Here is my latest quandary. I get to go to Miami, work sponsored. (South Beach, specifically.) To attend the annual AIA conference next month. (I know, I know!). I have never been to Miami. Or Florida. I love warm Ocean water almost as much as I love Manray, and I have always wanted to go to the Keys.

I have the option to take some days off while there, delay my flight home a few days. This time could be used to rent a car or hop on a shuttle and scoot on down to Key West. Or maybe visit the everglades? There is also the option that Ben could meet me there, and come with me on the days off part. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when there is no allotted budget for extra little travel funds like this.

So do we, do it anyways? You know, make it work? (If I eat very frugally, I could stretch my per diem allowance to help cover the day off lodging costs...) Have you been to the Keys? Are they so awesome that I would be insane to be so close and then not visit? Or will spending a week in South Beach be good enough.
If you have been, and suggest that I go, do you have any recommendations? Places to stay, what to do...? I could maybe bring a tent, I heard there is some good camping on the Keys. That would be a way to keep the cost down, but, too hot in June?
[What really drives me nuts is to be so close to CUBA and not able to go. Hmmm. Maybe I should just go on a CRUISE out of Miami. But on like a cool, small indie boat. Any such thing?]


  1. It all sounds very exciting but I just moved away from Florida. The humidity is the worst thing evvvverrrrr. I've never been to the Keys though but have heard it's gorgeous. Everglades would be a good solid say of driving.

  2. make it work! expanding the travel budget is tricky even when it's for expenses other than the travel itself, but you've never been there, and the travel part is covered already. c'mon. you get one life.

    horatio would do it. miami style.

  3. go to the keys. i've not been in a couple of years (um 4 i think) but i would say YES YES YES. and it will be hot next month but not unbearable. go, do it, use that per diem to its fullest ... and tell ben to meet you. yay vacations!

  4. Yes go! It's supposed to be wondrous.

  5. jamie, seriously, DO THIS. i grew up going to miami/florida for the summers because my step-dad is cuban. miami is awesome. food is great, lots of art deco architecture, and the beach is AMAZING. personally, i was never too keen on the keys. it could have been because it's geared towards an older crowd and the last time i went to florida, i was 15. so, back then you still weren't *allowed* to go to cuba, but we used to take boat trips to puerto rico and holyfuckingshit, it's one of the top places i've ever been to. for realz!
    also, if you see little street stands that say, "COCOS FRIOS", you have to stop. will change your life.
    "c'mon. you only get one life". i think lauren said it best,

  6. here is what my previously-florida-dwelling sister says:
    1) Cruise: there are usually ferries from miami to key west - which might make for a non expensive day (or two) trip.
    2) Go to the everglades - definitely not a solid day of driving - which someone commented... at least i dont think... that seems ridiculous considering miami is basically adjacent to the entrance to the park. but who knows
    3) Don't go to Key West - way too touristy and not worth the expensiveness. I would say one of the earlier Keys. they are more rural, prettier, cheaper, and have camping, and are closer to miami so it wouldn't be so much of a drive (it's a 4ish hr drive to key west from miami) It's a pretty drive though.

  7. I love the Keys. I haven't been there in years but they are really cool.

    I camped in the Keys in August in a State Park...I didn't think it was too hot but the bugs are the worst. They are super tiny and can get through tent screens. We camped for two nights before we gave up and got a hotel room for the last night.

    If you go, you have to go to the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. I've been there twice and it is quite amazing to see the work they do and the dolphins are adorable. They are a nonprofit education and research facility. http://www.dolphins.org/

    Key West is fun. It's a drinking town. Bar after bar after bar. But personally I think it's a little overrated.

  8. I was born and raised in the Keys, still live here, about 1/2 way down :) I go to KW about 4 days out of the week for work things. Lots of my friends work for the above mentioned dolphin research center for some time as well (way overpriced and the male dolphins may hump you! ahh) If you're going to visit- stay in Key West. Marathon is mostly locals & we have our bare minimums for bars & restaurants... most diving happens around here, Islamorada is alot of shopping & fishing, Key Largo an extension of the yuckier part of Miami...

    Staying in KW is not TOO TOO expensive, just explore your options. Location is Key- stay in Old Town! I would go the Bed & Breakfast route- if you need recommendations let me know, my family from up north has explored most all of them when they visit every year they switch it up. You can actually get from Miami to KW for about $60 on the "Keys Shuttle" they will pick you up and drop you off almost anywhere, very flexible, and you don't have to fly from Miami or rent a car which is great. B&B's usually have bikes for you to use, or you can rent one for just dollars a day. A bike is really the only way to get around, parking is shit. Or you can rent a moped! (if you want tourist stamped on your forehead haha)

    There is a very touristy/overrated feel to some parts of Key West, but that is because tourists walk Duval St daily when the cruises come in. That area caters to brief visitors. There are great hidden areas definitely worth exploring, restaurants, shops, Bahama village! Just last week I spent the day roaming the streets with my Aunt who was visiting from NY, we found an amazing bistro on someone's porch, and the most beautiful pottery gallery I've ever seen- in a guys backyard! Also found some red seaglass- sorry that is a big deal lol. The key to making the most of your trip is breezing by the usual stops & searching for the hidden gems.

