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January 2009 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • Hurricane Predictions
  • Florida in 2009
  • Book Review - Frommer's Florida from $70 a Day
  • Beat the Credit Crunch
  • Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper
  • January events
  • Weather forecast
January 2009 Florida Review & Travel Guide Newsletter

January 1, 2009

Bringing you the latest news from the Sunshine State
Welcome to the January Newsletter

Hi subscriber, welcome to the January 2009 newsletter of the Florida Review & Travel Guide.

Hopefully you have all enjoyed the festivities over the last few weeks and I'd like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a very happy New Year; let us hope 2009 brings us all some more cheer.

This January is very different to last January what with all the economic upheavals, job losses and fears of a major recession across the globe. See below for our "credit crunch" beating Florida vacation ideas and our review of the guide book "Frommer's Florida from $70 a Day".

January is traditionally the start of the vacation planning season, so if you are planning a vacation to Florida during 2009, then let the Florida Review & Travel Guide help you on your way. Right now there are some great deals to be had as many travel companies struggle to get customers.

Gasoline prices

After the amazing roller coaster oil prices of 2008, oil is now around $40 a barrel (down from a peak of $140 per barrel) which at least means some good news for anyone driving in Florida. Typical prices for regular gas (petrol) in Orlando are now around $1.60 a gallon. You can always find the latest prices at GasPriceWatch.com.

Theme park changes in 2008

Hurricane predictionsLooking back at the newsletter for this time last year, there were question marks regarding the future of Cypress Gardens and Weeki Wachee Springs.

Despite another change of ownership, Cypress Gardens has again found itself struggling and it closed in late 2008 for a major reorganisation which will see the removal of the roller coasters and a return to its traditional roots of the botanical gardens and the ski show plus the recently opened water park.

Meanwhile there is better news at Weeki Wachee Springs which has been adopted as a State Park.

For further details of all of Florida's theme parks, click here.

Visa Waiver Programme

A final reminder to everyone who is planning a trip to Florida in 2009 from overseas; the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will be mandatory from January 12th, 2009. More details can be found here.

Cruise Prices

In the run up to the holiday season, all the major cruise lines slashed their prices to entice more people on board with offers like four night Caribbean cruises for just $150. Even with the additional fees and taxes, some prices seem almost cheaper than staying at home.

It looks like these special offers could extend well into 2009 and some even into 2010. Many cruise lines and travel agents are offering free cabin upgrades and onboard credits so it pays to shop around at this time.

Disney Vacation Club changes

The Disney Vacation Club has signed a multi-year exclusive contract with the timeshare exchange company, Group RCI (a subsidiary of Wynham Worldwide Corporation), replacing a previous agreement with RCI's rival, Interval International of Miami.

This will allow Disney Vacation Club members to use their DVC points to rent rooms at non-Disney resorts around the world and for RCI's more than 3.6 million members to access DVC timeshares.

Florida books published in January

January brings a flurry of new books about Florida including:
  • Woodall's The South Campground Guide, 2009
  • Fishing Key West and the Lower Keys by David Conway
  • Florida's Working-Class Past: Current Perspectives on Labor, Race, and Gender from Spanish Florida to the New Immigration
  • Tampa on My Mind
  • Backroads & Byways of Florida: Scenic Vistas, Historic Sites, Country Inns, Down-Home Restaurants, Selective Shopping by Zain Deane
  • Orlando & Central Florida: An Explorer's Guide: Includes Daytona Beach, Melbourne, and the Tampa Bay Area by Sandra Friend and Kathy Wolf
  • Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami & the Florida Keys: Great Destinations: A Complete Guide by Trish Riley
  • Hiking North Florida and the Panhandle: A Guide to 30 Great Walking and Hiking Adventures by M. Timothy O'Keefe
  • Walt Disney World & Orlando For Dummies by Laura Lea Miller
  • Mobil Travel Guide Miami
  • HMS Fowey Lost and Found: Being the Discovery, Excavation, and Identification of a British Man-of-War Lost off the Cape of Florida in 1748 by Russell K. Skowronek and George R Fischer
  • Fool's Paradise: Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach by Steven Gaines
  • Florida Keys Insight Smart Guide
  • Hauntings in Florida's Panhandle by Nicole Carlson Easley
  • St. Augustine, Florida: Past and Present by Donald D. Spencer
  • Landmark Visitors Guide Orlando & Central Florida
Hurricane Predictions

Hurricane predictionsAs in 2008, the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University have already made their first predictions for the 2009 hurricane season.

