Visiting Florida: A Tourist Guide

In 2016, more than 112 million people from all over the world visited the state of Florida. Most of these visitors went to place like Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Pensacola, the Florida Keys, and the Space Coast area of Melbourne, though some of them accidentally ended up in Jacksonville. But, hey...their tourist dollars count, too.

And this is no accident. The state spends upwards of $75 million dollars every year on the “Visit Florida” campaign to market the state as a tourist destination. According to Florida Governor Rick Scott, this expense is justified because of the estimated $109 billion in visitor spending that tourism brings. And as all Floridians know, Governor Scott wouldn’t ever play fast and loose with financial numbers (*cough*Columbia HCA Medicare and Medicaid Fraud*cough*).

But while the State of Florida does a good job of pimping Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter, Jimmy Buffett, beaches, and all the fun in the sun activities Florida has to offer, they don’t do a very good job of informing visitors how to prepare for their travels.

So as a public service, I offer up this Florida Visitors’ Guide to Packing for Your Florida Summer Vacation:
  • Footwear: This is simple: the only thing you need is flip-flops. The “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” admonitions are loosely enforced in the Skin Cancer State. Exposed toe rot, sloth-like toenail claws, and unwashed feet are considered acceptable to wear to restaurants and weddings. Sandals are evening footwear. Closed-toed shoes are considered semi-formal. If you wear socks, that’s formal wear. Matching socks are reserved for proms.
  • Clothing: Avoid anything other than natural materials. Any poly-blend material will cause rashes that have yet to be named by the medical community. This includes any material that promises to “wick away sweat.” It wicks it into the clothing, turning that $45 t-shirt into a dishrag. Your best bet is linen.
  • Prepare for the Sun: The Florida sun laughs at sunscreen in this time of global climate change. Unless melanoma is on your bucket list, plan to bathe in zinc oxide, wear a hat with a brim wide enough to cover your entire family, and sunglasses that provide protection from UV-A, UV-B, and UV-LMNOP light.
  • Prepare for the Rain: While Florida’s sun is the state’s most often cited feature, the reality is that if you’re visiting in the summer, it is likely you will get rained on. And by “likely” I mean you will have fun-in-the-sun, just in the rain. Every single afternoon. And it’s not a gentle rainstorm, either. It’s the type that makes you feel as though the seventh seal has been broken and God’s wrath is literally raining down on the Earth. Unlike Dubuque or Boise or Denton, however, Florida rain does not bring relief from the oppressive heat and humidity. Following the daily Florida rainstorm, you’ll feel more like a basted turkey, though you’ll smell more like a teenaged boy’s 3-year old tennis shoe that’s been rotting in fecund soil for 45 days. You will remember the Florida afternoon summer rainstorms long after the memories of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter fade from your memory. Florida rain laughs at umbrellas so the only thing you can do to prepare for this is to pack a lot of clothes to change into.
  • Toiletries: In addition to the standard toiletries you would take anywhere you may travel (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.), when you travel to Florida you need to plan on packing a moisturizer with aloe vera. Because you’ll fail to heed the “Prepare for the Sun” warnings (above) and you will get burned. Not like the sunburn you get back home when you mow the lawn. I’m talking radiation burns. This is not hyperbole. The most common type of radiation burns are those cause by UV radiation. Aloe vera is your friend.
  • Wildlife: Everyone expects to see Florida alligators when they visit and it is likely you will see them. However, the wildlife I’m referring to are the snakes, panthers, black bears, Capybaras, and the palmetto bug (pronounced “cockroach” everywhere else in the United States.) You can find additional information about Florida’s wildlife in item #6 in this “Seven 7hings” post from 2013. Florida mosquitos are to regular mosquitos as the sun is to a struck match. Florida mosquitos carry away nearly 5,000 full-grown Bichon Frise dogs every year. (Statistic contrived for hyperbolic purposes.)
  • The People: Then, of course, are the other wildlife indigenous to Florida: the camouflage-hat-wearing, pickup-truck-driving, racist, dip-spitting surfer douchebag, the woo-tang clan (aka “woo girls”, so known for their propensity to get drunk, scream “woooooo!” at every opportunity, and to drunkenly tryst with any camouflage-hat-wearing surfer douchebag who has a job), and every person from New York who retired to Florida but ran out of money after they decided it was literally hell on earth but before they could move halfway back up the country. Then there are the tourists. Oh, dear God help us...the tourists. But, hey, seriously...we’re really glad you’re here! Honest!
  • Hurricane Preparation: In addition to being peak time for Florida visitors, the summer months are also hurricane season in Florida. The only way you can really prepare for being in Florida when a hurricane approaches is to have an open-ended return plane ticket or to have driven. When a hurricane is coming, the single best course of action you can take is to turn around and go home. Not because the storm presents any particular danger; rather, it’s because once word gets out that a hurricane might be coming, you will be unable to purchase milk, bread, water, flashlights, batteries, or beer. Because once Jim Cantore or Stephanie Abrams roll into the town you’re visiting, it’s party time for the locals.

There is a lot about Florida that is very different than places where humanity can actually survive. Hopefully these tips will help prepare you so that your Florida vacation is less traumatic than it otherwise might be.

One final thought: have you ever noticed that most people who vacation in Florida only do so once? That’s usually enough.

To paraphrase that old expression, “Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me once, shame on Rick Scott.” (Note: This is merely a rhetorical device. Rick Scott is clearly incapable of feeling any shame.)

So, welcome to Florida!

Enjoy your vacation to Yosemite next year.

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