Getting Ready for Florida

At least we hope we are…… I am feeling a bit anxious ahead of our trip, in case there is a sudden change in travel rules or the USA closes to Brit travellers again. No sign of that as yet but let’s face it …… anything can happen these days. We won’t feel safe in our arrangements till we’re actually on the plane and in the air.

Normally this time of the year we would be looking forward to the winter in Goa, but that’s just not possible this coming year. Existing visas are still cancelled and all that are available are 30 day visas which don’t allow for long stay wintering. We have lots of friends and near family in Florida that we haven’t managed to see the last couple of years and a lot of timeshare to use so that seemed the obvious second choice. We really didn’t want to do another winter in the UK. The weather keeps us inside too much and the whole hysterical atmosphere on the news and in the press is just deeply depressing. The effects on mental and physical health are tangible.

Our friends, Stuart and Fiona, are travelling with us, making for a most congenial prospect and the trip has come together very well. We are visiting multiple locations in Florida over the course of 10 weeks and also taking a 2 week Caribbean cruise. For the first time ever, despite the above photo, we are not going to any of the theme parks this time. Too many restrictions, too much cost, In order to do this trip economically we are booking self catering accommodation everywhere.

Planning was not without its challenges. It has been 30 years since I’ve visited Florida in the winter. Due to school holidays initially and more latterly, choice, we normally visit in late August/September/October. Low season in fact. I’m used to vast swathes of accommodation being available at cheap prices, availability being no problem at all. This has proved to be not the case in January and February. Obvious really when you think about it, which I clearly hadn’t done. Americans are not travelling as internationally as usual, particularly the over 60s, due to covid. Where can they go that’s nearly as hot as the actual Caribbean??? Florida….. And they’re coming down for long stays, like swallows so they want self catering accommodation too…..

This wasn’t too bad for us because we could use our timeshare weeks for nearly the whole stay given that 2 weeks were taken by the cruise. However, the entire west coast of the state, which I love, was very difficult to book and also very expensive so we failed on that. We managed to get a week in the Keys but not timeshare. So most of the trip is based in central Florida and on the east coast.

The biggest shock was car hire. We are used to the fact that car rental in Florida is amongst the cheapest in the whole USA, really, really cheap. So, it was a shock when a trawl through the rental sites was returning prices like £6000 for 10 weeks hire…… Apparently this is a massive problem all over the States and possibly further afield. At the start of the pandemic the big rental fleets sold off most of their cars rather than pay to park them up for months on end. As restrictions eased, they would buy new cars again. Except that in the interim a massive shortage of semi-conductors has occurred (not caused by Brexit you’ll be amazed to hear) and new cars just weren’t available in enough numbers and at the accustomed price. So there is a big shortage of rental cars. This was a big problem for us. You literally have to have a car in the States, unless you are there very briefly. Unless we could find a solution, this whole trip would not be possible.

I did some research online and came across mentions of . Turo is basically airbnb for cars. It’s a platform which enables small car agencies and individuals to rent out their cars in a mutually safe manner. So, both parties are verified, licenses checked, insurance is provided and mandatory, money is guaranteed and safeguarded. Roadside assistance is available if there is a problem. We checked it out and it looked really good and worth going for. We identified a car we liked and were quickly put in touch with the owner and all arranged. We had to upload our documents and be verified and we have had good communication with him, so fingers crossed. It has brought the cost down to a far more normal level.

We depart, courtesy of BA, on 3rd January, fingers and toes crossed. We have new ESTA visas. We need an antigen test taken within 24 hours of travel and that’s booked for the 2nd. We are both boostered now and those boosters will be “activated” by then. Stuart and Fi are both likewise. All should be well as long as there isn’t a drastic decline in matters covid before then…..

Watch this space…..