Florida is one of the top vacation and relocation destinations in the US. And who wouldn’t want to live where they vacation? Our goal is to help those moving to Florida be able to live the dream Florida life they’ve been wanting. So from our own personal experience living in many other states as well as living in various parts of Florida, we wanted to give more personalized advice and tips for people moving to Florida.
1. Don’t mess with the wildlife!
The wildlife is on another level here in Florida. And while it is all quite beautiful and maybe unique and interesting to newbies to the state, we can’t stress enough not to disturb the wildlife. From alligators, otters, coyotes, manatees, exotic birds and so much more. Please leave them be in their natural environment. And PLEASE whatever you do, do not feed them at all!
Oh, and watch out for those fire ants! They don’t play around!!!
2. Wear sunscreen, even if you don’t think you need it
I can tell you from SO much experience, wear sunscreen pretty much at all times if you plan on being outside at all. It doesn’t have to be a visit to the beach, it can just be going out for a walk or bike ride. The sun is intense in Florida year-round. And there’s a reason that skin cancer rates are insanely high around the state. And to be honest, I’ve done it too. I think I’m just going out for a little bit, then I end up being out longer than I expected and I’m burned. It happens really fast. So definitely protect yourself and keep a small bottle of sunscreen with you too.
3. Prepare for house guests!
When you are settling into your life in Florida, keep in mind that you will most definitely have visitors. Everyone wants to come to Florida! So you will suddenly become pretty popular with friends and family who want to come down on vacation, and possibly save some cash by staying at your house. So having a guest room is a great idea, or at least an air mattress or pull-out couch that can be used when such occasions come up.
4. Be mindful of the heat & humidity
It’s not just the heat in Florida that is intense. It’s really when the heat is combined with the humidity. During certain times of the year, such as the peak of summer or the rainy season, the humidity can be quite oppressive. This is especially true in the middle of the state, away from the water. Keep this in mind if you plan on doing outdoor activities, including just working in your yard. You will want to work around this weather whenever you can.
Also, it’s important if you are just in the beginning stages of relocation that you consider heat and humidity for where you are moving. If you really cannot handle excessive heat and oppressive humidity, then you may want to look away from the central areas of the state and focus more on the coastal areas where you can get a nice sea breeze. Coastal towns such as Sarasota or Venice actually have much more pleasant temperatures because they are on the coast.
5. Purge before moving to reduce moving costs
Depending on where you are moving from, the costs to hire moving companies or even just rent moving trucks can be crazy expensive! So one strategy to reduce those costs is to purge as much as possible before moving. Have a yard sale, try to sell bigger items online yourself, or even just donate it. This is actually a perfect time to clear out clutter and things you are not using before your big move. That way, you are moving with a fresh slate!
Keep in mind that if you get rid of all your furniture that you may need to buy more when you arrive. Depending on the value of your furniture, it could be a savings not to pay to move your big furniture and buy more. But for others, it may not be a financial benefit. So it’s something to keep in mind and calculate for yourself.
Some people actually prefer to start fresh with new decor and furniture to suit their new Florida lifestyle anyway.
6. Drive carefully in thunderstorms
Florida is home to some really intense thunderstorms, especially during the monsoon season. These storms bring crazy lightning (in fact, Tampa is the lightning capital) as well as torrential downpours of rain. If you are driving when one of these storms hit, it is important that you take care. Drive at a safe speed, and if you need to pull over and off the road – do it. Nothing is more important than your safety and having you freaking out on the road is not good either.
Keep in mind though, it is illegal to drive with your hazard lights on! Don’t do this. And don’t slow to a crawl if traffic is moving fast around you. You don’t want to be the cause of an accident. It’s best to pull over completely off the road. You may use your hazard lights if you are parked completely off the road, but don’t use them while you are driving.
7. FYI – no one uses turn signals in Florida…
Let me be clear that I don’t condone this behavior at all. I think it’s the utmost reconsideration and laziness of drivers not to use their turn signals. However, in Florida, you will find that this is pretty much the norm. People will rarely ever use it when they are changing lanes on the interstate, or anywhere else really. So definitely be mindful when you are driving and when you are changing lanes!
