Some personal photographs from my trip to Miami. Scroll to the end to see where I went and how I planned a trip that was budgeted for $250.
My original budget for this trip inclusive of everything was $250. The canceled flight busted that budget, but you can see below how I managed most of it.
Flight: I flew American Airlines down (booked with 7,500 British Airways Avios points) and United Airlines back up (10,000 miles) + $11 in fees
Hotel: I stayed at the Courtyard Miami Coconut Grove with a free category 1 – 5 night coupon I’d earned last year. I valet parked with this hotel with in and out privileges for $24… I could have probably tried to do street parking as well but it meant waking up frequently to check the meter. Your biggest expense in Miami is likely lodging as this city has grown in popularity as an international destination over the years. Due to the snowstorm over the weekend my original flight back to NYC was canceled. I used HotelTonight to get a last minute hotel booking at the Crowne Plaza which had airport shuttle service. Use my promo code of schen256 if you want $25 off your next booking. It busted my budget but it was the best option I had available. I thought of booking the South Beach hostel but the taxi rides required to get there and back would cost the same as being at an airport hotel.
Car: I rented through Hotwire and it was via Payless which was at the airport rental center. It was a super cute VW Beetle which is perfect for my short height and made parking everywhere easy. The rental itself was crazy cheap $40 but I added third party insurance for $30 because I really wasn’t sure if I’d get totaled driving in Miami – and it was the right judgment call because I had several harrowing occasions where Miami drivers would pass me getting on and off the highway! My Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card covered primary insurance. Sign up through my referral link to get 40K points at sign-up, it’s my favorite credit card for travel and dining.
Parking: Parking in Miami can be difficult – street parking takes patience to find and Miami drivers are crazy. I googled in advance of my trip to find affordable garage rates. Most municipal garages are pretty affordable and for parking at Lincoln Road I found the 640 17th Street parking garage which charged $1 per hour for the first 6 hours and I used that as the jumping off point for walking Lincoln Road and South Beach itself
Planning: I used the My maps functionality in Google Maps to create a map for my trip detailing points of interest, garage places, and restaurants. Then I downloaded it to my Google Nexus 5 phone use the My Maps app. All in all a very smooth experience and I’m definitely doing this again.
Points of attraction: I visited the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and did a self guided walk of South Beach and Lincoln Road Mall.
Where to eat:
For a casual lunch and if you don’t mind driving to a more residential area, try My Ceviche. You can buy $20 of food for $10 via Yelp and if you check in via Yelp you get a free guac and chips.
For a fancy dinner I went to The River Oyster Bar (reservations recommended). I wish I’d ordered the whole fried yellowtail snapper that everyone raves about because I just got a simple grilled filet of fish and I wasn’t starving. For parking I parked across the river and did the 15 minute walk – it wasn’t bad, but it made me realize Miami is not a city that is built for walking, lots of missing sidewalks and construction.
If shopping near Lincoln Road / South Beach, do not miss Chalan on the Beach, which is where I got the lomo saltado, a plate of steak and fries (see picture above). Simply delicious home style Peruvian food, no fuss, big portions, and not touristy. It was my favorite meal of the trip
Newark bus: My trip back took me to Newark airport. The fastest way to get to the airport is using the Newark Airport Express. Buses run every 15 minutes and they are FAST. I came back to NYC after it’d snowed and I saw so many NJ Transit buses stranded, but my bus plowed along and got me into the city with morning traffic in 45 minutes. I never had to take any PTO as a result (I also got up early and flew standby on the 6:30AM flight out of Miami)