Michigan girl freaking out about travel to & staying on Florida Island
April 28, 2015 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Flying out to Florida at the end of May to stay on an island resort. Yay sounds exciting, right? Well, I've never flown before. I've never been to Florida before. I've never stayed on an island before. I've never stayed in a 4-star hotel before. I don't know what I don't know to ask what I should know! Please hope me.

I have never in my life ever expected to stay anywhere this fancy. The only reason I can even afford to do this now is because work is footing the bill. There's a 5-day/4-night conference at the end of May at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort that I'm going to.

Thank god our secretary is booking out the flight and hotel room details.. so I don't have to worry about that part.

Don't get me wrong, I am so excited about the new experiences. (I've never been to a conference before either.. I've never seen the ocean in person before!) But I don't know how to prepare or plan for this and I have questions:
  1. What kind of weather should I expect on an island in Florida at the end of May? (Are hurricanes a possibility?)
  2. I typically wear long flowing maxi dresses and sandals in warm weather.. is there anything glaring obvious about that that would make those a bad idea to wear at any point during the travel or stay on the island? If so, are capris and t-shirts my next best option?
  3. Are there a lot of bugs in this area? I have a bug phobia, primarily large flying bugs. Small flys and mosquitoes aren't so frightening as bees/wasps, butterflies/moths, and dragonflys. Primarily I just need to know so that if there are, I can mentally prepare myself to expect them, and also bring along something in case I have a panic attack.
  4. I am a pale pasty programmer, thus I know I will need (powerful) sunscreen. How do I get sunscreen through security at the airport?
  5. Since I'm flying from the USA to the USA I don't need anything special for my medications, right?
  6. I know to bring toiletries, chargers for electronics, clothing, bathing suit, sunglasses, and either a hat or parasol.. am I missing anything obvious that you might need on an island resort that you might not need on a trip to northern michigan?
  7. I have a mild fear of being robbed. Be it from someone who takes my bag when I'm distracted to a member of the hotel staff taking advantage of an opportunity while I'm out of my room. I recognize that it's unlikely to happen, but are there any websites out there that suggest the best ways to protect your stuff while you're on vacation to someplace like this?
  8. Is there anything I haven't asked that I should know about?
Lastly, I'm likely to have more questions.. is there anyone from the area or anyone with travel experience that'd be willing to field my questions via memail?
posted by royalsong to Travel & Transportation around Amelia Island, FL (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'll attack the simplest question: bring a travel size sunscreen with you, and the resort will sell you a full-size when you arrive. Or if you have a favorite brand you can't do without, checked luggage. (work will pay the check fees, no worries).
posted by aimedwander at 8:41 AM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


It very well might already be hot and humid at the end of May. Dresses and sandals will be perfect. You can ask the secretary booking the trip if there is a dress code for the work-related parts of the trip to be sure. Hurricane season doesn't officially start until June and even then they're way more likely later in the summer, so you're in the clear there.

There are a lot of bugs in the South, yes, but it's not like they're aggressive and want to hurt you. You'll barely notice them, I promise.

For most of your other stuff, you're traveling to a luxury resort within the US. Don't worry so much about packing perfectly and remembering everything you could possibly need. If you forget something, you can always buy it when you get there. The things I try hard to always remember to pack are prescription medication, glasses/contacts, and (to a lesser degree) phone chargers. Everything else is easy to replace.
posted by something something at 8:48 AM on April 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


And put the sunscreen in a ziploc bag (or even two) if you pack it in the checked bag.

You might get in touch with the concierge at the hotel and say, "This is the first time I've had the opportunity to stay in a hotel this nice. What should I make sure to take advantage of while I'm here to make it a wonderful experience?" You can give them an idea of how much you have budgeted to spend on your own entertainment, or you could just ask about complimentary amenities.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:49 AM on April 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


I have a mild fear of being robbed.

If you're unfamiliar with hotels you might not realize there's likely a small safe (narrow but usually big enough for a laptop etc) in your room. It's usually discretely hidden away for aesthetics, so look in cabinets/drawers like under the TV, in the closet, next to the mini-bar etc. You set the lock yourself on a keypad. This should help ease your fear of being robbed while out of your room.
posted by third rail at 8:52 AM on April 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Since I'm flying from the USA to the USA I don't need anything special for my medications, right?
For pills, you don't need to do anything special. If you have any liquid or gel medications in your checked luggage, they're subject to the 3-1-1 rule like other liquids.

