I was born in Florida, as was my mother before me, and watching unsuspecting tourists bumble through their family vacations entertained me throughout my childhood. Florida is a beautiful place. If you do it right, you can have the vacation of a lifetime. If you do it wrong, you can end up in the hospital. Follow these essential tips to enjoy the vacation you've always dreamed of.
1. Check the weather before you go.
One of the dumbest things you can do is pack your suitcase full of shorts and tank tops and nothing else. Florida may be the Sunshine State, but it actually rains here about half the year. Bring an umbrella! And yes, it does get cold sometimes. Sure, to me cold means 65 degrees, but that's still cold enough for a sweater! Besides, even if you come in the summer, Walmart is always freezing.
2. Bring sunscreen, and use it.
I really have no idea what people are thinking when, on a sunny day, they head out to the beach with their small innocent children and skimpy clothing and do absolutely nothing to protect their skin from the sun. This is more than stupid - it's dangerous. I once met a kid from New Jersey who had gotten first-degree burns from one too many days on the beach. I know sunscreen smells funny, but it's better to put it on than spend your vacation in the ER.
3. Palm trees are not exciting.
It doesn't provide shade. You can't climb it. It's spiky. It doesn't have fruit, or if it's a coconut one, the fruit is more likely to hit you upside the head than provide you with sustenance. Get over it.
4. If we say hello, say it back.
I get that northerners have this thing where they don't like to have casual interactions with strangers. In Florida, we're a lot more friendly. Please don't ignore us when we greet you on the street.
5. Mosquito repellent.
Once upon a time, long before the condos and ice cream stores, Florida was a swamp. And all the little critters that once lived here are still around, trying to suck your blood. If you don't want to come home itchy, use mosquito repellent and close your windows at night.
6. Check pools for reptiles before you jump in.
This one is a basic that every Floridian knows. Again, Florida was a swamp once. Alligators and snakes still live here, sometimes in your backyard swimming pool. If you do spot something dangerous, don't feed it. The Alligator Hotline is 866-392-4286.
7. Slow down for the retirement community.
Whether it's on the roads or in line at the grocery store, more likely than not there is an old lady in front of you taking her time. Take a deep breath and slooooow dooooown. You're on vacation, right? Relax and enjoy the Florida sights at 20 miles-per-hour for a few blocks. You never know, you might end up retiring here too.
And that's it. Sit back, grab your Pina Colada, and enjoy your vacation.