The Secret to Affordable Florida Keys Vacations

I recently asked a friend what her family’s secret to going on great family vacations was. It seems like her family is always off doing something- and there is no way they can possibly afford it. No possible way! When she told me her secret, I think I was more scared than anything….

Affordable Family Vacations

Is she serious? Camping? That’s her secret? How much would I really save by camping instead? I set off to find out….

Let’s Go to the Florida Keys!

Let’s take a trip to the Florida Keys with a family of four – two adults, two children. (Three nights and three days of fun!) We’ll take this trip two ways, traditional hotel stay and tent camping. I’ll gather everything. You tell me which vacation you would choose in the comments below.

Hotel Style Vacation:

The Holiday Inn Express in Marathon Key is a two-star hotel that is considered affordable. It has a pool, splash play area, newer rooms, lounge, and marina. It also offers a free breakfast which will help save on our dining expenses. I was able to find room rates as low as $153 per night. If I wanted a pool view (what appears to be the best view option this hotel has) it would be $171 per night. For the sake of saving money for our experiment, we’ll go with the standard room. Total Hotel Expense (including taxes & fees): $516.36


Since this hotel doesn’t offer a kitchenette, I need to head out to the local restaurant for lunch and dinner. My research tells me that I can find lunch around $25 a day, and dinner for somewhere around $60. Total Conservative Dining Expense: $255

Wow, we’ve already hit $771 and we haven’t even started living like tourist yet. By the time we add in gift shop splurges, parking fees in Key West, and go on our snorkeling tour, we will have surpassed $1000 for our trip!

Tent Camping Vacation:

We found a campsite at Bahia Honda State Park with it’s own private beach for $38.50 a night! The campsite includes water and electric hookup, allows for two tents, and up to eight people (we could bring friends)! Our Total Campsite Fee (including taxes): $123.59

We decided to dine out one time per day. Once for breakfast, once for lunch, and once for dinner. This will give us a little variety. Our estimated restaurant dining budget is $110, but we still need to eat something, so we will factor in a modest $100 for groceries too. This makes our total food expense $210


Since we already have access to this great beach for snorkeling at our will, I think we will rent two double Kayaks for an afternoon instead. Our total costs for the Kayaks is $110

In an effort to be fair, we should factor in another $100 for gift shop splurges, ice for the cooler, and parking fees. Our total tent camping vacation costs: $543.59


I can’t believe we could save almost half on our vacation by tent camping. And WOW! That private beach sounds amazing! I guess she isn’t so crazy after all (smile).

What vacation would you choose?

About the author
Mrs. Hatland is a 30-something married, mom of 7 and the face behind the popular online publication, Motherhood Defined. Known as the Iowa Mom blogger by her local peers and “The Fairy Blogmother” worldwide. She has professional experience in working closely with clients on brand ambassadorships, client outreach services, content creation and creative social media advertising exposure.

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