As the holidays approach, many south Floridians are gearing up for holiday travel. Whether it’s taking that vacation you’ve waited all year for or going to visit family to celebrate some yuletide cheer, holiday travel is particularly enjoyable. However, planning it can be hugely challenging without some useful tips. For ways to simplify your road trip to new ideas for a holiday trip, or even to find the least expensive way to fly, this best-of list offers south Floridians sound advice for a happy and hassle-free holiday travel experience.
Tip 1: If you’re taking a road trip, buy a SunPass.
Most would agree that one of the most frequently forgotten aspects of a road trip is paying at tolls. And if you do remember, you’ve got to remind yourself to have cash on hand to pay the fee. With a SunPass, it’s much more convenient and takes the pressure off of trying to remember to bring cash along. Both the portable and the mini transponder are sold at local drugstores and grocery stores (including Publix and CVS Pharmacy) or you can make the purchase at several Florida Turnpike Service Plazas. It only requires a $10 deposit to start and offers as much as a 25 percent discount at many tolls across the state. Accessing local roads like I-75, State Road 874 and even the Turnpike itself will be a breeze and takes one more thing off your to-do list for the trip.
Tip 2: Take a cruise.
If you’re trying to decide what kind of trip to take, there’s still time to book a cruise for your holiday travel plans. There are three benefits to using this option. One, it’s off-peak season for the industry, so you’ll find the most attractive and affordable rates available. Two, south Florida is home to two major cruise ports (Port of Miami and Port Everglades). Both are within driving distance from your home (or you can arrange for transportation so you don’t have to pay for parking while you’re cruising). Three, there are nearly three times as many ships using the Port of Miami and Port Everglades as home ports during the off-peak season. When many ships conclude their tours in other parts of the world like Alaska and Europe, they head to south Florida. So the number of itineraries available to warmer destinations like the Caribbean increases exponentially.
Tip 3: Take advantage of Florida resident promotions for in-state theme parks.
Thanksgiving at Busch Gardens or Christmas at Disney sounds very intriguing. But as many of us know, it can be costly. Even visiting local attractions like Jungle Island can add up. Many of these theme parks offer Florida resident promotions year round and offer special savings opportunities for the holidays. You can find great discounts on tickets only or arrange a package that includes hotel accommodations for even more convenient trip planning.
Tip 4: For less expensive flights, fly out of Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
This tip is helpful, particularly for domestic flights in the continental U.S. While Miami International Airport (airport code MIA) is highly popular, flying out of that gateway can also be very expensive. Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (airport code FLL) offers many of the same flights from major carriers like United and Delta Airlines. Additionally, most of the economy carriers like Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue fly out of FLL only. Continuous growth and development of the Broward County airport has resulted in significant expansion. Now travelers can find nearly as many options at FLL as they would at MIA.
Tip 5: Plan your road trip according to peak traffic times.
If you live in Miami-Dade County and you’ve decided to head north for your road trip on a week day, you’ll bypass up to two hours of additional driving time if you avoid I-95 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Coming from the southern portion of the county, State Road 826 is particularly congested after 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. For Broward County residents, weekdays on Interstate 595 are also met with heavy congestion during afternoon rush hour. Taking I-75 before it connects to Alligator Alley is best either before 5 p.m. or after 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
If the Florida Keys are your choice for your holiday vacation, start your drive before 5 p.m. U.S. 1 gets especially congested and can keep you on the road for a least an extra 60 to 90 minutes between Viscaya and Homestead. If your return trip is planned for a Sunday, be sure to start the trek home before 5 p.m. U.S. 1 (also known as Overseas Highway in the Keys) can get crowded as many travelers choose to leave in the early evening hours in an effort to stretch out their vacation as long as possible.
For nearly 20 years, Shawanda James has been actively involved in creative writing in Miami, Florida. In addition to her work as a freelance writer, she is actively seeking publication for her debut novel and collection of poetry. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.