During the winter, a lot of “snowbirds” from up north come down to Florida to get away from the cold temperatures, and during the summer, a lot of tourists come down here to go to Disney World and the various beaches. But, it doesn’t really mater if you’re visiting The Sunshine State as a snowbird ,or as a tourist, because what you pack in your suitcase will be the same year-round, give or take a sweatshirt or two.
The style of locals changes slightly in each city, but overall, Floridians have a very casual, laid-back, style that suits our climate. Although, because it’s such a well-known tourist destination, there’s a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about what Florida is actually like, and how we dress. It’s always easy to point out who the tourists are too, because they are either a walking stereotype, or just wearing everything you shouldn’t wear.
It can be hard packing for a trip to a place you’ve never been to or know little about, but I feel like a lot of the obvious outsiders underestimate just how hot, humid, and unpredictable it actually gets here, and as a result they aren’t fully prepared and stick out like a sore thumb.
Standing out isn’t so bad, but when you’re miserable at “The Happiest Place On Earth” because Florida wasn’t what you expected, it takes away from what is supposed to be a fun getaway.
As an Orlando local, I’ve mastered the do’s and don’ts of Florida’s theme parks, beaches, and living in general, so I’m giving you a style survival guide to help you pack correctly and comfortably for your vacation in The Sunshine State.
Keep it Light & Loose
As a rule of thumb, stick to clothing that is lightweight. You’ll be glad you did when you find yourself starting to sweat just by driving down I-Drive with the windows rolled down, the humidity is no joke!
Since we can’t control the heat index, we have no choice but to adapt to it by wearing pieces that are lightweight, as mentioned above, thin, and loose. Garments with these characteristics will help you feel cooler, and they won’t stick to your skin when you really start to feel the sun.
To reduce the risk of sweat stains, steer clear of fabrics that are super moisture absorbent, like cotton. Moisture absorbing fabrics do exactly that: absorb moisture. So even if you towel off really well, a good chunk of your body’s perspiration has already sunk into your clothing, eventually leading to the infamous dark splotches.
You should also keep in mind that black and other dark colors absorb heat, so if your outfit choices so far are starting to look a lot like Wednesday Addams’, try swapping a few deep blues and greens for some pastel shades.
Lighter colors do help you stay cool when you’re going to be exposed to the sun for several hours at a time, but at the same time, sweat is a lot more visible on them. If you aren’t one of the lucky ones that hardly ever sweats through clothing, you might want to pay closer attention to the color/fabric combo of the items you plan on bringing.
You’ll have very limited options if you try to limit your search to things that are thin, loose, lightweight, lightly colored, AND not 100% cotton, so don’t stress about not being able to find things that meet all, or any, of this criteria. The key is to pick and choose filters logically. For example, you can pair that heavier t-shirt with lighter shorts, or just look for it in a lighter color instead.
I know that’s a lot of information to remember, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to decide what to pack and what to leave behind, these next few photos actually taken at Walt Disney World in 2012 might be able to help.
Here, you can see me smiling in front of a dinosaur statue at Animal Kingdom while sporting a red tank and jean shorts.
You can’t tell, but that red shirt was a very thin cotton and had a few large oval cutouts in the back, making it extra breezy. I remember it so well because it was one of my favorites, and I’m pretty sure I had to get rid of it because it started getting too thin.
In this snapshot with the stars of Toy Story, I’m wearing a similar pair of denim shorts with what I referred to as my “Charlie Brown shirt.”
Like with the red tank, this top also has some unpictured features. It’s almost completely sheer, and has an open back, and it was really refreshing on my skin whenever a gust of wind came along.
Next to me, my sister is also wearing denim shorts, but with a navy Captain America tee, which is fine because it’s pretty big on her and she’s not wearing it with pants.
I specifically remember this being taken at the end of the day shortly before we left, so take that as you will.
They may be a little outdated, but these outfits are still great examples of casual Florida summer wear. So even if you aren’t headed to Disney World during your stay, you can still get an idea of what you might see locals wearing around town.
