The great Chevy Chase proved in National Lampoon's Vacation that family trips are a little tougher to get right than buddy trips, corporate retreats and couples escapes. An ideal family trip requires three elements: breathing room for mom and dad, a fine golf course, and plenty of activities for the kids. This handful of Florida resorts proves that you don't have to choose between babies and birdies.
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club
Busch Gardens Get-a-Way Package rates start at $309 per night, two-night minimum
This is about as good as it gets if your kids are into golf and baseball. Within a few minutes drive from this Tampa resort you'll find the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies in spring training. It's also just 45 minutes to Busch Gardens, and the package here includes suite accommodations with a kitchenette, two adult tickets (kids tickets available at the front desk) and a Kids Club gift at check-in. The golf is pretty darn good, too. The Copperhead course tops the list of four layouts here, and has long been a PGA Tour stop. The Island course was recently renovated, while the Highland North and South tracks are no pushovers, even if they lack the challenge of their siblings. Kids will have to pay to play in the high season of March, but it's free in summer.
Room rates in March start at $550 per night
Despite its museum-like facade and interiors that epitomize Palm Beach's Old World elegance, The Breakers is remarkably family-friendly. March rack rates might alarm conservative spenders, but at least children under 16 stay free in the same room as their parents. There's a dizzying array of activities for kids, starting with a 6,160-squarefoot Family Entertainment Center that includes a heated oceanfront pool, a movie room, and a game room with Playstation 2 and Xbox. Kids 3 to 12 can enjoy the Coconut Crew Interactive Camp (scavenger hunts and waterfront activities), while the whole family can mix it up in the Breakers Fun Zone with its arcade games. The Breakers' Ocean course is one of the state's oldest, a pint-sized pearl that dates to 1896. If the kids aren't up to the rigors of this short, tight track, the Palm Beach Par-3 course is just down the road, while the private Breakers Rees Jones Course is a 20-minute drive from the resort.
Ginn Reunion Resort
Ultimate Family Package Rates start at $179 inclusive, per person per night
The Family Package at this Orlando-area resort includes a one-day pass per person to any Walt Disney Theme Park and a one-day pass to either Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure or Sea World. On-site you'll find complimentary "dive-in" movies (films are shown to guests floating in the pool) and access to a five-acre water park, fitness center, bicycle rentals and spa. The "Kids Crew" supervises guests aged 4-12, giving parents time to enjoy themselves alone. On the course, the Arnold Palmer Legacy layout has kidfriendly tees and a resort credit issued at check-in gives junior golfers a discount. If Dad needs more of a challenge, he'll find it at Reunion's two other courses: the Independence, a Tom Watson design, and the newer Tradition, a Jack Nicklaus creation. Watson's layout is the most distinctive, a faux-links that's liberally sprinkled with mounds, bunkers and greenside chipping areas. The Palmer and Nicklaus tracks offer a more traditional Florida experience, with roomy fairways accented by lakes and flowers.
Amelia Island Plantation
All-Inclusive Package rates start at $767 per night
With the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west, Amelia has plenty of aquatic appeal, with boating, fishing and kayaking among the popular options. The golf courses are worthy of the kid's activity menu, too, particularly Pete Dye's Ocean Links, which has tees of 4,341 and 5,007 yards for junior to tackle. Oak Marsh, another Dye layout, along with the newly acquired Amelia River and the private Long Point courses round out the options. With the All- Inclusive Package, you get unlimited green fees per night of stay, plus access to bikes and tennis, the Health & Fitness Center, Kids Camp Amelia (nature clinics, games, arts and crafts for ages 3-10), and most nature tours.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Family Golf Package rates start at $363 per night
The leading golf resort in northwest Florida has four courses, including the Raven, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that hosts the Champions Tour. Parents might be more interested in the Baytowne course, which offers free golf to children under 12 (when accompanied by a paying adult) and rental clubs from U.S. Kids Golf. The junior tee box is a manageable 3,002 yards and kids get their own yardage guide and scorecard. Off-course attractions include a sailing program that specializes in courses for children and teens, a five-acre nature park, plus a beachside, landscaped putting course. The adult golf also includes the resort's original course, the Links, and the Rees Jones-designed Burnt Pine.