Do's and Dont's - Packing for a Florida Winter Getaway

Winter is cold, but Florida is hot. Be prepared for your winter vacation to the Sunshine State.
By
Anna Dominguez
Snowman in an open suitcase

It's winter time! Time for hot chocolate, snow, and getting cozy by the fire. Unless you're visiting Florida, that is. With one of the mildest winters in the United States, Florida does not follow the same winter rules as the rest of the country. Sure it can get a bit chilly, but it's nothing compared to the likes of New York, Illinois, or even our neighbor to the north, Georgia.

You hear winter and think boots, scarves, and lots and lots of coats. You hear Florida and you think beach, sun, and heat. So how does it work when these two worlds collide? Get out your suitcase and continue reading to find out the do's and don't's of packing for a Florida winter.

Close-up of a globe focused on North America

Do!  Keep in mind where in Florida you will be visiting.

Florida is a very popular tourist destination, so there are many options of what to visit on a vacation here. Different parts of the state react differently to the winter months. If you're planning a trip to the state's capital of Tallahassee you will need more "winter wear" than say a vacation to the Florida Keys. On average, temperature lows in the northern part of the state can fall anywhere from the mid 30s to the high 40s, while highs stay in the 60s or low 70s. The south has lows in the 50s and 60s, and temperature highs mostly in the 70s. Bottom line is, the further south you go, the warmer it will be. Head up north, and you'll need a little more than a light jacket.

Don't! Underestimate the sun.

Winter is usually a time to bundle up, and a time where the sun is a welcome shield from the cold, albeit a small shield sometimes. In Florida, however, the sun wins over the windchill. In the shade, you're enjoying a balmy 67 degree day. But step out into the sun, and that 67 now feels like 80. Just because you may not be hitting the beach does not mean it's time to leave the sunscreen at home. Make sure to pack it, and keep yourself safe from the sun!

Do! Pack different types of sweaters

Florida is known for being temperamental with its weather. It can go from a cloudless day, to a torrential downpour in no time. This doesn't stop during the winter season. The only difference is that the drastic changes come in the form of temperature drops. When the sun is out during the day, you may only need a light jacket, if that. The heat from the sun can completely cancel out the cold wind blowing. At times it can even feel like it is not winter at all. Come nightfall, that all changes. The ocean breeze tends to pick up at night causing temperatures to drop. For example, if you're enjoying a day at Walt Disney World in Orlando, your day can go from the high 60s to the mid to low 40s as soon as the sun is gone. Make sure to pack light jackets for the daytime, and thicker sweaters for nights. If you don't want to pack too many jackets, hoodies are your best friends during a Florida winter.

Four people jumping while wearing different types of boots

Don't! Pack heavy boots.

If you're from a northern state, big snow boots and Uggs are part of your normal winter attire. Save room in your suitcase by leaving these bad boys at home. Those options are too heavy-duty for a Florida winter, but close-toed shoes are still a must. While Florida doesn't enjoy any snowfall, the wind chill of winter is enough to make you want to bundle up. You can opt for more space-saving options like sneakers, or lighter boots if you're looking to be more fashion forward. 

Do! Remember the long sleeves and pants.

Florida isn't known for freezing winter temperatures. A long sleeve shirt can substitute a jacket during a breezy day. At times, the sun makes it too hot for a full jacket. A simple long sleeve shirt has enough material to protect yourself from potential wind chill while still being light enough to handle the heat. It is also easier to roll up your sleeves if you get too hot, rather than having to continuously take off and put on a jacket. At night, a long sleeve shirt acts as an extra layer of warmth under a jacket. A cardigan can also work in the same way.

With your upper torso protected, you can't forget about the bottom half. Make sure to pack a few pairs of pants for your vacation. Jeans work well against cold winds. You can also get away with sweatpants or joggers to beat the cold. You can also pack a pair of shorts or two for the warmer winter mornings. 

Five different types of beanies laid out on a table

Don't! Pack extra winter accessories.

Accessories like scarves, mittens, and beanies are generally unnecessary for a winter vacation in Florida. There are, however, exceptions to this suggestion. If your destination is North Florida, you may need to pack a scarf and a hat. If you are coming from a more tropical place, are not used to the cold, or simply get cold easily, you may feel more comfortable with more extensive winter wear. In general, however, jackets are the extent of necessary winter wear in Florida. 

Do! Keep an eye on weather forecasts for the dates of your trip and during your stay.

As stated before, Florida is moody when it comes to the weather. Some days can be colder than others, with temperatures even on the same day varying drastically. By keeping an eye on your weather app, you can stay a few steps ahead and ensure you make the most out of your day. Two especially important sections to take note of are wind speed and "Feels Like." Whatever current temperature is given may be misleading. The weather may state that it is 54 degrees out, however if it is a cloudless day, it might actually feel closer to 65 degrees. As for the wind, the faster the wind speed, the colder it will be that day. 

Pair of sunglasses on sand

Don't! Let the season discourage you from visiting the beach. 

You may not need to leave behind your bathing suit after all. Again, this depends on where in Florida you will be visiting. South Florida is the warmer region of the state when it comes to winter temperatures, therefore the ocean is also warmer in this part of the state. Water temperatures here during the winter months usually average around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In North Florida, it would be the wind chill keeping you from enjoying a day at the beach. Here's the thing, water temperatures do not vary as much as air temperatures. It might be 60 degrees in Gainesville and 70 degrees in West Palm Beach, whereas the beach temperatures only vary by a few degrees. If the water temperature in the south is 75 degrees, the northern beaches will only be 2-5 degrees cooler. Your beach outing depends on how you personally react to the cold. 

This list of dos and don'ts will keep your luggage light and make sure you don't overpack. You'll be enjoying a Florida winter in no time!