Recently, like so many of us, we decided to get away; and so we did. The Florida Everglades have been on our bucket list for way too long and what better timing than during a pandemic where being distanced and outdoors is essential. Most of our trips are preplanned because frankly that’s my personality but this one was thought out 2 days before and on a VERY tight budget though didn’t feel like it for one second (and that’s time & money spent well).
On a budget
Our $300 budget could’ve been increased but it’s not always necessary to spend a huge amount to have a nice vacation. During this trip we ate well, travelled well, and slept well all while feeling good about what we were spending. Best part is we came back home refreshed and rested, and that’s a vacation win.
Using coupon codes for a hotel room helped cut the costs way down. Our air fryer came along and was used efficiently in the kitchenette in our room. Shopping for easy to make foods at a local Super Target slashed foods costs significantly and helped keep that vacation weight gain off the agenda. Our family cuddled up while enjoying the breaks in the AC of the hotel room between hiking trails.
If you’re on a budget and just need to get away we recommend seeking out destinations nearby with great amenities, safe but low cost hotels offering discounts for off-season days, and find free outdoors activities or use coupon codes and apps to get discounted tickets for attractions. We even has a chance to spend an evening North of Miami watching the sunset and walking the beaches!
Here’s how we did it:
- Hotel (Off-Season & further our from destination area) $135
- Airboat Ride for 3 at Gator Park in Miami on GetYourGuide app for $18 per ticket = $54
- Parking Pass at Everglades National Park (good for 7 days & at all entrances) $30
- Water, food, & other Miscellaneous items $40
What to know if you go:
The Everglades has 2 seasons, wet and dry. Check with the current alerts before going. Because this is a low lying wetland flooding can easily happen at any time causing trails to close down. Mosquitos can and will be heavier in the wet season (spring/summer) and the park will be more crowded in the dry season (fall/winter).
There are 4 entrances to the park each with visitor’s centers (most will not be open due to Covid). Parking is $30 per vehicle and can be purchased online prior to visiting.
Gulf Coast Visitor Center- Everglades City, FL
We didn’t visit this area on our trip even though it was closest to us. This area is mostly for kayaking through the Glades and has rentals available in the area.
Shark Valley Visitors Center- Miami, FL
Shark Valley is probably one of the most popular areas of the Everglades and what drew our attention the most. You have two types of trails here, one leading to a viewing tower about 7 1/2 miles in. You can walk if there is enough time but it’s best to take the tram of bike there (rentals available on location). We walked some of the boardwalk and paved trails on our visit but saved much of it for the next time we go and bring our bikes.
Earnest F. Coe Visitor Center- Homestead, FL
Driving in to this center was beautiful. We passed so many roadside outdoor restaurants as well as flower and landscaping shops and farms. It was a long, slow ride at times but very much relaxing. Please be mindful to fill your gas tank and prep food and water before heading here. This center has a large parking lot, bathrooms, information, and a deck overlooking a pond to relax in a rocking chair and enjoy the view for a bit.
Flamingo Visitor Center- Homestead, FL
Flamingo Visitor center will require patience and a variety of driving and walking to see everything. There are numerous trails of varying lengths along the 38 mile stretch to the Marina and camping center. We chose a few to explore and in common Florida fashion a storm began to roll in from almost no where as we pulled up to the end (the marina). Lighting chased us back into the safety of our car and back on the road for a much more cooled down ride back to civilization.
Gator Land– Miami, FL
This was a little gem we may have otherwise missed in a sea of attractions along the Everglades National Park. Because of GetYourGuide App, all 3 of us took an Airboat ride through the Everglades(lasted about 45 mins), sat in on a wildlife show (30 mins), and had an opportunity to hold a baby alligator and take photos for $54 total. All of the employees were patient, kind, and knowledgeable. They offer private tours and more extensive rides as well as a shop and food.
The airboat ride was incredible! When the guide/driver said hold your hats he really meant it. The boat picked up speed and skipped across the surface of the water spraying us occasionally as we pivoted around the bends and through the sawgrass. We stopped a few times to talk about the flora and then again to see the massive alligator restfully waiting in the water. We were just inches from him (or her) and able to walk about the boat to look around and take photos.
Turn your visit into a field trip
We used this last minute trip as an opportunity to build on a few subjects for homeschool this year. Our son, who’s 9th grade loves everything science but most of all earth science. Being the 3rd largest National Park and the only place you’ll see a Gator and American Crocodile living in the same ecosystem isn’t even the best part. These 1.5 million acres of wetlands are actually a very slow moving river and include at least 9 different ecosystems with entrances that cover 3 different cities. While mosquitos are a nuisance anywhere (but especially here) their larva feed the fish and birds living in the Everglades.
This is only a small portion of what’s available to be absorbed here. When entering through the visitor’s centers you will receive a pamphlet and there are many placards with golden information all over the park but we still encourage you to research before going so that your kids can excitedly share what they learned.
We would love to hear your Everglades stories & cheap trips tricks! Thanks for reading!