Florida is the most hurricane-prone state in the country, enduring some of the strongest and most damaging storms in recorded history.
The last few hurricane seasons have been particularly devastating, namely 2022, when the Sunshine State was hit by Category 5 Hurricane Ian in September, followed by Category 1 Hurricane Nicole in November.
Ian is responsible for causing around $65 billion of damage and currently ranks as the costliest disaster behind Hurricane Katrina.
We called on one of our trusted travel advisors, Felicia Troy, to answer questions you might have about traveling to Florida at this time. As the largest leisure travel agency in North America, AAA has more than 3,000 travel professionals ready to assist with all your trip-planning needs. If you have additional questions or need help with your next vacation, schedule an appointment with a travel advisor today.
How have ongoing hurricane recovery efforts impacted Florida travel?
“Since last fall, hurricane recovery efforts have come a long way for Southwest Florida and most resorts and beaches have reopened, with some closed for renovations, using this time to make overdue updates,” said Troy. “The rest of Florida is well recovered, but if you’re traveling to the Fort Myers area, I would suggest double checking the status of your resort, as well as availability of local restaurants and beaches.”
Fort Myers got the brunt of Hurricane Ian’s destruction and remains in the recovery process with some hotels and restaurant still rebuilding.
What happens if your travel plans are disrupted by severe weather?
“Initially, when a storm hits, that obviously has the greatest impact on travel, with trips canceled, redirected or moved to accommodate inclement weather. Many travelers tend to push trips back or choose an alternative location, in the meantime, while damage is assessed and recovery begins,” said Troy.
Using a travel advisor takes away a lot of stress and fear of the unknown if your travel plans are impacted by weather. They act as your buffer, helping to rebook your trip, rearrange flights and make alternative suggestions. Travel insurance is also highly recommended to account for these unknown circumstances and possible additional costs.
Hurricane damage has a huge impact on parts of Florida and other destinations that rely heavily on tourism, so Troy suggests moving your trip rather than canceling to support the local economy.
What are the ethics of traveling after a storm?
“We have seen areas like Florida, Puerto Rico, and a number of other Caribbean destinations be affected by storms over the years, and there isn’t one answer,” said Troy. “But my rule of thumb is if the local people don’t yet have resources – enough food, water, shelter – then you should not travel there, unless you are going to volunteer.”
Once the resources have been recuperated and the locals are on solid footing, I encourage travel to those areas to bring back tourism dollars and help support the businesses affected. This is a great time to think about how you travel and how you can support small businesses and local businesses in your day-to-day travels – where you eat, where you shop, etc.
Where should travelers go on their next trip to Florida?
If you’d like to visit Florida soon, Troy can attest that there’s always plenty to see and do.
“Florida is a big state, so you can visit hundreds of times and there is still more to see,” she said. “I am a huge Disney fan, so I will always suggest a well-planned trip to the theme parks, and there is so much more to Orlando and the Space Coast area to explore!”
Some other great Florida options for fun and relaxation are Key West or a personal favorite of Troy’s, Amelia Island. “And I just went to Gasparilla Pirate Festival [in Tampa] in January. What an experience – it’s like Mardi Gras but on the water and with pirates everywhere! You must add this to your bucket list.”
For other warm weather alternatives to Florida in the U.S., Troy suggests the Savannah, Ga., area and Hilton Head, S.C., for great beaches and southern hospitality. If you’re looking to venture outside of the country, Aruba is a safe and homey desert island that’s a winner with visitors. Or, if you don’t have a passport but still want to be transported to amazing beaches and great local culture, Puerto Rico won’t let you down.
What’s your favorite place to visit in Florida? Tell us in the comments.
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