You can't carry full water bottles through security into the airport, but you can bring empty water bottles and fill them up near the gate, or at your destination, if you want to avoid buying expensive bottled water while on your trip. Collapsible bottles are handy for this, though personally I just re-use old plastic water bottles.

If you rely heavily on your phone or other electronics, you might want to bring an external battery pack. Then you don't need to spend time worrying about where and when you'll be able to recharge things.

Planes are loud. Bring earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones or canalphones if you need quiet to relax.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:54 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The worst large flying bugs in Florida are cockroaches, but at the Omni I think you'll be safe from them.

A Florida Island in May is going to be just like Michigan in Summer... except flatter, with sandier, rockier soil, bigger birds, and plants you've only ever seen indoors growing outdoors.

Flying has gotten rather cramped and unglamorous in recent years, but unless you are claustrophobic or acrophobic it can still be fun in small doses. I like a window seat if I have the option.

The fancy hotel might be the most unsettling thing if you're prone (as I am) to feel that you don't belong. Actually harmless, though.

You'll be fine. Enjoy it!
posted by jon1270 at 8:56 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


And put the sunscreen in a ziploc bag (or even two) if you pack it in the checked bag.


Seriously. Two. I've had sunscreen leak in my checked bag, and it was no fun. I basically had to throw out the bag and several articles of clothing because they smelled like sunscreen forever. These days I typically just buy sunscreen when I get to wherever I'm going. If I do have to check some in a bag, I'll only check new, sealed containers, and I double or triple-bag them. Maybe I'm paranoid, but it's better than the alternative.

To the larger question of liquids, you basically have to check anything larger than a small travel amount in your luggage. You can have a single 1-quart ziplock bag of liquids, each liquid being 3.4 ounces or less, in your carry-on (with a few exceptions for medication and such). Anything else needs to be checked (or purchased on the other side). I travel with only travel sized toiletries I can fit in the single bag when I can. Here are the specific rules.
posted by primethyme at 8:57 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Florida native here. Amelia Island is beautiful. You're in for a treat.

1. For Amelia Island, expect highs in the mid 80s and lows in the low 70s. These are subject to some adjustment based on how far south you go. Hurricane season starts in June, so a hurricane would be rare. However, a hurricane is never a surprise.
2. The maxi dresses are perfectly appropriate. Maybe bring something appropriate for indoor evening dining as well. Of course, make sure your attire is appropriate for the conference.
3. I guarantee you will see the occasional insect. However, you are on a very nice resort property, so expect it to be things like the occasional dragonfly or butterfly. Pests like wasps should be well controlled while on property.
4. Buy it at CVS once you're in Florida. The average Florida drug store has about a hundred types of sunscreen.
5. Correct.
6. Not that I can think of
7. I am sure there are website with travel safety advice that can be found with Bing.
8. Not that I can think of.

Please feel free to send email if you have other questions that come up. You will have a great time, no doubt.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:00 AM on April 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


1. Hooooooooot. Hot and muggy. Think: Jurassic Park weather. Sometimes it'll rain a bit during the day but only for a short time, which makes the ground steamy. It's too early for hurricane season.

2. Actually what you typically wear sounds just right.

3. Mentally prepare yourself for bugs. More common peripheral-vision-terrors are little lizards and things like that.

4. Bring a small travel size sunscreen for day 1. Ask the hotel concierge where you can get sunscreen later. Nice places may even comp it for you, but every resort hotel will have a shop where you can buy some. Also, you will be provided with ample opportunities for shade. You'll be able to rent big sun shades down at the beach, rent large umbrellas, there will be plenty of cabana-type things to take refuge in...Florida is hot and bright and your hotel knows this.

5. I regularly fly with a pile of my personal prescriptions. I stick what I need for the trip in one small, unlabeled bottle and have never had a problem. I think most people recommend keeping them in their packaging so the drug and prescription information is readable on the side for clarification. But that would eat up a ton of my packing space and, maybe I'm just lucky, but it has never been a problem. Add to your packing list a sweater. The AC is likely to be cranked to polar temps indoors everywhere, and if all you've got are flowy little dresses, you're gonna have a bad time.

6. My grandma has a fear of being robbed everywhere, and solves this by wrapping all her valuables in dingy old underpants and burying them at the bottom of her suitcase. There's always a big production every time she goes to leave the room. Your room will also have a safe. It's unlikely any of the staff is going to take anything from you; while you're actively traveling keep your eyes on your stuff at all times and make sure your purse isn't hanging open.
posted by phunniemee at 9:01 AM on April 28, 2015


At a resort like that, mosquitoes are going to be the primary bug, just because it's impossible to get rid of them all.