8. Make sure you calculate the cost of living – don’t assume Florida is cheap!
We actually wrote a lot about the cost of living in Florida already, but it’s worth mentioning again. Don’t assume that Florida is a cheap place to live! In fact, the cost of living isn’t that far off from much of the US. It really comes down to a direct comparison between where you are moving from and where you are moving to. If you are moving to a high-cost city, such as Miami, from a small town in rural Indiana, then you will probably be paying more! However, if you are moving from New York City to a small town such as North Port, well then you will probably save a ton!
Yes, it’s true that there is no state income tax in Florida – so you may save money there. But there are also higher taxes in other areas (such as registering your car) and insurance across the board is more expensive in Florida too!
So honestly, it really depends. Make sure you know what you are getting into it before moving here. We want you to LOVE your life here in Florida!
9. Winter May Bring Nice Weather…But Also the Snowbirds!
One of the reasons people want to move to Florida is that they are looking forward to not shoveling snow! They don’t want to be freezing outside, scraping their cars, etc. So they are looking forward to the mild winters in Florida where they can go to the beach year-round! However, while the weather may be absolutely lovely in Florida during the winter, other things are not so lovely.
You are not the only one who wants to escape the cold. Every winter “snowbirds” flock to Florida, massively increasing the number of cars on the road creating traffic jams and loads of accidents. You’ll also find stores and restaurants to be more crowded as well as beaches and other touristy areas.
10. You get a new wardrobe!!!
Ah yes, one of the exciting things about moving to Florida is being able to wear your summer wardrobe most of the year. But a lot of us will want to change it up and start fresh with our new lives in Florida. Go ahead, embrace it! Wearing pastels year-round, tank tops, sundresses, etc. You’ll love filling up your closet in Florida!
Even Josh has gotten into it. Back in Georgia or Colorado, he wouldn’t walk around in pink or lime green shorts. But in Florida, he wears these bright-colored shorts all the time and looks perfectly in place here!
11. Flip flops will be your new favorite shoe
Some people say flip-flops are the state shoe of Florida. I’d have to agree. Get yourself plenty of pairs of flip-flops, because you will probably be wearing them almost every day. Especially if you are going to the beach. It’s much to difficult to deal with regular shoes and sand. You might even want to keep an extra pair in the car for those spontaneous visits to the beach and if you need to change shoes!
12. Rush hour can be rough! Try to live near where you work.
If you live in a major city in Florida, keep in mind that traffic can be rough. Miami, Tampa, Orlando, even smaller cities such as Sarasota can have traffic jams. If you have to commute for your job, it’s important to keep this in mind when you are choosing a neighborhood to live in. I remember when I lived in Orlando I bought a house that was less expensive, but it was a bit on the edge of town. I thought it would be fine, but I soon realized that it took me around an hour to get to and from work on a good day – sometimes upwards of 1 and a half hours each way on bad traffic days.
The amount of time I was losing as well as money didn’t make it worth it in the end.
13. Check for toll roads where you live – they can get expensive!
On a related note, Florida has the most toll roads of any other state! These roads can be a convenient way of getting around the traffic zipping around a city (or through the rural swampland); however, they don’t come cheap. When you are deciding where to move to in Florida, I highly recommend that you research toll roads in the area because it can get costly if you need to take them every day.
Again back to my time living on the outskirts of Orlando, I had a love-hate relationship with toll roads. Because of where I chose to buy a house, the toll roads could save me 30 minutes of driving for many places that I wanted to go. Not just work, but to see friends or go out for fun and entertainment. However, the cost of the tolls added up so much that I would end up not going out and just staying home because I didn’t feel like spending the money just to drive on the road!
14. Understand flood insurance, if you need it and buy it (even if you don’t need it)
In Florida, there are many areas that are in Flood zones that will require you to buy flood insurance for your home. And not all of these areas are near the coast. There are many areas even inland that are near rivers or other low-lying areas where floods can occur. However, keep in mind that even if you aren’t technically in a flood zone and aren’t required to buy flood insurance, you may want to buy it anyway.
This is because other things can cause flood damage beyond just storm surge from waterways. Even if a hurricane hits and your home is fine, but maybe a storm drain backed up and flooded your home…you won’t be covered by your hurricane insurance! It will be deemed flood damage and therefore if you don’t have flood insurance, you are stuck footing the bill!
