8 Tips for Planning Your Next Florida Vacation | Florida is one of the most popular U.S. vacation destinations and it’s easy to see why. Warm weather, beaches, and Disney World are only a few of the amenities you can expect to encounter when you visit the Sunshine State.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic slashes tourism numbers across the board in 2020, Florida had seen tourism numbers increase in 9 consecutive years—logging a record 131.4 million visitors in 2019.
The success of your trip might ultimately depend on how well you prepare. Here are eight tips to keep in mind when planning your next Florida vacation!
1. Plot out your route and drive carefully
If you’re opting to drive to Florida in lieu of flying, you might be facing a long road trip.
Of course, there are worse areas to be stuck traveling through than America’s beautiful southeast region. During your trek, you might pass through the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains, witness gorgeous coastlines, and enjoy warm weather with your windows rolled down.
If you’re not careful, however, your entire vacation could quickly be derailed by a car accident. Make sure you plot out your route before leaving, obey state driving laws, and practice safe driving habits throughout your journey.
2. Keep summer prices in mind
Tourism is both a blessing and a curse to Floridian natives. On one hand, the huge crowds and increased traffic can be highly inconvenient. On the other hand, Florida residents enjoy no state income tax—thanks in large part to the throngs of tourists who are willing to pay high prices during the state’s tourism season.
With this in mind, however, consider booking your trip to Florida during the off-season. By avoiding the summer months, winter break, and spring break, you might be able to enjoy your Florida vacation at a significantly lower overall price!
3. Pack for the weather
If you’re leaving a colder state for your Florida vacation, you might struggle to wrap your mind around just how much warmer the Sunshine State’s climate can be.
Particularly if you’re visiting during the summer, you’ll want to make sure that your suitcase is loaded with plenty of t-shirts and shorts. With that said, Florida weather can also be fickle. Pack at least one pair of jeans and either a hoodie or light jacket in case a rare cold front happens to pass through town.
Beyond clothing, you may also want to consider packing an umbrella to combat Florida’s unpredictable showers.
4. Don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray
It’s no secret that Florida, the country’s most southernmost state, is home to a warmer climate than the majority of the U.S. Its closer proximity to the equator means that powerful sun rays are unrelenting, even during a cloudy day.
For this reason, it’s important that you pack plenty of sunscreen for your trip and lather up whenever you plan to spend time out in the sun. Most dermatologists recommend using a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Similarly, Florida’s sticky climate means that insects abound. Bringing bug repellent on your trip and applying it before you venture outside will keep the pesky mosquitoes away!
5. Choose your beaches wisely
According to the Florida Department of State, the Sunshine State is home to 663 miles of beaches. With no shortage of options, it’s not difficult to start wandering along the coastline of Florida and eventually find yourself at a pleasant beach.
But in order to waste as little time as possible, visit only the best beaches the state has to offer, and avoid some of the poorer beaches in the state, you should identify the beaches you wish to visit in advance. Of course, the beaches you choose to visit might depend on the area where you’ll be staying.
For those visiting the Miami area, consider visiting West Palm Beach, Miami Beach, or Fort Lauderdale Beach. If you’re planning a trip to Orlando, be sure to check out Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach. If you’re visiting Tampa, stop by Clearwater Beach.
6. Consider staying on-site at Disney
Like many American families, experiencing Disney World might be the main reason for your Florida vacation in the first place. If this is the case, consider staying at a Disney Resort hotel.
While it may be tempting to hunt around the Orlando area for a cheap hotel deal—or perhaps outside Orlando, even, in search of a cheap hotel—keep in mind that you’re likely going to lose time driving to and from the parks each day. This might cost you money in both gas and parking.
Conversely, by staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you’ll enjoy a host of perks—from free Magic Bands and FastPass+ reservations to free transportation and exclusive dining plan options.
7. Stay on top of your water intake
Because you’re going to be exposed to consistently high temperatures throughout your trip, moisture is going to be leaving your body at a faster-than-normal rate. It’s critical that you replenish those liquids in order to avoid a bout of dehydration or heatstroke.
It’s recommended that men and women drink at least 104 ounces and 72 ounces of water each day, respectively. In Florida, you’ll want to match these minimums and exceed them if possible.
Remember, other drinks—such as juice, soda, coffee, and tea—are not substitutes for water!
8. Avoid traditional souvenir shops
At some point during your vacation, you might want to pick up a few souvenirs for friends, family members, and perhaps even for yourself to commemorate your trip.
In Florida, where tourism abounds, you’ll find that there are souvenir storefronts on every block. At many of these shops, owners charge exorbitant prices for their souvenirs, knowing that tourists will gladly pay a considerable sum of money for a souvenir.
It’s worth noting, however, that Florida souvenirs are located all over the state—not only in and around tourism hotspots. Simply visit the local CVS or Walgreens and you’re likely find a handful of souvenir options at a fraction of the typical asking price.