Miami Birthday Surprise – The Southwest Trip Report

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Miami Birthday Surprise – The Southwest Trip Report

Million Mile SecretsMiami Birthday Surprise – The Southwest Trip ReportMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Southwest Trip Report - Emily & her car
South Beach, Baby!

Trip Report Index:

Emily Jablon: Hi everyone! Lots of you guessed where Daraius and I were for my birthday weekend!  Daraius surprised me with a wonderful trip to Miami, and here’s part 1 of the trip report.

Daraius: This weekend getaway would have cost $2,128 but we paid only $201 – $51 for the car rental and ~ $150 for food and parking since we used our miles and points for the flights, hotel, dinner and massages.

Southwest Trip Report - Cost of Miami Trip-1
Big Travel with Small Money!

I spent 50,000 Priority Club points for 2 nights at the Z Ocean Hotel (otherwise $882 for a regular room and $ 1,178 for our upgraded rooftop terrace suite with taxes) and $620 for 2 tickets to Ft. Lauderdale using Southwest gift cards from the previous Southwest credit card offer for the flights to Miami.

Now that’s a weekend of Big Travel with Small Money!

I wanted to keep Emily guessing for as long as possible, so I told her we were driving to Oklahoma.  I’m not sure if she believed me or not!  I picked her up from work on Friday, swapped my Mozart wind concerto CD with Emily’s Lady Gaga CD (after all, it was her special day!), and headed to the airport.

I booked our flights using Southwest gift cards from the previous Southwest credit card offer.  Since I booked the ticket at the last minute, the routing to Miami was a little longer than I’d liked.  But the longer routing was a great way to keep Emily guessing where she was going!

Emily Jablon: Daraius asked if I could leave work early on the Friday before my birthday, and after he picked me up, I still did not know where we were going. But I had earlier discussed my hunches with my colleague, Jessica, and wrote down my predictions so that Daraius and I could review them later.

We drove to the airport (Daraius said we were driving to Oklahoma which is south to throw me off, but he was driving north…hmmm), and the plane we  boarded was going to New Orleans.  I’ve wanted to visit New Orleans again, but it was not on my top 3 list of US cities to visit, and I was a little disappointed (but I did not tell Daraius).

Southwest Trip Report - Emily at the airport
Emily at the Airport

We used our free drink coupons to have a Bailey’s on the flight.  Southwest mailed us free drink coupons for redeeming an award flight!

On our way to New Orleans, we stopped in Dallas and got off the plane.  I was wrong and we did not go to New Orleans!  I was also surprised we were in Dallas because it wasn’t on my list of US cities to visit, and again, I was disappointed.

Southwest Trip Report - Emily having a Bailey's
Emily having a Baileys!

However, we soon boarded another plane, and landed in Houston. What was in Houston? The NASA museum? Again, I was a little confused, but then we soon boarded another plane, and this time the hunch I had was confirmed: Fort Lauderdale which is 50 minutes from Miami (which is what I had guessed)!!

Daraius: I don’t know how she does it, but Emily managed to guess where she was going on her birthday surprise!  She always manages to guess what I’ve got planned. 🙁

The Southwest experience was very different from the travel experience on other US domestic airlines:

Firstly, the Southwest boarding process is very efficient, but unusual from the way other airlines board their passengers.  You line up in 3 groups, A, B, or C (depending on when you checked in) and board the plane as your group and number is called.

Secondly, since Southwest doesn’t charge extra to check-in bags, most passengers have very little carry-on luggage so boarding goes much quicker since there is not a big rush for the carry-on space.

Thirdly, Southwest doesn’t have assigned seating.  The upside to this is that you can sit anywhere on the plane as long as there is space and that includes exit rows.  The flight attendants usually stand in the exit rows while boarding, so most folks skip the exit rows while looking for seats.

But Emily and I always head straight for the exit rows while boarding (we’re usually in zone B) and have almost always managed to snag them!

Southwest Trip Report - Lots of leg room in the plane
Lots Of Leg Room In the Exit Row Seats!

Fourthly, the staff, right from the gate agents to the flight attendants seemed much more engaged and friendlier than the flight attendants on the other US airlines such as American and United.

Lastly, almost all the customers seemed to be leisure travelers, and not folks on business travel.  There was also a friendly family vibe in the cabin.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the trip report on the Z Ocean Hotel and our day in Miami!

Have you traveled on Southwest?  Love it or hate it?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Love it!!! I like the way you use the excel spreedsheet pic to show the details. I think I’m gonna do the same on my blog in the future! Makes things real clear and easy for readers to see. I think I’m a bit bashful when it comes to showing what I’ve got but really I should share. I think I’ll photo copy & scan the $1,000 check I just order in the mail from my Chase Sapphire bonus! So sweet! I’m now going to put it into a high yield savings account to make some money on it since I don’t need it now. Saving for a big family trip in 2013!

Thanks for your post! Always love them! Don’t comment as much since I’m a way busy Momma!!!

Nicely done!!!

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@Faith – Congrats on your new blog – nicely done!

Thank you for the birthday wishes everyone! Daraius and I had a wonderful time in Miami. I hope to meet you all in Chicago this weekend!

Hi Darius,

Thank you for sharing your money saving ways to a wonderful trip for Emily’s birthday.

I have a few questions. I have a Capital One credit card. How can I get that Hyatt gift card from Capital One’s “match my miles promotion?”

What are Priority Club Points?



Million Mile Secrets

@Tsui – The Capital One promotion was earlier this year where they would match your miles in other programs with 100K Capital One miles. That promotion is no longer offered. Priority Club is the rewards program of the InterContinental Hotel group. You earn them by staying in hotels or from credit cards.

My family and I have been flying Southwest for many years even before they came to PHL our local airport. We enjoy their friendly staff, great on time arrivals and free checked bags, especially important for our ski trips. I have a companion pass and my husband has been flying free with me for almost a year. The companion pass is a wonderful money saving Southwest benefit.

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@frugal travel lawyer – The companion pass is a great value (probably the best domestic airline perk)! And it is wonderful to fly on a well-run airline! Thanks for sharing.

Is that the car you rented for $51?

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@windcloud5 – I’m not a fan of regional jets either, and it is not because the seats are tiny. The bigger planes are more comfortable to ride in!

@alohastephen – Ha! I wish. We got a Dodge Charger which we used just to get to and from the airport.

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