I'd buy the sunscreen at the hotel, even though it will be $20, unless you will have the means to stop at a CVS on the way to the hotel.

Since it's a conference, you'll probably have big stretches of indoor time (air-conditioned to approximately Arctic conditions - bring a sweater) between sun exposures. Don't forget that a sunscreen application is only good for about 90 minutes. I use makeup wipes (like this kind of thing) to wipe off sunscreen to reapply. Don't forget places like the opening of your clothes on your chest, forearms, and tops of feet if you are wearing sandals or flip flops. The Florida sun is significantly more equatorial than the sun you're used to. Get yourself a big pair of 60s-style sunglasses too.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:07 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The hotel will have (either for free or a small fee) almost anything you forget -- other than prescription meds (but you can usually have a doctor call in an emergency travel script to a local pharmacy in a pinch). Toothbrush, razor, iphone charger, tampons, etc. - they will have these things. The room will have a hair dryer, but if you're particular about your hair you should bring your own as the quality of hotel ones is hit or miss.

Put the prescription meds, any valuable jewelry, and any expensive electronics in the room safe. They're not foolproof, but they're better than nothing. If you forget the code you put in (or the safe just stops working), call the front desk and they'll send someone to reset it.

The front desk/housekeeping can help with almost all requests, but you often have to ask. If anyone brings anything to your room (your bags, extra towels, a charger, etc.) make sure to tip them a few bucks. I also like to tip housekeeping every night (some wait til the end of the stay, but then you might only tip one of several people who've been cleaning your room).

The hotel may ask for your credit card for incidentals, even if work is paying. Be aware that the minibar may be pressure-sensitive and charge you for picking up an item, even if you don't consume it. Best to just not touch the stuff if you don't plan on buying it. Room service is expensive and usually has a service charge tacked on, plus a gratuity. That said, if work is paying or you're really not feeling the outdoors, it's sometimes the best option.

Try not to check a bag, it's easier and then you don't have to worry about it getting lost. You'll rarely need more than 3oz of something for a short trip, and you can buy stuff when you get there too. Your room will have an iron and ironing board and the hotel will probably have pressing and dry cleaning services if needed.

Make sure you have a non-expired photo id.

Save all receipts for everything, so you can be reimbursed by your company.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:08 AM on April 28, 2015


If you plan on leaving the resort at all, Amelia Island has a lovely little historic downtown area, with lots of shops and places to eat.
posted by bizzyb at 9:15 AM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Confirm with the secretary that is taking care of your flights/hotels whether s/he is also arranging transport from the airport to the hotel and back, or whether you should plan on taking a taxi.
posted by Caz721 at 9:23 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Since you mention you've never flown before, here's how checking in for your flight and going through security works.

1. You get to the airport and go to the ticket counter. If you're checking a bag you will check it here. Join the line of people waiting at the counter for whatever airline you're flying.
2. If you're just bringing a carry-on you can wait in the line, or you can keep an eye out for little kiosks that will be near the line. These let you get your boarding pass by scanning a credit card to prove that you're you. (It doesn't have to be the card that paid for the ticket.)
3. Now you should have just your purse and/or carry-on plus your boarding pass. Look for signs pointing to security. There will be another line. In this line they will want to see your boarding pass and drivers license. Have these out and ready.
4. When you get up to the area with the scanners you will be expected to take off your shoes (wear socks if you're grossed out by walking around barefoot) and any outerwear like a jacket. You put these in one of the plastic tubs that are available. The tub goes on the conveyor belt to go through the scanner. If you have a laptop in your bag you take that out and put it in a separate tub. Your quart size plastic bag with all your liquid toiletries goes in the tub too. (Each liquid thing you want to bring in your carry-on luggage must be in 3oz or smaller containers. No, they don't accept a 6 oz container that's obviously less than half full. Basically just buy travel size things and you'll be fine.) Your carry-on bag can just go straight on the conveyor, a purse or anything loose goes in a tub.
5. The TSA agent will tell you when to walk through the scanner. It might be a normal one like you've seen at a bank or courthouse, or it might be one you walk into, raise your hands above your head, and hold still for a count of 2. Just watch what other folks are doing.
6. Once you're through the scanner you can go to the other end of the conveyor belt and pick up all your stuff and redress yourself. Now you'll look for your gate. The gate number will be printed on the boarding pass, but there will also be tv monitors that show a list of arrivals and departures. Check these to make sure you're headed for the right gate. Sometimes flights will switch around at the last minute.
7. Congratulations! The toughest part of your travel is over!
posted by MsMolly at 9:29 AM on April 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Put everything you really need in your carry on/purse. I always bring my phone chargers with me and a change of underwear. (I've had the airlines lose my luggage for two days, even though they found it later).
posted by gt2 at 9:52 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


For 4 nights you should be OK with carry-on luggage. Make sure your suitcase fits within the airline size guidelines--"carry on" suitcases have gotten smaller in recent years.

