Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week’s travel diary: A 23-year-old leasing associate spends a weekend in Miami with her mom and sister.
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Occupation: Leasing Associate
Annual Number Of Vacation Days: 26
Location: Washington D.C.
Trip Location: Miami, Florida
Trip Length: 4 days
Travel Companions: older sister, K. and mother
Travel Companion Salary: $140,000 (mother), $60,000 (sister)
Travel Companion Number of Vacation Days: 4 months (mother), sister is a freelancer
Costs: Everyone paid for their own flight. My mom flew JetBlue out of DC’s Ronald Reagan National Airport and paid $230 for a roundtrip ticket, government rate. I flew out of Reagan Airport on the same flight but paid $350. My sister flew out of LAX on Spirit and paid $350 for a round trip ticket.
We booked a car to get around through my mom’s Costco membership for $97, for all four days. My mom paid for half of the car and her job covered the other half.
Costs: We stayed at the Marriott Marina Bay for three nights for a total of $423 (government rate, my mother’s job covered one night and she paid for the other two nights) Parking was $30 a night, but this too was paid by my mom’s job for one night. The rest of the days were given to us free as they gave us the wrong room and did not have a room with a balcony during our stay. We originally booked a bigger room with a balcony but never received it as the hotel was overbooked.
Miscellaneous pre-vacation spending:
Black open-toe sandals from target $24.99
H&M 2 piece set (skirt and top) $30
Target trip for a swimsuit (will be returning as it did not fit) + toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, face wash, hair care) $52
1 GB of data from Verizon for $15
4:30 a.m. – I wake up and get ready for the airport. I got four hours of sleep the previous night and four hours today. I am definitely running on fumes. I packed everything the night before and I pray that I do not forget anything. I kiss my two cats goodbye and I hope they will be okay and not miss me too much (my stepdad is watching them). My mom drives us to the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in her car; her job will expense the parking fees. This is a work trip for her and she invited me and my older sister, K., who lives in LA along. I packed one suitcase as a carry-on to not pay any luggage fees and I packed snacks (chips, nuts, and energy bars) from home to eat on the plane ride and to also have with me throughout the trip. A lot of people joke that I am a grandma but I enjoy keeping snacks on me. My mom checks the one suitcase for $50, which she expenses.
9:00 a.m. – My mother and I land at the Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida. I was asleep the whole two-hour flight. I call my sister, K., and we meet her at her gate. We then go to baggage claim to pick up my mom’s suitcase. My sister and I both brought carry-ons for our luggage. We take a quick airport shuttle to the rental car building and pick up a black Nissan SUV from Alamo (my mom paid for the rental car through her Costco membership).
Our hotel check-in isn’t until 4:00 p.m. at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, so we head to The Salty Donut and pick up a few donuts (very delicious, they even had a vegan option for me). We get four doughnuts, my mom pays. My mom found this place on Instagram and was excited to try it. The vegan donut was very good! I am a vegan, my mom is a pescatarian and my sister eats meat but tries to eat organic and incorporate some plant based meals. $16
11:00 a.m. We drive to DIRT restaurant to grab breakfast. My mom pays. I found this after a quick Google search of vegan-friendly breakfast places. I get the vegan egg and sausage sandwich, a strawberry and mint lemonade, and my sister and mother got an Impossible Burger and avocado toast to split. My sister also gets a CBD latte. There is also complimentary water with fruit infused. I love the whole meal. $52
12:00 p.m. – We go to the hotel hoping the room is ready. It is not, so we drop off our bags at the front desk to hold. Afterward, we drive and browse around some consignment stores in South Miami and my sister goes inside a Salvation Army. She owns an online clothing boutique and is a wardrobe stylist in L.A.; she loves traveling and picking up vintage pieces for clients. My mother and I wait in the car. I have a 20-minute call with Verizon: I purchased 1 GB of data for $15 before the flight and my phone gave me an alert that I did not have access to data anymore. My issue was finally resolved.
We park and head into Publix and pick up three bottles of wine, a bag of popcorn, and mints. ($32). We also have to pay for parking ($12). $44
4:00 p.m. – Our hotel room is ready and I am excited to change my clothes and put on makeup and take cute pictures for Instagram. We park the car in the hotel garage. As we enter the hotel room, it was not what we expected. We booked a room with a balcony and there isn’t one and the deadbolt on the door doesn’t work. My mom goes down to the front desk, unhappy, as we have waited all day for a room. There are no other rooms with two beds and a balcony so we are stuck for now and the front desk promises to fix the lock tomorrow. We get complimentary parking for our stay as well as a gift card to the hotel restaurant for $40.
5:00 p.m. – We all put on our swimsuits and do our makeup. My sister gifts me a blue scarf, a ponytail holder, and a Childish Gambino scarf as a late birthday present. We listen to music as we get dressed and refreshed after our long travel day.
