How To Survive a Florida Beach Vacation

by dustytoes

With a little care taken, your trip to Florida and the beaches can be a happy memory.

I lived in central Florida for many years and I've spent many hours on the various beaches in that state. We usually took day trips with the kids, but we've also rented condos on the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
Spending time in and on the water is the best way to enjoy the Sunshine State but it's a different world compared to where most of the vacationers and tourists live. After all, the point of a vacation is to spend time doing something that you don't usually get to do.
Besides beaches, the guaranteed sunshine is appealing to vacationers, and you will definitely have sunny days in Florida. If you are planning a first time visit, or are interested in the suggestions from a former Floridian, read on.
Not all beaches are the same, and that sunshine can actually be dangerous if you are unprepared.

Driving on the Beach

A hotel located on a drive-on beach will include lots of daytime traffic.

When you choose a hotel on the east coast, be aware that some beaches allow traffic during the daytime.  The drive-on beaches have two-way lanes of very slow moving traffic all day long.  People pay at a little booth at various beach entrances and then are free to drive up and down the beach at will.  Usually they simply find a spot and park to enjoy their time.  Some people cruise the beach.  At busy times, the beach will be full of people and cars all day long.

When you plan your beach vacation check to see if your condo or hotel is located on a beach with traffic.  Cars will be allowed on the beach only during the daytime hours and if that doesn't bother you, then you needn't worry when booking a vacation.  All traffic must obey the very low speed limit, but people with young children may not like the idea of sharing the beach with cars.

On the east coast (Atlantic side) famous Daytona Beach and farther south, New Smyrna Beach allow beach traffic.  Generally people will drive on with the intention of parking along the dune area and then walk cross the lanes of traffic to set up chairs and umbrellas near the water.  If it's high tide there will be very little space between you and the moving vehicles.

Beaches that don't allow driving tend to be less crowded.  

Beach Driving Video

It's speeded up, but you get the idea of what driving on the beach in Florida is like.

Have you ever driven your car onto a Florida beach?

Rent Boogie Boards, Bicycles and Umbrellas From The Vendors

Spending time on the beach doesn't mean you have to lounge in a chair.

One of the advantages of vacationing on a drive-on beach, is being close to the beach vendors.  Early in the morning the venders will drive their trucks and trailers onto the beach and set up shop for the day.  

They sell and rent just about everything you could want to have fun at the beach.  Some of them sell food and drinks.  Some rent out bicycles, trikes, and scooters.  Many rent boogie boards (these are loads of fun) and skim boards and big umbrellas (the vendors will set up the umbrella for you).

You can find just about anything you need at one of the many vendor location up and down the beaches where traffic is allowed.  You may have to walk a bit to find what you're looking for, but fun in the sand and water is what they offer.


Waterproof Storage Case for the Beach

You can't take your belongings into the ocean, so you'll need someplace to store your valuables and keys. Both products get high scores and great reviews at Amazon.
SGM (TM) Waterproof Pouch with Waist ...Universal Waterproof Case, JOTO Cell ...

Fun In The Sun In The Sunshine State

Don't let the sun turn your trip into a nightmare.

Florida postcard vintageIt's so exciting when vacation time draws close.  Finally, after all those long dreary months of shoveling snow and lugging firewood you are heading to Florida. It's time to relax and play on the beaches, soak in the sunshine, and get a great tan.

If you've been there before, you'll have a good idea of what to expect, but the first time travelers may appreciate some advice and the most important advice I can give you is to respect the sun.

 It is sunny all the time in Florida and except for the afternoon thunderstorms, there is little reprieve. The mid-day sun is the worst, as you might guess, and I advise you to avoid being outdoors during that time of day.  Visit one of the many attractions or shops at high noon and plan to have fun on the beach either early in the day or later in the evening.  It will still be warm, or more likely hot, and it will still be sunny and enjoyable, but you won't be as likely to get a horrible sunburn.

Have you ever basked too long in the sun on vacation?

How bad was your sunburn?

