Florida Packing List: What to Pack for the Sunshine State

By Nick Hilden
Florida beach and ocean

Few places bring visions of palm trees and sunshine to mind like Florida. From an abundance of sun to lush wildlife preserves to vibrant cities to the Magic Kingdom, the Sunshine State has plenty to offer. But whether you’re going to hit the beaches, enjoy the Miami nightlife, or get your dose of Disney, you want to be prepared. That means having a proper Florida packing list.

The first time I visited Florida, I made silly mistakes like packing along with heavy jeans and no sunscreen. The jeans were an outright waste of space that should have been better utilized, while the lack of sunscreen meant paying sky-high beachside tourist prices. But with each trip, I became smarter about my packing habits. 

Planning ahead will make sure that you’re not only prepared for whatever Florida throws at you. To that end, below you’ll find a comprehensive packing list for your Florida vacation.

The Best Luggage for Florida

Before we dive into our Florida vacation packing list, let’s look at what you should pack it all in.

No one likes the hassles and hold ups that come with checking a bag, so you should avoid doing so if possible. Who wants to be waiting around a baggage claim when they could be on the beach? The solution: get a carry-on-sized travel backpack.

A few key things to look for in a travel backpack:

  • Capacity: You need a bag that will make the most out of your carry on allowance.
  • Organization: Well-designed organizational features make packing much easier.
  • Water resistance: Florida might be known as the Sunshine State, but it still gets its fair share of unexpected rain.
  • Comfort: Look for a bag that will be comfortable no matter how long you’re wearing it. This is key in a hot destination like Florida.
  • Durability: Who doesn’t want a bag that will last?

From my experience, the best bag for traveling to Florida is the Tortuga Outbreake Backpack. It hits on all of the above considerations, providing unrivaled carry-on capacity in a well-organized layout. Its sailcloth exterior is water-resistant and tough enough to last through years of travel, and it’s comfortable thanks to its fully adjustable harness.

There’s simply no other travel backpack that does so many things right. It will carry everything on your Florida packing list and more.

When to Visit Florida

If you get to choose when to travel, choose wisely. Consider the temperature in which you prefer traveling, the seasonal shift in crowds, the time when the price is best for you, and of course, factor in hurricane season. Whether you’re looking for the least amount of time you’d have to wait for your butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the best time to visit Grandma in Delray Beach, or the most amiable weather for you, do your research, pack accordingly, and always purchase travel insurance.

A few key timing considerations:

  • In subtropical north and central regions of Florida, humidity is highest from June through September.
  • High season in subtropical Florida is mid-December through mid-April.
  • Northern Florida has higher tourism rates from late May through early September.
  • Hurricane season is from June through November (if visiting then, be sure to purchase travel insurance).
  • Consider shoulder seasons for better pricing (April-May/September-November).
  • When Orlando and Walt Disney World are your destinations, know that all holiday weekends and holiday seasons are the busiest and most expensive (make restaurant and show reservations ahead of your visit).
A woman packing for her next trip.

Florida Packing List

You know those “don’t leave home without them” items that are always with you no matter what? Pack those first.

You’ll need these regardless of where you’re going in Florida. Camping in Dry Tortugas? Grabbing ice cream in Fort Lauderdale? Visiting the panhandle? Partying in Miami? Your personal items don’t care where you’re headed. They’re coming along for the ride. Who you are, how you pay for stuff, any medical necessities, and the number to call if you need medical assistance have to make the cut. The rest, truly, is optional.

Basic Florida Packing List

Your Floridian adventure can take on many forms. For the most part, your clothing choices will be straightforward, but you might need some additions if you’re headed to a NASCAR event in Daytona, a bachelorette party in South Beach, or an intergenerational adventure at Disney. Whether you’re hitting the parks, the nightclubs, or the beaches, be sure to pack the basics.

If you’re going to northern Florida in the winter then you also want to consider packing a warm hat, light gloves, and a scarf. Believe it or not, it can get chilly, even as far south as Orlando and the Tampa Bay area.

Personal Item Packing: The Necessities

Your personal item should be a daypack that fits entirely underneath the seat in front of you on an airplane. The dimensions for your personal item will be smaller than the dimensions of your main carry on bag, so check your airline’s size regulations

  • Wallet and ID
  • Passport/visas (if you’re thinking of heading outside of the continental borders or are coming from abroad)
  • Travel documents
  • Change of clothes (especially if you’re checking luggage)
  • Medications (daily, necessary, allergy)
  • Headphones
  • Gum or mints
  • Sunglasses, prescription glasses, or contacts
  • Chapstick
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Fuzzy socks & flip flops
  • Makeup
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Tissues
  • Smartphone and charger
  • Portable battery pack and connectors
  • Camera & lens, charger, batteries (2), memory cards (2), and an external hard drive
  • Lacrosse or tennis ball (perfect to eliminate back pain in flight)

Toiletries

If you’re flying to Florida, you’ll need a clear liquids bag (unless you’re purchasing all liquid-related necessities upon arrival). With the 3-1-1 rule still in effect, each traveler gets to bring one quart-sized, plastic zip-top bag. Fill your bag with any liquid or gel-based toiletries or products that are under 3.4 oz (100 ml), and you’re good to go. EpiPens, medications, and baby formula do not need to be in this bag.

