Florida Travel Hacks from a Guidebook Author

Melinda Crow

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3fsxaO_0ZJuqHT800Photo by Jorge Vasconez on Unsplash

Go left

People tend to circulate to the right in zoos, theme parks, grocery stores, parking lots. If left is allowed, going there essentially allows you to cut the line. And trust me, traveling in Florida involves lots of lines.

But learning to go left is more than just moving in a different direction physically; what if you start moving opposite the crowd in all of your travel planning? Going left means traveling in the off-season or walking when everyone else gets on a tour bus.

Food and gear are more important than clothes

Clothes are the last thing I worry about when I pack-- especially in Florida. Gear needed for the trip gets first dibs on precious luggage space and weight. Food comes next. And yes, I take food with me almost everywhere I travel. After a long day working or playing, sometimes you just want familiar tastes. I've actually taken frozen steaks in my luggage to six foreign countries. Did you know that Taco Bell burritos freeze well and can be warmed under the windshield of your car? This leads us to controversial tip number three.

Give up gourmet food

This makes me a heretic, I know. You travel to experience new things and if your ideal trip revolves around culinary adventure, go for it. I would rather plan a nice dinner out somewhere close to home than to feel I must include one in every trip. That doesn't mean I don't eat well. Shopping for basics like eggs, bread, and milk have provided some of my fondest travel memories. Trust me, I eat.

The best plan in Florida is to replace expensive gourmet meals out with out-of-the-way local eateries, including street food.

Dress the part

Take only clothes designed for the activity you plan for the trip. I used to think specialty clothing was over-priced and over-hyped. Today, I wouldn't dream of traveling without clothes designed specifically for the elements I will face. Spend the money and be comfortable.

Stay packed

Packing is such a hassle right before a trip, so I pack for the next trip at the end of the current one. Here’s the drill:

  • Every type of travel (camping, road trip, airline) has a designated bag or suitcase. Gear is stored in that travel bag. Scuba gear is the exception to this rule. It's never stored smashed in suitcases.
  • Clothes get washed upon return from a trip, then put back into the appropriate bag. I can do this because the clothes I travel with are not my everyday clothes. I even have multiple swimsuits so that the scuba bag has one, the boat bag has one, and the camping bag has one.
  • One "ditty bag" contains all toiletries. It gets replenished and stored in the bathroom at the end of each trip. I never have to worry about packing a toothbrush or hair clips. As long as I don’t forget to pack the ditty bag, I'm golden.
  • A first aid kit that covers everything from upset tummies to bug bites is stored next to the ditty bag in the bathroom cabinet. This is for travel purposes only, that way I know it's always stocked and ready to be dropped into the appropriate suitcase.

Plan every turn, then expect to deviate

Vagabond-style travel freaks me out. If you're the laid-back type and nothing gets under your skin then have at it. The rest of us will find comfort in knowing that our Plan A is backed up by Plan B. At the very least I like knowing where each day's journey will end and where I will most likely sleep for the night. I always have an alternate route and substitute sleeping arrangements, because, in Florida, you simply cannot trust that there will always be a room available when you arrive.

Research, research, research

This is how I accomplish the aforementioned plan. I use the phone, the Internet, paper maps, first-hand accounts from fellow travelers, and gasp, other people's guidebooks.

Travel for a purpose

Find something that you enjoy and build your trips around that. Whether your thing is Ferris wheels, art museums, race cars, or caves, take trips around it and you will find yourself not only going more but enjoying every step of the process more.

Take notes and pictures

Travel like you will never be in that place again. Capture it in every way possible, photos, videos, scribbled notes, even sound recordings, but never forget to put the technology away from time to time and just experience what you came for. And at the end of each day write something about your adventures, because you may truly never experience them again.

Repeat often

If you find a place that you enjoy, go back. Sometimes the need to explore new places keeps us from enjoying places we've been before, or even the place where we are at the moment. That whole bucket list thing is fun, but why not build your list while you enjoy the sunset across that beautiful lake you discovered last spring? There are people who have vacationed in the same hotel every year in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea for generations.

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Waco, TX
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