Main image courtesy of Visit Florida
By Simon & Susan Veness
Are you ready for some good news? You know, good, old-fashioned break-out-the-bands-and-have-a-party news? Well, we might just have the story for you.
Much of the USA is gearing up for outdoor life to start again and all the indications are that the Open For Business signs will be up in many states within the next few months, including Florida.
With America currently forging ahead with one of the most comprehensive vaccination programmes in the world right now, there is real hope that it may be able to buck the pandemic trend and be ready to welcome international visitors once more.
New President Joe Biden is on course to offer every adult a vaccination by July and remove one of the biggest obstacles to the safe restart of the country’s huge tourism business.
California has recently relaxed some of the regulations on their restaurants and attractions, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, and other key tourist markets are also pressing ahead with reduced restrictions that affect their visitation numbers.
Looking for a unique guide to all the holiday inspiration Florida has on offer? Our expert team have designed the guide to inspire you to discover the state’s astounding history, extensive arts and culture, superb resorts, health and wellness, eco-tourism attractions, world-class sport, beaches and food, plus charming, offbeat towns. Find it on this link.
This message has been underlined just recently by the Visit USA Association, who are cautiously optimistic that, if everyone continues to follow the science, America holidays will again be available to all.
Visit USA spokesman Jonathan Sloan explained: “The US could well become one of the first key holiday destinations open to Britons. The US domestic travel market has been up and running for some time now, so hotels and attractions are ready to welcome international travellers once protocols on both sides of the Pond allow.”
And you can count on Florida to be at the forefront of that international travel bandwagon, especially as places like Orlando’s theme parks have now had more than six months of post-lockdown operations to prove what can be achieved with proper health and safety measures.
Increasingly, international airlines and their governments are discussing the idea of vaccination passports, and this genuinely seems like a positive way forward after the suspension of most US-UK routes in 2020.
Of course, no-one can yet say when this is likely to happen, but the feeling here in Florida is that we will see the return of many flights to the likes of Orlando, Miami and Tampa by the autumn, if not late summer.
Crucially, the Sunshine State benefits immensely from its magnificent climate that encourages the outdoor lifestyle and offers plenty of natural social distancing, which will continue to be necessary for the immediate future.
Just to start with, nowhere in the world has more holiday villas than Florida, and this accommodation type is already in high demand as it features plenty of personal space and an extra measure of reassurance (as well as no small amount of added style and comfort).
If staying in a villa, or vacation home as they call them in the US, is high up in your priority list, be sure to check out Florida First’s range of Villa Holidays, which you can find on this link. We would suggest booking these as early as possible, as our Florida contacts insist that this is one of the most popular options for 2021 and early 2022.
Fly-drive holidays are also proving immensely popular with early bookers, as these also afford the opportunity for holiday-makers to go their own way, to a large extent. You can head wherever the travel whim takes you, and enjoy the benefit of the full extent of the Sunshine State. If somewhere seems too busy to you, you can just hop back in the car and head for the next town or resort, safe in the knowledge you will never be short of choice.
And, with Florida First, you don’t even need to worry about creating your own itinerary. That can be done for you with one of their Collections, or by consulting one of their travel experts to create your very own bespoke itinerary.
We always recommend having your own hire car for most holidays in this part of the world. They are easy to drive, most are automatics, and they always feature GPS systems, if requested, to keep you on track. The simple truth is you will see SO much more with your own transport, and you will likely find a few hidden gems along the way that you would never have discovered otherwise.
Be sure to check out the Florida First Collections, which feature a dozen different ways to enjoy an expansive slice of the state in ready-made form with full 7, 9 and 10-day itineraries. You can find them on this link.
Once you have your accommodation and mode of transport sorted out, it is just up to you to make sure you enjoy as much of the Sunshine State experience as possible.
As we’ve mentioned, Orlando’s theme parks are now back in regular operation again, so you can easily mix a week in the heart of all the fun of Orlando with a week on the beach at somewhere like St Pete Beach or Clearwater Beach.
If you don’t mind driving a bit further, we rate the beaches of Sanibel Island and Captiva extremely highly, especially as they rarely draw a crowd and give you the full effect of that wonderful feeling of seaside seclusion. By the same token, the chill-out destinations of Anna Maria Island and chic Naples in the south-west offer lots of magnificent beach style while offering more amenities such as shopping and museums.
How about some New Year beach bliss? Florida First currently has a two-week, two-centre special for the ultimate January getaway, featuring a week in Clearwater Beach and a second week enjoying the delights of St Pete Beach. See the full details on this link.
Or you could go full-on beach bum in the fabulous Florida Keys, where shorts and flip-flops are official wear and the first few months of the year are just a complete break from the rest of the world. In fact, if it didn’t get beastly hot in the summer, we’d probably be there full-time, offering to take you deep-sea fishing or on a kayak tour of the mangrove forests!
Another option for the road less travelled is on the Treasure Coast, just north of Palm Beach, where laid-back Vero Beach is a delightful prescription for holiday perfection when you need to banish the winter blues. With miles of unbroken white sands, lots of water activities, and some delectable dining possibilities, this is the Florida that many visitors don’t discover as they dash between Orlando and Miami.
Finally, if we’re offering some advice of the kind we usually follow ourselves when we need a complete break, a trip to secluded Amelia Island in the far north-east is the ideal tonic for upmarket style with laid-back vibes. Some surprising history, the charm of main town Fernandina Beach and the chance to go horse-riding on the beach mark this out as a truly superior opportunity.
Want to follow up on that suggestion for chic Vero Beach? Florida First has another New Year gem on offer with a special 7-night package at the superb Costa D’Este resort, departing February 28. See more on this link.
But the simple message remains that Florida will be ready, willing and very able to provide its trademark holiday splendour as soon as you are ready. We have been enormously encouraged at the responsible way many of our hotels and attractions have re-opened and repurposed themselves for the challenges that we have all faced in the last year.
If everyone continues to be sensible and we do see the implementation of vaccination passports, we believe we will see the welcome return of our international visitors in the not-too-distant future.
Florida is open for business again in all meaningful aspects, and we can’t wait to hear British accents back on our beaches and in our theme parks!
Susan & Simon Veness are the UK’s leading experts on Florida, having written about it for more than 25 years and sold more than half a million copies of their books about Orlando, Disney and the Sunshine State.