Thinking of visiting the Florida Keys? Read on for 6 essential tips for an awesome Keys trip!

What’s so great about the Florida Keys?  Well, first of all, everything!  Even if you are not a fishing enthusiast, anyone can appreciate the majestic beauty of natural Florida.  From the picture-perfect sunsets, to the historical sites, to the variety of outdoor activities, the culture and the amazing seafood(!), there is something for everyone in the Florida Keys.

But before you go, here are 6 ESSENTIAL tips to help you plan an amazing Keys trip!

1. Research the area; the Keys span over 113 miles, and are broken into three parts.  There are truly hundreds of islands you can explore in the upper, middle and lower keys.  The upper keys, from Key Largo to Marathon are closer to Miami if you wanted to take a day trip there. If you’re planning on staying in the keys, Marathon is a good mid-way point.  The lower keys are closer to Key West, Cuba & the Gulf Stream.  Key West is of course a popular tourist destination, and an easy day trip if you’re staying in the lower keys.  Either way, research what each area has to offer to see if aligns to your expectations and what types of experiences you want to have. Some great websites are:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sidonie-sawyer/should-you-visit-the-flor_b_9452424.html

http://www.whats-at-florida-keys.com/About_The_Florida_Keys.html

http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/best-of-the-florida-keys

 

2. Pre-plan your agenda…somewhat. The Keys offer a plethora of activities and sites to see, so knowing what YOU want to do will keep you from missing out. For example, when we went to the Keys, we knew we wanted to go to Bahia Honda State Park one day as well as spend one day in Key West. So having that in mind, we marked 2 days off mentally for those experiences. We didn’t have to know the exact day we were going, but just that those were on our must-see, must-do list. If you know ahead of time that certain adventures/ experiences will be non-negotiable for you and your group, then you can better plan out and utilize your time. It also allows you to pre-book any experiences that require a reservation such as jet ski rentals, fishing charters or diving expeditions.

3. Prioritize your toys. Knowing what you’re going to do also helps decide what you’re going to pack. If you don’t think you’ll use kayaks more than once, then it’s not worth the hassle packing them-rent them for a day! Likewise if you know that you want to go fishing and there are multiple times of day to go fishing, it’s worth it to pack the tacklebox and rods. My point is don’t pack everything because you “might” use it. Really ask yourself what am I absolutely going to use while in the keys? Some examples of for my group are: aqua socks, bathing suits, rash guards, sunblock, bug spray, fishing gear and snorkeling gear. Everyone packed these items because we all used them nearly every single day.

4. Research the gear needed for the season and the rules of the sea. Know the tides, the wind and the weather as well as the fishing seasons for different species. For example, lobster season starts in August and the keys are packed with fisherman trying to score. But this is not a free-for-all, there are size limits, bag limits and rules for how you can catch lobster. Just as an example. They’re also rules for all different species of fish that are prevalent during certain times of year. Know which species of fish are available during certain times of year.  Research before you go, otherwise you could lose your fishing license and your boat.  Similarly the weather, believe it or not, changes in Florida and each season brings a different challenge.  The summer doldrums bring beautiful water views but sweltering heat. The water is glassy and beautiful to look at but it’s because there is no wind and with no wind comes bugs and no relief from the heat. The winter months bring strong wind which stirs up the surface of the water and cuts your visibility drastically. All of these conditions can affect both what you can and can’t do well in the keys and the planning of your activities. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.

5. First timer? Hire a professional. If you are going down to the Keys and would like to do something new that you’ve never done before, hire a guide and rent the equipment.  Or, go with friends who are experienced. For example, inshore fishing guides take you to certain strategic locations so that you will have success.  Additionally, Dive masters will take you to safe, popular dive sites as opposed to off-the-beaten-path secluded places.  Spending the extra money on local knowledge is worth it.  You’ll have more success and more fun.

6.  Have a good attitude and remember that not everything will go as planned. Leave some space for the unexpected.  There’s always the chance that you’re gonna have bad weather or end up not catching anything. But each experience teaches you something new.

Whatever length of stay you chose, or where precisely you stay, I hope you enjoy the amazing-ness that is the Florida Keys.  And when you return, let me know how your trip was by commenting below!

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