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The short answer is No. Just like you wouldn’t plan a trip to Florida when a hurricane is approaching my state, now is simply not a good time to come here. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that we are currently having an exponential rise in Covid-19 numbers. I’m hoping it will not turn into NYC-type scenario, but no one really knows for sure.
If the hospitals get overwhelmed here, this is the last place you want to be at. If anything happens to one of your family members (not necessarily Covid-19 related), you may not get the medical care you need.
So, I absolutely encourage you to postpone your trip if at all possible. There are just too many uncertainties at the moment. Are you OK with possibly being quarantined when you get home? Will you be fine with not being able to access beaches if Florida governor reinstates a stay-at-home order on a short notice?
So, that’s my advice in a nutshell. For a more nuanced answer, read the rest of the post.
Disney vs. Beach
I realize that people have different circumstances. Perhaps you have to be in Florida for whatever reason, and are wondering if you can safely add a few days of recreation. Obviously, I don’t control what readers of this blog do, so my goal is to give advice on staying as safe as possible. As a local, I feel I’m in a unique position to (hopefully) provide some valuable insights.
Let’s face it, majority of people come to Florida for two reasons: Disney and beaches.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on Disney World reopening plans. In it I strongly encouraged folks not to take advantage of it this summer. I will go a step further here. I urge you not to go. I’m sure Disney corporation will do everything in its power to make the experience as safe as possible, but there is only so much they can do. To be honest, if the numbers keep climbing the way they have been recently, I really doubt Disney will go ahead with reopening plans.
As far as beaches go, I feel much better about that option. Sure, some are quite crowded, but many are not. When Florida governor lifted stay-at-home order, we went on a short trip to Siesta Key and really enjoyed it.
Would I go there right now? Probably not. While the Siesta beach isn’t as busy as one in Miami, it’s still relatively popular. So, to be on a safe side, I have a tip for you. Choose an island that requires a toll to enter it. This will thin the crowds considerably because most folks prefer “free”. Sanibel is a pretty good option.
An even better choice is Gasparilla island. This is one of Florida’s best kept secrets. So don’t tell anyone, OK? 🙂 It’s an idyllic community with fancy homes and folks who fly there for the winter via private jets. The good news is, you can enjoy Gasparilla Island State park for $9 ($6 toll, plus $3 parking). A bargain, if you ask me.
We live 1.5 hours from Gasparilla island, and going there for the day is always a treat. I absolutely love this place and recommend it highly. This is an exclusive slice of Florida, but without the pretentiousness that usually goes with it. The best part of Gasparilla island beach is that there are no crowds. Ever.
We went there during Memorial Day weekend, and here is what the beach looked like:
We walked a bit to the left and had zero interaction with anyone.
Again, this was during a holiday weekend. Of course, there are concerns about public restroom etc. Still, as activities go, this is definitely a low-risk one. If this beach is open, we will be going there, pandemic or not. Of course, we will be taking all the necessary precautions. This beach is mostly visited by locals, and last time I checked, Gasparilla island had less than five known Covid-19 infections. So, our chances are pretty good.
On to the bad news. There aren’t that many places to stay on Gasparilla island. You can’t use hotel points, though there are a few options via Chase UR currency since it uses Expedia platform. At this point in time, I absolutely recommend renting a standalone house via AirBnB. Heads up! When you join via my referral link, you will get $40 towards a rental, and I will get $20.
I have several hotel certificates that are due to expire in a few months, but I simply don’t feel comfortable using them during the height of the pandemic. If I lose them, I lose them, so be it.
Unfortunately, Gasparilla island is quite expensive when it comes to lodging. This is a playground of billionaires, and is priced accordingly. That said, there is always an option to rent something nearby, and simply drive to the island every day. Here is a pretty good/affordable option, and it even has a pool.
In about twenty minutes, you can enjoy an uncrowded beach.
If you insist on staying within walking distance of the beach, this is a very good option IMO:
Of course, whatever you reserve, make sure you can cancel without penalty on a short notice. If that’s not an option, consider buying insurance that includes “cancel for any reason.” There are obviously many other beach options in Florida, but this is the one I feel comfortable recommending if you want to avoid people.
Covid-19 isn’t going to jump down your throat when you cross Florida state line. You need to actually interact with people. Eliminate (or reduce) “people” factor, and you cut your risks significantly.
Obviously, you will still need to get groceries, gas etc. Whether you are comfortable with the exposure risks, however small, that’s something only you can decide. Oh, and don’t expect all residents in Florida to wear masks. Some do, but most don’t. Unless it becomes mandatory statewide, I don’t expect the situation to change.
It’s extremely unfortunate that mask usage became so politicized, but that’s just the way it is. If this drives you crazy, stay home. Simple. What’s the point of going on vacation if you can’t relax and enjoy yourself?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.