6:00 p.m. – After we get ready, we head to South Beach with the wine and a bag of chips and we stay for around two hours ($3 for parking). I enjoy laying out and the weather is perfect there is a nice breeze. My sister and I take some pictures on a pink lifeguard shack and we people-watch. There is a photoshoot going on with a model in a bikini and a clear rain jacket and some girls trying to twerk but are offbeat, it is very entertaining. Afterward, we got to HuaHuas and I get a veggie burrito and my mom and sister get shrimp tacos, corn, and chips and guac ($35) and we all spit the bill. $38
8:30 p.m. – We head to the hotel and pass out after eating. We were all running on around three hours of sleep.
Daily Total: $150
10:00 a.m. – I wake up and go to the mall that is next to the hotel and pick up two fruit smoothie bowls for me and my sister ($22). They are not good and I am upset that I spent so much money on them. The lock was fixed on our hotel door room. I meet my mom, she went to the gym. We stop at the hotel café and she buys a cup of coffee ($5), there are also mini bottles of margaritas and we pick up two for ($22). $49
12:00 p.m. – We leave the hotel and go to the Design District. There is an hour and a half wait for a table at the Dior pop-up café so we walk around and it is very hot. I hate the heat and I am sweating everywhere even though I have on a crop top and short skirt. There are lots of art installations all over and I stop to take pictures by a giant red cup with a straw. There are also art shops that we stop in that have really cool paintings and installations inside. There is a sculpture of a lady’s head with a rhinestone headpiece that is very cool. I upload pictures and videos to my Instagram story. I need to find something to cool me off, and fast, so we head into Aubi & Ramsa (I found this place online). They serve alcohol-infused sorbet. It is perfect inside, the lights are turned off and the AC is on full blast and they have seats for everyone. We had the Strawberry and Rosé (made with Veuve Clicquot & St. Germain) and Passion Fruit Margarita (made with Don Julio Blanco tequila) I pay. $22
2:30 p.m. – Our table is finally ready at the Dior café and we sit. It’s on the rooftop of the Dior store and there is an elevator in the back to get to the roof. There is a rude security guard that tried to tell us we didn’t have permission to use the elevator and that we needed to get on the list. We give him evil eyes and a rude remark, as he saw us check in with the staff before being directed to the elevator. The decor on the rooftop is very nice: all the seating is white and there are animal statues everywhere. The sun is shining bright and we are thankful to have a table with an umbrella. I order iced coffee ($12), my mom orders a cappuccino ($12) and my sister a latte ($12). The coffee is okay, I had to order something cold and the only things that had Dior written on the foam were the hot drinks. It was more a great spot for Instagram pictures, which we took plenty of. In the car, the coffee causes my and my sister’s anxiety to spike which leds to calming music being played and not a lot of conversation. $36
3:15 p.m. – I place a phone order to GLAM and get vegan spaghetti and meatballs and a green tea ($22) My mom double parks while I run inside to pick it up, it’s a few blocks away from the Dior café. My sister and mom order a cheese pizza from Papa John’s after finding a deal online ($12). We make a quick stop to pick it up. We plan to take all the food and eat dinner on the beach with the towels that we had left in the car from yesterday’s beach trip. We stop at the hotel for our swimsuits and take our food to Miami Beach. We drink the margaritas from earlier. They are mini bottles and we love the brand (On the Rocks Cocktails). My mom looks up where to buy more and we plan to purchase bigger bottles later. The margaritas make me slightly tipsy and I enjoy the time on the beach. My sister and I take more pictures and just relax on our towels. $34
7:00 p.m. – Before going back to the hotel we stop at Publix for tomorrow’s breakfast. On the way to the store, everyone has to pee so once we park we all run in to find the bathroom. After browsing around the store I pick up Gardein breakfast pockets and fruit pouches for the next two days, my mom and sister pick up muffins, yogurt, and fruit. $31
8:00 p.m. – We stop at the liquor store and get four bottles of margaritas in different flavors: Mai Thai, On the Rocks, Aviation, and Margarita. My sister stays in the car and takes a catnap. Next to the liquor store is a McDonald’s, where my mom picks up a fish filet to take back to the hotel. My sister and I eat the leftover taco that we had gotten yesterday from HuaHuas. There is a mini-fridge in our hotel room. $14
11:00 p.m. – After showering and eating, I watch Game of Thrones episode 3, my sister and mom get annoyed with me yelling at my laptop. I stay up texting my little sister M. (who did not come on the trip) about the show as I can’t believe the ending and I do not sleep until 3 a.m.
Daily Total: $186
11:00 a.m. – My mom leaves for her business meeting, my sister goes to more stores to look for clothes for her store. I heat up two breakfast sandwiches that I brought last night from Publix and I go down to the pool. It’s super hot but I bear the heat because I need a tan, my melanin needs a recharge. I listen to music and shield my face with a hat as I did not have any face sunscreen that morning. The pool has iced water and cold wet towels that they keep in a fridge in the shade, those are lifesavers.
