To a large extent, the timing of your visit will determine how much you'll spend -- and how much company you'll have -- once you get to Florida. That's because room rates can more than double during so-called high seasons, when countless visitors flock to Florida.
The weather determines the high seasons. In subtropical South Florida, high season is in the winter, from mid-December to mid-April, although if you ask tourism execs, the high season is now creeping further into spring and even, in some parts, summer. On the other hand, you'll be rewarded with incredible bargains if you can stand the heat, humidity, and daily rainstorms of a South Florida summer between June and early September. In North Florida the reverse is true: Tourists flock here during the summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Hurricane season runs from June to November, and, as seen in 2005, the most active hurricane season on record, and 2009, the quietest, you never know what can happen. Pay close attention to weather forecasts during this season and always be prepared.
Presidents' Day weekend in February, Easter week, Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July, Labor Day weekend, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's are busy throughout the state, especially at Walt Disney World and the other Orlando-area attractions, which can be packed any time school is out.
Northern and southern Florida share the same shoulder seasons: April through May, and September through November, when the weather is pleasant throughout Florida and the hotel rates are considerably lower than during the high season. If price is a consideration, these months of moderate temperatures and fewer tourists are the best times to visit.
Northern Florida has a temperate climate, and even in the warmer southern third of the state, it's subtropical, not tropical. Accordingly, Florida sees more extremes of temperatures than, say, the Caribbean islands.
Spring, which runs from late March to May, sees warm temperatures throughout Florida, but it also brings tropical showers.
Summer in Florida extends from May to September, when it's hot and very humid throughout the state. If you're in an inland city during these months, you may not want to do anything too taxing when the sun is at its peak. Coastal areas, however, reap the benefits of sea breezes. Severe afternoon thunderstorms are prevalent during the summer heat (there aren't professional sports teams here named Lightning and Thunder for nothing), so schedule your activities for earlier in the day, and take precautions to avoid being hit by lightning during the storms. Those storms, by the way, often start out fierce and end with a rainbow and sunshine, so don't worry, just don't stand under a tree or on a golf course during the main act.
Autumn -- about September through November -- is a great time to visit, as the hottest days are gone and the crowds have thinned out. Unless a hurricane blows through, November is usually Florida's driest month. These days, however, one can never predict 100% sunshine. June through November is hurricane season here, but even if one threatens, the National Weather Service closely tracks the storms and gives ample warning if there's need to evacuate coastal areas.
Winter can get a bit nippy throughout the state and, in recent years, downright freezing, especially in northern Florida. Although snow is rare, the end of 2009 saw flakes falling as far north as Pensacola and as far south as Kendall in South Miami! Speaking of cold in Miami, locals have been known to whip out the coats, hats, and boots when the temperature drops below 80. The "cold snaps" usually last only a few days in the southern half of the state, however, and daytime temperatures should quickly return to the 70s (20s Celsius). Again, that was before all the El Niño/La Niña global warming took effect, so whenever you travel to Florida, bring a jacket. Even in summertime you may need it indoors, when air-conditioning reaches freezing temperatures.
For up-to-the-minute weather info, tune in to cable TV's Weather Channel or check out its website at www.weather.com.
Banks, government offices, post offices, and many stores, restaurants, and museums are closed on the following legal national holidays: January 1 (New Year's Day), the third Monday in January (Martin Luther King, Jr., Day), the third Monday in February (Presidents' Day), the last Monday in May (Memorial Day), July 4 (Independence Day), the first Monday in September (Labor Day), the second Monday in October (Columbus Day), November 11 (Veterans' Day/Armistice Day), the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving Day), and December 25 (Christmas). The Tuesday after the first Monday in November is Election Day, a federal government holiday in presidential-election years (held every 4 years, and next in 2012).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.