Traveling during the pandemic: spring break in Florida

Zita Biro

Like many other college students, I was anxiously waiting for spring break after completing midterm exams. Despite the pandemic, my friends and I organized a trip to Florida because we wanted to enjoy summer weather and explore a different state.   

My friends and I initially planned to go to California, but we chose to go to Florida instead. While we would still have the opportunity to enjoy warm weather, we realized we could experience more in Florida opposed to California where many parks, museums and restaurants were closed.    

Currently in Florida, masks are mandatory for most indoor buildings, including shops, restaurants, museums, and sport arenas. However, you do not have to wear masks in a club or in a bar.    

My friends and I started our trip in Orlando, where we spent the first day sightseeing. We walked in the Lake Eola Park, which features a big lake in the middle of town, and a lot of people spent the afternoon there. Many of the sightseers also wore masks while walking outside, so it was more reassuring to walk in a smaller crowd.  

Restaurants, art galleries, and bars were open, but we also wanted to experience the night life as students in downtown Orlando. The streets were crowded, the clubs were full, and we had to stand in a line to be able to enter. It really felt like the pandemic didn’t exist, but we were still required to wear our masks in the line.   

On another day, we visited the Universal Studios Island of Adventure theme park. We were disappointed to hear about the park being closed in California when we initially planned our trip, so we were glad to have the opportunity to visit the park in Florida. We experienced the castle [Hogwarts] from Harry Potter, the Hulk roller coaster, a Jurassic Park simulator, among several other attractions within Universal Studios.   

At Universal Studios, even though it was extremely crowded with people, the theme park’s employees tried to make the visit safer during this pandemic. Masks and social distancing were required, and we were instructed to remain within the lines while waiting for an attraction. The staff always checked if the visitors were following the rules and we were provided with hand sanitizer all the time.   

A few days later, we arrived in Miami. The city was wonderful, with a beautiful downtown and smaller islands on which residential parks were built hosting mostly skyscrapers.   

Miami Beach is the most famous home to South Beach and Ocean Drive. Palm trees and skyscrapers were everywhere, it was a real holiday experience. The people were very friendly and helpful, which was a positive surprise compared to the metropolitan environment.   

Unfortunately, the day before we arrived in the city, the police had to intervene in a crowd of college students in South Beach. After this mishap, officials made a curfew of 8 p.m. in South Beach and at 12 a.m. in Miami.  

Police felt it was necessary to intervene because there were too many students spending their spring break in Miami and the chaos was getting out of hand. Even after we arrived, the streets were still crowded in the area, which housed most of the clubs, bars and restaurants in addition to being the most popular place to visit in Miami during spring break.  

We could not fully experience the nightlife in Miami because the clubs were closed, but we were satisfied to discover we could still have a drink in a bar and try the local foods in the restaurants. My friends and I met a lot of other students in the city, and we also made new friendships thanks to our spring break vacation.   

We flew back from Orlando to Missouri at the end of our holiday, and I felt safe again. Everyone wore masks and tried to keep a distance from each other at the airport and on the plane as well. I am glad that we could explore Florida without feeling in danger because of the pandemic and that we were able to return as healthy as we were before.