Cold = 65 degrees
This might come as a surprise, but some Florida nights actually get kind of chilly, even if it felt like an oven outside just hours beforehand. Then again, Floridians get all bundled up as soon as the temperature falls below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which apparently, is considered warm to a lot of people. If you happen to be one of those people, then you’ll be just fine during those “chilly” Florida nights.
But either way, unless you’re running a marathon, you aren’t going to sweat nearly as much at dusk, making it the perfect occasion to put on the body con dress that would’ve made you melt if you wore it while the sun was still strong.
A lot of things become suitable to wear after the sun goes down, but there’s one particular type of garment that I find perfect for evening activities: a maxi dress. Maxi dresses are a classic spring/summer style, and their floor length hemlines will allow you to enjoy a cool breeze without getting goosebumps on your legs.
It’s always easy to slip a cardigan on and off when you want to warm your arms up, but slipping sweatpants over shorts is a little more of a hassle. You’ll either have to stop in your tracks to pull them over both feet, or if already sitting, choose between finding the nearest restroom or getting stared at by strangers for a few seconds. However, you’ll be able to quickly put on a sweater without stopping or drawing attention to yourself.
Maxi dress season is just beginning, so if this sounds like something you need on your vaycay, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a few at your local mall. Every year, there’s a variety of colors, styles, and prints, but I tend to lean toward the dresses that have a bohemian chic feel, like this one with a blue and white tribal pattern from a boutique called Forema.
I jazzed it up a little with a black sun hat, but if I wanted to, I could effortlesly transition to a night look by replacing the hat with a nice necklace and tying my hair up. That trick is really useful if you aren’t going to have much downtime between activities, or your hotel room is out of the way from your next destination.
While you’re out shopping for the perfect swimsuit to wear on your vacation, you should also consider looking for the perfect cover-up, if you don’t already have one. The so called “perfect” cover up, for me at least, is one that is loose, lightweight, and can easily be taken on and off.
When you get to your outdoor destination, you aren’t going to want to be wiggling out of jeans or pulling off multiple layers. If you’re standing on sand, you’ll likely kick up a bunch of it onto your clothes and other belongings while pulling them off.
Getting a little bit of sand on your stuff is inevitable, but it’s harder to shake off the grains on thicker fabrics like denim and cotton, and it’s even worse if they get wet, because the sand sticks and those types of materials get a lot heavier if drenched in water.
Wearing sheer, mesh, or polyester garments over your bathing suit will save you the trouble of having to care for smelly, sandy clothing when you go back to your temporary residence at the end of the day. Small particles easily glide off these fabrics because the surface is smooth, and they tend to be thin and lightweight which allows them to dry a lot faster than denim.
Rompers are a great choice to wear because they’re one piece that’s easy to slip on and off, and you won’t have to worry about messing up your hair when changing back and forth. I am so obsessed with this pineapple romper from Francesca’s for mainly three reasons: one, because pineapples are my all-time favorite fruit, two, because it’s both so easy to get in and out of and super comfortable, and three, because it’s 100% polyester which makes it breezy, lightweight, and easy to shake sand and other dirt off like I just mentioned.
I love a cute designer handbag just as much as the next girl, but I would never take my blue leather Michael Kors bag to the beach with me.
I could always clean out any sand that gets inside, but even if I decided to take the time to do that, there’s still a pretty good chance that the leather will crack, fade, or get a few unwanted splotches from sun or water damage.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to pay a couple hundred dollars for a purse there’s no way I’m going to risk ruining it. Plus, you’re probably going to end up carrying a few different bags to fit everything you need, so you’re better off bringing a big tote that isn’t affected by the outdoors and has space all of your belongings.