  9. p.s. there ARE very cool places to camp, curry hammock, bahia honda, etc... but your timing couldn't be worse. i'm sweating balls lately- the heat started last week, it is way too hot right now to camp even at night :/

  10. hmm... well frankly I'd skip the keys and stay in Miami. The keys are kind of cheesy beach town as far as I'm concerned. Although that could be fun too.
    And as far as the heat well sweets its starts as early as April May and won't cool off until October and November so just go with it! Bring light clothin etc.

    One thing to also keep in mind is all summer long is storm season so expect a torrential downpour nearly everyday in the afternoon... this could also affect your camping possibilities... I remember one night desperately trying to hold the four corners of the tent down so my sisters and I wouldn't sail up into the sky.

    And the everglades! Yes! The environment is so drastically different and you'll get to see the real Florida that way and not just the manicured lawns and palm trees.

  11. i'm not sure how the keys could be a cheesy beach town...there aren't really beaches, it is a chain of hundreds of islands, each their own city & accompanying charm

    i kind of skipped over reading about you considering the everglades before, i attended university in the middle of them for 4 years... there isn't any towns/attractions/camping/anything to do? it is a protected area with 2 major highways (41 & 75) running through them, so i'm not sure how one would visit them besides driving down loop road for a few hours to visit gators. it is a 1 & 1/2 hour car ride across from fort lauderdale to naples/fort myers.... so you're kind of just driving through nature between one shopping mecca to another

  12. ALWAYS GO! This time next year you won't remember the penny-pinching, only the traveling.

    Also read The Orchid Thief if you haven't yet. Not the movie version. The book. It's a fantastic Florida book.

  13. no one ever regrets going on vacation. seriously.

  14. Ha, I'm with Angela. Go for it.

    If you can save for it do it. If you'd be loading a heap of cash on your credit card don't.

  15. If you go to Key West, go to Hemingway's house. There are many six-toed cats still living there, which for me is reason enough to visit.

  16. I'd do it...just eat cheap and stay in dodgy motels hehe. I love how people often have totally opposite opinions to each other when you'd expect them to be somewhat similar- it never ceases to amaze me how differently we all see things.

  17. Anonymous6:42 AM

    Key West can be a little touristy... but you should definitely go. If you do, I'd say the most important thing to do is to go see Hemingway's house. Not sure if you like him, but even if you don't, his house is really beautiful and you get to see all the six-toed cats that live on the property!

  18. go go go. you'll be so close. you can't NOT do it. when you're in key west, ask where the breakfast place is that is mostly outside and has chickens wandering around you while you eat and a rope swing next to one of the tables. it might be called blue moon....or something to that effect. the great thing about key west is that you can get the whole effect without having to stay there for *many many* days. in terms of heat: yes it will be hot, but i never understood those people who go to FL in the winter. it's not THAT HOT there in the winter. and why go to the beach when it's not hot?

  19. No offense was intended Practical... Its just my personal opinion. I grew up in Florida(Miami and Palm Beach) and the Keys remind me of places like Daytona Beach, and the latin quarter in New Orleans... a little too touristy and not my thing. Although Hemmingway's House would surely be interesting.

    And you surely can visit the Everglades there are all kinds of boating tours, hiking and biking. And its such a different landscape than the desert I thought Jaime would enjoy it.

  20. Oops! Someone I asked said it would be a day trip to theEverglades but I googled and it isn't very far at all.


    hope you go and enjoy the sun!!

  21. Anonymous1:04 PM

    Miami is beautiful and has its charm and so does the Keys. I lived in South Florida for quite a while and liked them both. I have stayed on numerous different Keys over the years including Key West and it is always nice. I am a big nature person so if I was going down there I would try and go snorkeling or diving. Bahia Honda is a great park to stay in but seems to book up pretty fast. For the most part I have always stayed in cheap motels/hotels (slept in the car once if i can recall). The deer on Deer Key are nice to see and it does not cost anything, just drive around the island at dusk and they are out feeding. Key West does have a decent amount of tourism, but it is still fun. Mostly Duval street and around there can get busy, but there are hidden little neighborhoods on the island that are great . You can walk mostly everywhere or bike if you wanted. The water is the perfect temp this time of year, at least to me, and going across the 7 mile bridge is amazing. The humidity is not too bad until August, but you get used to it, just pack lite. Here are awesome links to some of my favorite destinations if you are interested. cheers!: )