If you are like my spouse (or your spouse is like my spouse), you probably hate renting a car on vacation and driving in an unfamiliar environment. Unfortunately, most tourist destinations in US are not set up for a family that doesn’t have a vehicle. And let’s face it, “car=freedom” notion is very much ingrained in American psyche. I disagree.
Since I was born and raised in Europe, using public transportation/walking is something that comes naturally. And I’m delighted that more and more US cities are making it easier for families to forego the burden of a car rental (see Nancy’s post on her family’s car-less trip to Denver). But we still have a long way to go in this country.
Come to Florida for your “city” fix!
When you think of vacationing in Florida, you probably don’t equate it with city culture. Most people come here to visit amusement parks or lay on the beach. And it’s a shame because I think St. Petersburg is one of the most underrated walkable towns in America.
When I crave “city” experience without having to fly anywhere, this is where we go.
St. Petersburg has an unmistakable artistic vibe to it. There are plenty of quirky shops and galleries in the area. A fun fact: Billy Corgan lived in St. Petersburg for a brief period of time after forming his first band (nope, not “The Smashing pumpkins” most people are familiar with). If it was good enough for Billy… and you know the rest. Actually, never mind, Billy is a bit freaky.
For the most part, the city of St. Petersburg is a “couple getaway” material. But I do think that downtown area is a fun place for kids as well, since there is an old movie theater and various shops to keep them entertained. You can see top things to do on this Trip Advisor page.
While not dirt cheap ($65 per person), this sunset cruise seems like a fun activity for family. If you like flowers, I highly recommend Sunken Gardens, though it’s a bit of a walk from downtown area (over 1 mile, but you can always take a taxi). If you are into art, you may want to look into visiting The Dali museum. As far as restaurants go, I highly recommend Gratzzi Italian Grille, conveniently located in downtown area. I wouldn’t call it cheap, but food there is sooo yummy, with a creative twist.
Putting together an affordable vacation (car rental not included)
If you are flying Southwest or another major carrier, Tampa International Airport will be your gateway to St. Petersburg. Fortunately, Uber (my referral link) is available and one-way fare to downtown will be approximately $30 (according to estimates online).
Map courtesy of www.mapquest.com
In under 30 minutes (depending on traffic), you should be in your downtown hotel. But which one? Up until this point there wasn’t really an affordable, points wise, option for families. This has recently changed due to newly built Hyatt Place St. Petersburg/Downtown
The best part? It costs just 5,000 points per night. That’s an amazing bargain. And it’s close to everything: shops, pharmacy, hospital, restaurants etc., no car is needed. Here are the rates during spring months:
You can fit up to six people in the room, and breakfast is included. Oh, and there is a rooftop pool, which is always nice when you are traveling with kids. I wasn’t really planning on spending few nights in St. Petersburg in 2018, but this is an offer I simply can’t refuse.
Now I just need to decide on whether we should bring the kids with us. The maximizer in me says that I’ll get better value by taking advantage of four complimentary breakfasts rather than two. And breakfast in Hyatt Place is nothing to sneeze at. This is no Holiday Inn Express with its rubber eggs and off-brand, well, everything. But the mom in me says “Dump the kids with grandma. I need a break!”
If you feel like renting a car for a day, Enterprise has an office downtown, not far from Hyatt Place. There is a lot to do nearby: Clearwater Aquarium, numerous beaches like one in Fort De Soto Park, or crossing the Skyway bridge to visit Sarasota. By renting a car for just one day you will avoid hotel parking fees of $15 per night, so this is definitely the way to go.
How you can acquire Hyatt points
If you have a premium card like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Business Preferred, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt account on 1:1 basis (more info on the cards here). All these cards pay us commission if you feel inclined to support the site.
You may also want to look into applying for Chase Hyatt Visa. You’ll get 45,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months and adding an authorized user. The annual fee of $75 is not waived. As of now, it’s not subject to 5/24 rule. The card is a keeper for most traveling families due to category 1-4 annual certificate upon renewal.
Obviously, 45,000 points will go a long way when you are redeeming them on a Category 1 Hyatt property, like the one I’ve highlighted above. You may also want to read my post Best category 1 Hyatt redemptions for a family trip in USA
Folks can now refer friends if they have Chase Hyatt Visa and get 10k points per approval. Access your link here Keep in mind that if you do a dummy booking on Hyatt.com, there is sometimes an offer there that comes with $50 statement credit.
Here is my personal referral link Thanks if you choose to use it!
As always, I only recommend cards that I would consider myself. Both me and my husband have applied for this product within the last few months, so that should tell you something. I also do my best to highlight the very best offers.
Readers, share with me what other category 1 Hyatt properties you personally consider to be a steal!
Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.