Vacation during the low season is a travel trick we use often to keep our costs down but mainly to avoid the crowds. When traveling with kids crowds and lines can add a whole other level of anxiety for a parent. The trick is finding a destination that doesn’t shut down during the off-season.
We’ve discovered that as crowds leave some popular Florida spots during lower travel seasons businesses take time off too meaning limited shops and dining experiences. Based on our recent trip, Panama City Beach doesn’t seem to be one of those areas. In fact the shoulder season offers the best of both worlds for families, less people with lots to do.
Where to Stay
If you’re planning a beach vacation it makes sense to stay on the beach right? We stayed with ResortQuest at the Sunrise Beach condo right on the Gulf Coast. We’ve vacation with ResortQuest before when we visited Pensacola Beach so we knew great facilities in our condo. Less vacationers in the area also means better accommodation options too. We enjoyed a spacious 3-bedroom condo in a tower located right on the beach. I never tire of hearing the waves and watching the sun set against the water.
Where to Shop
With my husband and our Junior Style blogger, shopping is a must for away trips. You’ll find souvenir shops a plenty along the main strip, great for tacky mementos, but for some real shopping you’ll have to stop into Pier Park. It’s not hard to miss with the long pier stretched out into the gulf and the large arched entrance way. Why not turn a beach stroll into a shopping trip? From the beach entrance of our ResortQuest Sunrise Beach condo we could walk along the sand right up to the pier at Pier Park. But be sure to drive over at night for the lights and a little entertainment. They even have a few retro amusement park rides that the kids will love.
Where to Eat
The nice part about visiting Panama City Beach during the low season is that most of the dining spots are still open but with less crowds. Of course the full kitchen in our ResortQuest Sunrise Beach condo enabled us to enjoy breakfast at our kitchen bar or an evening drink on our wrap around balcony. Not having to head out for every meal helped maintain our travel budget. You wouldn’t believe how easy it was to pop-up for lunch after a morning at the beach or pool. Eating in for some meals also enabled us to save funds for dinners out.
#familytravel Enjoying my @resortquestnwfl Gulf of Mexico view in Panama City Beach before heading out to.dinner. No filter required.
As craft beer fans we enjoyed visiting the Fishale Tap House. The atmosphere was fun, very pub like, and they have over 65 craft beers on tap. We tried a few local beers like Port St Joes White Sands Wheat and Pensacola Sawgrass. You’re bound to find something on their menu of great seafood options too like Crab Cake Tacos and Ale Fish & Chips, along with sandwiches and grilled items.
#familytravel As craft beer lovers we had to stop into @FishableTaphouse for dinner in Panama City. 63 taps. I tried a tangerine wheat which was wonderful. #floridaroadtrip View on Instagram
If deep fried seafood is what you’re hankering, which seems to be a big thing in most parts of the Florida Panhandle, then a drive to Boon Docks is the place to go. It’s a bit of a drive north but once you exit the main road you feel like you’ve entered a whole other world. The restaurant reminded me of a collection of old fish shacks nestled down by the bay and the Spanish Moss laden trees. Although everything is deep-fried the coating is fairly light and a must try item is their fried pickles and tartar sauce like dip. I could have order more of these for my meal. Pier Park also has a few more mainstream restaurant choices such as Margaritaville, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Longhorn Steakhouse to name a few.
#familytravel.Lovely breeze on the deck of Runaway Island within walking distance from our @resortquestnwfl condo in Panama City Beach. Nice place to watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. #floridaroadtrip
One of our favourite spots to head out for dinner, just an easy 10-minute walk from our Sunrise Beach condo, was Runaway Island. They had live entertainment, a good menu selection and a large outdoor patio perfect for catching the sunset with a sweet tea cocktail.
#familytravel Last dinner in Panama City Beach. Seafood, sweet tea Mojito and a view. #floridaroadtrip View on Instagram
Where to Play
For us Panama City Beach was all about the water, as in swimming and splashing. We could start the morning jumping waves and building sandcastles and spend the afternoon playing pool games and dodging waterfalls. It’s amazing to think that an elevator ride from our Sunrise Beach condo took us to the beach. The best part was having two beach loungers and an umbrella ready and waiting. Yes, these were included in our ResortQuest condo rental and made a perfect way to relax while the kids played. Be sure to bring your goggles because the shallow water was full of small fish swimming around your feet.
After grabbing a quick lunch upstairs in our 3-bedroom condo and drying our swimsuits in our onsite washer and dryer it was down to the outdoor pools. Our ResortQuest Sunrise Beach condo had not one but two pools plus a splash area for the kids. Traveling during the low season meant most times we had the pool area to ourselves. Although I love the beach my kids do enjoy their pool time and our ResortQuest condo in Panama City Beach offered us the best of both worlds.
#familytravel Ending our morning swim in our @resortquestnwfl pools with a waterfall. There are 2 pools, 2 hot tubs and this kids splash fountain at our Panama City Beach condo should you need a break from the beach. #floridaroadtrip
If you’re feeling a little waterlogged try out your mad golfing skills at the various mini putt courses in the area. I swear Panama City Beach must be the mini putt state capital with so many fun and kitschy courses like Hidden Lagoon, Coconut Creek Fun, my son’s favourite Goofy Golf where you had to climb up and shoot from inside a Moai head.
Climbable #giant #minituregolf #moai #goofygolf #pananamabeachcity #tiki View on Instagram
I think our next trip to Panama Beach City will be for a mini putt tryout to see which course is the best. An off-season travel bonus was my husband and son having the whole course just for them.
Where to Drive
Daytrips are a great way to explore the outlining area of your vacation destination, like when we visited Wakula Springs when staying in Tennessee, Florida. The 30A route is a nice drive through rolling tree-lined hills and past charming little shops. We stopped at Blue Mountain Beach Creamery for delicious ice cream treats and Bad Ass Coffee for my husband’s Hawaiian coffee fix.
If you keep on the road for about 30 minutes you’ll enter the lively beach community of Watercolor. You can access the beach, so some shopping but our draw was eating from the collection of specialty food trucks. This was such a great lunch. I think the next time we visit Florida’s Panhandle I might look into the various rental options from ResortQuest for this area.
Quieter beaches and smaller crowds make Panama City Beach a family destination with a little kitsch perfect for shoulder season travel. Our ResortQuest Sunrise Beach condo offered the perfect stop, giving us space, home-away-from home facilities and direct beach access. What more could you ask for on a family beach vacation?
Thanks to the folks at ResortQuest for their hospitality in order to put this piece together.