The secret to a successful family road trip all comes down to a good car, perfect playlist, fun travelling companions, and a great plan. With that in mind Family Traveller have teamed up with Avis to create a series of easy-going road trip itineraries designed to delight drivers, thrill backseat passengers, and make mile after mile of unforgettable memories.
Test drive Florida from Orlando to Key West and see what you think. Direct flights from the UK to Orlando take just over nine hours. It’s a long journey for kids, but book online with Avis and your car’s ready and waiting on a arrival. You can also fast-track at the airport with Avis Preferred so you’ll be on the road in no time.
Day one to four: Kissimmee
What to see: Disney Magic Kingdom Park; Disney Hollywood Studios; Disney Animal Kingdom; Universal Studios; SeaWorld Orlando; Blizzard Beach; Ripley’s Believe It or Not; Coca Cola Orlando Eye; Gatorland; Shingle Creek Pioneer Village; Orlando Wetlands Park; International Drive I-Trolley; Wet ‘n’ Wild.
Orlando’s a fun city to visit for the day, but it’s not where to find the theme parks. Head straight for Kissimmee instead. International Drive is best for big-brand, family hotels with theme park deals; and Disney basically owns Lake Buena Vista, so that’s where to choose for full immersion in the ‘magical’ experience.
Don’t promise to see everything; that’s a challenge in four weeks, never mind four days. But, for Disney devotees, classics like Disney Magic Kingdom, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, are easily doable. Universal Studios is where to find The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the world’s wildest rollercoasters. And, SeaWorld Orlando’s in Kissimmee too, for close encounters with Manatee.
Shopping isn’t everyone’s Florida dream. But if it was, fabulous Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores is just 20 minute’s from International Drive by car, and it’s one of America’s best designer outlet malls. Driving is expected in this part of the world, all attractions have excellent parking, usually included in ticket prices. You won’t find a single hotel without a carpark. And, if you’ve never driven Florida’s big, broad boulevards before, you’re in for a treat.
Where: 28km south of Orlando Airport on FL-417 (toll road)
Drive time from Orlando Airport to Kissimmee: 28 minutes
Where to stay: Wyndham Orlando Resort, International Drive
Days five & six: Fort Myers
What to see: Pine Island and the ‘fishingest bridge’ in the US; Babcock Wilderness Adventures; Great Calusa Blueway; Captiva Island; Imaginarium Science Centre; Museum of the Islands; J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge; Boca Grand.
Give toll roads a miss and take the more scenic route to Florida’s Gulf Coast. You might want to stop off in Tampa or Sarasota on the way, if not you’ll hit Fort Myers in just over three hours. Time to kick off your shoes and feel the sand between your toes. Sub-tropical Fort Myers has some of America’s loveliest beaches along its seven mile stretch of coastline. Expect great seafood restaurants, summer festivals, and safe places to swim and play, and nobody will be disappointed.
The city itself is easy to see in a few hours, especially if you stick to the historic River District on the banks of the Caloosahatchee. But for the real Gulf Coast deal, drive over the bridge from Fort Myers to breathtaking Sanibel. The island’s about as impossibly cute and time-stood-still as it gets, beachfront hotels are wonderful, and kids will love adventuring round J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge. They should look out for shy Manatee round Sanibel’s quaint wooden boat docks too.
Where:298km south west of Orlando on I-75N
Drive time from Orlando to Fort Myers: 3 hours
Where to stay: Shalimar Cottages & Motel, Sanibel
Day seven & eight: Miami
What to see: Bayfront Park; South Beach; Everglades National Park; Little Havana; Wynwood Walls; PAMM; Miami Children’s Museum; Jungle Island; Frost Art Museum; Venetian Pool; Lummus Park, Miami Beach.
I-75S runs through the northern edge of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, and more than earns its tolls. Two days isn’t long to get to grips with Miami, so take at least one guided tour here. The Biscayne Bay Adventure Cruise is a great way to see the city’s amazing skyline from the water. Or you could try an Art Deco Walking Tour round the South Beach area, good for older kids.
If a drive through the Everglades wasn’t exotic enough, Miami has dozens of Airboat Tours to take you even deeper into the heart of gator country. Visit Little Havana for the atmosphere and fantastic cantina breakfasts. Wynwood Walls street art gallery is a must-see with teenagers.
Where: 252km east of Fort Myers on I-75S
Drive time from Fort Myers to Miami: 2 hours 40 minutes
Where to stay: Hilton Gates Hotel, South Beach
Day nine & ten: Islamorada
What to do: Sea kayaking; diving; reef snorkelling; dolphin watching; fishing; swimming; sailing; lazing on Florida’s loveliest Caribbean beaches.
Driving the Overseas Highway is likely to be the most iconic experience of your entire road trip. So take your time on route from Miami to the Florida Keys, you will want to enjoy every scenic second. Gorgeous Islamorada is a hidden little pocket of paradise, tucked into the Gulf Coast. A few days here and you may never want to leave. Locals feel the same, which is why you won’t find hordes of tourists or big ticket attractions.
But you can look forward to the Key’s best, white-sand beaches, and clearest seas. Kids will love fishing expeditions (catch and release, of course), and non-motorised water sports are fantastic along the coast. But, just taking it easy and seeing what happens is really the way to do Islamorada justice.
Where: 135km south of Miami on US-1S
Drive time from Miami to Islamorada: 1 hour 40 minutes
Where to stay: The Moorings Village, Islamorada
Day Eleven & Twelve: Key West
What to see: Dry Tortugas National Park; Key West Shipwreck Museum; Gallery on Greene Street; Mallory Square; Ripley’s Believe It or Not; Dog Beach; Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Centre; Ernest Hemingway House Museum.
If you thought the Overseas Highway was stunning, now’s your chance to go one better and cross the magnificent Seven Mile Bridge on your way to the most famous of all Florida Keys. Hemingway lived in Key West just for the fishing, but kids might be more interested in Dry Tortugas National Park, cycling some of the Overseas Heritage Trail, and checking out the local Shipwreck Museum.
You, on the other hand, will want to wander down Greene Street or take a tour of the Hemingway Museum, or even raise a glass to the great man himself in his favourite town bar, Sloppy Joes: they keep a Hemingway memorial bar stool.
Where: 130km south of Islamorada on N1
Drive time from Islamorada to Key West: 1 hour 40 minutes
Where to stay: The Southernmost Inn
Hire a family car for 7 days from Orlando Airport from around £176.00 (group A car). Not only can you fast-track at Orlando Airport and be on the road in no time, child seats and GPS are easy to arrange in advance too. You also have a choice of family cars to fit your adventure.
Call 0808 284 0014 or visit Avis.co.uk for more information