Best Places To Stay On Your Florida Vacation That Won't Break The Bank, According To Research

Vacations aren't cheap, especially these days. Between rising hotel, airfare, and rental car costs, jetting off on holiday can give your travel budget a serious workout –- thanks a lot, inflation. Before you panic, know that these increased prices don't necessarily mean you can't get away. With many affordable options in Florida, there are plenty of places to visit that won't put a dent in your wallet. Whether you're hoping to lounge on the soft sand of Cocoa Beach, check out museums in Jacksonville, or visit historic St. Augustine, there are plenty of budget-friendly spots to spend a vacation in the Sunshine State.

Feeling too pinched to splurge on a lavish Florida vacay? We hear you! Luckily, there's no need to empty your pocketbook in a fancy hotel. Florida is home to plenty of affordable locales that are so lovely you'll forget you ever worried about money in the first place. Keep your account in the black with these best places to stay on your Florida vacation that won't break the bank. We've done the hard part — using various resources, reviews, and travel sites to cost out hotels in each area to ensure these truly are the most budget-friendly places to visit. All you need to do is decide which location to visit first.


Before rolling your eyes at this entry, forget about the theme parks anchored to this central Florida destination — it's no secret that Disney World and Universal Studios carry price tags high enough to cause heart palpitations. If you skip those expensive tourist attractions, visiting Orlando can be a budget-friendly destination filled with family fun. In fact, Forbes claims Orlando is one of the most affordable cities to visit for a family vacation. Here, you can learn about engineering and dinosaurs at the Orlando Science Center, ride the 450-foot-tall Star Flyer (the tallest of its kind in the world), or visit the animals at Gatorland, all for under $36 per adult.

Still hoping to soak up some theme park vibes without busting your balance? Disney Springs is free to visit. Set within the Walt Disney World Resort, this sprawling venue boasts live entertainment, shops, and restaurants galore. We can't promise you won't be tempted to buy Disney merch, but at least you won't have to fork over cash for a park ticket. 

When it comes time to rest your weary heads, choose a hotel that won't break the bank. The 3-star Grand Beach Resort is highly reviewed for its cleanliness, activities, and convenient location. It offers one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites with full kitchens and screened-in porches, as well as swimming pools, fishing, games, and water sports.


Jacksonville is an epic place to hang ten. If you dream about barreling off Florida's northern Atlantic Coast, head to Mayport Poles in Hanna Park, located just north of Jacksonville Beach. Better known as The Poles, this has been deemed the city's best surfing spot, and it only costs $5 to park here for a day. Be warned, these waves are best for advanced and expert surfers, not beginners. We suggest packing a picnic and plenty to drink to save even more on your Florida vacation. 

Once you've dried off, explore some of the city's 80,000 acres of parks –- Jax (one of the city's many nicknames) is home to the U.S.'s largest urban park system.  They're super cheap to visit and boast plenty of fun things to do, like kayaking, biking, fishing, surfing, and hiking along nature trails.  Expect to pay $5 per vehicle for a day at Huguenot Memorial Park and Little Talbot Island State Park and $3 per car at Big Talbot Island State Park.

Stay at the Hampton Inn Jacksonville South/I-95 at JTB for an experience that's both affordable and comfortable. One night will cost about $136. If you'd rather save a few bucks and sleep under the stars, book a space at Kathryn Abbey Hannah State Park for $18 per tent site or $30 per day for an RV spot or cabin.


Melbourne is the place to be if you're looking for a variety of activities to enjoy on your Florida vacation. Whether you're craving a day at the beach, a few hours of fishing, or an underwater snorkeling adventure, you'll find plenty of affordable things to do. Sebastian Inlet State Park, for instance, is a budget-friendly destination that will cost only $8 (per car) to visit. While there, you can bike 40 miles of paved path, hike the hammock trail, or kayak through mangroves in the Indian River Lagoon. Visitors can also camp here for less than $35 for the night. Melbourne's 16 downtown murals are some of the city's most inspired free places to visit.

