Our South Florida vacation was about a year in the making. We prefer to use our timeshare when we travel over Christmas. Even though points are at a premium during this week, there is no cash outlay. We do pay our annual maintenance fees, which equate to a similar cost with a one week stay at a mid range hotel in a major city. Our timeshare condos are larger than a similarly priced hotel room and typically include a full kitchen. The problem with timeshare vacations is that everyone else wants to take a vacation around the Christmas holiday, too. Because demand is high, we book our lodging as soon as we can, about a year in advance.
Last year we visited other parts of Florida, mostly Orlando. Mr. Vine’s grandfather celebrated a milestone birthday in Jacksonville, so we planned around attending that party. While in Florida, we decided we wanted to return to our favorite South Florida resort next year and stay for a full week. With much of Mr. Vine’s family in Florida, we’re often accommodating visits with them. A few years ago we spent an entire week at a resort in Phoenix and it was luxurious to stay in one place for so many days. So, we made a reservation for our favorite resort in the Miami area. Then, we ignored the booking for months while we took other trips, focused on our careers and went about our lives.
Prices for holiday flights can be unpredictable and fluctuate wildly. This is another reason why Florida is often on our list. With Mr. Vine’s family in Jacksonville and other family and friends in Orlando, we don’t mind flying into a cheaper airport and driving to our destination. A side benefit of the timeshare’s long booking horizon is that we have many months to watch fares. Being frequent travelers to Florida, we have a solid understanding of deals, including when they post and what price is worth buying. Although we had flexibility in airport choice and travel days, we had several other criteria for this flight. We set alerts in late summer and started watching prices, with the idea that we would book by late October. It takes mental fortitude to watch those prices bounce around! Our flights turned out to be a little strange and complicated, but very inexpensive. I’ll write a separate post on how we chose our flights.
We ultimately decided to fly into an airport that required several hours of driving, so we needed to reserve a rental car (and factored that cost into our total budget). I’ve scored some amazing rental car deals in the past and may write a future post on the topic. As soon as we knew our airport and dates, I reserved the best refundable rate rental car I could find. In the end, we canceled this reservation in favor of Mr. Vine’s corporate rate, which was about $20 less for the week. This particular rental wasn’t a spectacular deal, but considering the holidays and our flight prices, we were okay with it.
All year we thought of things we might want to do in South Florida. Since our honeymoon fifteen years ago, we’ve often returned to the area. This means we’ve done many of the activities at one time or another. We started collecting a spreadsheet of what we might like to do, including restaurants we considered visiting. Through that process, we realized that relaxing by the beach and cooking at our resort condo were our top priorities.
At that time I started looking up recipes and making a rough meal plan for the week. Staying in one place for seven nights is great because it makes grocery shopping very cost-effective. We know from prior visits that there is a grocery store with an amazing deli within walking distance to our resort. I continued to adjust the meal plan occasionally until just before the trip. Most of the adjustments were trimming items from the list. It is better to run out and have to either restock with another grocery trip or go out for a few meals than it is to buy too much. It’s also possible that we’ll steal a few items from Mr. Vine’s parents’ pantry as we will spend the first night of our trip at their home. In any case, I’ll certainly write a future article with our complete food breakdown!
We also considered the luggage we would bring. Our flight to Florida is on a discount carrier, so we are packing ultra light. We generally pack either light or ultra light depending on which type of carrier we are flying. Ultra light means a single, personal item size, backpack-style bag for each of us. Fortunately, the climate in Florida makes packing light easier, even for a full weeklong trip. Our packing skills continue to evolve and improve, so I will give you a glimpse into our luggage on this trip as well.
As you can see, we put a lot of thought into our trips, long before we head to the airport. Stay tuned for future posts where we talk more about how this trip turned out.