Travel logistics

Although many general suggestions for foreign travelers visiting the US have been mentioned in a section above, Florida deserves some special comment.   Florida receives very large numbers of both foreign and national tourists – far in excess to most other states.  And Florida’s relatively unique geography and climate deserves a separate discussion.

Most foreign visitors will arrive in Miami or Ft Lauderdale (Gold coast beaches, city life etc) or Orlando (Disneyworld).  However there are many other locations with smaller airports where renting a vehicle and avoiding city traffic at the outset of your travels is feasible.  For example, if our focus is South Florida, we like to travel to the Southwest Florida International Airport (SFIA, near Ft Myers) as it has only 20% of the traffic of Miami.   And yet smaller airports like Gainsville, Tallahassee, or Melbourne have only 10% (or less) of the traffic that the SFIA airport has.  All of these smaller airports can be reached by a connecting flight from Miami or Atlanta.

As with almost every other US travel destination, a rental vehicle is an essntial first step after arriving on your flight (assuming you don’t drive from somewhere else in the US).  Most of Florida has good paved roads, with very few locations requiring high clearance or 4×4 vehicles.  IF you know you will be exploring the National Forests of central or Northern Florida and you know lots of your time will be spent on forest roads (such can be very sandy in central Florida) then you might consider a non-standrad vehicle.  However, most standard vehicles will be fine under the great majority of conditions.

Climate

The climate varies considerably between north and south Florida, though in the summer months it is uniformly hot and humid.  Why?  Because Florida is surrounded by a warm ocean.  For monthly mean sea surface temperatures over the western Atlantic see here. Although the ocean on the Gulf of Mexico side is relatively shallow (and cools considerably near he shore in winter) it is deep enough to maintain its temperature day-and-night in the summer months.  Steady evaporation off this water, and importation of high humidity air from the south and southeast on most summer days, produces the continuous high dewpoint temperatures that makes most days uncomfortable outdoors.

Away from summer, there is a noticeable seasonal variation in temperature , mostly north to south.  A few climate histograms demonstrate this.

 

The rainfall over florida does have an interesting geographical and diurnal pattern that has been known, and mostly understood, for many years.  During the summer, the land heats up and generates a sea-breeze.  This produces sufficient rising motion to initiate thunderstorms inland from both coasts.  Although these storms can them move in different directions depending on the conditions of the day, the net result is a c rainfall climatology that has the maximum rainfall inland in bands parallel to both coasts.  The actual coastal regions are relatively cloud-free on many summer days, while storms are occurring inland 10-20 miles or more.

Although Florida is surrounded by relatively warm water even in the winter, it is possible to have freezing temperatures in central florida, when winds are from the north and are not moderated by flowing over the warm water.  In northern Florida freezing occurs every winter, but near Miami (inland) 32F temperatures might occur once every few decades.  It has never frozen in Key West (lowest recorded temperature was near 41˚F) or the lower Keys, due to the warm water surrounding the islands.

Accommodations

Hotels and motels can be fully booked in high season, especially…