Conference dress codes vary--in my field they're typically business casual but you can ask co-workers what to wear if other people from your workplace are going. If you are presenting a poster or a talk you will want something nicer to wear. The maxi dresses and sandals should be fine otherwise. The conference rooms will likely be extremely air conditioned, so bring a sweater.

You will probably be able to check in to your flight online 24 hours ahead of time and either print a boarding pass at home or get it on your phone, so you can skip the ticketing/check in counter and go straight to security when you get to the airport. Since you're not an experienced flier, plan to arrive at the airport with a LOT of time to spare--allow at least 30-45 minutes to get through security, and plan to be at the gate at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start of boarding (which is usually 30 minutes before the flight leaves). It's much better to bring a book and cool your heels at the gate for a bit than to be rushing to get there at the last minute.

Bring stuff to do on the airplane--books, downloaded movie, small craft project, etc. Airplane wireless is expensive and slow. Also, bring snacks. You can bring from home (no liquids) or pick up something in the airport to carry on. Airlines have mostly stopped giving out free food but will usually have overpriced sandwiches and stuff available to buy if you don't manage to bring something.

Figure out how you're going to get to the conference hotel from the airport--they may very well have a shuttle, or maybe your work will pay for a cab. Probably the secretary who is booking you can tell you.

Florida has some impressive insect life (like, roaches the size of your thumb) but you probably won't see much of it at a nice hotel.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:11 AM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bring more sunglasses than you think you need. I grew up in Michigan and I was 30 before I realized how glaring the sun is in some parts of the country. Stash a pair in your work bag, your purse, your pool bag, etc. This one little item can totally change your whole experience.

Put sunscreen where your hair parts on top of your head. Scalp sunburn sucks.

The hotel pool will likely be spectacular and you should take advantage of it. There probably is a bar so have something you can throw on over your swimsuit so you can walk up and order a drink without being embarrassed. And make sure you have your ID on you when you go to the pool.

Have a stash of small bills for tipping. I usually tip the person who drives the airport shuttle, anybody who schleps my bags anywhere, valet service, and definitely the person who shows me into the hotel room on the first night. If they're giving you an unnecessarily detailed guided tour of how to turn on the TV and open the curtains, it means they're waiting for a tip. For multiple-day stays in a hotel I tip the housecleaning staff on the last day. I leave $20 or so on the nightstand with a post-it that says "thank you!" When you're about to interact with a valet, bellman, etc, you really want to have figured out how much you're going to tip and have the bills in hand or easily accessible, so you don't feel like a rube digging around in your purse.

Keep your meds in their original pharmacy containers when you go through security and there will be nothing to worry about.

You will probably have at least one work dinner where you're seated around a big round table with way too many glasses and a baffling array of silverware. With the silverware, start with the outermost utensil and work your way in, then you will always be using the correct fork. The glass on the RIGHT is your glass, because it's assumed you're right handed.

Imagine your bags get lost in flight. You should have enough in your carry on to get through the night and the next day. You can always buy contact lens solution, etc, but you should wear something reasonably professional on the plane and, I cannot emphasize this enough, pack extra underwear in your carry on!
posted by selfmedicating at 10:15 AM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


It will be relatively hot and muggy, but that will be mitigated by the fact that you'll be a couple thousand feet, at most, from the Atlantic at all times.

Unfortunately, a strong tropical storm is not out of the question; one happened three years ago. The tropics have been relatively quiet over the past several years, though, at least as far as Florida's concerned. You're staying at a four-star hotel, so if you need to get out of there, they will tell you.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:49 AM on April 28, 2015


