Key West is a tropical island vacation destination that is wonderful for families with kids. But too often people have a misconception that it’s mainly an adult party place. Many folks are not aware of the variety of fabulous experiences the island has to offer families traveling with kids. At VHKW, our staff will help you find the perfect place to stay and plan a fun and memorable family vacation with your kids in Key West! As Key West locals (also known as Conchs), we are uniquely qualified to help you pre-plan your trip, so that when families arrive for their island vacation, kiddos as well as parents are comfortable and have a great time. Some of us were either born in Key West or grew up in the Florida Keys from early childhood. Several of us are young parents, currently raising our families in Key West. Some of us are grandparents, watching our grandchildren thrive on this unique American Caribbean island. We all truly appreciate this unique place from the perspective of all ages.
Based on this experience, at VHKW we advise our guests traveling with families to plan-in-advance of your arrival to Key West to make the most of your island get-away. Of course, spontaneity is fun during vacation time, but there are some things you shouldn’t put off.
First and foremost, you’ll want to book the ideal accommodation for your family well in advance, to be sure you get the place you want. It’s also smart to prepare a special list of items you will need for your little ones, especially if they are new to being in a tropical environment. Also, to make the most of your vacation time, it’s best to think ahead about the kinds of experiences you want to have together as a family in Key West and book ahead some of the activities for your kids and family to do. Like many families, you may discover so many interesting things to do in Key West, that you’ll want to come back again.
Finally, we recommend that you consider how you want to get around the island during your stay - walk, bicycles, public transportation, taxi, drive? Parking is a challenge in Key West, and some days get quite hot, so we recommend some options to streamline moving from one place to another with the kids.
Where you stay can mean everything for your family Key West vacation with kids. While hotels and bed and breakfasts are options, vacation rental properties offer an ideal setting since you can create your own home-away-from-home. Having a private home-base, rather than a hotel, creates a sense of security and comfort for children while they are away from their every-day-to-day surroundings. Your vacation home becomes the meeting point to gather and re-group each afternoon to nap and snack. In the evening, it becomes the place to rejuvenate together, have dinner, talk about experiences enjoyed each day, and have a restful night sleep.
There are several things to consider in choosing a property to rent, mainly - location, amenities, and the layout of the house. One of the most popular and in-demand accommodations, are properties with swimming pools and fenced in tropical gardens. A pool becomes a key feature for fun, where kids and parents enjoy swimming together, hanging out on the deck, enjoying tropical gardens, and of course cooking on a grill. Homes that are licensed to rent as weekly vacation rentals are in high demand in Key West, so it’s smart to reserve well in advance of your trip.
Traveling with kids in the tropics is unique to different vacation destinations. The tropical sun may be more intense than what your children are used to experiencing, so be prepared with a good sun screen and let your kids know they absolutely must wear it. A good sun hat is also very important. Let them choose a hat they like, so they'll be more inclined to keep it on. Same with sunglasses – even if your kids are used to wearing sunglasses, now is the time to protect their eyes by keeping them during the day. Some children experience anxiety when they travel away from their homes, and a favorite stuffed animal, doll, or blanket can be a big comfort.
Obviously, your kiddos will need their swim suits. If they use water wings or floaties, think about purchasing those as well. Keep in mind that items like sunscreen swim toys can be purchased in Key West and you can find bathing suits too. But we understand that kids can be picky about what they wear, so why not plan ahead and let them be prepared to jump in the pool or swim at the beach as soon as they get to Key West. For downtime at home, coloring books, crayons, puzzles, and books are a nice to have, even though many kids not travel with their own electronic game device. Finally, don't forget any prescription medications your child might need.
Key West is a tiny island, so no matter which way you go, you're going to see the beautiful turquoise ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. As parents and grandparents, we have come to appreciate that one of the most meaningful opportunities for our children, is to develop a curiosity, respect, and love for the ocean. We have witnessed this as they've grown up in Key West boating, fishing, snorkeling, and diving in warm waters, playing on the Caribbean beaches, learning at the eco centers, sea camp, and the Key West Aquarium. A key West vacation for your kids can offer a taste of the same for them.
