Part of the Florida for Grown Ups Guide.
By now you’ve probably gathered that Florida is one of my favourite holiday destinations and it’s a place I know quite well now, having been going every year for the past ten!
What can I say? We like what we like.
So, since I have all that experience, I decided to pull it all together into the ‘bumper blog’. I hope it’s been useful to you and if you want to know even more, get in touch.
So now, five final tips as a round up.
Tip No 1: Stay in a villa and stay on Southern Dunes.
In case I didn’t make it clear when discussing accommodation previously, you really won’t be disappointed with a villa on Southern Dunes Golf and Country Club in Haines City. Just 20 or so minutes South of Disney (and an hour west to Tampa), we think it’s a much better option for top notch accommodation at a fraction of the price than you’ll pay at the large resorts. We have tried villas in Davenport too, but they are not nearly as nice as Southern Dunes. If I urge you to do one thing, it’s to check this out first.
Tip No 2: Price up flying into Miami; we have found it to be cheaper.
As I’ve already said, we find that flying into Miami is a cheaper option than flying into central Orlando. There are probably a few things to note here: we tend to go later in the year (prices may differ during other months), we fly from Manchester, UK (other airports may run better deals into Orlando or Sanford), we hire a car (this route is no good for those staying in Orlando without transport as it’s a good 3-4 hour journey North) – and lastly, it usually means a short stop over somewhere. But, if none of that bothers you, good savings can be made. Also, it’s nice to sample the delights of Miami too! So be sure to think beyond Orlando when pricing up your flights.
You can also read my airline and airport review here.
Tip No 3: Don’t get ripped off by your hire car company.
It’s the same story everywhere you go; hire car companies will always try and sell you add-ons that you don’t need. But here’s what you do need:
- Insurance for break downs etc; the basic package will do and this is usually purchased automatically when buying your rental. Additional extras like lost keys and windscreens are usually extortionate – so if you think you want this, factor this into your price compassions. Personally, we rarely bother.
- If you plan to drive a lot, do purchase a Sun Pass which will allow you to drive straight through the toll roads, rather than scrabble about for change. The toll fees will simply get added to your account at the end.
- It’s always a good idea to put two of you down as the driver, especially if you’re going long distances or you take turns to drive on a night out. The right hire companies shouldn’t charge you any extra for this, provided you both live at the same address and are over 25.
- Get a car with a sat nav in it if you can; it helps more than you can imagine!
- Lastly, never drive the car away without giving it a thorough check over. I’m not wholly convinced the hire companies do this particularly well themselves. If there’s any scratches and dents that aren’t on the paperwork, take photos and make it known to the company. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a replacement if there’s anything wrong with the car – either at the start or during the holiday.
Tip No 4: Don’t assume Florida is as cheap as it used to be.
I remember the days fondly when you could go to Florida and eat, drink and shop to your hearts content, smug in the knowledge that everything was at least half the price as it was back home in the UK.
Sad to say, but the days of a $1.90 to £1 currency conversion are firmly in the dim and distant past. In fact, in 2019 when we last went, it was around $1.22 – and we definitely noticed it. Things that definitely do remain cheaper in Florida include bottles of wine in the supermarket, steak, seafood and petrol. Things you’ll probably find cheaper back home include sun cream and toiletries, English designer clothing (think Ted Baker and Karen Millen) and trainers.
Tip No 5: Tip in restaurants.
If you get good service – and you likely will – make sure that your server gets a tip. Usually 10 – 15% is acceptable.
Of course it’s not compulsory, but spare a thought for that friendly waiter/ waitress in your favourite diner who is probably only earning $3 – $5 an hour (if they are lucky). Tips subsidise their salary, unlike over here in the UK where we have ‘minimum wage’ in place. And yes, they are also taxed on their tips.
If there’s one thing you can say about Floridians, it’s that they have such a cheery way about them and they want to treat you well – so it’s only fair we treat them well in return. So, be sure to factor tipping into your holiday budget.