Hi! You've gotten great tips about travel, so I'll tell you what I know about Amelia Island. I've stayed at this resort several times, and you have nothing to worry about. It's beautiful, the people are friendly and welcoming, and you're bound to have a wonderful time. First, yes, the hotel is on an island, but keep in mind that it's a barrier island right up against the coast, and you'll hardly notice when you cross the bridge onto the island. With any luck at all, the ocean breeze will keep any bugs away. I've never noticed any or been troubled by bugs while there. As for dressing around the hotel, what you have planned sounds perfect! You'll see families with young children as well as people there for business meetings. There will be a combination safe in your room, probably in the closet, where you can stash valuables while you are out of your room. I didn't grow up going to fancy places either, so I always feel like I can relate more to the staff than the guests when I am at upscale resorts. But remember, the folks at the hotel are there to make your stay as comfortable as possible, so if you have any problems just pick up your phone and call the front desk. And even if you forget your safe combination like I did, they will cheerfully come to your rescue. Also, if you have a chance to go to nearby Fernandina Beach, do it. It's a charming little town. Hope you will embrace this adventure and have a wonderful time!
posted by MelissaSimon at 10:52 AM on April 28, 2015


Fear of being robbed - over the last few years I've spent a lot of time travelling for work and for pleasure, all over Europe, the US, Africa and India. I was robbed once, in the US, in 2007. My wallet was stolen from my bag which was in a vehicle used only by the group I was travelling with. It was a nuisance, not a disaster, and could be resolved with a phone call and a trip to Western Union to pick up money I asked family to wire. What I did take from that experience is that it makes sense to have at least one card and some cash somewhere other than your wallet so you can fall back on those if required.

Limit your electronics. You really don't want to have to keep track of a laptop, tablet computer, smartphone, kindle and what have you. Pick what you need, leave the rest at home. Take sensible percautions like using the room safe, working out what you want to keep with you or in the room. It would be unfortunate to keep all your valuables with you in your bag (to avoid the opportunistic hotel employees) and then leave the bag unattended by the pool (say when you're taking a swim) and find that the bag or some of its content is missing a few hrs later. The safest place to leave stuff is at home. After that your room is safer than outside the room because the number of people who can get into your room is smaller than the number of people who can pick up your bag in passing.

Also realise that there are many more kind people who will look out for you and help you than rob you. On a recent trip I forgot my ipad in a cafe. I had time to kill before a flight, the cafe was en route to the airport but nowhere near the airport. I realised my ipad was not in my bag more than 2 hrs and 40 miles later. As I was still early for my flight I drove all the way back, walked into the cafe and the nice lady I'd chatted to was still there. She had spotted my ipad, had told the cafe owners in case I rang, had taken posession of the ipad until leaving the place in case I just walked in as she knew who I was and the owner did not. She handed it to me when I walked in and was really concerned about my misisng my flight. I made my flight.

Most novice travellers pack way too much stuff. It helps to remember that they have shops at your destination. What you really do need is your ID to allow you to fly and you a credit card (and any prescription medication if you have to take any). If you literally turned up at the airport with nothing else your trip would still go well. If it's a business trip any work equipment like a laptop or phone would also be in the category of things you need. But my laptop died on a business trip to India. Within 24 hrs my local IT guy at home and the IT guy in our Indian office retrieved my user IDs and sorted me out with a temporary laptop to use whilst I was there. When I got back they had my new laptop all ready for me. I was without laptop for less than a full workday.

For 5 days you need very little - a few changes of clothes, a few toiletries. Done. Go on the resort's website and check out the amenities. A 4 star resort will have nice toilettries (soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion), a decent hair dryer, a decent iron. Most hotels have a box of chargers that people have forgotten that you can borrow from. Nicer hotels will actively keep a range of chargers on hand for people to use if required. They'll also have a laundry/dry cleaning service if you really get unstuck. One of my bosses once arrived in Sao Paulo on a 4 day business trip but his checked luggage did not. He had one change of clothes in his hand luggage and he alternated these two sets of clothing whilst he was there, cycling them through the hotel dry cleaning. He attended his meetings in jeans and t-Shirt and assures me that whilst his meeting partners were a bit surprised by his casual take on business attire it was a very successful trip. Another one of my bosses used the same predicament as an excuse to acquire a bunch of new clothes. She was able to get most of the money she spent back from work's travel insurance. Despite the emergency shopping I am told that was also a successful trip in terms of business.

So don't pack for every eventuality. Try to get hold of the event program. Confirm if there is an evening program you're expected to participate in and what that might be. Work out your wardrobe requirements. Only bring what you know you'll need. Everything else can be borrowed or bought. More often than not you'll be able to manage without.

And seriously limit your hand luggage as well. There is nothing more tiresome than lugging a bunch of bags through an airport.

TL;DR - Pack a lot less than you think you need, do take your ID, credit card and any prescription medication/work equipment (if required for the trip).
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:53 AM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I travel a fair bit, and I have never had stuff stolen out of my room, even when I accidentally left some jewelry on the nightside table. (Don't do that; it's a stupid move.)

