If you are a subscriber to our blog or a regular reader, you will know that whan I moved back to the UK from Florida at the end of July, I had to leave my two daughters behind (with their Mom), and since I am missing them terribly, like all Dads do, we decided to try and spend Christmas in Florida to I can at least see them for a week.
The problem with going to Florida over Christmas though is that this is high season, the time when flights and accommodation are at their highest prices, and also at their scarcest.
In the wintertime, South Florida is full of people from the East Coast of the USA and Canada, the “snowbirds” as they are known. Some snowbirds spend a good three months in Florida to escape the bitterly cold winters up north, while others just visit for one or two weeks. If you go to the beaches in South Florida over the Christmas period and look at the licence plates of the cars, at least 2/3rds of them if not more are from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and in the Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale area too from Quebec and Toronto. Just listen to the conversations on the people on the beach too, and the all too familiar Hispanic voices are replaced by New York twangs and even more so by Canadian French.
Last week after much searching for a decent route at a decent price, we bit the bullet and purchased our flights. The price was high, but not as much as we could have ended up paying. It was actually cheaper than it cost to get Debbie over to Florida for Christmas two years ago, but we also don’t have direct flights, which I hope is not going to be a problem. When taking a multi-leg flight, you need to allow for delays in schedule, and inbound to the USA as well for delays in immigration, where Debbie has already had issues, her last trip to Miami resulting in her being stuck in immigration for 15 hours! But hopefully we will be ok this time, since we have a 3 hour layover in Raleigh/Durham before catching our flight down to Miami, and I also now have my USA Passport, which ought to help.
Last night we also bit the bullet and booked a place to stay. It’s not a luxurious hotel or resort, it’s a typical family owned motel on Hollywood Beach, and although it cost a lot it will hopefully work out best for us. The few reviews that we managed to find for the motel sounded more good than bad. There is no pool or hot tub, it’s above several restaurants so it could be noisy at night, but it is right on the boardwalk and we will be able to eat and walk along the beach at night, instead of being stuck in a hotel away from the beach in the evenings.
There really were not many choices for hotels unfortunately, since prices are sky high, and most places are already fully booked. Left are the hotels close to the airport in Fort Lauderdale, those on the interstate, and some high and low end places that are either too expensive or in a bad neighborhood. Of the three places on the beach, one was $250 a night, way out of our price range, a second was $100 a night but in the middle of being renovated and with some horrible reviews. The place we picked was about the only choice.
My biggest fear is that because we don’t land in Miami until 9:30pm on Christmas Eve, is that everything will be closed, and it will be 11pm at the earliest before we get to where we are staying. Since few places open in Florida on Christmas Day, we could end up without any essentials like bread, milk, juice etc for a day. However staying right on the beach, there ought to be some shops and restaurants open at least. It’s going to be a different Christmas with no turkey and trimmings I am sure, but hopefully a good one. Getting up on Christmas Day is going to be tough, since by the time we get to bed it will already be 5am UK time or later! Probably a good day to just spend relaxing on the beach or the terrace.
Now we need to find a good deal on a rental car, which I hope is easier to sort out. There appear to be plenty of choices at least from all the car rental companies, but even that is expensive. I must remember to use my AAA (equivalent of AA/RAC in the UK) discount to save some money, but since we will be taking the girls out we need to have transport.
I doubt that we will be spending many days on the beach, but at least we will be right there in the evenings, plenty of opportunities for walking, either on the boardwalk (promenade) or along the waters edge.
So wish us luck! Hopefully the flights, immigration process, accommodation and weather all work in our favour. Will post updates and photos later, also a video or two maybe…