If you’re traveling to Florida, let me tell you: that heat and humidity is no joke. Walking around outside is like wading through wet cotton while Superman shoots his heat vision laser eyes at you. You can literally bake cookies on your dashboard – that’s how hot it gets.
Add to that all the mosquitoes and other biting demons, and baby, you’ve got a stew going! A hot, angry, biting stew that no one wants.
If you don’t want to look like some kind of goblin trying to deal with all that, bring along the 12 items below, all recommended by long-time Floridians. We’re not sweaty, we’re just glisten-y.
1. Bug Spray
You do NOT want to get caught in the great outdoors anywhere in Florida (but especially south Florida) without bug spray. The mosquitoes will suck you dry in minutes! Not to mention those stupid no-see-ums, hellspawn sent straight from the bowels of hell to torture you with supremely itchy welts that can last for more than a week. Seriously, f*ck those guys.
If you want to make super duper sure you’re covered, and you aren’t afraid of a little cancer, get that DEET! Repel makes a 40% DEET formula that will put the smack down on any biting bugs that come near you. f you prefer less cancer, Repel also makes a DEET-free lemon, eucalyptus spray that works well. But that smell is STRONK. Don’t think you can wear this and your favorite perfume, or you’ll probably be declared a Superfund site.
If you’re flying, you may want a travel size bottle. Greenerways makes some organic bug spray that works okay. Or you can try the Cutter mosquito wipes. They smell nice and don’t leave you feeling super greasy.
That Florida sun is a harsh mistress. She will leave you roasted and toasted like it ain’t no thang. Protect yourself and bring some sunscreen. Slather it on before you go out in the morning and every time you sweat, swim or get drenched in one of Florida’s lovely torrential downpours. Basically, just bathe in the stuff all day long.
If you’re driving, do yourself a favor and get the gallon jug. Okay, your probably don’t need that much.
Spray on sunscreen is nice for avoiding greasy hands. But if you prefer a bottle that won’t spray all over everything in your suitcase, Neutrogena makes a non-greasy lotion that comes in a suitcase-safe bottle. Or if you’re prone to breakouts, try Neutrogena’s sport face. It’ll keep you zit-free, although it stings a bit if you get it in your eyes.
Tip: Don’t forget about the tops of your ears if you’ve got short hair or if you’ll be wearing your hair in a ponytail or bun. You can always spot a first-time visitor by their red, peeling ears. (So gross.)
3. After Sun Lotion
Speaking of gross peeling skin… Even if you don’t get sunburned while in Florida (lucky!), the sun, sand and salty sea can really dry your skin out. We all have our favorite lotions, but there are some designed specifically to hydrate skin that’s spent a bit too much time near the fires of hell.
Aloe has been used for hundreds (thousands? millions?) of years to treat sunburns and plain old, dried up alligator skin. It’s good stuff. If you prefer cocoa butter kisses to cold-pressed gel, try Sun Bum’s Cool Down lotion.
If you don’t want to develop skin cancer the moment you step out of the airport/car upon arriving in Florida, get a hat. Not a baseball cap, a hat with a wide brim all the way around. You best protect ya neck!
If you’re not really into keeping up appearances, Columbia makes a good sun hat with “omni-wick technology” – which basically means it won’t end up being a sweat-soaked rag lying limp atop your head. Or if you like to look a little more stylish, try a classic panama hat or a big, ol’, floppy sun hat.
Doctors have recently discovered that many people who visit Florida from the far reaches of the North (like, say, Virginia) end up with a condition called “I Can’t Fucking See Anything, It’s So Damn Bright Out Here.” This is a legit medical issue that should be taken seriously. So getcha self some sunglasses!
6. Cooling Towel
These things are so inexpensive and easy to throw in your beach bag, you might as well buy five of them. Just get it wet, throw it around your shoulders like a scarf and voila, instant cool down.
7. Loose, Lightweight Clothing
Do not show up in Florida with a suitcase full of velour tracksuits and expect to have a good time. You will literally drown in your own sweat. You don’t wanna go out like that.