Carry all your valuables with you on the plane, never put anything but clothes and toiletries in checked baggage. Bring a spare set of underwear, a fresh shirt, and a bathing suit in your carry on (a bathing suit doesn't take up much room and it's nice to be able to swim on the off chance you lose your luggage or it is delayed -- delayed luggage is usually delivered to your hotel).
posted by jeather at 11:14 AM on April 28, 2015


Outside will be fiercely hot and humid. Inside the hotel it will likely be freezing cold. Bring a light sweater you can throw over whatever you plan on wearing. I lived in Florida for years, and fancy hotels are always really cold.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:17 AM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


1. High in the mid 80s/low 90s, expect short-lived but intense thunderstorms some days, odds of hurricane or tropical storm are very low. It shouldn't be gross-humid right by the beach because of the breezes.

3. Expect some bugs but not gross amounts of bugs, again because of the breezes. But bees and dragonflies will be among them.

4. Just buy some there.

5. If you have nontrivial medications, it never hurts to bring a prescription Just In Case.

6. Can't think of anything.

7. It's very probable that the room will have a safe big enough for a laptop and other valuables.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:29 AM on April 28, 2015


Check to see what the resort check-in time is - it looks like 4pm? If you arrive earlier than that they may not have the room ready for you.

I live in NYC so I frequently get on the plane in jeans/t-shirt/hoodie and end up in a destination 40 degrees warmer. When I anticipate that I will arrive before check-in I put a weather appropriate outfit at the top of my luggage so that I can just pull out a swimsuit/sarong/flip-flops and go read by the pool while I wait for the room to be serviced. You can change in the hotel lobby bathroom and the hotel will happily stash your luggage for you.
posted by lalex at 11:35 AM on April 28, 2015


Check to see what the resort check-in time is - it looks like 4pm? If you arrive earlier than that they may not have the room ready for you.

That said, it never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is No, check-in is at 4pm--but it's more likely that they'll be able to check you in. I bring this up because I spent years of traveling trying to kill time before official check-in time--and it's not like I was taking great advantage of the extra time because I was tired from the flight and lugging my luggage and anxious to get to my room--until I discovered that you can ask and more often than not be accommodated.

Check-out time ends to be less flexible, but if you need an extra hour or two, you can ask for late check-out. Again, they might say no, but it's more likely they'll say yes.

And around the same time I also learned that nearly all hotels will store your baggage for you for free (well, for tips for the person who brings them out to you) before check-in and after check-out if you've got wandering around to do and don't want to haul your luggage with you. So even if you get there early and they can't have a room ready for you until 4pm, you can leave your bags with them and go check out the resort. How this works: you ask if you can leave your bags, they happily say yes and give you a claim check, and when you come back, tell them you'd like to pick up your bags, give them your claim check, and tip the person who brings your bags out a few bucks.

I enthusiastically second packing light and picking up stuff you need while you're there, BUT: if you wear plus sizes or other difficult-to-find sizes in bras, swimwear, or clothing, know that you probably won't be able to replace a broken bra, torn swimsuit, or stained dress in an emergency, so in that case, make sure you have enough clothes. Even with an extra bra and an extra change of clothes or two, though, you should still be able to fit everything in your carry-on.

Have a great time!
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:05 PM on April 28, 2015


Just reiterating that inside will be cold. For some reason in the South, they like to keep the air conditioning around 65F. A light sweater may not be enough and open toed shoes may be too cool.

Bring an empty travel mug or water bottle so you can fill it once you're beyond security. All food and drinks are crazy expensive in an airport. Double check your gate. Wear comfortable shoes in case you have to trek through the airport. Don't feel any pressure to get work done on the plane. Once you're above the clouds, you're not responsible to earth any more.

Also, if you're at a conference, it's probably okay to skip part of it to hide out in your room or wander around town if you get over socialized. I know I'm pretty done listening by about the third day. Taking an afternoon off to decompress helps refresh me for the rest of the conference.

Yes, to extra underwear and toothbrush in carry-on luggage.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2015


It's best when possible to carry on your luggage and not deal with checking (especially if you aren't used to navigating baggage claims and airport signage alone). Your airline will have carry-on "size restrictions" that dictate the maximum size for a carry on bag. You'll want to check those and measure the bag you want to bring.

When you board the plane, you put this luggage up above the seats in the overhead and it is a pain (but not impossible) to get to it during the flight. Bring along a second small bag (a purse, backpack, tote, messenger bag, etc.) with things you want to have during the flight (magazine, snacks, etc.). You will put this under the seat in front of you during take-off and landing. You can only have two bags.

