For Ottawa folk who are looking to escape the cold winter weather, Florida is a popular (and dare I say nearly perfect) destination. With its sunny beaches, warm temperatures, and diverse attractions, Florida offers a wealth of opportunities for relaxation and adventure. However, traveling south to "foreign lands" can also be challenging, especially if this is your first time as a "snowbird". In this guide, I will cover most of what you need to know to make the most of your winter escape to Florida.
Plan ahead: Plan your trip ahead of time to ensure that you have all the necessary information and arrangements in place. This includes booking your flights, hotels, and rental cars, as well as obtaining any necessary visas or travel documents. Start as early as possible. Create an itinerary and make sure to include activities and attractions that interest you. Florida offers a wide range of activities, from sunbathing on the beaches to visiting theme parks, museums, and natural attractions.
Get your travel documents in order: Make sure you have all the necessary travel documents, including your passport, visa, driver's license, and travel insurance. If you are traveling with children, make sure you have their passport or other forms of identification.
Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs: Before you travel, take the time to familiarize yourself with local laws and customs in Florida, such as the drinking age, the legal blood alcohol limit, and the use of seat belts. It is also a good idea to research the local customs, such as tipping, dress codes, and social etiquette. When I first came to Canada from the UK, tipping at the bar was foreign to me. I learned the hard way after being asked to leave a pub in Kingston what the local customs were.
Check the weather forecast: Check the weather forecast for your destination to make sure you pack appropriately. Florida is known for its warm and sunny weather, but it can also experience rain and storms, especially during the summer months.
Pack appropriately: When packing for your trip, make sure to pack appropriate clothing and gear for the weather and activities you plan to participate in. This includes light, breathable clothing, sunblock, a hat, sunglasses, and any other items you may need for beach activities or outdoor adventures.
Make arrangements for your home: Before you leave for Florida, make arrangements for your home in Ottawa. This includes making arrangements for mail and package delivery, setting up an automatic timer for lights and appliances, and ensuring that your home is secure.
Notify your bank and credit card companies: Before you travel, notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans. This will help to prevent any interruptions in your financial services and prevent any potential fraud or identity theft.
Secure your valuables: If you are leaving your home in Ottawa for an extended period of time, consider securing your valuables, such as jewelry, money, and important documents, in a safe place. You may also want to consider installing a security system or enlisting the help of a trusted friend or family member.
Arrange for pet care: If you have pets, make arrangements for their care while you are away. This can include hiring a pet sitter, or taking them to a boarding facility.
Make a packing list: Make a packing list to ensure that you don't forget anything important. This list should include everything from clothing and toiletries, to electronics and other travel essentials.
Take out travel insurance: Travel insurance can provide you with protection in case of any unexpected events or emergencies while you are away. This can include coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen luggage.
Book your flights and accommodations: Book your flights and accommodations as early as possible to ensure that you get the best prices and availability. Consider using a travel agent or an online booking service to help you find the best deals.
Rent a car: If you plan to explore Florida while you are there, consider renting a car. This will give you the freedom and flexibility to move around the state as you please and to see all the sights you want to see. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the local driving laws and regulations, as well as the local road conditions and traffic patterns.
Be prepared for security screenings: Be prepared for security screenings at the airport, including TSA security checks and customs inspections. Make sure to pack your liquids in your checked luggage and to allow extra time for security screenings.
Stay hydrated: Florida is known for its hot and humid weather, so make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks, as these can contribute to dehydration.
Respect the local wildlife: Florida is home to a wide range of wildlife, including alligators, manatees, and sea turtles. Make sure to respect the local wildlife by keeping a safe distance and not feeding or harassing them.
Protect yourself from the sun: The strong sun in Florida can cause sunburn and skin damage, so make sure to protect yourself by wearing sunblock, wearing a hat, and avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun.
Be aware of potential hazards: Florida is also prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters, so be aware of potential hazards and make sure to stay informed of any weather alerts or other safety warnings.
Have fun and enjoy yourself: Finally, make sure to have fun and enjoy yourself while you are in Florida. Take advantage of all the activities and attractions the state has to offer, and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Traveling to Florida from Ottawa can be a great way to escape the winter weather and experience a new and exciting destination. By following these tips and guidelines, you can ensure that your trip is safe, enjoyable, and stress-free. So pack your bags, book your flights, and get ready for an unforgettable winter escape to Florida!