Soaking up the rays

Check the expiration date on that sunscreen you purchase!
Getting a Tan or a Burn?
Getting a Tan or a Burn?

You Must Respect the Florida Sun

If you live in a northern climate, please understand that the tropical sun is a scorcher.

Okay, I am obsessing about the sun, but I found when I lived in Florida, that often visitors to the state did not understand how dangerous the sun can be.

In a tropical location the sun is much closer to the earth and it will burn skin in no time flat.  Especially if you are very pale or have the type of skin that easily burns.  Children are especially susceptible to sunburn.  Even wearing a high number sunscreen, hours spent outdoors should be shortened.

A vacationer from the north can be spotted a mile away because their entire body is white.  I understand - you have to wear clothes year round (mostly) and even in summer the sun does not rival tropical sunshine.  

DON'T TRY TO GET A TAN ALL IN ONE DAY!  You could end up in the hospital.  Stories of sunburned tourists appear in the news all too often.

You can't live in Florida and be that white, even if you don't ever go to the beach.  It is sunny ALL THE TIME and there is no way your skin won't have some color.  


Five Things To Take To the Beach

You've arrived at your beach cottage, or condo rental, and the first thing everyone wants to do is head out to the beach. But, there are a few things you really must take with you to enjoy a few hours in the Florida sunshine.

  1. Sunscreen, newly purchased and with a high SPF (apply it BEFORE you get on the sand for best effectiveness, and re-apply after swimming and periodically throughout your time on the beach.)
  2. Sunglasses that block all the bad types of sun rays.
  3. Hats - that will cover your ears and preferably back of the neck.
  4. Beach / water shoes or flip flops - The sand will be hot away from the water and hidden objects can cut your feet.  Shoes that can be worn into the water are perfect.
  5. Bottles of water to drink (plastic only on the beach), or cash to buy something.

Great Summer Hats For Women

Most of us need a sun hat at one time or another. For fashion and practicality I have listed some of my favorite sun hats for women.

Keen Water Shoes

I own more than one pair of Keen shoes, and they are extremely comfortable.
KEEN Men's Newport H2 Sandal, Raven/B...KEEN Women's Whisper Sandal,Dark Shad...

Shoes for the Beach

Flip flops and comfortable water shoes are needed.

flip flops beach shoesFlip flops are great for summer fun.  Spending a little extra for arch support may be worth it if you plan to do a lot of walking, or if you are overweight.  It will help avoid painful plantar fasciitas.  

A good pair of water shoes is very important.  With all the shells and hidden debris on a beach, it's very possible you may step on something unseen.

On the east coast where cars drive on the beaches there can be sticky oil spots in the sand.   Fishermen may leave behind hooks, and you never know what is on the ground beneath you while in the water.  In summer, the sand at the beach is incredibly hot as well, and if you park in a paved lot and have to walk to the shoreline, forget it.  Shoes of some kind are a must.

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

A Summer Sandal with Support

Keen makes very comfortable shoes. This sandal has a toe guard and arch support. Look for light colors that won't get as hot.
KEEN Women's Bali Sandal

What else do you think is necessary to take to the beach for the day?

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Here is my suggestion.
cazort on 03/06/2013

I'm not a typical beach bum; when I go to the beach with a group of people I usually bring a notebook and a pair of binoculars, and I go around marshy areas behind the beach looking at birds, or looking out at birds in the ocean. I also like areas where there are little tidepools and lagoons, and in Florida, mangrove thickets, and I like looking for all sorts of plant and animal life that I can find.

katiem2 on 02/26/2013

I always take moisturizing lip balm, eye drops for those situations when someone gets sand, sun or wind irritation. I also take apples and carrots they give you that boost of energy during a long day of water play. I also take those little packets of drink mix you add to water, it encourages my kids to stay hydrated which is sometimes hard to do.

