You have decided you want to go to Florida to enjoy some wonderful rays of sunshine in the state named after it. But what next? What do you need to book? Where’s a Florida Trip Guide when you need one?
Stop right there! I’ve got you covered.
Here are some ideas that may help you plan your upcoming luxury trip to Florida. As always, all my suggestions on this mini Florida travel guide are tried and tested by me and will hopefully make planning for your trip a little bit easier.
This is not an exhaustive or more touristic travel guide for Florida as my knowledge is limited to my trips – so please bear that in mind. It’s more of a curation of all of my top recommendations for the state, so you can plan your trip based on suggestions that you know you can rely on.
Things to Do in Florida
If you read any Florida travel blog or Florida visitors guide, one of the first things that will stand out is that the state is full of different things to do. The diversity of the cities on offer – from glamorous Miami to action-packed Orlando – means that there’s something for everyone here.
One of the top 3 reasons why people visit Florida from all over the world is to go to the ‘world class’ theme parks in Orlando. We have not been to Orlando yet, but with our little one now travelling with us on all future holidays, I am pretty sure we will go and possibly more than once. But until we have to, we are focusing on other things (and believe it, there are lots of things to do in Florida)
If you live in England like me, one thing is clear: we want to go to the beach when we visit somewhere hot. Florida has hundreds of beaches on offer, so no matter where you’re staying on the coast, you can be sure of long strips of white sand and stunning views of the sparkling blue ocean.
Obviously, Florida offers a little bit more than that – and I have rounded up some of my favourite things to do on location in the linked Florida vacations guide (but only to the places we have visited before).
Places to Visit in Florida
There’s a fair bit more to Florida than places Miami, The Keys and Orlando – which are the 3 best-known destinations of this US State. You’ve also got cities like Naples which are known for being brilliant holiday destinations, cities like Tampa that are great for families, and more historic destinations like St. Augustine.
I have been to a few more places and written up my experiences for this Florida state travel guide, and hopefully, they will come in handy when planning your next Florida holiday.
Most people do not see Florida as a ‘road trip’ destination, and I disagree. The state offers so many different types of places, I believe it is a great way to travel around. On a recent trip, I combined Miami with Naples and Sarasota, having flown to Miami and back from Tampa. It made sense for us.
Florida is half the size of Italy (roughly), and you would not think of visiting the whole of Italy in one go. I apply the same principle here: plan a road trip to a specific part, and plan to return.
Below, I have rounded up some of the places in Florida that I have visited and enjoyed.
Places to Stay in Florida
Full disclosure: luxury and Florida do not go hand in hand, except for the Miami Area, of course. If you consult most travel guides, Florida only has a handful of recommendations of places to stay if you’re looking for somewhere boutique or bespoke when you visit.
However, things are changing and there are more than a handful of places opening up that cater to more discerning travellers – and I like that many of these places are boutique hotels by definition, as they are quite small. If you’re not too fussed about the quality of accommodation then you’ll have lots to choose from when it comes to large hotels or self-catering homes on the coast, particularly in places like the Florida Keys.
Here are some ideas of places to stay in Florida, based on recent stays. I will keep updating this area as I return to the sunshine state.
When to Visit Florida
Florida is a big state – and the weather differs across it (as expected). During the cooler months, the farther south you go, the warmer it will be.
During the summer months, the Gulf of Mexico will be five or more degrees warmer than the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re planning a beach holiday, southern Florida travel guides are the best places to look for recommendations of where to visit along the coast for the hottest and driest weather.
Florida is known to have the mildest winters in the USA, and many of its visitors are called snowbirds for that reason. American residents who live in colder parts of the country are known for flocking to Florida’s coast in the winter and enjoying the warmer temperatures and weak sunshine right through to March when they migrate back to their home states as things start to warm up. If you’re determined to enjoy the beach in the winter, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, the Keys, Marco Island and Naples will have the warmest water.
Compared to us in Europe, winters in Florida are a touch better than ours. Spring is my favourite time to visit (personally) before it gets very very hot (and wet) in the summer.
There is a defined rainy season from May through October in Florida when thunderstorms that build in the heat of the day drop heavy but brief summer rainfall. Hurricane season takes place between June and November, peaking between mid-August through mid-October, so it’s worth bearing this in mind before you plan your trip.
You can read more about the best time to visit in the below travel guide to Florida weather and the best months to visit.
What to Eat in Florida
Crab legs, ceviche or a fabulous steak? Florida’s Latin Influence really brings the South American flair to the excellent dining options available. This alone is almost a good enough reason to visit Florida – you will find this Latin American influence that you won’t find elsewhere in the USA.
Stone crabs are a Florida delicacy and as such there are strict harvesting regulations to preserve the population and only the claws are allowed to be consumed. Only one claw is removed per crab before they are set free again, so you’ll have to pay a premium price to sample the delicious meat.
Ceviche is also quite popular across Florida with it being a Latin appetizer that showcases the power of the sunshine state’s abundant citrus crops.
A Cubano sandwich is something we have enjoyed many times on a visit to Florida. Origins of its popularity sprung from Miami and Tampa, but the Cuban Sandwich, also known as the Cubano, is made with roasted pork, ham, melted Swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, all pressed inside some warm and toasty Cuban bread.
A visit to Florida is not complete without a proper slice of the famous key lime pie for dessert. Made with fresh limes, egg yolks, condensed milk, and often topped with meringue. And from what I understand, it should be yellow, not green!
How to Get Around in Florida
If you’re reading this tourist guide to Florida, you’re probably looking for advice on the best way to get around the state when you visit. There are a variety of options, but the easiest way to travel is definitely by car.
You need a rental car to get around Florida if you’re just visiting on holiday. We use either Avis or Hertz (I would highly recommend you get Preferred status with Avis or Gold with Hertz) so your rental experience is much smoother and you don’t get on any lines when you arrive.
There are quite a few rental locations ‘in town’, so consider renting a car for only a few days when you plan on going to restaurants further away or doing some shopping. It will save you on Valet parking ($40/day normally) and ultimately works out cheaper than paying for an Uber every time you want to go out.
A tip that works 50% of the time: when you return your car, and if you have a lot of luggage, ask to be driven back to the airport terminal. They may charge you $25 (or not), and it saves you from those dreadful car rental shuttles.
Also, if your credit card doesn’t cover it, make sure you have Excess Insurance which will cost you £50 a year for multiple rentals and is the best money you will ever spend if you hire a lot of cars when you travel abroad.
Use N744400 as an AWD with Avis if you are a BA Gold Card Holder and with 211762 CPD with Hertz if you have an Amex Platinum.
You can also obviously fly across the state!
What Documents Do I Need to Enter Florida?
As a British or European citizen, in order to visit the USA, you will need to have an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) which is an online process organised by the US Government. It is pretty straightforward to get, costs $14 and lasts for 24 months.
Do not use any other websites or services rather than the Official ESTA website – no one can represent you and the questions take 4 minutes to respond. Also, the system sends you a notification at 23 months to let you know it is expiring.
Current regulations require you to apply for your ESTA at least 72 hours before departure. If you have a valid one, there is no need to update your existing one (as you will be providing the additional passenger information – API – directly to your airline when you check-in).
I hope you have enjoyed this Florida state travel guide. It’s a part of America that I am frequently visiting, so I look forward to continuing to update it.
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Check out my other travel guides below: