{Trip Report} The FL Keys for Winter Break

Those who live in colder regions of the USA typically get a wonderful week off in February called ‘Winter Break.’ Throngs of people take advantage of the time off from school to get an actual break from the brutal winter weather. Most of us are plain SICK of snow and freezing temperatures by February. Last year I regretted not booking a warm weather vacation, but I did check for last minute deals: there were none left. Flights were booked solid with the exception of a few $1,000 seats left. Um, no thank you! I vowed not to make that mistake again. I budgeted our family of 3 approximately $2,500 (see expense report at the bottom) and began to research possible destinations that would fit my small (teacher) budget. In the end, the Florida Keys won.

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Saturday: We are loyal Southwest Airline customers, especially after they integrated the A/B/C lineup concept; we despised the first-come, first-serve lineup gig they had years and years ago. Eight or so years ago we got rid of all our credit cards and signed up for the Visa Southwest Reward card. We get points for all our purchases, and we find that it helps fund our vacations. For instance, last year we cashed in our points and scored six free round trip flights to places like Florida and Puerto Rico. We currently have three free flights waiting to be used for our next trip. Since Southwest bought Airtrain, more and more international flights are coming available; soon we’ll be able to use our points easily to book flights on Southwest.com to Aruba, Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Dominican Republic. In a nutshell, we love Southwest, and we used points to help ease the cost of flying down to Florida during a prime time.

Our nonstop flight out of Buffalo was set to depart mid afternoon.  We were a little anxious about our flight being cancelled or delayed due to a storm that had wreaked havoc in many nearby cities. Just the day before we had received an additional 9″ of snow.

At 7:30 in the morning, Southwest text me to say that our 3:30 pm flight was already delayed. That didn’t sound promising! We hit the road just before noon and made it to Buffalo with plenty of time to spare. We were ushered to the prescreen TSA line where we didn’t have to remove our shoes or sweatshirts. They did test Nick’s hands, though. They also pulled his carry on because he had a big, big box cutter in it. Awesome.

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The Banyan, a hotel in Key West


If Nick and I ever return to Key West for a vacation (and I hope we do!), we will be staying (again) at the Banyan Resort. The location is prime, the price is reasonable, and the rooms are comfortable and spacious. Our favorite bars and restaurants were one block away, too! You can’t beat that! So, in my usual fashion, I wrote a Trip Advisor review about my stay at the Banyan! You can read my review by clicking HERE! Or you can visit the hotel’s website by clicking HERE!

New Pictures

in Key West on a sunset cruise

in Key West on a sunset cruise

We’re back from our vacation to Florida– it was a wonderful trip! It was a jam-packed 11 days, but it was well worth it all. We started our in Orlando in order to see my family and to attend a friend’s wedding. Then we headed south to Largo to visit with Nick’s parents and our old college buddies. It’s so fun to see how our children get along just as well as we do. Then, Nick and I left Xander in the tender loving care of his parents and headed further south to the Florida Keys. Big thanks to our friend Jovan for driving us in his truck– it’s a 8 hour drive, one way. We stayed in downtown Key West at the Banyan Hotel (a true gem! Stay here if you ever visit Key West) and were literally one block away from the nightlife of Duval Street. We met up with some other friends during this little kid free weekend and had an awesome time. It was a bit hot, but we kept cool inside the bars. Hehe! After 3 nights away from Xander, we headed back up to Largo and found him spoiled rotten! Thanks again Peter & Barbara!! So, here we are, back in St. Louis and ready for a long, hot summer. We’ve nearly depleted Nick’s 5 week vacation allowance… so Hotel Mills is currently accepting reservations!

View Photos from our trip here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leighuf/sets/72157617558867935/