If you’re driving to your destination, skip this part and feel free to fill your car, truck, or camper van with everything you’d like to bring on your Floridian excursion. And remember, it’s Florida: You can buy what you need when you get there, though certain items, like sunscreen, will likely have much lower prices back at home.

  • Travel size bottle of sunscreen
  • Unscented antibacterial lotion
  • Travel size toothpaste
  • Travel size bug spray
  • Unscented lotion
  • Cortisone, Benadryl, or anti-itch cream
  • Superglue
  • Eye drops (allergy or saline)
  • Travel size contact solution (if necessary)

Mini-First Aid Kit

Those “what if” scenarios run amok in all of our minds. Since there’s no way to actually cover all of them, I recommend bringing along a tiny first aid kit with a few things for those possible “ouchies” that might detract from that vacation you’ve been dreaming about forever.

Keep in mind, unless you’re visiting a remote destination (like the Dry Tortugas or spending a lot of time on the Intracoastal), you can pick up any first aid needs at a nearby drugstore or local supermarket (like Publix).

  • Pain reliever (Tylenol, Paracetemol, Ibuprofen)
  • Allergy meds (Benadryl, Claritin, Loratadine, other antihistamines)
  • After-sun gel
  • Immodium/Loperamide
  • Neosporin or antiseptic cream
  • EpiPen if necessary (2)
  • Bandaids, athletic tape, and gauze
  • Tums, Pepto Bismol, or antacid tablets
  • Safety pins
  • Butterfly bandaids
  • Ace bandage

Miscellaneous “Musts”

Each of us is on our own individual adventure. As travelers, we each have a different sense of why we’re traveling, different needs along the way, and different ideas about passing the time. A weekend in Orlando doesn’t leave a lot of downtime but spending a week on the shores of the Atlantic might be another story.

Spending a few days in a port city on either end of a Caribbean cruise is one type of trip. A weekend of watching spring training baseball is a different vacation altogether.

If, after you’ve packed all of the important stuff, you still have room and wish to carry items that fall into the “want” category, go ahead. Remember, if you can manage without them, you’ll have more room for those souvenirs that will continually remind you of your Florida vacation.

  • Pens, journal, and sharpie marker
  • Coloring book, crayons, and colored pencils
  • Books, magazines, an e-reader or tablet with chargers
  • Pillow and earplugs
  • Extra layers

Daypack Packing

Most of the year, Florida is hot and sunny. In the summer, particularly in the south, it rains almost every afternoon. You’ve got to pack your daypack carefully to cover all the bases. Be sure to include:

  • Sunscreen
  • After-sun or aloe gel
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Sarong or cover-up for when you need to get less sun
  • Packable rain jacket
  • Dry change of clothes
  • Swimsuit
  • Packable Towel

Where to Visit in Florida

Each visit to the Sunshine State is a new one. You might check out the sunsets in Key West, visit the oldest schoolhouse in St. Augustine, cruise the strip in South Beach, or take in spring training in Tampa. Perhaps you’re collecting seashells in Sanibel, participating in Daytona’s spring break craze, exploring the Everglades, or meeting Mickey in Orlando. Regardless of whether you’re flying into one city and out of another, driving to your destination, or throwing darts to choose your stop of the day, Florida offers visitors a treasure trove of natural wonders and city life. Go explore them all.

  • Sanibel Island (a paradise for shell seekers)
  • Orlando (home to Walt Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios & the Kennedy Space Center)
  • Miami (nightlife hot spot of South Beach, home to Little Havana & close to Everglades National Park)
  • Tampa (home to Major League Baseball, NFL, and NHL teams)
  • Key West (the southernmost spot in the continental United States; be sure to take in a sunset celebration at Mallory Square)
  • Daytona (plan visits around February’s NASCAR race and the influx of visitors around spring break)
  • Fort Meyers and Naples (Gulf Coast special spots)
  • St. Augustine (oldest city in the United States)
  • West Palm Beach (museums, restaurants, golf courses, and heaps of ice cream shops)
  • Pensacola (westernmost city of the panhandle and nearby to Gulf Islands National Seashore)
  • Sarasota (home to the Ringling Museum Complex and love of all things circus)
  • Dry Tortugas National Park (cruise to a campsite)