Of course, there are lots of things to do with your kids on the island too. This includes the water-fun Truman Waterfront Park and Splash Pad, the stunning Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, a ride through Old Town on the famous Conch Tour Train – for kids it's like an amusement ride through gingerbread house neighborhoods. There are also unique and interesting museums to visit. These include the intriguing Mel Fisher's Ship Wreck Museum, East Martello Tower Pre-Civil War Fort on the Beach to see the haunted 'Robert the Doll,' the patriotic USCG Ingham Maritime Floating Museum, the historic Key West Light House Museum where you can climb to the top of the light house, the one-of-a-kind Key West Aquarium, and the list goes on. Our in house VHKW Concierge grew up in Key West and is raising a family here, and she loves helping families plan and book meaningful and memorable activities to do together. Additionally, our Director of Operations has created a 3-Day itinerary designed for families with children on vacation in Key West. This, and more itineraries, are provided free to our guests who book vacation rentals with VHKW. But activities aren't the only fun thing to do with kids in Key West. There are also some super fun and special places to eat-and-treat with them. A few favorites include -Salute on the Beach, Hogfish Bar and Grill, Flamingo Crossing (Homemade ice cream), The Boat House, and Blue Heaven, to name just a few.
Most people don't think about how they are going to get around Key West until they arrive. In their hometowns or cities, many moms and dads are used to simply jumping in the family car or catching a subway and heading out with the kids to do fun activities together. While Key West is a tiny island, and you can ride a bike around it in about an hour, it gets hot and there is a notorious shortage of parking. That can be challenging. Also, please keep in mind that this tiny 4.2 square mile island was founded before cars existed. Many streets are very narrow, parking is restricted and expensive, so we recommend that you think about your transportation needs in advance to avoid surprises and frustration.
If you do bring a car, most VHKW vacation rentals have parking places at the property, and cars do come in handy for grocery shopping and driving up the Keys to tour around. But if you plan to drive downtown Old Town, be sure you scope out the nearest parking lot in advance, and don't be shocked at the cost to park. One great alternative, is the free Duval Loop Bus. It runs every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to midnight, and every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. With a motto of Free and Frequent, this service is dedicated to promoting a car-free Key West.
Of course, walking is always a fantastic option when the kids and parents have the stamina. Everything is relatively close on this little island – it takes about four Key West 'blocks,' to make a standard city block. Renting bicycles is another option for families. But we recommend this with a word of caution, since there are very few bike paths in Old Town, and when downtown is congested, its not the best place for kids to be riding. On the other hand, bicycles are fun to ride along the beach path and out to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park to the Beach. It's smart to plan your bike route in advance, and we can help with ideas for that too. Key West also has taxi cabs and UBER, so when you need to get home fast, these options can be less expensive than what you'd pay for parking.
Key West also has a public transportation system. It not only goes around the island, it connects to nearby Stock Island. And if you want to see some of the other islands in the Florida Keys, the Lower Keys Shuttle is a convenient service that makes 8 trips back and forth between Old Town Key West to Mile Marker 53.5 in Marathon. Why not relax and enjoy the ride with the kids, savor the views and take some photos of the Fabulous Florida Keys. A stop in a Bahi Honda State Park is a great way to spend the afternoon. The Dolphin Research Center is another exciting and educational stop in the Upper Keys.
Key West is a great place for families to vacation with kids any time of the year. Winter and springtime offer a great sunshine break from the cold weather climates. Many families enjoy spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years in the island sunshine. Vacation rental houses book up in advance for holidays, so it's good to make plans in-advance. Summertime is a great time to explore the warm turquoise waters, and hang out by the pool and BBQ. It's also the time to take advantage of great summer rates and discounts on rentals, activities, and dining.
At VHKW our staff understand how precious your family is to you and that you want to provide them with a wonderful vacation and make memories for a lifetime. We encourage you to contact us directly with any specific questions on booking one of our vacation rentals and planning special activities for your small children and family itineraries that include your kids. We look forward to hosting you on our island home soon.