I just got back from a long weekend in Miami and I realized this was my first social media vacation. Here’s how social media helped me make this Vitamin D boosting trip happen for with very little money:
In September, a co-worker tipped me off to the “JetBlue Happy Hour” in Reston, which he saw on Twitter. I wanted to go to Miami, where I’ve got friends, but scooped up a $69 round trip fare to West Palm Beach instead, figuring that I could score a cheap rental car to get myself to Miami, which is one hour south.
Based on some information I read on a few travel websites, I ended up taking a one way rental to the Miami airport, and then the hotel’s free shuttle from the airport to South Beach. On the way back, a friend dropped me off to catch a commuter train back to West Palm’s airport. The rental car was $30 and the train fare was $5.50. (Question for the local tourism marketing people in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, why are you doing such a poor job of promoting this rail service? Are the rental car companies paying you not to? I never have heard of you before this trip.)
When it came to a hotel, I scoured several travel websites, but found the hotel I booked through an e-newsletter I get from Travelzoo. The hotel had recently opened and was offering 50% off specials to customers who booked by a certain date. While the hotel was still dealing with some opening glitches, the half-price deal in high season for Miami made me temper my complaints to the general manager, whom I met. In our friendly conversation, she begged me to write something nice about them on TripAdvisor. That was more important to her than a review by a travel writer with a print publication. (I have to agree with her judgment.)
Lastly, I picked out some Miami restaurants based on reviews at Zagat’s, TripAdvisor, Frommer’s and some other online travel guides. BTW, my favorite place to eat dinner in South Beach is the pool bar at the Delano Hotel, it’s a scaled back and cheaper version of their restaurant, but a nicer setting. (Check out the virtual tour of the pool on this page.)
On the way back, JetBlue routed me through New York’s JFK, which is home to a new terminal JetBlue has dubbed T5, or Terminal 5. When it comes to New York airports, I’m a big fan of LaGuardia because of it’s proximity to Manhattan, but the JetBlue team has done a good job here with creating a place that is consistent with their brand. I’m not sure it’s enough to make me choose Kennedy over LaGuardia for New York-bound flights, but I would certainly choose it as a layover destination versus LaGuardia or Newark. I read about JetBlue’s efforts to improve this hub on Twitter and a few other sites, including a blog they created for the grand opening. Here are some well done photos of the terminal on Flickr taken by Ted Murphy.
What I like about it is the over abundance of wall outlets, the laptop stations and the Samsung cell phone charging stations, and the restaurants, which are a step above most airport food. While it doesn’t have a Legal Seafood like Washington National, it did have a nice sushi bar called Deep Blue, which I’m assuming got its name because of its location in the JetBlue terminal. (The steakhouse is called 5ivesteaks, after Terminal 5.)
Oh, and if you have kids, you’ll like that there is a children’s play area in the terminal, perfect for the one-hour layover where you need to let your fidgety kid run around before you catch your connection.
The smartest part of T5 is that JetBlue has stationed a large number of employees at information desks. These desks are located near the gates, so you can easily rebook, check flight status or find out other information. Other airlines have cut back on these types of in-terminal services to save money. JetBlue has wisely seen this, indeed the whole terminal, as a major investment in their customers’ satisfaction.
I enjoyed my time away, which was planned using social media, but also a vacation from social media. For the first time in a long time, I unplugged. I recommend it.