Sam on 02/20/2013

I use diving shoes / reef boots for swimming and walking, the danger to your feet doesn't stop when you get into the water ;-) SY

Your list is complete, I can't think of anything else.
RubyHelenRose on 02/11/2013

Haven't been to the Florida sun yet, but most of these same tips I use when I go to sunny California! I Love your pictures and wonderful ideas to spend a safe day in the Florida heat. It is so true to protect your feet. That sand gets super hot!

Florida Vacation Tips

Hurricanes, thunderstorms, lifeguards, and safety.

Hurricane wind and rainThe type of beach (drive on vs. walk on) will make the beach more or less crowded, but the size of the condo or hotel will also add to the crowds on the beach and in the pool.

Busy beach areas, including all drive on beaches, will have lifeguards, in chairs and patrolling the sand.  A less crowded beach may not have a lifeguard.

To save money invest in a cooler and pack your own snacks, food and drinks (plastic only) and take it with you for the day.  A small cooler with water, or something to drink, is the least you should do.

Always lock everything, from your door at the condo to the car at the mall.  If you live in a relatively safe area of the country or world, be advised that Florida is a tourist state and criminals will take advantage of your vacation mentality.  Believe me, this is not something Florida will advertise!  They would rather make you think that the entire state is like Disney World so you need to be smart.

If you visit in the summer, be prepared for those strong afternoon thunderstorms and plan indoor activities in the afternoons.  In fact the beach patrol will evacuate the beaches when a storm is approaching as is typical most summer days.  Mornings are the best time of day to be outside.

Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th in Florida, but the hot summer months (especially August and September) are usually the most active.  If you are evacuated, be sure to go where the authorities say.  Hurricanes are NOT fun.

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

Having Fun in Florida

A little information about the sunshine state.

Camping at Florida's Beautiful State Parks

Get some ideas for great places to stay with your camper or RV.

Vacation in a Private Houseboat Rental

Renting a houseboat is a great way to spend time viewing Florida's wildlife and waterways.

Updated: 06/15/2023, dustytoes
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Are you ready for your Florida vacation?

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paperfacets on 06/04/2014

We are thinking of going to a Florida beach next year instead of Hawaii. Thanks for the information.

paperfacets on 06/04/2014

We are thinking of going to a Florida beach next year instead of Hawaii. Thanks for the information.

CherylsArt on 05/14/2013

Maybe sometime; I'd like to visit Disney World. Thanks for the weather tips.

dustytoes on 03/08/2013

I've never been to California Brenda, but I imagine the beaches are a bit different there, but also very hot in areas as you've said.

BrendaReeves on 03/08/2013

I'm a CA girl, and I do miss my sunshine. I've visited Florida before. It was in October and the hot weather had just shut off the day before. The beach was nice. I'm not much of a beach person, because the CA beaches are cold and foggy much of the time. That Pacific ocean is freezing all year long. It does get hot in the summer at the Southern CA beaches, but you usually have to wait for the fog to burn off. Like Florida, the CA sun is very intense. This is a useful article for anyone going to the beach anywhere.

dustytoes on 03/02/2013

Oh I know the feeling Georgette. I've been trying to get back to my old "home" for years now. It's good to dream about it too.

georgettejohn on 03/01/2013

Oh I am beyond ready! I love New Smyrna Beach! Took the kids there in 93 and again in 95 (but had to come home within 2 days of arriving, due to death in family back home). Always said we'd go back soon but could never seem to swing it for one reason or another. Dream vacation is to take them all back as adults with the grandson someday...Your article was so good it put me there in my mind! Which means...I will probably dream about it tonight and wake up to snow and irritability tomorrow!

dustytoes on 02/21/2013

I agree that packing way ahead of time for a vacation is very helpful for the nerves.

katiem2 on 02/21/2013

Yep and thanks to you I will be planning ahead or more importantly packing ahead, all the suncreen, lotions, aloe, extra beach towels flip flops and on and on the packing goes. I find travel prep so much more relaxing when I pack what I can way ahead which is a lot. :)K

dustytoes on 02/20/2013

It's coming Katie - Spring break! I love the Carolinas also.

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