The first thing to deal with is the 8 hour plane journey. The advertised ‘luxury’ of a Virgin flight should mean a comfortable and enjoyable experience (is that even possible?) and this is generally the case. The huge range of films, music and programmes along with the seemingly endless food and drink does make the trip feel much shorter. It’s not the plane that’s the problem. It’s the people. In any other situation, spending almost an entire day with strangers sounds a horrifying prospect and this one is no different. The majority of people keep themselves to themselves but there’s always a select few that like to rock the boat. I’m talking about those people that like to recline their seat so much that you can’t see the TV screen in front of you and that little bit of extra legroom becomes no legroom at all. Imagine this happening for the entire flight on the way there and back and you have a recipe for disaster.
‘The Sunshine State’ is an accurate name 75% of the time. The other 25% – not so much. If you decide to travel to Florida in hurricane season (June-November), I wouldn’t worry so much about the hurricanes. Worry more about the storms. The sun and heat will deceive you into believing that no rain could ever fall from that sky. But trust me. It does. And it falls hard. The British love to moan about the weather but you haven’t seen heavy rain until you’ve entered the state of Florida. On the plus side, the rain is quite refreshing but if you’re at a theme park (and let’s be honest, the chances of that are pretty high), prepare for any outside rides to shut. This may sound like your holiday is going to be spent looking for shelter and waiting for attractions to re-open but many of the theme parks have built indoor 3D rides that provide much more of a thrill and never shut (unless they’re not working).
That brings me onto the next point: American hospitality. Customer service can’t get much better in the States. When visiting theme parks in Orlando, long queues are expected but when rides break down and the wait time keeps on rising, people’s patience can be tested. No need to shout at the workers. They will come round with sweets and fast passes to other rides while you’re waiting and if you ask really nicely, you can get a free ticket for another day out of it. It’s not just the workers that will help you out. The US citizens are possibly the nicest people you’ll ever meet. They’ll start up conversations in queues and when you can’t handle the heat and faint, you’ll experience a swarm of people crowding round you with offers of food and water that they’ve just bought.
If you decide to go and see a rocket launch, get a good night’s sleep because you’ll be up pretty early. It’s a once in a lifetime thing to see but try and make sure that you’re not standing behind someone with a kid on their shoulders otherwise you might just miss it. Pray for a sunny day as well. If it’s not, you’ll have a great sight for about 3 seconds until the rocket disappears into the clouds. When you’re driving to the launch, look out for alligators in the swamps next to the road. However, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t break down as there’s no fence between you and the water.
Driving is also something that people love to talk about when they’ve gone to the US. Some say it’s easy. Others say it’s easy to get lost. The truth is that it’s probably best to have a Sat Nav (just to be on the safe side) and make sure that you know the rules of the road. You’re probably thinking that it can’t be that different to driving at home. But the 5 lane motorways or ‘freeways’ as they’re known can scare the hell out of some people and so can the whole overtaking on both sides part. If you don’t like driving fast, then you’d better not drive at all in Florida. 30 mph does not exist. In fact, the lowest speed limit you’re likely to find is 45 mph. It can also take a while to understand their traffic light system. Red does mean stop but if you’re turning right and the light’s red, feel free to go as long as the road’s clear.
All in all, Florida is a great place to visit. There’s so much to do and see so you’ll be shattered by the end of your trip – but it will have been worth it.