You’re finally doing it! You’ve set a date for the clear water, warm weathered sunshine state! I’ll do a little dance for you, because, woohoo!
Getting ready for your trip will be both exciting and overwhelming. But don’t freak out! Being a south Florida native, I am here to offer some tips for being prepared before heading down.
1. Buy the Supplies Here
My advice for taking a trip to Florida includes coming down here as lightly as possible. There are beach supplies available here year round (yes, seriously), so I would wait to purchase anything you’ll need when you’re down here – unless you live in a tax-free state, then that just makes more sense. There are so many other items that you can fit in your bags without having to worry about things like sunscreen, noodles, boogie boards or even towels.
But definitely don’t skip out on the sunscreen when you do get here. You’ll learn your lesson after the first sunburn.
Tourist Tip: Never leave your sunscreen in the car. The heat can reduce its effectiveness.
2. Plan for Unexpected Weather
Since you’re leaving a little more room in your bags, my next piece of advice would be to never underestimate the weather when packing. One minute it’s supposed to rain, the next there’s not a cloud in the sky. And sometimes we have random cold fronts, especially in the months of January through March.
Whenever you travel to Florida, it’s a good idea to have a jacket with a hood on hand as well as a pair of pants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people down here in winter dressed for 88 degrees when it turns out to be the coldest week we’ve had all year. In other words, don’t be a dummy!
Florida is also in the vicinity of most hurricane paths. For your planning needs, this a friendly reminder that hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs through the month of November. It’s crucial to understand what to do in an emergency situation or evacuation. You can’t control mother nature, but you CAN be prepared!
3. Be Prepared to Walk
If there’s anything I’ve learned from growing up in Florida it’s that you WILL be walking a lot here. Whether you’re camping, staying at a resort on the beach or even visiting anywhere in town, there is always something in walking distance. And we pride ourselves on town centers and outlet malls and shopping complexes ….you know what? Just be ready to walk!
Don’t even ask if you’ll be walking a lot at Disney, either. ºoº
3. Invest in Flip Flops
Flip flops are sold everywhere here, so I would recommend getting them when you come down (if you don’t have a pair already). Walking in the sand is a b**** if you’re wearing sneakers. Unless you want calves of steel, then be my guest.
I’d say flip flops are useful pretty much everywhere else too: on your walk to and from the car, walking to the bathroom/shower/pool. Maybe I’m a little biased since I’m a Florida native, but they’re essential!
These are some of my favorites:
Women’s: Rainbow flip flops – These are very durable, long lasting sandals that are absolutely comfortable to wear anywhere. I highly recommend them!
Men’s: Reef flip flops – These are perfect for those fishing and boating trips and even have a freaking bottle opener on the bottom. How cool is that? Efficient and long lasting!
Tourist Tip: These flip flops can be found at most Bealls and Bealls Outlet stores located in all regions of Florida!
Kid’s: Reef flip flops – Although I don’t have older children, I would recommend these or any flip flops with fabric straps. Plastic are more likely to break. These are much more comfortable and come in some nicer styles.
Toddler’s: Osh Kosh flip flops – What I love most about these is that their straps are stretchy, they have a back strap that is also a soft material, they don’t rub and they last a really long time!
I would avoid: All ages flip flops from Old Navy. Although they are inexpensive and come in every color imaginable, their plastic straps rub on your feet when they’re wet and cause blisters.
5. Watch for Bugs…And Other Things
Ya’ll are in the South now and we got all kinds of critters! Ticks, mosquitos, various snakes and spiders and even alligators are just some of the animals that Florida-raised folks are not surprised by. Grab some bug spray for any outdoor adventures. It’s also a good idea to know how to check for ticks and the RIGHT way to remove them if found.
As far as alligators go, do not, I repeat, do NOT let your children wade in shallow ponds, lakes or freshwater rivers unattended. Although they aren’t likely to approach humans, little feet can be mistaken for prey. It’s better to be on the safer side and avoid it all together.
6. Practice Water Safety
The best way to enjoy the excitement of splashing in the pools and riding the waves in the ocean is to practice water safety. Make sure all children have the correct swimming gear and life vests. Life vests are like the seatbelts of the sea and are imperative to have on all boat trips. In fact, it’s the law! Always have an adult on swim duty to make sure someone has eyes on the kids at all times. And enjoy!
7. Traffic Tips
I think it’s probably inevitable, but traffic is just the worst! Even though it sucks, there are a few ways I can think that would make it a little more bearable. Pack plenty of snacks in case you end up bumper to bumper. Nowadays you can check your phone to see what the best routes to take are and where the nearest gas stations. If you have little ones, make sure you have plenty of things to fiddle with. Some of our favorite car toys are books, magnets, sensory bottles and, if I’m being completely honest, toys from Happy Meals!
Taking a trip to Florida should be carefree and fun. It should be the tropical paradise you’ve always dreamed of, without the unwanted stress. Take it from a southwest Florida resident and plan accordingly! The more prepared you are, the more you can truly enjoy your vacation. Safe travels!