15. Hurricanes are no joke! Have a plan & be prepared.
Speaking of hurricanes, a lot of us Floridians take them in stride now because we’ve been through so many. I’ve probably been in at least 10 hurricanes in my life. Only 1-2 of them were really severe where I lived, so a lot of us down here joke that it’s “just some wind and rain“. This is true, especially if it’s just a category one or two storm and if you aren’t along any type of major waterway.
However, at the same time, hurricanes can still be incredibly dangerous. If you live on or near the water, you need to take every hurricane pretty seriously. And if the storm is creeping upwards of a cat 3 or above, heed all the warnings and for heaven’s sake…evacuate if they tell you to!
When you move to Florida it’s important that you put together an emergency hurricane plan. This includes supplies at your home as well as evacuation plans if needed. It is SO much better to be prepared in advance and never need it than to suddenly need a plan (or supplies) and not have them!
16. There are a lot of tourists!
You aren’t the only one who loves to vacation in Florida. It’s literally one of the most popular US states for traveling. This means that depending on where you live in Florida, tourists will be descending on you during certain times of the year (such as Spring Break) or all year long (such as Orlando). It may not bother you at first, but most of us who live in Florida for a number of years will tell you that it does get old.
Take a deep breath, and remember all the tax dollars they bring in!
17. Keep things clean – or it will get out of control!
Florida is one of those places where you really can’t let your guard down when it comes to cleaning and maintenance. Living in the tropics wreaks havoc on everything! Inside your home, it is critical that you maintain a clean environment so you don’t get infested with giant cockroaches, among other things. Once infested, it is very difficult to get rid of them. This means you should take extra care to remove dirty dishes from the sink, take out the trash, and sweep up any and all crumbs on the floor and counters.
Outside your home, you really need to maintain your yard and cut back various shrubs and plants regularly. If you have a lawn service, that’s great! If not, you really need to commit to doing it yourself. Things grow fast in the tropical, wet, hot climate down here.
Also, you will need to watch for things such as mold on your house, walkway/driveways, patios, decks, outdoor furniture, and screen enclosures. You may want to invest in a good power washer, as well as making sure you cover your outdoor furniture or put the cushions away after using. You’ll be amazing at how fast they get super gross!
Also, don’t forget to take your trash out to the curb weekly! Even missing one week can mean you have an infestation of nastiness growing and multiplying inside your trash cans! I would also recommend keeping your trash cans outside your garage if you can because it will attract critters.
18. Invest in some great beach chairs
We can’t tell you enough how much our folding beach backpack chairs come in handy! Initially, we debated getting these because they can be a little expensive, but I can honestly say that they were one of the best purchases after arriving in Florida. These small folding chairs are perfect for the beach, and you can carry them on your back with the backpack straps – keeping your hands free! They are also lightweight, and some even come with cup holders and even small pouches to bring items with you. Ours even has small coolers in the back – so really, we can stuff these pockets and not even bring an extra cooler!
We actually keep our beach chairs in the back of our car all the time, so that anytime we want to stop by the beach we have them ready to go! I promise that you won’t regret investing in good beach chairs right away!
19. Keep extra towels in the car
From sudden torrential downpours of rain, the spontaneous trips to the beach, in Florida we highly recommend that you always keep some extra towels in your car. They could be beach towels or even just some regular towels. Nothing is worse than needing a towel when you are out and about and not having one readily available.
20. People drive really fast here. Don’t go slow in the fast lane!
Circling back to driving, you will notice that people drive quite fast in Florida. It seems no matter where they came from, they all want to put the pedal to the metal. While it’s not always legal, the police can’t be everywhere. So just be careful and stay out of their way if you can.
Also, keep in mind that in Florida it is illegal to block traffic in the “passing lane” – which is technically the far left lane. So for example, if you are on the interstate and maybe even going over the speed limit if people are coming up behind you then you must get out of their way! You cannot go slow and block traffic in the left lane. The far left lane is for passing and if people are passing you on the right side, then you are in the wrong lane! This is illegal in Florida and can get you a ticket!
21. So much wonderful diversity!
One of the things we love about Florida is the wide diversity here. From the people and the cultures, and the food. Even in our small-ish town we can go down the street and find amazing Cuban food, greek food, Turkish food, Peruvian food, and a lot of incredible French and Italian food!
