Florida travel safety guide: Things you should know before visiting

The state is the perfect spot to visit if you’re dreaming of long days spent lounging on the beach.

Summer is coming to an end, and you may be planning one last family vacation south before the warm weather vanishes for the year. And what better place to go for sun and fun than Florida? With almost 8,500 miles of coastline, the state is the perfect spot to visit if you’re dreaming of long days spent lounging on the beach.

Taking some time to learn about the dangers you may encounter in Florida can help you have a safe and enjoyable vacation. Below we’ll explore some of Florida’s top risks and how you can avoid them during your trip.

Practice defensive driving
Florida is home to some of the largest and busiest cities in the country. Jacksonville has nearly a million residents, Miami is home to almost 500,000 people, and close to 400,000 people live in Tampa. If you’re traveling around these areas, you’re likely to run into a lot of traffic, both from residents and from your fellow tourists.

Always follow posted speed limits, and be extra careful when driving in the rain or at night. It’s also a good idea to practice defensive driving to avoid collisions. If you are involved in a car accident in Florida, it’s a good idea to reach out to a local personal injury lawyer for help. For example, if you were involved in an accident in West Palm Beach, FL, hiring a personal injury lawyer in West Palm Beach can help you get the compensation you’re entitled to.

Research hurricane season
Hurricane season runs from June to November, with the season peaking in September and October. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid traveling to Florida during these months if possible. If you do need to go to Florida during hurricane season, be sure to check and make sure there’s not a hurricane headed that way during the dates you’ll be in the state.

If you do get caught in a hurricane in Florida, first and foremost, make an evacuation plan. Make sure you have a full tank of gas, and do not wait until it’s too late to head for higher ground. Stock up on flashlights, extra batteries, fresh water, shelf-stable food, a radio, and a plan for how to get to the nearest emergency shelter.

Give wild animals space
During your trip to Florida, you may see a variety of fascinating animals. Armadillos, flamingos, dolphins, manatees, and herons all call Florida home. So do bears, snakes, panthers, spiders, sharks, and alligators.

If you encounter an animal in the wild, be sure to give it plenty of space. Never approach an animal, even if you think it may be safe, and do not feed any wild animals. If you are at a safe distance, you may be able to snap a picture, but if you’re close to an animal when you realize it’s there, back away immediately.

Learn about insect bites
On the subject of animals, Florida also has a wide variety of insects. You may have heard that the mosquito is Florida’s unofficial state bird, and you may also encounter gnats, hornets, wasps, bees, and an assortment of spiders.

If you’re going to be out in nature, it’s always a good idea to wear bug repellent. If you plan to be hiking through tall grass or brush, you may want to consider wearing long sleeves and long pants that you can tuck into your socks. Educating yourself about different insect bites can also help you identify what may have bit you and figure out an appropriate treatment plan.

Practice beach safety
One of the best things to do in Florida is enjoy the gorgeous beaches. There are few things better than spending a day lounging in the sun on the white sand beaches and cooling off in crystal-clear waters. But the beach comes with its own set of dangers that you need to be aware of.

Rip tides can pull you out to sea if you’re not careful, so always follow the instructions of any lifeguards on the beach, and learn what to do if you are caught in a rip tide. Keep an eye out for jellyfish and stingrays, and give any wildlife you see plenty of space. Stick to swimming in designated safe areas.

It likely won’t come as news to you that Florida is hot. The state’s average summer temperature can be as high as 95 degrees, and the highest temperature recorded in Florida was a staggering 109 degrees. This kind of heat can get dangerous quickly, especially if you’re dehydrated.

Any time you’re out in the heat, be sure to drink plenty of water. Experts recommend that men drink about 16 cups of water a day and women drink about 12. If you’re spending a lot of time outside, it’s a good idea to drink even more water to make up for what you’re losing in sweat.

Wear sunblock
The other major risk the summer sun can pose is, of course, sunburn. Not only can sunburns be very painful, but they can also increase your risk of developing skin cancer and other afflictions. Always wear sunscreen any time you’ll be outside for more than fifteen minutes, and be sure to reapply throughout the day.

Take precautions against violence
Unfortunately, the most dangerous animal you encounter in Florida may be a human. Those big cities we mentioned earlier are also home to criminals, and oftentimes, pickpockets and muggers prefer to target tourists. And if you’re in the LGBTQ community, some recent reports show that you may be at particularly high risk of suffering violence in Florida.

When you’re out and about in these cities, make sure to keep your valuables close and protected from pickpockets. Always remain aware of your surroundings, and try to stay in well-populated and well-lit areas.

Talk to your child about safety
Florida is a favorite destination for family vacations, and your child may be looking forward to your upcoming trip. Of course, you don’t want to scare your child, but it is important to make them aware of a few safety considerations before you leave.

Emphasize to your child that they need to stay with you at all times in public, and when you arrive at a new location, it may be helpful to designate a specific meeting spot you can go to if you get separated from each other. Instruct your child on how to find help if they get lost (i.e. finding a phone and calling 911, finding a police officer, or asking a woman for help). And it’s a good idea to dress your child in bright colors and carry a recent photo of them in case you do get separated.

Practice safer travel
A Florida vacation can be the perfect way to soak up a few last summer rays before winter really sets in. But before you hop on a plane or hit the road, it’s good to be aware of a few safety considerations. Try to avoid traveling when a hurricane is approaching, always give wildlife plenty of space, and be sure to account for the heat and sunshine that makes Florida such a perfect vacation spot.

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