Without a doubt, Florida is a lot of fun. Get some Florida travel tips before you go to make sure you have a great time.
Whether you’ve traveled the US for awhile or are visiting for the first time, Florida is one of the country’s most visited states for a reason.
Each region has it’s own feel.
In my book What the Florida, I’ve broken Florida down into the four regions you see above. The panhandle region (in blue) tends to be very similar to Alabama and Georgia north of it — in other words, don’t be surprised to hear a southern drawl. The northern region (in green) tended to have more Floridian natives, while the middle and southern regions (in pink and orange) has a lot of snowbirds that come to Florida during the winter months.
Parking varies from city to city — and block to block.
Plenty of meters need to be fed — and naturally there are plenty of meter maids handing out tickets across the state. Assume any parking spot inside a city is a paid one unless there’s no signage at all. Look up and down the street — it won’t necessarily be right in front of you.
While you probably don’t have the time or interest in comparing per-hour rates from block to block, be aware prices can vary from block to block. Also worth noting: meters typically accept coins and cards , but not bills. — stock up on quarters or break out your preferred card for the most part.
Florida’s bigger than you think.
Twice the size of Portugal or Hungary and holding the population of Romania, Florida is big enough to have some dead space between cities, but thankfully you’re never too far from gas stations, restaurants, or hotels unless you’re way out in the boonies.
Driving to Key West from the mainland will take hours.
From the mainland to the downtown part of Key West, it’ll take about 2 1/2 hours to cover 114 miles (183 km), assuming there are no issues or traffic along the way. While there’s a fair bit to see along the way, parts are relatively boring along a one-lane highway and long bridges.
Enjoy the discounts given by a AAA membership or military service, if you have them.
These are just a couple of the potential discounts that are frequently available. Keep your cards handy.
If you’ll be traveling middle or southern Florida for more than a few days, get a Sunpass.
Florida has over 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) of roads that require paying a toll, but the state hasn’t exactly made this the most intuitive toll system in the world… Some have manned toll booths that accept cash, while others have a bill-by-plate option (they take a picture of your license plate as you go, then send a bill to the owner’s address). Still others are Sunpass ONLY toll booths (e.g. you can’t just roll up and pay with cash), which irked me to no end. If you are driving a rental car in Florida, ask how tolls are handled before starting your journey to avoid any shocks to your bill (‘administrative fees’ might actually be greater than the tolls).
If you’re bringing your own car, you can pick up a ‘mini’ Sunpass for about $5 at a Publix supermarket, CVS pharmacy. or gas stations. It’s essentially a sticker you put under your rear-view mirror that holds the tiny transponder in place. You’ll need to activate it online, then add credit via credit card.
If you’re only making a short trip, you might be able to fall through the cracks. We read that the state doesn’t start going after people for not paying tolls until they’ve accumulated a few missed tolls. (Pay your tolls though, people.)
Expect some weirdness.
While Florida gets a bad rap for its ‘Florida Man’ memes, that mainly comes from the state’s Sunshine Law, which allows public access to official records and police reports. You might suspect other states to have plenty of oddball characters around, but they do seem to congregate here. Why is that? That’s a mystery that may never be solved.
Go see it for yourself.
I wrote the book on Florida’s weird, wonderful, crazy, bizarre — and most importantly, worthy — destinations. There’s plenty going on across the state, top to bottom, west to east, and I’ve pinpointed almost 100 of the best.
Over to you
Where have you traveled around Florida? Comments are open.