Bags that are constructed of canvas, mesh, straw and woven materials are going to be your best bet when looking for something to carry your towel, sunscreen, and snacks. There’s a wide selection of shapes and sizes, but when browsing, look for something a little bigger than you think you’ll need so that unexpected finds or purchases are accounted for.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t bring a designer bag to the beach, just not one that isn’t made for the beach. A lot of Vera Bradley bags make good options because they’re soft and spacious, but the color is suspectible to fading in the sun. Lilly Pulitzer, Tory Burch, and even Michael Kors make some good beach totes too, it just depends on what you’re looking for.
If you want to possibly save time and money, check to see if your local Victoria’s Secret is giving any away as a promotion. VS often has deals where if you spend a certain amount you’ll get a free tote, and I’ve found that they are perfect to bring to the beach.
To kill two birds with one stone, you can meet the minimum purchase requirement for the free tote by buying another summer vacation essential, like a swimsuit, and then you’ll have one less thing to worry about. And if you do happen to come across a giveaway, but the nearest Victoria’s Secret store isn’t participating, or ran out, usually you can still snag the freebie by ordering online.
You should always pack at least one pair of sandals when traveling to Florida, even if you’re coming for Christmas. Open-toed shoes and flip flops are extremely common in any given month, and while our closets do have their share of fuzzy boots, the number of days the weather requires them can be counted on my hand (the number of days we actually wear them is a different story).
In other states, or countries, sandals might be considered inappropriate to wear out to dinner, but at most steakhouses throughout The Sunshine State, these beaded thong sandals from DSW would be completely normal, and just as normal in the mall food court.
Even though I love these shoes and they match a lot of my bathing suits, I wouldn’t want to wear them on the actual beach. Treading through thick sand will easily wear them out, and the buckle strap across the heel makes them a hassle to take them on and off quickly. I’ve found that plain, backless flip-flops made of foam or plastic, such as these Tommy Hilfiger ones, are the best thing to wear when heading down closer to the water.
Shaking off sand and dirt is easier with shoes like this, and you won’t have layers of fabric or embellishments peeling off. Also, this type of shoe doesn’t usually have a lot of detail, so you won’t be finding little particles of sand between the cracks days later.
If you wanted to be on the really safe side, you could buy a pair of five dollar flip flops to use just for the beach, so if one were to get lost in the ocean, it wouldn’t be too upsetting. Things get dropped in the ocean A LOT, and once the next wave comes, getting it back is pretty much a lost cause.
Definitely pack both types of sandals, and even have the dressier pair handy in your beach bag in case you decide to eat dinner or do some shopping at one of the many vendors that can be found along the roads right outside the beach entrances.
It’s NOT Always Sunny
For a state nicknamed The Sunshine State, Florida sure does have some unpredictable weather.
One minute it’s a typical warm sunny day, and the next minute there’s some serious rain fall. And usually, if it starts raining out of nowhere like that, the sun will be out again in ten minutes, max. If the weather is really crazy, you’ll be able to look up and see one half of the sky as dark as night and the other half will be as bright as day, it really makes you wonder sometimes.
A sudden cloudy sky may be aesthetically pleasing, but the last thing you want is to walk out of a building and be suprised by a downpour. If you have an umbrella on you at all times during your stay, you can avoid having to choose between staying dry at your current location until it clears up or getting soaked by making a run for it. I go as far as keeping one in my car along with one in my bag so I have a backup if I happen to forget it when I’m changing purses.
Over the years, umbrellas have become much more stylish than a simple black. This pink umbrella, with “Paris” written on it in cursive, is always in my school bag so that I’m prepared and stylish when I come across some unexpected rain. It’s also a pretty good feeling knowing that it will be rare to come across the same one, because I actually did find it in Paris, France on a school trip a few years ago.
Unfortunately, it’s gotten a little bent while trying to fight heavy winds and being opened and closed constantly, so if you’re planning on being here for a few months or visiting frequently, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest a quality umbrella, like my dad’s red and blue Nautica one.
I know this was a lot to read, so I’m going to keep this last part short by hoping you feel more prepared for a trip to Florida, and wishing every single babe a fun-filled Spring Break/Summer Vacation!