Vacation Panic
December 12, 2006 10:53 PM   Subscribe

EmergencyVacationAdvice. . . Filter. Free flight to anywhere in the 48 states, but I have to decide time and place by tomorrow (Thursday) morning - including budget planning! Please lend me your wisdoms.

This evening my girlfriend informs me that her parents will fly her and I to the (48 state) US location of our choice. . . but for whatever weird reason the tickets must be bought by tomorrow afternoon! I am ostensibly going to be paying for all other expenses on this trip, which will need to be late this month and/or early January.

This opens me up several frustrating and interconnected problems that I will now lay at your collective feet to help me with.

First of all location. We don't know where to go. We live in Wisconsin and want warmness and, more specifically, warm beaches most. Middle to Southern Florida is the only place that I know approximates this description. But I'm not sure if this is a realistic expectation for even that region during this time of year. Is rain and chilly a probable outcome? Are beaches realistic? Warm, nature-related things, I suspect, would make us happiest, but personal preferences, raves and recommendations from y'alls are definitely welcome. (I really need ideas!)

Second is the time span and budget. I couldn't even know exactly for a few weeks how much I could spend on such a trip but it could possibly be around $300 to (hopefully) over $700. How much can I expect to pay for food/lodging/entertainment? How can I keep expenses low? I need to know this so I can say how long we want to stay. Longer may be better. (Clever lodging options or locations could be the key to saving the most/getting the most time)

Right now we have a tentative location set for Sarasota, Florida and tentative length of 3-4 days. We were really quick about it, and picked one out of several obvious locations (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, etc). But maybe there are nonobvious locations that would be better/more affordable. These are the kinds of considerations I hope you can lend wisdom too. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
i would suggest anna maria, florida... very close to sarasota with much better beaches... try to make sure you are on the gulf side though...

i'm a bit too sleepy to come up with specifics though...
posted by MonkNoiz at 11:00 PM on December 12, 2006

Wow, I was going to suggest Anna Maria also!

Visit the Dali Museum in St. Pete while you're down there.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:06 PM on December 12, 2006

Seattle and drive up to Vancouver! Or, from Vermont to Montreal.
posted by jne1813 at 11:11 PM on December 12, 2006

whoops, no warm beaches...the florida keys?
posted by jne1813 at 11:12 PM on December 12, 2006

How can I keep expenses low? really will save you loads of dough. Lifehacker has a great article on how to make the best of the site. Only thing I would add is that Priceline is best for big cities, rarely effective for small ones. Keep that in mind.

My suggestion... The Big Easy!

New Orleans is always fun and pretty warm. The French Quarter is still a very rockin' place despite what you might think. The Quarter was hardly damaged at all by the storm.

In addition, in New Orleans I've stayed at 4 star hotels for $40 a night via Priceline. It is a great freaking Priceline city for some reason. In addition, the city in general is not that expensive.
posted by JPowers at 12:26 AM on December 13, 2006

Well, I live in Miami and its still in the 80's. The beaches are lovely for lounging around, but the water is pretty cold. This is not the rainy season in Florida, so you can be fairly confident that the weather will be good from central FL on down.

You might want to venture down a little further on the west coast to Naples. They are purported to have some of the best shelling in the state and some nice state parks.

For cheap lodging, I always have fantastic luck all over Florida bidding with priceline. If you don't mind not choosing your exact hotel, this can be a fantastic way to save a TON of money. I recently booked hotels for two Florida trips and paid 50% of what the actual hotel's website quoted for the same dates.

Oh, and do not go to the keys expecting beaches. Beaches in the keys do exist, but they are not the norm - it is mostly rocky. Do lots of research before trying to do a beach vacation there.
posted by gatorae at 12:44 AM on December 13, 2006

I agree, FL if you're looking for beaches, but your concerns are well-founded; I've had FL vacations for new year's where I've been wearing a stocking hat on the beach.

Another option may be to try the desert. Arizona is wonderful this time of year; I'd suggest some desert camping/hiking/mountain biking if you're into that sort of thing. There's also some good rock climbing around Mt. Vernon, and mexico isn't too far off if you're looking for something different.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:03 AM on December 13, 2006

I love Sarasota area - especially Nokomis. The Nokomis Beach on Casey Key is AWESOME. White beaches . . . . searching for shark's teeth in the sand. Rent a jet ski for an afternoon. Freshly squeezed orange juice from Nokomis Groves . . . Can I come too?

As for keeping lodging, food expenses down - try getting a hotel that has a kitchenette in the room so that you can buy and prepare your own food. Try Craigslist for some lodging ideas.

If you're near the beach - that might take care of your "entertainment." Take walks on the beach, watch the sunsets, get up early for the sunrise whilst watching the dolphins come close to shore to feed. If you're at the Nokomis beach around sunset they usually have a group that plays drums and other funky instruments to the setting sun on Wednesdays. Not sure if they still do this, but it's kinda cool!
posted by Sassyfras at 7:05 AM on December 13, 2006

I went to the Keys last year, and visited one of the best beaches ever - Sandspur, in the Bahia State Rec Area.
posted by Liosliath at 7:06 AM on December 13, 2006

I used to live in Sarasota a long long time ago. Then, at least, it was awesome-lots to see and do, and the best beaches I have EVER been to.
posted by konolia at 7:34 AM on December 13, 2006

For stretching a budget, don't overlook staying at a hostel. You can often get a private room in one for less than you'd spend on a motel and you can use the facilities to cook meals. Plus, I find them to be quite (but not necessarily quiet) fun, filled with interesting people and knowledgeable staff. My two seconds of googling turned up these hostels in Florida but I'm sure there's more out there.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:31 AM on December 13, 2006

For January 200...1? I was in Fort Lauderdale and the keys, and it was in the 60s. As a Wisconsinite, you'll probably still be okay going swimming at that temperature, but the locals will be breaking out jackets and whining about the weather. But if it's still in the 80s, as the earlier comment said, well, hey, maybe there's no worry.

(FWIW I highly recommend the Pennekamp State Park down on the keys; it was a lot of fun.)
posted by n y my at 9:47 AM on December 13, 2006

I'd go to St. Augustine, Florida, just south of Jacksonville. Beautiful beaches, tons of historic-type tourist activities (it's the oldest city in the U.S.), ready access to lots of nature and hiking (Moses Creek, Paines Prarie, Ravine State Gardens), and downtown St. Augustine is almost revoltingly charming and picturesque. I grew up there, so if you have any questions, email's in my profile.
posted by saladin at 11:50 AM on December 13, 2006

Forgot to mention, today's high in St. Augustine is 74, and last year when I was home, New Year's Eve got up to 78.
posted by saladin at 11:51 AM on December 13, 2006

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