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Do you need sunscreen, how about sunglasses - definitely not a jacket, right? Those are all questions we ask ourselves on our first trip to the Sunshine State in the winter. There's no doubt about it, if you're visiting in the off season, there are some important clothing considerations to make. While this southern state is known for its mild winters warmer than most other cities in North America, it still gets cool here -- particularly at night. So, if you are planning a vacation to the Sunshine State and need to know what to wear when visiting Florida in winter, keep reading on!
I am a firm believer that there is no better time to visit Florida than in the winter. Not only is it much more temperate, but it's also our dry season! Dry season = less humidity and threat of hurricanes. It's sort of a win/win. Plus, do I even have to mention there are generally fewer tourists during this time of year?
That being said, it's perhaps not the best time of year for everyone. People hoping to swim at the beach are a wonderful example. The mild daytime temperatures (averaging around mid-to-upper 70s) mixed with the sea breeze -- especially if you are wet -- can be uncomfortably chilling; at least this is true for the central and northern coastal regions of the state. South Florida is a whole different entity, which you should read about here.
With that in mind, if you are still committed to the idea of visiting during winter and want to be prepared by dressing and packing appropriately, here are my top recommendations.
Bring a light jacket/hoodie
You may be able to get away with wearing a tanktop and shorts comfortably during the heat of the day, but once the sun goes down you will soon be wishing you had brought an extra layer. There's no doubt about it, it gets chilly at night --even in Florida. Thankfully the problem can be remedied easily with a lightweight hoodie or jacket that's not too bulky and fits nicely in your luggage or could be simply tied around your waist.
That being said, Florida isn't typically known for its bitter cold, and if you're traveling from a place where it's already winter (or near to it), I recommend packing at least one heavier jacket too if space allows. If you pack too much clothing for Florida in the winter, not only will it be taking up space you could be using for souvenirs in your suitcase but also could be redundant if the average temperature is milder than home.
Leave the swimsuit at home (bring a wet suit if you insist on swimming)
I'm all for routines of normalcy on vacation -- such as eating the same breakfast every morning -- but swimming isn't one of them. The water is typically way too cold to swim in and you won't be able to stay long, so you may not want to even try. If you're traveling from a place where it's warm enough to swim right now, then feel free to pack that one-piece or two-piece. Otherwise, leave it behind.
If you absolutely cannot stand the thought of not swimming, consider investing in an insulated wetsuit. They aren't the most stylish thing ever, but they'll offer some added protection against the cool water and air. I had the pleasure of using one when I went to Discovery Cove in Orlando (they have to keep their water cold for the animals) and I still had goosebumps, albeit I'm sure less than what I would have had in a regular bathing suit.
Check out some affordable wetsuits here.
Sunscreen is still a must
Even though it's winter, you don't want to fry. Considering that winter is our dry season, you can expect mostly sunny days. The sun doesn't care what time of year it is, it will burn you just as bad in December as in July. Invest in a good sunscreen that will take care of your skin without leaving you looking like Mark Zuckerberg.
Don't forget the lip balm and moisturizer! Since winter in Florida is typically dry and cool, it's the perfect recipe for dry skin. Add in the sun's UV rays and windy beaches-- your skin will certainly lose moisture that you should take extra care to replace. Thankfully, you don't have to spend tons of money on a good moisturizer, I swear by the moisturizer my mom used to bring home with her from the hospital she worked at - one tube lasts me a few winter seasons!
Long pants will offer you some extra protection against the sun, wind and perhaps worst of all, the unwaveringly persistent mosquitos. Cooler days don't have much effect on these pesky bugs, plus this is probably the only time of the year when wearing long pants in Florida can be comfortably done during the day - so why not take advantage of it while you can?
You may already know that I am a huge advocate for wearing appropriate footwear, and though I understand that flip flops are a staple of the #beachlife, I would be lying if I said that your tootsies won't be the first to get cold when the warm air fades into the night.
We aren't called the Sunshine State for nothing, and while you may be in the habit of leaving sunglasses at home during winter, here, you should plan to have a pair with you everywhere you go. Sunglasses don't take up much space and are easily portable, just be careful not to sit on them when you get in your car -- I've lost so many pairs like this.
Do you have any other recommendations for winter wear in Florida? Tell me in the comments below!