with some really neat bird colonies (I believe that's the place where I saw a white egret rookery). It's not a place where you'd likely go swimming though and they're relatively easy to spot. I have seen alligators in Florida and South Carolina in several locations, even very close to walking paths I was on. They are mostly not aggressive and shun people if you use common sense and don't taunt them or get too close. I think kids who are taught to have respect for wildlife (10 and 19 year olds) should be fine. Captiva is a wonderful place, and you can take a boat to the beautiful Cayo Costa State Park from there.

Posted by
4 posts

First, don't worry about the Gators, they haven't fielded a decent team in years.

Second, consider either
a) Marathon if you're going to the Keys, where they have nice Dolphin center and decent beaches (sombrero city beach) and you're only an hour to Key West. Fly in and out of Key Wet EYW if you can afford it;otherwise Fort Lauderdale.
or b) Cocoa Beach--it's a great spot, nice beach with lot's of touristy stuff and Kennedy Space Center is a fantastic place to visit. and only minutes away. They are set up to handle tourists now, and it is really neat. Fly in and out of Orlando MCO