Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Low cost vacay in the Florida Keys

Decided to take a quick, very low cost vacay for the Veterans Day Weekend.  The trip was practically free,  here is how I did it.  I signed up for the Capital One Venture card which gives you 2 reward points for every $1 you spend.  If you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months they give you  40,000 bonus points.  Spending $3k in 3 months is easy if you charge every single thing you can to the card (household utilities, grocery shopping, vehicle fuel, dining out, boozing, etc.).  They key is to only charge what you would normally spend and pay the card off in full, not acquire debt in the quest to get bonus points.    So that 40,000 plus the double points on the $3K I spent paid for my flight, car rental and hotel in Islamorada. 

Miami Hotel was paid for using Hilton points.  The key to getting free hotel stays is you gotta stay loyal to one hotel until you acquire enough points, then move over to another brand if you like (you can also convert air miles to hotel points if necessary).  Hilton give you 10 points for every dollar you spend, but if you sign up for their email distro list you will often get emails offering your double and triple the points, that means 30 points for every $1 you spend.  That makes getting free nights easy. 

 
Next is to score a low cost car,  because this trip extended into weekdays the car was higher than my usual weekend rentals.  Even using my favorite Avis discount code K817165 (which took $100 off the rental) renting from E-Z was cheaper.  2 things I must note when renting from E-Z: 1) They require a $200 deposit, but I don’t mind paying that to save some coins .  2) In order to get the best discount rate from E-Z you must start a reservation and then act like you are leaving the page  right before the reservation is complete.  You will then get a popup saying, “HEY WAIT, here is 10% off if you stay!”  BOOM!!!  

E-Z Don't Go, pop up box
Excursions for the trip were handled through Groupon.  Groupons purchased through American Air Shopping earns you 3 miles for every $$ you spend.  So you are saving money by purchasing a Groupon, you are earning airline miles for purchasing through AA shopping, and then of course I earned 2 points for every dollar on my Capital One Venture card.  Triple Win!!!  So I purchased a $20 Snorkeling trip in Key Largo and also an afternoon in The Florida Everglades for $13. 

Ok so let’s take it from the top.  Veterans Day (aka no work) was approaching so I decided to take a quick get away.  BRT weekend happens to be that weekend so that was perfect.  The only problem was that a very old friend was getting married on Ft. Benning , GA Saturday evening.  Went to the wedding, drove home to Atlanta that night, finished packing and was on a 7am flight to Miami Sunday morning.   

BEACH ROAD TRIP WEEKEND - simply put, is a large group of people taking a road trip to party on the beach, night and day, for an entire weekend. The festivities consist of 6 uniquely themed all-inclusive (free drinks & food) parties across a 3-day span in the beautiful resort town of Islamorada in the upper Florida Keys. You pay 1 low price and get admission to all 6 parties.
Landed in Miami 9am, hop’d in my rental and drove 1 ½ hours south to Islamorada in the Florida Keys for the last day of the BRT weekend festivities.  This was a solo trip, but I knew I would see familiar faces Sunday because Caribbean people can’t resist a good time. 
First flight outta Dodge
First on the agenda was the DAY BREAK BREAKFAST PARTY. Didn’t really have breakfast, but the booze was free flowing. The DJs were cool, then the fan favorite One Drop Sound from Atlanta touched the stage and had us dancing nonstop, even when the rain passed through briefly (did someone say Wet Fete).  I wanted to go chillax by the beach after the fete, but exhaustion took over me and I got the nap of my life in. 
One Drop Sound


Next up was the evening all white fete DAYDREAMS WHITE SANDS.  All though all the BRT fetes were All Inclusive (meaning free food and drinks), I didn’t get to eat here either, but I did drink to my heart’s desire.  The time flew by and before I knew it the fete was over.  They had an after party, but that really isn’t even worth discussing.   The 3 day weekend pass for BRT was $200. I paid $75 for the Sunday pass.  I don’t know if I would enjoy an entire weekend of BRT, but it was an entertaining Sunday. 
DAYDREAMS WHITE SANDS
Monday morning I woke up bright an early and hit up Burger King for some gourmet breakfast, then went to sit by the water at my hotel with my road dawg  Lil Yellow Mustang.
Lil Yellow Mustang drove to Islamorada
Early afternoon I headed north to Key Largo to cash in my Groupon for 4 hours of snorkeling.  I’m not going to lie to you, this was my first time snorkeling and I didn’t really enjoy it.  That’s not to say I will never try it again.  Now I gotta say something about Pale People. I love Jagermeister, goldschlager, fireball whiskey drinking;  gung ho, grab the bull by the horns, cowabunga dude Pale People.  The Catamaran skipper told us that its Jelly Fish season, but to not panic and just swim away from any we encounter.  I get in the water and see 1 too many jelly fish and am like, “F*ck this sh*t, Im going to drink some beer on the catamaran."  The Pale People on the other hand are cool with occasionally being stunk and swimming with the jelly fish.  As we moved to our 2nd snorkeling location one of the Pale People told me to just gently push the jelly fish on their soft side.  UM NO!!!!  I got back in the water and after passing my 3rd jelly fish I got my ass back on the catamaran.  I will definitely try snorkeling again, preferably in the Caribbean where the water is clearer and hopefully not during jelly fish season. 




After snorkeling it was time for some grub, so I pull up American Air Dining to see where I could eat and earn some Airline miles at the same dayym  time.  5 air miles for every $$ spent at the restaurants on their list.   Not sure why I feel the need to say this, but for the record I do not eat sushi.  I had a Ginger salad and Beef fried rice. 

Ended Monday evening in Miami. I thought about hitting the town, but ended up partyn in my room with a juicy bottle of rum, some plantain chips and Mr. Bose.  Not gonna lie, it was a marvelous evening of some much needed Chill Time.  If you recall I really like The Grand by Hilton Doubletree, but I was cashing in Hilton Points and The Hilton Miami Downtown was 10,000 points less a night. I could however admire The Grand from my window. 
 
 

Started Tuesday with another gourmet breakfast from Burger King and then went to the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. I really wanted to visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, but it is closed on Tuesdays.  Vizcaya looks like some top notch sh*t, hope to get to visit one day.  The Botanical Garden wasn’t that impressive, but atleast it was free.  A quiet place to enjoy a morning beverage of a Jamaica Me Crazy wine cooler and rum.

 
Miami Botanical Garden
After I ran outta morning beverages, I relocated to South Beach with my traveling mimosa kit and Mr. Bose.  Nothing better than chillaxing on the beach with some chunes and booze free flowing!!!  I set up shop at the southernmost point of South Beach, twas quiet and peaceful.    I didn’t want to leave, but an afternoon in the Florida Everglades awaited
 
Drove about an hour to cash in my Groupon for a tour of the Everglades.  Somehow visiting the Everglades ended up on my bucket list.  I fly in/out/through Miami often and always glaze out the window at the Everglades and wonder what It’s like down there.  It was an amazing afternoon, the landscape and wildlife was breathtaking.  I definitely need to go back and spend more time there so I can venture further.


Tuesday evening was spent chillaxin back in Miami, downing my favoritest drink in life  Amaretto Pineapple from Fat Tuesday.  I slept like a mother beep’n champ Tuesday night cause as you saw I had a jam packed day.  And that folks was my version of a chillaxing solo getaway. 
 PS:  I've acquired a new point based credit card so I can start planning my next free get away.  Yeah that will drop my credit score a tad bit, but I don't plan on financing a car or house anytime soon.