For a couple of years now, we've enjoyed spring break in Florida. We rent a condo and enjoy a week at the beach. The building has a great pool and a great view. In addition, it's near lots of great restaurants and places to go. Both in 2017 and 2018 we booked the condo for the following year before we even left! It's something our family has grown to look forward to. But, our trip in six months may be in jeopardy. Why? Because of red tide!
Red Tide Hits Florida
I'll admit. Before this year, I never heard of red tide. But, it's been all over the news for the past few months. Red tide is an algae bloom. It can grow based on wind conditions, water temperatures, and other such variables. If it gets big and close to shore, it kills fish. The fish then wash on shore. That leaves an awful smell. On top of that, the algae itself has a smell. Between these two, it makes any shore area basically inhabitable.
Red tide has hit Florida especially hard this year. Some years, it never happens. Other years it happens in small doses. Sometimes it happens and dissipates quickly. This year it's big and it's sticking around for a long time.
It's disrupting tourism big time. I read an article that hotel occupancy rates are down up to 80% in areas that are or have been hit by red tide. The bad news on that is it's been a very wide swath this outbreak.
We Could Not Vacation Today
Where our April 2019 rental is, there's currently a huge red tide outbreak. Several weeks ago, it was free and clear. If we were booked for vacation today, chances are we wouldn't go. Or we wouldn't be able to enjoy it.
What About Next Year?
We've been looking at our options for next year. The thing is, we have no idea what's going to happen. The red tide outbreak could disipate tomorrow. Sometimes conditions change quickly and it goes away. However, it could last for much longer. There was a red tide update in recent years that lasted 17 months! If that type of condition persisted, we could be screwed.
The cancellation policy of our rental condo is actually pretty generous. We have up until 30 days before our arrival to cancel. If we cancel during that time, we lose $100 of our deposit. That's really not all that bad. Now, if we canceled after 30 days, then we would forfeit everything.
The first thought is many have (I know I did) is that we can just wait it out and see. If we're a few weeks away and red tide is still in the area, we could just bail and be out just $100. While that in itself is true, the issue is that we need an alternative. See, we still want to go on vacation next year no matter what. If we wait until a few weeks before, especially during that time of year which is very busy, we'll likely not find a great alternative. Everything will be booked, especially if other people cancel and make alternatives.
We also don't want to pay more than we're paying now. There's money that we set aside for this trip, and going over budget is not something I'm interested in. It could be tough to match that since a condo offers savings over a hotel.
For the record, some of the alternatives we're looking at are inland options. We could stay in some of the inland cities at resorts that have great pools. That'd be fun. But, it wouldn't be as fun, so we're leery to switch now.
We could book two things and cancel one as it gets closer. Or, we could take a chance and wait it out. We're just not sure yet.
My poor in-laws are staying at a condo in the same complex later this year. They have only weeks to make a decision!
Update: Since this was originally drafted, my in-laws did decide to cancel their vacation. However, the primary reason ended up being ongoing construction at the condo complex.
What Would You Do?
Nature is always the unknown. When you book a vacation, you never know what you're going to get. Rain can ruin vacations. Cold weather or hot weather can change plans. Even hurricanes, as some find out now. You just never know. But, red tide is something I'd never considered until now. What would you do? Would you wait it out, book a second option, or something altogether different?
I'd love your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!