Blowin’ the Whistle in Flo-rida: Day 1 – Miami

If you could pick one state to drive the length of, which one would you choose? A lot of people choose coast states, but I’m not sure if Florida would make it into the Top 5. There are lots of swamps and alligators and trees and, oh, more swamps. Somehow, Florida made my list. My adventure started with flying into Fort Lauderdale then driving to Miami, down the east coast to the Mile 0 in Key West, and then all the way back up the west coast to Clearwater (just outside of Tampa on the Gulf Coast) in just 3 days! My next few posts will take you with me on my adventure through some of Florida’s hotels, restaurants, key sites, beaches, rental car companies, and other places I experienced during my travels. I’ll blow the whistle on what NOT to waste your time with, or where you definitely need to stop.

Day 1: Vegas to Fort Lauderdale and Miami – Budget Car Rental, Holiday Inn South Beach Miami, Southwest Airlines.

This year, Southwest Airlines added new jets to their fleet, the 737-800. These new jets are not only much better than the older jets, they finally bring Southwest Airlines up to par with bigger “brand-name” airlines like American Airlines and Delta. The seats are wider (not sure that’s saying a good thing about Americans?), the material on the seats is better, there are fancy new lights that dim/brighten and/or change color based on the time of day, and the overhead compartments are a bit more roomy. The jet is bigger, but that can be a good or bad thing. There wasn’t one open seat on my flight so it was really hot and the bathroom line got crazy. I THINK there is more leg room, but me being me (I don’t have bad luck, I have NO luck), I got the huge 6’6″ body building black man sitting behind me. It was a long 5 hour flight of knees in my back and my seat being constantly hit. Granted, it wouldn’t have been as bad if wasn’t insanely sore from a minor car accident I got in a few days earlier (someone backed into me), but I was SO happy to get off of the plane. Overall, Southwest passengers can look forward to a better and more comfortable ride.

We rented two different cars through two different companies, Enterprise and Budget. I’ll talk about Budget in the Miami airport first. Every person behind the counter was working as fast as they possibly could, and the particular woman working with us not only got us a super cheap upgrade, she got us another car through another company when the system wouldn’t let her check it out to us. She literally ran over to the other desk and was back in no time. We drove an SUV, a Ford Escape, which was much-needed with 4 girls’ luggage. It was washed right before we got in and was impeccably clean on the inside. I’ve rented a lot of cars in my time and if there is one and it’s not too far out of your way, airports are the way to go if you want top-notch quality. Of course, there is the airport traffic and sometimes confusing signs to take into consideration when renting, but the choice is yours! The let down was the MPG – a pathetic 22.2!

Holiday Inn South Beach Miami was the first hotel I stayed at in Florida. Overall, the hotel was impressive and I would recommend it to anyone. I loved not only that there was a boardwalk and the ocean right next to the hotel, but that the boardwalk connects you to all the other hotels with bars, pools, and restaurants, so it’s a great scene to meet new people! We got asked to go skinny dipping after our first picture on the beach – we’re pretty avid runners so we did a good job running away.

Holiday Inn also has a members benefits club at no cost that can earn you a free night pretty quick and get you into better rooms faster. Here’s a breakdown:

The Good:

*Clean

*Beds and pillows extremely comfortable

*Boardwalk and Ocean right next to the hotel

*Cabs available downtown to places open late

*Parking garage or street parking (expect to pay $20-$30)

The Bad:

*There’s not a whole lot within a short walking distance as far as food/stores go

*Very few outlets/not accessible

*Furniture in lobby is uncomfortable

*Shower heads low and not adjustable

After a solid night’s rest, we woke up at an early 6:30 a.m. (3:30 Nevada time!) to prepare ourselves for what ended up being the trip’s greatest adventure: Airboating in the Everglades with the alligators!

Next up: Gator Girls!

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