Located on the Space Coast, Melbourne visitors are primed for a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center, which lies only 35 miles away. Time your trip with a rocket launch for an unforgettable experience. Space Flight Now offers the most up-to-date launch info, so check it out before leaving home. Tickets to the Space Center aren't cheap -– they cost $75 per adult and $65 for children, but you'll save so much on this affordable place to stay that you might not mind springing for a ticket or two. As for a cheap hotel, check out the Hilton Melbourne, where you can stay for $145 a night and make use of their pool, tennis courts, and fitness center.


Spending time in Gainesville definitely won't break the bank -– many of the city's top attractions are either free or super cheap. Home to the University of Florida, this is a college town, which means you'll be able to score some pretty good deals and tasty food during your visit. Bike the off-road trails in San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park for a $4 per vehicle entry fee, launch a paddleboard or kayak on nearby Lake Santa Fe, or visit the Harn Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Natural History, both of which offer free admission. 

When you've finished exploring, take a load off with a tour of the Sippin' Seven Alachua County Ale Trail. You'll down pints from local, award-winning breweries like Swamp Head Brewery, High Springs Brewing Company, and Daft Cow Brewery. If you're feeling tipsy, take a cab back to the hotel. A room at Hampton Inn Gainesville will cost about $160 per night or much less, depending on when you travel. A stay here includes a hot breakfast, access to an outdoor pool, and use of a fitness center.


Pensacola lies on the northwest coast of Florida's Panhandle. Best known for its stunning beaches, emerald waves, and historic sites, this is a great place to stay for a budget-friendly vacation. In addition to affordable hotels and a bevy of free and cheap attractions, you won't run into too many extra costs in this pretty town. Pensacola Beach is a must-visit, especially if you have water-loving kids. Apart from a $1 toll to enter the beach, you'll only have to pay for parking, which is free for the first 30 minutes. After that, you'll pay $0.50 an hour for a street spot. The Free Beach Trolley Service makes it easy to get around without spending a dime. It runs from Parking Lot 288 to Park West between 4 p.m. and midnight from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Perdido Beach lies in nearby Perdido State Park and costs $3 per car or $2 to walk or bike in — not bad for a day at the shore. 

When you aren't soaking up the sun's rays, step back in time at the Historic Pensacola Village or enjoy a walk at Innerarity Point Park. Then, spend some of that cash you saved on a dolphin tour or rent a kayak to explore Big Lagoon State Park. Entrance fees are $6 per car or $10 per person with a boat. Save big by spending the night at a campsite for under $28, or settle into the SpringHill Suites Pensacola for about $180.


Famed for its bucolic pastures and leafy trails, Marion County's Ocala is an absolute must-visit for equestrian lovers and one of the most picturesque towns on the East Coast. Known as the "Horse Capital of the World," this area boasts the highest concentration of horses (and ponies) of any U.S. county, with over 1,200 horse farms within this region's borders. So, don your best cowboy (or cowgirl) hat and pull up your riding breeches for a tour you won't forget. 

Cactus Jacks Trail Rides are ideal for horse aficionados. Guides lead you and your horse through the Cross Florida Greenway's most beautiful spots. Not in the mood to saddle up? They also offer E-Bike rentals. A horseback ride will set you back $90 for 90 minutes, while E-Bikes cost $20 to rent for an hour or $50 for four hours, which is much more affordable. 

While you're in town, be sure to visit Silver Spring State Park, which lies about 7 miles east of the city. One of the Sunshine State's best state parks, you'll only have to pay $8 per car to gain access to multiple activities, like hiking, biking, and kayaking. A stay at the Equus Inn will cost about $153 per night, or you can camp in Silver Springs State Park for about $30 or in one of their cabins for roughly $120.


