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Packing for Your Florida Vacation

Florida vacation weather can be unpredictable at times, and packing for your vacation can mean anything from bathing suits to warm coats. What to wear? What to bring? What to leave home so you can buy a new one in Florida? (I didn't put any thoughts in your mind now, did I?)

But look at it this way -- you're coming to visit paradise, so don't you want to bring a little back with you? (Of course you do...)

So, what to pack for your Florida vacation? Let's check out what you may need to bring by the months.

Summer, Winter and In-Between

Florida is a pretty long state, and its climate varies quite a bit. How about I go month by month (more or less) and give you a rundown of what you can probably expect as far as weather goes. Temperatures are Fahrenheit at the moment.

  • January: Brrr! January is probably the coldest month for us here in the Sunshine State. We're in the dry season, so you likely won't see any rain, but you may have cloudy days.
    • In the Panhandle and North Florida you might see snow flurries, but most likely just some days in the 40's, nights in the low 30's to upper 20's. Chilly, but not unbearably so since the really cold snaps usually don't last for more than a few days at a time. I'd pack sweaters and sweatshirts, with jeans and/or other long pants. You might consider a warm jacket if you plan to be out and about more than inside.Central Florida and Spacecoast can get a little nippy too. I lived in Orlando for many, many years and we could count on frosts and freezes in the winter. Of course we also had Christmas Days where we wore shorts - go figure. Plan on some sweaters/sweatshirts, long pants/jeans, a medium jacket. Also pack a few warmer-weather clothes as well, because you just never know. Some cotton shirts/blouses, lightweight pants, light sweater or jacket. On the average, figure days in the 50's and 60's's, nights in the 40's. Packing with the idea of possibly dressing in layers is an excellent idea.The Gulf Coast is much the same as Central Florida, mostly quite cool but with the possibility of some more temperate days thrown in, especially Fort Meyers and points south.South Florida usually has pretty spectacular weather about this time of year -- days in the low 70's, nights in the 50's and 60's. Pack a few sweaters and/or sweatshirts, some long pants too -- we do have days where the nights get down into the 30's! But think about also including some cotton shirts and maybe some shorts (if you get lucky).
    • The Florida Keys is lovely. A sweater or sweatshirt would be a good idea because with the breeze it can get chilly. But do pack some lighter weight clothes if the Keys is your destination.

    February: Can still be cold, but temperatures are moderating somewhat. Still in the dry season, you probably won't see rain but will probably have some cloudy days here and there.
    • In the Panhandle and North Florida you still want to have some sweaters/sweatshirts, but you'll probably have a few days of more moderate temperatures, so do pack some cotton shirts and lightweight pants, too. Even if the days are nice, the nights can get chilly.Central Florida and Spacecoast are cool to moderate in temperature. You'll need at least 1 sweater or medium jacket, but otherwise pack an assortment of long and short sleeved shirts. Once again, at least 1 pair of medium-weight pants and the rest lighter weight.Once again the Gulf Coast is much the same as Central Florida, mostly cool but with some warmer days thrown in. I'd say that the average is in upper 60's to about 70 for the day, 50's at night.South Florida still has that weather people come to Florida for. Days in the 70's, nights in the mid 50's, blue skies and bright sunshine are the norm. It is still winter though, so do include a nice warm sweater/sweatshirt/jacket because we do sometimes get days in the 50's, nights in the 40's.
    • The Florida Keys is gorgeous once again. You still want a light sweater or jacket, mainly because of the ocean breezes.

  • March & April: Warming up, nice pretty much all over the state. Still dry, but you may run into a shower here or there. If you do, it likely won't last long.
    • In the Panhandle and North Florida you finally get to don those shorts and if you are really brave, a bathing suit. Cotton shirts and pants, some shorts....but don't forget a sweater/jacket. Weather can be changeable.Central Florida and Spacecoast has some nice weather. Warmer than the Panhandle and North Florida, but still some cool days and nights thrown in here and there.Once again the Gulf Coast is much the same as Central Florida, and you can pack a bathing suit with a little more confidence. Don't forget the now-infamous sweater or jacket!South Florida is starting to warm up and you will be wearing lighter-weight clothes. Figure on days in the 70's, nights in the 60's with 50's on occasion. Yes, bring the sweater/jacket along for the ride because you never know.
    • The Florida Keys are getting some more picture-postcard days. Still, one time I was in the Keys in April and I was scrambling to find a sweater or sweatshirt somewhere, anywhere! So pack one because you might not be able to find one.