Professor William Gray's team have predicted an above average season with 14 named storms for 2009, slightly down on 2008. The average for the past 50 years is around ten to eleven named storms, of which six are hurricanes and two, major hurricanes.

Out of the 14 storms, they expect seven to become hurricanes of which three will become major hurricanes (category 3 or higher) with wind speeds in excess of 111 mph.

The team plan to issue seasonal updates for next year's hurricane activity on or around April 7, June 2, August 4, September 2 and October 1.

In 2008 there were 16 named storms, of which eight became hurricanes and five became major hurricanes. 2008 was also a record year in which six consecutive storms hit the United States; Hurricane Dolly, Tropical Storm Edouard, Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav, Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike. Tropical Storm Fay also made a record four landfalls in the same state (Florida).

2008 was also one of the best years for the forecasters, both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center (NOAA) and the the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University came pretty close with their predictions.

To read more about Florida's weather and the latest news on tornadoes, tropical storms and hurricanes, click here.
Florida in 2009

Despite the economic woes, 2009 promises some great new attractions in Florida.

The one big question mark is what will happen to the theme parks inherited by the Belgian brewers InBev when they purchased Anhauser-Busch. Busch Entertainment Corporation operate 10 theme parks including SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, Busch Gardens, Adventure Islands and Aquatica in Central Florida.

The HollyWood Rip, Ride, Rockit at Universal Studios

In Spring 2009, a new roller coaster called "The Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit" will open at Universal Studios featuring six near-miss moments, a record-breaking loop and eight corkscrew turns.

Rockit will be the tallest coaster in Central Florida at 167 feet in the air, with speeds of 65 mph. It promises to be a high-intensity, multi-sensory experience.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Universal Studios announced in 2007 that they had signed a deal with Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. to bring Harry Potter to Universal. A new theme park within a theme park called "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" will open inside Universal's Islands of Adventure some time in late 2009/early 2010.

Manta Ray at SeaWorld

The new roller coaster attractions currently being built at SeaWorld, called "Manta, Ride the Flying Ray", is scheduled to open in the Summer of 2009 and will be SeaWorld's second real roller coaster to complement Kraken and the part coaster/part water ride Journey to Atlantis.

Relaunch of Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens closed in late 2008 and will re-open in March 2009. During the refurbishment, the thrill rides at Adventure Grove including the six roller coasters will be removed, along with the small zoo, Nature's Way.

This will leave the park to concentrate on it's original features; i.e. the beautiful botanical gardens and the famous ski shows and also the recently developed Splash Island water park which will be expanded.

For more information on all these Florida 2009 highlights and more, click here.
Book Review - Frommer's Florida from $70 a Day

Frommer's Florida from $70 a DayEven though Frommer's Florida from $70 a Day was published back in February 2005, many of the ideas and tips are equally relevant in today's economic climate. In total, the book has around 604 pages including 30 maps.

The book is written by Lesley Abravanel with contributions from Laura Lea Miller. Between them, Lesley Abravanel and Laura Lea Miller have written many Florida guide books including Frommer's Florida 2009, Frommer's South Florida: With the Best of Miami & the Keys, Florida For Dummies, Walt Disney World & Orlando For Dummies 2008, Frommer's Walt Disney World & Orlando with Kids, Frommer's Walt Disney World & Orlando 2009 and The Central Florida Family Vacation Guide: Coast to Coast with the Kids.

The basic premise of Frommer's Florida from $70 a Day is that two people can vacation in Florida from only $70 a day each, including accommodation and at least two meals. This excludes drinks, tips and extras like transportation, entertainment and shopping for gifts etc. but they also include ways to save money here as well. It is not just so much about cheap, but more about getting value for money, whatever you want to do.

Like other Florida guide books, this book has chapters covering each of the main regions including Miami, The Keys, The Everglades including the Biscayne National Park, the Gold Coast, the Treasure Coast, Southwest Florida, Tampa Bay, Walt Disney World and Orlando, Northeast Florida and finally Northwest Florida.

