Regular readers of my disassociated postings on or around this forum, but especially my monthlong roadtrip discussion (I'm not convinced the setup for blogs here really encourages participation so post my stuff as discussions/questions) will be aware I'm looking at a stay in Southern Florida next year, but reading many postings on the subject has led me to information overload, so I've decided to ask a question and put my trust into your hands, fellow insiders.
Some readers may recall, I was married in July and straight afterwards we left in a long-planned holiday to Canada to see the in-laws and take a lengthy roadtrip with our 3 teens and their cousin visiting Ottawa, Adirondacks, NYC, DC, Pennsylvania and Niagara (and picking up a meet with bejacob too!). It was a wonderfully active road-trip and we did get 4 nights together in Toronto and Montreal at the end after handing the teens over to the in-laws, but it could in no way be called a proper honeymoon.
On our return to the UK my missus received an email from Tesco where she does most of our shopping advising her that she now had £255 of Clubcard points and that she could exchange them for 75,000 Virgin Atlantic miles, enough for a Premium Economy return to anywhere in the USA. Since she had miles from our Virgin flight to Orlando in 2014, she took them up in the offer and exchanged the lot!
Now, like my wife, I had 10,000 miles from my flight to Orlando, but that was it, so I had to look at ways to up my balance, and elected to cash in a Cat 6 Marriott Travel Package sending 120,000 miles to my Virgin account. We now had enough in the accounts for a 1st Class return to anywhere flown by Virgin (except Hong Kong).
Are we with me so far?
Now, my wife is a college lecturer so her holidays are restricted to school holiday times, and our teens are 14, 16 & 18. Although legally we can leave them during our honeymoon, they will argue in our absence and there's likely to be trouble. However I work from home and my Clerk, a Birmingham resident lives in at my house in the guest room during the week, Monday to Thursday night. As a wedding present he has offered to stay over for a weekend to be the "adult" for the entire period we're away. But the result of all this is we're very restricted on our dates. We want to go around the Easter holidays which are rather odd in 2016 meaning we will need to depart on Monday 4th April and return on the overnight flight on Thursday 14th. All on redemptions.
Much looking led me to book a 1st class redemption for me and the missus to Miami, with the intention of staying 3 paid nights in the city and then 7 somewhere on a beach, upgrading my Cat6 certificate as required.
So, fellow Insiders, flying to Miami on 4th April 2016, where to stay in the city? And where to stay for a resort-beach type week? There are several hotels in Miami proper, then for the week there's Miami beach, or Fort Lauderdale area, or Marco Island, or the Florida Keys. Have I missed anything? What would you suggest?
I may be a bit partial having grown up on the Southwest Coast of Florida in the Ft. Myers, Sanibel/Captiva Island area, but I would much rather be on the west coast rather than having to deal with the rat race that is the east coast Miami/Ft. Lauderdale areas. Take a look at Marco Island as well as it is a beautiful spot and Naples which are easy to get to from Ft. Myers.
Virgin does not fly into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in South Ft. Myers however; I believe they fly into Orlando International (MCO). Or your original thought of flying to Miami and then you could make the two hour drive across the Everglades to the Marco/Naples area.
Regardless, congrats on your recent marriage and keep those cards and letters coming. Or as our famous friend erc would write, "keep on keepin on Insiders"!
TThanks very much for those ideas, IAHFLYR. Any suggestions on the hotls there suitable for a weeks stay? Also, what do ypu think of the Florida Keys?
clebert gave some great suggestions and don't mind the swamp buggies as they will mostly be in the swamps and last time I rented a car in RSW they didn't offer swamp buggies!
Love Key West, very very fun spot to visit and the drive down US 1 is beautiful even though quite time consuming as it is mostly two lane. There are a few airlines such as Delta that fly into Key West (EYW) from Atlanta so if the couple of hour drive isn't your cup of tea fly.
A day or two in Key West would be a good amount of time as there are really no beaches on the island, but fabulous sunsets to be viewed from Mallory Square and of course the fun of walking Duval Street (people watching). You can take the Official Website of Key West Express from either Ft. Myers Beach or Marco Island and even though we have not done that boat ride I think our next visit to Key West that is how we will go at least one way.
brightlybob, early April will be a wonderful time for S. and SW Florida. The weather should be great. My Marriott-branded recommendations are: Ritz-Carlton Ft. Lauderdale which is sleek and modern with excellent service, but usually not as pricey as the one on Miami Beach; Ritz-Carlton Naples, FL (on the Gulf side) which is more traditional in décor but absolutely gorgeous - pricey but worth it; and Marco Island Marriott which is soon to be rebranded as a JW because it's way, way nicer than you'd expect at a flagship Marriott property. If you want a true oceanfront resort experience, you can't go wrong with either the RC Naples (not the golf one, but the beach one - there are 2) or the Marco Island Marriott. The RC Ft. Lauderdale is a full service resort with beach access, but it's in a very urban area and has more of an urban vibe. I do love it, though. Of course if you select a RC property and tell them it's your anniversary, they will pull out all the stops for you - complementary champagne and chocolates, special treatment if you dine on property, etc. I imagine the Marco Marriott might do the same. Honestly, that place is very posh, and you'd really think you were at a JW or even a RC. I can do the MIA-Marco Island drive in about 90 min. if it's not during rush hour and I don't get stuck behind too many swamp buggies (only half kidding!). MIA-Naples is about 2 hours or so. Shop around for a rental car as prices from MIA can vary from ultra cheap to exorbitant, depending on timing and which company you choose. Also, the Atlantic Ocean/Miami/Ft. Lauderdale has beautiful sunrises and nice beaches, but in my opinion, the Gulf Coast beaches are nicer. They are beautifully calm and pristine with magnificent sunsets.
Not sure if you've seen my related posts (check your post in the "Key West Marriott Disappointing" thread) but I highly recommend the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Club Level. It's right on Lincoln Road, which is a quite popular open-air pedestrian mall. It's also right on the beach and the boardwalk.
A former Marriott property which I also recommend is the Eden Roc - Ocean Tower on North Miami Beach, although a fair walk from South Beach.
You mentioned "city" so I will also highly recommend the JW Marriott Marquis, which is not near the beach but deserves an honourable mention. The accommodations, staff, and lounge are on par with the Ritz-Carlton, albeit the adult beverages do not come inclusive as they do at the RC.
Absolutely head on down to Key West to the Marriott Beachside. (See above-mentioned thread for reasons why.) Duval Street cannot be missed, nor the drive through the Keys. So pretty.
The Gulf side is also beautiful, as clebert says. Siesta Key has white sand so fine it's like walking on super-fine sugar. Anna-Maria Island is so pretty. And St Armands Circle at Lido Key is an enjoyable place to go when you're looking for a break from the beach.
Can't wait to hear all about your plans!
TThanks for your info.
WE are certain that we do want to stay 3 nights in Miami city itself before moving onto the beach-type resort for the week, so the tip to JW in Miami is especially useful. I think my only issue with that is its a bit pricey, as we wont be spending much time in the hotel, instead exploring Miami. Of course the final 7 days will be the opposite, we'lol be mainly on the beach, poolside or in our room, and I fully realise I'm going to have to splash the cash/points for that one!