Charge your phone fully before leaving for the airport. Turn it off during the flight to make sure you have enough power when you land.

Airport food is very overpriced - like at a theme park or stadium. You may be able to expense meals to your company during your trip. Ask and save receipts if so. If not, I pack a meal and snacks.

I bring an empty reusable water bottle and fill it up AFTER security. You cannot bring water through security at the airport. On the plane they will give you small cups or bottles that may not be enough if you are thirsty.

Your ears may pop during take off and landing. I like to drink some water, chew gum, or suck on a lifesaver to help them pop.

Planes are often pretty cold, bring a sweatshirt and scarf in the small bag, and maybe some fuzzy socks.

When you arrive at the airport in Florida you will be tired and disoriented. Figure out ahead of time how you will get to the resort (taxi, hotel shuttle, super shuttle public transit). If you are traveling with coworkers you may do this together.

Planes usually have wifi now, but sometimes it costs money or doesn't work. Download things you want to work on on the plane, and figure out ahead of time if you can expense it. You may have to pay a daily charge for wifi in your hotel room; again, confirm ahead of time that you can expense this.

Make time for some snorkeling if you have some time off!! Or a glass-bottom boat tour.
posted by amaire at 12:30 PM on April 28, 2015


One other thing to look out for is that the humidity will probably affect your hair quite a bit. If you're going to be uncomfortable if you don't look the way you're used to, ignore the advice about traveling light, and bring all the hair tools and products you'll need to feel OK. Michigan is humid, but Florida is a lot more so.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 1:30 PM on April 28, 2015


Pale cheesehead here. I was astounded at the Florida sun's intensity. We drove from Miami to Key West and I got a 2nd degree sunburn in the car because my arm was out the window. The Florida thunderstorms are just as wonderful as Lake Michigan ones.

If you are going outside during the day wear a hat. If you don't have a wide-brimmed hat with a cord (sea breezes), you can find many lovely ones near your hotel.

Fancy hotels have room service: if you're feeling overwhelmed by people, you can stay in your room and call for anything (even not on the menu!) They also have "concierges," who can find 90% of the things you forgot to pack. If you need sudden tailoring or dry-cleaning, they'll help you out.

Airplanes are dry, cold, noisy, and generally no fun. The view out the window is AMAZING. They are safer than riding in a car, even if you do encounter some bumpy air. When you board the plane, let the flight attendant know it's your first flight & you're apprehensive—they'll reassure you during the trip.
posted by Jesse the K at 2:42 PM on April 28, 2015


For pills, you don't need to do anything special. If you have any liquid or gel medications in your checked luggage, they're subject to the 3-1-1 rule like other liquids.

This is NOT true. Medications are specifically excepted from the 100ml size limit. If you have liquid or gel medication, you want to travel with the container that has the prescription label on (so you might want to put the bottle or tube back in the box it came in, if that's where the label is). At security, you pull it out of your carry-on luggage and send it through the x-ray machine in a bin with the rest of your stuff. Once in a blue moon, they glance at it looking for the prescription sticker.
posted by hoyland at 4:23 PM on April 28, 2015


Medications are specifically excepted from the 100ml size limit.
Oh, right. This is correct. What I should have said is that there's an exception for medications, but it's been a significant hassle multiple times when I had to use the exception, especially for medications that are non-prescription but medically necessary. So it's easier if you can fit within 3-1-1, but not necessary.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:35 PM on April 28, 2015


Amelia Island is not a tropical paradise kind of island. Not so much snorkeling/glass-bottom-boat stuff. The ocean is green, not blue. It's in north Florida, so you'll see a lot of grey and tan things growing like scrubby live oak and sea oats, rather than wild bird of paradise crazy jungle green stuff--unless the resort goes nuts and plants a lot of tropical stuff all over to fulfill people's "Florida island" expectations. It's beautiful, though, and more than sufficiently exotic. True story: you will see a millionzillion little grey-brown lizards everywhere. Florida was overrun by Cuban anoles twenty or so years ago. They will run away from you and not try to get on you, so you need not fear them. Insects will be everywhere outside. Just think of them as part of the air and ignore.

It's going to be hot as hell unless there's some kind of weather anomaly afoot. Mid-nineties day, high 70s night. But yes: FREEZING in the plane and the hotel will be refrigerated, too. This is opulence: snuggling under the swank down duvet watching small claims court television on a huge flatscreen and ignoring the blazing sun an inch away through the thick hotel windowglass. Of course you must go to the beach most of the time, but spending an hour when you're supposed to be on the beach ensconced in down in a freezing hotel room really can't be beat for feeling like you're in the 1%.