We love all the history of the area, the melting of cultures, and the variety that diversity brings. But it’s not just the residents, it’s also the tourists visiting Florida. People from all walks of life and from countries all around the world come to Florida for vacation. It helps make the state the rich melting pot that it is.
22. Some People Say Living in Florida Requires “Staff”
It’s funny because I’ve thought this to myself, and actually have heard a number of people say it. Living in Florida requires “staff” whether that is an exterminator for bugs, hiring someone to help with yard work, a pool cleaner, etc. It just gets so hot here during certain times of the year that many of us don’t want to go out to do these things ourselves! If you have the funds to hire help, it’s definitely worth it! Because let me tell you, cutting the grass at 6 am in August and still melting is not so fun…
23. Summer is stupid hot. But it’s a great excuse to go to the beach or the pool.
If you have a pool at your house, you will LOVE it come summertime. If not, definitely consider getting a membership to a local pool or make a plan to hit up the beach when you can. It the heat is intense in Florida during the peak of summer. And if you don’t have these options, then stay inside and relish that cold air-conditioning!
24. Buy Plenty of Bathing Suits
On a related note, you can never have too many bathing suits when you live in Florida. Somehow it seems no matter how many I buy, I’m always needing another. We both use our bathing suits so much, especially during the summer months, that we are always looking for another clean one to use and it’s a real bummer if you don’t have any clean suits ready to go when you want them. Plus, after washing them so much (or even sitting in a jacuzzi frequently) we’ve noticed that bathing suits just don’t last very long down here anyway. They wear out fast and we are always on the lookout for another. So it’s definitely good to stock up when you can and have backup options always ready to go!
25. Black snakes are harmless. Don’t worry about them!
While there are a lot of poisonous creatures in Florida, black snakes are not one of them. You may find these in your garden or backyard on occasion, don’t worry! In fact, locals say they are good luck and good to have because they keep the rodents and other critters away. Don’t get me wrong, we are NOT snake people! But we have a black snake in our backyard and appreciate him. We’ve named him Stanley.
26. Lizards or geckos are everywhere! Don’t worry.
You will find little lizards and geckos everywhere outdoors in Florida. They will also be crawling all over your deck, your outdoor chairs, windows, etc. Don’t worry, they are quite harmless. Just be careful about leaving your doors or windows open though, because when you aren’t looking they can come inside. My sister had a lizard living in her closet for many months, and sometimes he would hide in her share (scared the crap out of her a few times). Also, be mindful of them getting into your car…they will not last long!
27. Always keep your dog on a short leash if you are near water!
While you should always obey leash laws in your city, we understand the temptation to let your dog off-leash on occasion. However, Florida is a very special place with dangerous wild animals – especially near the water. Alligators are extremely fast-moving, must faster than you would think! They can (and will) snatch up a dog if you are not careful. So be very careful and keep you dogs on short leashes when you are walking them by the water in Florida.
28. Keep your AC running (even if you are not home)
Most Floridians keep their air-conditioners running year-round. There could be a few cold days here and there during the winter months when you can turn it off (or might even need to turn on the heat just to take off the chill), but these days are very few and far between in most of Florida. However, it’s not just the heat that requires the A/C to be left on all the time – it’s the humidity. Running your A/C will help to keep humidity levels lower in your home. This is really important because mold can grow quite easily here and once it gets a hold, it’s difficult to remove it.
This is especially true if you are a seasonal resident and only live in Florida for part of the year. Do not turn that A/C off or you might return to a dangerous health-hazard in your house!
29. Beware of Rip currents
Whether you are at the beach are out on a boat, rip currents can get very serious in Florida. Especially if there are storms of other things taking place which you may not be able to see. Be aware that even if it doesn’t look rough, there could be a rip current underneath – this includes jumping off a boat to play around in the ocean just offshore. Wear life jackets, even strong swimmers can get caught up. Swim parallel to get out of the rip current, and if you are boating, take some boating classes and be ready for if an emergency comes up.
This actually happened here in Venice a few weeks ago. We regularly hear of rescues out on the beaches from rip currents, but some people were boating and other boats had to scoop up their swimmers who could not get back! It’s always better to be cautious and prepared!
30. Live that Florida Life Every Day!
Finally, never forget why you moved to Florida. Take a bit of time every day to soak up the fun and ambiance around you. Such as taking in a sunset, going to the beach, or admiring the tropical flowers. Florida is a wonderful place to live!