Get me from Longboat Key to Ft. Lauderdale!
February 4, 2010 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Florida natives please read! Need help figuring out a quick, cheap way for my girlfriend and I to get from Longboat Key to Ft. Lauderdale during our visit to Florida--more details on this hellish planning inside.

A train leaves Tampa at 60mph....I kid, I kid...

So here's the situation--my girlfriend and I are flying in to Tampa around 3/16 or so to stay with my parents at the house they are renting for a couple weeks in Longboat Key. My parents are traveling back home to Chicago on the 3/23 and we would also be leaving the house at that time.

Due to a very lucky (or unlucky as it is turning out to be) coincidence, my girlfriend has a work event she is running in Ft. Lauderdale that she needs to be at by 2pm on 3/23. I would stay with her overnight and we would just fly home together the next day.

The hurdle we are stumbling on is figuring out how the hell we can get from Longboat Key to Ft. Lauderdale cheaply and quickly. The quickest option is to take a commuter flight on Spirit that leaves at 9am and arrives at 10am, however that costs ~$71 per person or $142--more than we were hoping to spend.

I haven't looked into car rentals yet but they are probably cheaper--the hurdle with those is it takes 4+ freaking hours to drive that far. I looked into Amtrak hoping it would be better and it was listed as taking a bit longer than Google Maps said it would take to drive.

I'm really not familiar at all with transportation in Florida but if anybody has any potential solutions to this dilemma I would really appreciate it. I have a feeling we're going to have to shell out some cash one way or another, I was trying to keep it under $100 though.

I will be monitoring this post closely and will respond to clarify anything if anybody needs further details.
posted by Elminster24 to Travel & Transportation around Fort Lauderdale, FL (10 answers total)
Renting a car is probably the cheapest, easiest way to go (even if you're young enough that they'd charge you the extra fee). Four hours is not a long drive at all, and could actually be fun. In the time it would take you to somehow get to the airport, check in, fly, get your bags, and then somehow get from the airport to Ft. Lauderdale, you practically could've driven there already. I know that Enterprise will pick you up, and if you ask nicely, they might drop you off (don't forget to build in time for dealing with paperwork at each end of the rental).
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:55 PM on February 4, 2010

Driving from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale isn't awful, and runningwithscissors is probably the most right about the length of time that checking in etc. will take. Even though Tampa is a really nice airport for checking into. I am not sure about car rental prices, but going that far definitely will cost some gas money, so keep that in mind.

Amtrak is pretty awful most places, and takes forever, and is very frequently late. Greyhound would probably take all day.

My family has done the Tampa-Ft. Lauderdale drive scads of times. It really isn't that bad. Stop at the rest stop in the middle of Alligator Alley. Bring some snacks.
posted by that girl at 10:11 PM on February 4, 2010

I've gone from Sarasota (right under Tampa on the map) to Ft Lauderdale IN A VW WITH A BROKEN TOE and it's quite doable. Back then it was mostly country-not sure it still is, but yes, bring snacks.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:58 AM on February 5, 2010

The drive from Tampa to Ft Lauderdale isn't too bad -- and you get to go through Alligator Alley! Looking at Orbitz, it looks like (assuming you pick the car up in Tampa early morning 3/23 and leave it at FLL on 3/24) renting a car will be fairly expensive, though, almost the same as flying.

I don't know, maybe you can get a special deal or something.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:28 AM on February 5, 2010

a one-way rental is very doable - but don't rent from an international airport location as you'll have extra airport franchise fees both ways. Your best bet is to find a rental agency in town (same brands as at the airport) in both towns. The one you return to should be as close to the destination as possible and they can give you a ride.

Where is the event? For example, if it's just off of the Tri-Rail system, you can rent from Enterprise, and drop off at the Executive Airport location (small airport) and then get a ride to the Tri-Rail (runs every hour or so, costs about 4/5 bucks) station.

I've done the drive, in reverse, as when we lived in Fort Lauderdale we could often get insane cheap flights from Tampa that we couldn't get from FTL.
posted by tilde at 5:30 AM on February 5, 2010

Sorry - Tri-rail will take you to the airport if you drop off the car the same day and still need to get around. :)
posted by tilde at 5:32 AM on February 5, 2010

Echoing the others who say that the drive's really not so bad. There are plenty of worse places in the country to travel four hours through! Alligator Alley is, well, an experience. Just make sure you gas up in Naples.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:44 AM on February 5, 2010

One way rentals sometimes involve huge fees.
posted by notned at 10:37 AM on February 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far guys. Not sure where the event is exactly but it looks like with her discount she gets for working at NorthWestern a rental car is roughly $80 before taxes/gas so that might be what we end up doing.

Anybody have suggestions for the best route to take that offers a good balance of speed/scenery and a good place to stop for lunch on the way?
posted by Elminster24 at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2010

There's pretty much only one way to go: Alligator Alley.
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:35 PM on February 5, 2010

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