  • May: Oh-oh, starting to get pretty warm now, and the humidity is rising. The wet season is just around the corner so you just may want to pack a folding umbrella or poncho. And I know you think you won't need a sweater or jacket, but do pack a light one -- some establishments really crank up the air conditioning and it can get chilly inside!
    • All over Florida, think cotton shirts, t-shirts, shorts, bathing suits.

  • June/July/August: H-O-T is the rule. W-E-T is another -- do bring a travel umbrella or poncho because it's a pretty sure bet that you will need one at some point. Yes, the light sweater/jacket rule still applies, but maybe not quite as much -- the heat from the outside counteracts it somewhat.
    • All over Florida, think cool fabrics like cotton and seersucker. Bathing suits, shorts, sundress. Expect temperatures in the upper 80's to upper 90's with humidity above 85%. Thundershowers come and go, usually pretty quickly, but the ground can quite literally steam afterwards on really hot days. Nights aren't much better, with the temperatures in the mid to upper 70's and high humidity.

  • September & October: The weather starts varying across the state somewhat now. It's usually still rather damp, but towards the end of October it's drying out some. Pack a travel umbrella and/or poncho -- you'll probably need it at some point or another.
    • In the Panhandle and North Florida you are going to begin to cool down. Nights start edging downwards to the 60's - ahhh! Weather starts getting nice again as September ends and think about the sweater/jacket again -- you just might end up needing one at night.Central Florida and Spacecoast is still pretty warm, and it's not unusual for it to seem like full summer up into the middle of October. The humidity starts dropping though and if your travel plans call for a late October Florida visit, pack the sweater/jacket.Yes, the Gulf Coast is much the same as Central Florida. Maybe a touch more humidity though.South Florida is still pretty warm, with days in the 80's and the humidity still up there. You probably won't quite need that sweater/jacket yet, but if you do, you'll probably be able to find one in a store.
    • The Florida Keys are warm still, but the breezes help make it feel cooler.

  • November & December: The cold fronts start marching through the state, and the humidity starts dropping. Yes, you will need that sweater/jacket during some days and on many nights. You may run into cloudy weather, but any showers will likely be brief.
    • In the Panhandle and North Florida the weather is pleasantly chilly. The days have a nip to them, and some may be downright cold, but the sun shines much of the time. Sweaters/jackets, long pants -- and think layers, because you may need to peel off some during the day.Central Florida and Spacecoast is getting cool, and sometimes cold. I remember one Christmas while I was in Orlando when the temperature went down into the teens. That's more the exception, but you may get nights in the upper 30's. Days will average out in the 60's.The Gulf Coast is much the same as Central Florida except in the Nature Coast area, where it's more like the Florida Panhandle.South Florida is thankful because it is finally starting to cool down! The humidity drops and the days feel nice once again. Daytime temperatures can range from upper 50's to mid 70's, nights in the 50's and 60's. Maybe with a few 40's thrown in here and there.
    • The Florida Keys are the Florida keys -- delightful. Do pack that sweater/jacket though.

What Else Will You Need?

In the summertime bring or buy two very necessary items -- sunscreen and bug spray. As we sometimes like to say, the mosquito is our state bird (it's really not, but it sure seems that way at times). If you are camping, bring heavy-duty bug repellant (I am not kidding -- although I hate to use it, get something with DEET or you will be miserable).

What else? Yourself, of course! And if you forget something, you can probably find it down here (except for maybe a sweatshirt in the Keys in April). So keep a little extra room in the bag when you pack, so you can bring something from the Sunshine State back with you.

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