It also includes a chapter on the Best of Florida including beaches, low-cost vacations, experiences for free (or virtually free), family attractions, cheap golf courses, affordable accommodation and restaurants, camping, natural Florida, shopping, bars and nightspots.

To read the complete review of Frommer's Florida from $70 a Day, click here.
Beat the Credit Crunch

Golden Corral restaurantWith all the talk of the "credit crunch", it is even more important than ever when planning a holiday to Florida to look at ways of saving money. Below you will find some of our top money saving tips:
  1. Look at staying in cheaper accommodation such as youth hostels, bed and breakfasts, camping, motels, or renting a villa or condominium if you are in a larger group
  2. Have your main meals at some of the many "all you can eat" buffet restaurants and look out for "children eat free" offers and "early bird" specials
  3. Consider very carefully the time of year you visit Florida as prices vary dramatically by season, especially in Central and Southern Florida. If you are visiting Walt Disney World on your birthday, you can get in for free as part of their "What Will You Celebrate?" promotion in 2009
  4. Do you really needs a rental car? Weigh up the costs and convenience of a rental car versus using public transport, taxis or hotel shuttles. If you decide on a rental car, look at how big a car you really need and book it in advance so you can easily budget for the necessary insurance
  5. Buy multi-day or multi-park tickets like Disney's Magic Your Way or the OrlandoFlex ticket which includes Universal, SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and Wet 'n' Wild. Also pay special attention to the various options/add-on packs so you only buy what you really need and shop online as there are often discounts and special offers only available on the Internet
  6. Keep a look out for money saving coupons in the free local tourist guide magazines and on some products like soft drinks and save money on tickets, accommodation, meals and gifts. You can also buy gift coupon books in places like Orlando, Miami and the Keys but make sure you will recoup the initial outlay
  7. Set a budget for gifts and souvenirs, particularly if you have children
  8. Take refillable bottled water with you to the parks instead of buying soft drinks
  9. Plan in advance and keep your arrangements flexible. Travelling mid week can often make a big difference
To read all of our money saving tips, click here.
Free Monthly Desktop Wallpaper

January and February 2009 desktop wallpaper calendars

The free Florida desktop wallpaper calendars are now available in widescreen format as well as standard format so if you have a widescreen monitor you can now download a new widescreen calendar.

Florida Desktop Calendar Free desktop calendars for January 2009 (Rhino Rally at Busch Gardens) and February 2009 (Pearl Diver at SeaWorld) are ready to download now.

Note that some of the larger files can be 200-300k in size so if you are on a modem dialup line it will take a few minutes to download.

To view and then download the Florida free desktop wallpaper for January or February now, click here.

Also don't forget if you are looking for inspiration on what to do on your Florida vacation, why not take advantage of our collection of free brochures where you will find information on many activities including golfing vacations, eco-tours, scuba diving and Caribbean cruises.

Read more...
January Events

Early January sees the last of the holiday season attractions and events at the theme parks coming to a close but if you hurry you will still be able to see Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Polar Express Experience at SeaWorld and ICE! at Gaylord Palms.

NASA hope to launch a Delta 2 rocket carrying a tracking technology demonstrator for the Missile Defense Agency as part of a ballistic missile defense system (Space Tracking and Surveillance System) which has been delayed since late 2007. 

Once the holiday season ends, the theme parks will start to get quieter again.

Weather Forecast

January is the coldest month of the year in Florida and particularly in the North, there is a chance of overnight temperatures dropping below freezing. Overall, temperatures will be around seasonal averages but rainfall will be below average.

In the north around Pensacola and Jacksonville, the month will gradually get cooler with a fair bit of cloud and occasional showers. Temperatures will be in the mid 50s/low 70s during the day with night-time temperatures in the high 20s/mid 50s. It will be colder in the west.

Across the Central region, the weather outlook is similar but a little warmer in the low 60s/mid 70s during the day, dropping to high 30s/mid 50s over night.

Down in Miami and the Keys, there will be fewer clouds and temperatures are much more consistent with daytime temperatures a little warmer with mid 60s/high 70s during the day and high 40s/high 60s overnight.

To check out the rest of the weather for all of Florida including a live weather map, monthly temperature and rainfall charts across the State and the latest hurricane news, click here.
We plan to bring you a newsletter on the first day of each month with details of upcoming events and news from across Florida.

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