Bring a big shirt to wear on the beach. I use a two-beach-towel system, one to lie on and one to put over the lower half of me, and I drape the big shirt on my soft cooler and my big beach tote and huddle under it to read. No part of me sees direct sun. The sun will try to kill you. Bring a hat, too.

As for the plane, you will probably be traveling with your co-workers, right? You can just do what they do and coast along! Wear easy on/off shoes to the airport since they'll make you take them off. You're supposed to take off all your stuff and throw it in these bins and put them on a conveyor belt, then get them off the conveyor belt and back on you all at race pace with tons of people yelling at you and a crushing din. This is impossible to do fast enough for the people behind you no matter how hard you try, so don't worry too much about it. Just get through the nightmare of the airport and onto the plane and then you can collapse in perfect sloth until you have to negotiate the next airport. Flying is fun and relaxing: it's the part on the ground in the airport that's hell.

Try to buy sunscreen at a drug store once you get there rather than the hotel or the airport--but you might get away with just your travel size if you follow my advice about the big shirt, the hat, and the extra beach towel (the hotel will have towels--don't pack a towel). You can memail me; I'd be pleased!
posted by Don Pepino at 6:11 PM on April 28, 2015


Jacksonville native here.

As per AskMe, everyone has covered everything quite well. All I have to add is to ask which airport you're flying into. If it's Jax and you guys need advice about the airport or city, feel free to MeMail me.

If your group has the chance, the Kingsley Plantation and Little Talbot Island are a half hour's drive to the south and well worth a visit for those interested in history or wildlife.
posted by Devika at 8:23 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


A few more things about flying.

Jesse the K noted the bumpy air. This is turbulence. To quote Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October, "Solar radiation heats the Earth's crust, warm air rises, cool air descends: turbulence." The science always helped me to not worry about it. Turbulence can be so minor you almost miss it, or it can feel like an axle-breaking pothole in the road. Either way, not your concern. Unless it upsets any drink you may have. If it gets bad, the pilot will generally go a little higher to get above the bumpy air.

Also, not all aircraft cabins are well pressurized. If you've got any sinus problems, a poorly pressurized cabin can be hellish. I always took some Sudafed before boarding the aircraft to keep my sinuses open. IANAD.

Assume any noise you hear is commonplace unless notified otherwise.

The window seat is great. The world looks different up there and you'll be able to say, along with Joni Mitchell, that you've "seen clouds from both sides now." Most people haven't, and it's awfully cool to think about. But as small as things get when you take off (taking off is such fun! The speed! The power!), they get bigger again when you descend. Just remember what Robert Hays told his passengers in Airplane!: "I'm going to have to come in awfully low to land this plane."

Have fun!
posted by bryon at 3:48 AM on April 29, 2015


Does the conference have any field trips planned? Sign up for anything that lets you see the real, unsimulacrummy island. There's a beautiful state park, for instance. If you don't leave the resort, please forget everything I said about lizards and bugs and gray and tan vegetation--I looked at a picture and they have Disney-level pest control and landscape modification going on. You want to think about the level of engineering it must take to put a perfect putting green a couple of hundred feet from the Atlantic ocean where there should be nothing growing but sand and sea oats: if they can do that impossible thing, they can probably kick the lizards and roaches off their property, too. So you will not see north Florida if you stay on the resort, with the sole exception of the Atlantic; the tourism industry has not yet figured out how to turn it into the South Pacific.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:20 AM on April 29, 2015


If you're prone to travel/motion sickness in other modes of transport be sure to take your drugs of choice in your handluggage and take some before you board the plane. I find flying triggers my motion sickness like nothing else because there is nothing you can look at to allow your brain to understand you really are moving when you're flying through turbulence. I've been known to focus on the half inch of water left dancing around in my cup to give my brain some kind of marker of motion, a yes, we are moving, we are not being poisoned, no need to vomit. That's not fun. And it only takes a hint of turbulence to get me going but I've also always been prone to motion sickness from a young age. YMMV.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:34 AM on April 30, 2015


Hi Everyone! Thanks for all the wonderful advice. Especially the tips for a first-time flyer.

I am the only one in my office that does my job, and thus the only one going to the conference. There is a reception with light refreshments on the day I'm traveling, but it doesn't sound like the kind of thing that requires dressing up. I'll check with the organizers, though. Given the venue and the information, the conference is a really laid back have fun and learn kind of thing.
posted by royalsong at 6:11 AM on May 6, 2015


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