Better to pack stuff like this versatile wrap dress (with lots of different patterns and colors to choose from). Throw it over your swimsuit for a cute cover-up or wear it out to a nice dinner. Either way, you’ll be looking on point. If you prefer a little more coverage and protection from the harsh Florida sun, try this three-quarter sleeve dress (again with color and pattern options). Noice.
If you’re not really the dress-wearing type, you can always rock some yoga shorts with a nice flowy top. These multi-packs are inexpensive and come with a hidden pocket big enough for, like, one key. (Still good if you’ll be carrying a purse or beach bag.) But these shorts come with a FUNCTIONAL. SIDE. POCKET. Not one of those stupid fake seams to make it look like there’s a pocket. Not a teeny tiny pocket where the only thing it can hold is a grain of rice. No, a legit pocket that you can actually fit your damn hand in.
Okay, enough ranting about the injustices of the great pocket conspiracy. Let’s look at pretty things! Loose, flowy shirts are awesome in the tropical heat of Florida because you can easily floof them out to help dry the sweat trickling from your under-boob area. Classy.
These t-shirts are soft, cute, and have lots of colors to choose from. Workout tanks are always good because they’re designed to handle profuse sweating, and a lot of them actually look halfway decent. If you’re feelin’ a little sassy, try this one.
8. Flip-flops or Sandals
Yep, we’re working from head to toe here. Sandals are great because they don’t take up much space in your luggage and they’re easy to kick off when you want to stroll along the shoreline with your hair blowing in the wind like some kind of Disney princess.
If you go to Florida and don’t go swimming or at least lay out by some sort of body of water (pool, ocean, rain puddle?), you must be some kind of vampire. Or maybe you just feel like most swimsuits only look decent on those gorgeous Instagram models who spend their days in picturesque locations doing yoga poses with names like “The Dancer” or “Mermaid” or “Might As Well Be Friggin’ Gumby.” (Not shaming any of you Heidi Klums or Gisele Bundchen’s out there. Goddess bless you beautiful creatures.)
But if you feel like Satan himself designed all swimsuits, I gotchu fam. This pinup style bikini looks hot on just about everyone, even those of us with big ol’ booties, boobies and bellies. Or try one of these sexy, yet flattering numbers.
You’ll need a cover up to go with your swimsuit. It’ll provide protection from the sun’s harsh rays when you’ve been at the beach for too long and shield you from those ocean breezes when you’re all wet and feeling a little chilly.
If you’re into the boho trend, get yourself one of these kimono style cover ups. Lots of patterns and colors to choose from. Or if you want something more like a dress, check out this casual sleeveless cover up with POCKETS. (Yes, I’m slightly obsessed with pockets.)
10. Beach Towel or Blanket
Do yourself a favor and get an oversized beach towel or blanket. You’ll have plenty of room to spread out on the sand, and you can wrap yourself up like a burrito when you’re ready to head back to your hotel.
This microfiber towel dries quickly and comes with its own little carry bag – how convenient! And if you haven’t tried Turkish towels, you best get on the boat, sistah! It’s what the 5-star resorts use. Or try one of these round mandala beach blankets if you wanna be stylin’ n’ profilin’ on the beach.
11. Books and Magazines
What could be better than slowly paging through a good book or trashy magazine while laying out on the beach? Nothing, that’s what!
One thing I like to do when traveling or planning a trip is to read books set in the location I’m visiting. There are so so so so many great books set in Florida. From classics like Their Eyes Were Watching God and To Have and Have Not, to modern tales like Continental Drift and Duma Key (Stephen King, y’all!).
Florida is known for being… how do you say…. a bit bizarre (you’ve heard the legend of Florida Man, right?). And there are some great books that, although fictional, are based on the real life ridiculousness that happens all the time in Florida. Tourist Season and Florida Roadkill are two of them, and Ninety-Two in the Shade is another, written by a dude who became known as Captain Berserko after it was published. Yeah.
If you’d rather keep it easily breezily, just grab some Us Weeklys or Oprah Magazines and toss them all in your beach tote. Wait, you don’t have a beach tote? Well, let me hook you up!
12. Beach Tote
Then throw all the junk from this list in there and you’ll be ready to go!