There are so many exciting and cheap things to do in Sarasota that you'll wish you could stay longer. Sitting serenely on Florida's Cultural Coast, this beach-lined gem is truly gorgeous. Here, you'll find Siesta Key, one of Florida's best beaches. Blanketed in powdery quartz sand, this beauty is a big draw for families and couples alike. Bring a bucket because the shelling in Sarasota is hard to beat — you may even find a shark's tooth or two. 

Once you've finished washing the sand from your bathing suit, head into town to enjoy the more artsy side of things. The Ringling estate should top the list of all budget travelers to Sarasota. It includes the Museum of Art, the Ca' d'Zan mansion (circa the 1920s), the Bayfront Gardens, and the Circus Museum. Visit between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on a Thursday for discounted tickets to the Gardens and the Museum of Art.

No car? No problem. The Siesta Key Breeze Trolley runs from Siesta Village to Turtle Beach daily. The best part? It's free, which means you can get around for literally nothing! At night, rest your head for a great price at the Home2Suites by Hilton Sarasota I-75 Bee Ridge for about $207.

St. Augustine

Historic St. Augustine is indelibly charming, not to mention easy on the wallet. America's oldest occupied city, this pretty place is filled with cheap and free attractions perfect for families and couples alike. There's no fee to visit the Governor's House Cultural Center and Museum, while a trip to Fort Mose Historic State Park will cost nothing if you wander the grounds or $2 for entry to the visitor center. Window shopping along the pedestrian-only St. George Street is also free unless you're tempted to buy some of the wares.

If you're on the fence about bringing the kids, do it. St. Augustine boasts 42 miles of pristine beaches that are fun for the whole family. St. Augustine Beach, in particular, is a perfect place to spend a fun and budget-friendly day by the shore. It boasts a fishing pier, splash park, and volleyball courts. The only fee you'll have to pay to enjoy this sandy wonder is for parking. Expect to hand over $10 a day. Parking for non-residents at St. Johns County Ocean Pier Park costs $6 per day, so you'll have plenty left to enjoy a meal at one of the nearby restaurants. 

The Holiday Inn Express St. Augustine – Vilano Beach is a brilliant bet for affordable accommodations. This IHG hotel is praised by reviewers on Tripadvisor for its location, which is near both the beach and the historic downtown. It costs about $290 a night, much less in the low season.

New Smyrna Beach

The star attraction in New Smyrna Bech is its eponymous 17-mile sugar white beach. This sandy wonder boasts a boardwalk and is packed with enough cheap (and fun) things to do that you'll be happy you came, especially if you're traveling with a dog. The beach boasts a dog-friendly swimming section on the Indian River, and furry friends can accompany you (on a leash) to visit the inlet shore sections.

Pack a surfboard or rent one while you're in town — Surfing Magazine voted this spot as one of the best surf towns in America. The northern end of the park is home to one of the area's top affordable attractions, Smyrna Dunes Park, which is 184 acres in size and runs along the Ponce de Leon Inlet. It boasts a loop trail that's 2.4 miles long, and admission is a mere $10 per car. This is also where you'll find the dog-friendly section mentioned above.

Other cheap places to visit include Apollo Beach, the New Smyrna Museum of History, Turtle Mound National Historic Site, and the intriguing Canal Street Historic District. A stay at the Best Western Edgewater Inn New Smyrna will run you about $171. Reviewers on Tripadvisor rave about the hot breakfast, great location, and cleanliness.

Fort Walton Beach

While Fort Walton Beach may not be as famous as the more buzzy and expensive Miami Beach, you will have just as much fun when visiting this Panhandle beauty. Set just under 9 miles west of Destin and across from Okaloosa Island, there are plenty of fun things to do in this cheap Florida vacation destination. 

Visiting Okaloosa Beach is a no-brainer for sun lovers. You can swim, lounge, search for shells, or wander the boardwalk at this 3-mile strand, which is less crowded than other, more popular beaches in the state. Another plus is that the county banned smoking on the beach in early 2023, so the only air you breathe will be salty and fresh. Okaloosa Island is also home to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, where visitors can hike, bike, swim, or "beach" for $25 a day (or $15 if you're biking or walking in). 

When you're in Fort Walton Beach, check out the area's budget-friendly attractions, many of which are free, including the Air Force Armament Museum. Snorkelers and Divers will love the artificial reef sites surrounding the area. Jump in to see turtles, starfish, grouper, and more. The Emerald Coast Science Center is a family-friendly venue with interactive exhibits, including a Dino Dig Pit where kids can uncover hidden treasures. Admission is $12 for anyone 3 and older. Stay at the three-star Residence Inn Fort Walton Beach for about $215 a night.

Fort Myers

Looking to protect your wallet even further? You've come to the right place. Fort Myers is full of affordable things to do on your Florida Vacation. Schedule your visit to coincide with the Downtown Fort Myers Music Walk, a free-to-attend extravaganza of live music held in the River District on the third Friday of every month. If art is more your thing, the city boasts a complimentary Art Walk on the first Friday of every month. Parking is free after 5 p.m. Arrive early, though, as it fills up quickly.

During the day, head to the beach, as Fort Myers is known for its excellent shelling and beach combing opportunities. Then, drive along McGregor Boulevard, lined by royal palm trees for 15 miles, the first 200 of which were planted by inventor Thomas Edison. You can view his home, as well as that of Henry Ford, at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Tickets cost between $15 and $25, depending on your age. Manatee Park is an ideal place to visit for those who are intrigued by these magnificent creatures. It lies seven miles northeast of downtown, and parking costs $5 a day or $2 per hour. The Hampton Inn & Suites Fort Myers – Colonial Blvd offers complimentary hot breakfast and an outdoor pool with rooms for just under $200 per night.


Clearwater is less than 45 minutes west of Tampa, on a peninsula sandwiched between Old Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Loved for its beautiful white sand beaches and plentiful marine life, this is a perfect place to visit for families who'd like to save a few bucks. Free things to do include a self-guided walking tour of the city's vibrant murals, wandering through the Florida Botanical Gardens, and visiting the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, which asks only for a donation when you arrive.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is one of the city's top attractions for families. Once home to Winter, the dolphin featured in the "Dolphin Tale" film, guests can meet rescued animals, learn how to care for sharks, and board a guided safari boat tour. Admission costs $36 for adults and $27 for kids. Comfort Suites Clearwater-Dunedin has a pool, free breakfast, and an ideal location close to Clearwater Beach. One night will cost about $246, less if you travel in the low season. 

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach is one of the most underrated budget-friendly beaches in Florida, and it's easily reached in just over an hour from affordable Orlando or about 30 minutes from Melbourne. Lori Wilson Park is a beachy haven on the Space Coast offering free parking. A family-friendly spot, this lovely natural park boasts a 1,000-foot boardwalk and over 32 acres of space to explore. There's a playground, a nature trail, and a maritime hammock. Another beloved feature is the water, and the waves at this wide beach are small and constant, making it perfect for budding surfers. 

While many visitors spend at least a few hours touring the Kennedy Space Center (about 30 minutes away by car), there's enough to do around here that you might want to stay put. Grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or bars on the 800-foot-long Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier, and while you're there, check out the shops, groove to a live band, or learn to hang ten at the Cocoa Beach Surf School. The Four Points by Sheraton Cocoa Beach is a good bet for an affordable place to stay, and Tripadvisor reviewers love its location, comfy beds, and friendly staff. An average night will cost about $238, depending on the season.

Our ranking methodology

To create this list, we priced out Florida hotels using and based our search on one Friday night in late April to determine an average cost. We chose this time since it's right on the tail of Florida's high season, meaning the prices will be slightly lower than during peak travel time and higher than in the low season. Also, we searched for hotels that are both affordable and highly rated. We chose properties that are three stars or higher. Each destination also had to have cheap or free activities available.