2:00 p.m. – I get overheated and I head back to the hotel room and take a shower and get ready by doing my hair and makeup. As I get ready I catch up on Good Girls, it is a favorite show of mine.
4:00 p.m. – My sister comes back from shopping and she wants to go back to the pool. I go with her and I finish up some essays for my application to law school by the pool. I wish that I would have known that we would stay at the pool all day, I would not have done my makeup or taken a shower. My sister puts in an order for some hot wings to eat and she gets a side of guac and chips for us to share and we relax. We also bring down a bottle of wine that we picked up from the grocery store the first day and enjoy the breeze. I show her there are cold towels and she agrees that it is a great idea for the pool to have there. I look up places for happy hour and make online reservation for Soul Tavern for 6:30 p.m. $25
5:00 p.m. – I get a call from my mom that she left her hotel key. I leave my sister K. at the pool and I head up to the room to meet my mom and let her in the room. She changes out of her business clothes and suggests that we go to the restaurant that is downstairs at the hotel for happy hour. I am tipsy so I forget to text my sister what we are doing (oops). I order black bean hummus with pita bread and veggies to dip and a mojito, my mom gets calamari and a mojito. We pay for the whole meal with the gift card from the hotel we got earlier. My mom calls my sister asking if she wants any food and she says no and that she is still by the pool. My sister and mom want me to push back the reservation, they do not want to go out to eat but I do. I adjust the reservation for 8:30 p.m. and it will be past happy hour. My phone dies and we are sitting on the dock that the restaurant looks out at, there are a lot of tourist boats going in and out and we people watch.
6:00 p.m. – We head back over to the pool and lay out next to my sister. I show my mom the cold towels (it is still hot outside!) and she loves it too. I left my bag and my laptop at the pool when I went to give my mom the hotel room key so now I can charge my phone with my laptop while lounging at the pool. We relax under the sun and enjoy the moment. I really needed a break from work and I am happy to spend time with my mom and sister. I see my sister only a few times out of the year as she lives on the other side of the country but despite that we are best friends and talk every day.
7:00 p.m. – We head up to the hotel room and get ready for dinner. I change my clothes and I finally get to wear a pair of Gucci white jeans that I found a consignment shop. I brought them over the winter and they are bell bottoms they fit a little snug but I am happy with them.
8:30 p.m. – We arrive at Soul Tavern and it is a very cute restaurant. It is about a 10-minute ride from the hotel across a bridge on West Avenue. My mom did not want to come but I dragged her out anyway. I pay for parking ($5). Soul Tavern has very earthy vibes and the food looks delicious. We sit outside and there are lots of plants and low lighting. The tables are made from wood and the seats are comfy. There is a grassy area that has a fire pit as well. My sister and I decided to split the food and my mom was not very hungry but I offer her a taste of my food to see if she likes it. We order the truffle mac and cheese, yuca fries, and their version of a fish cake. I enjoyed it (everything was vegan). My sister and I pay the bill. ($50) $55
9:30 We arrive back at the hotel and I realize I left my jean jacket at the restaurant. I call to try to call the place but they are closed for the night. Everyone packs their things, takes showers, and chills watching YouTube on their phones, and we head off to sleep.
Daily Total: $80
10:00 a.m. – I wake up and I am grateful we have a late checkout. We take our time getting ready for the day, watching MTV and Catfish comes on. For breakfast my mom gets her and my sister fruit cups from the cafe in the lobby for and I eat the rest of the garden breakfast wrap that we got from Publix two days earlier. $10
11:00 a.m. – I call Soul Tavern and they have my jacket! I tell them that I will be there soon to pick it up and I am so happy. It is hard for me to find jean jackets that I like so I did not want to go through the process again of finding one. I make a mental check to be more aware of my belongings.
12:00 p.m. – We leave the hotel and drive to Soul Tavern for my jacket and then head to Lincoln Road to browse around before going to the airport. It is hot! My sister and I stop at Starbucks for a drink to cool down, I had a gift card and ended up paying $8 for our hibiscus lemonade teas. $8
2:00 p.m. – We arrive at the Fort Lauderdale airport and drop off the rental car to Alamo and double-check that we did not leave anything in the car. We are about two hours ahead of our 4:00 p.m. flight. We run to the bathroom and then wait in line for the airport shuttle. Once we arrive at the airport there is a long line for security. My mom leaves to check in her luggage ($50) as it is one bag as she has TSA pre-check, so she tells my sister and I to get in the security line as she can breeze past once she hands off her suitcase. It is extremely hot in the airport and I feel faint and my anxiety rises as I see that we have around 40 minutes to get through security and make the flight. My sister has a later flight than us and she doesn’t take off until 6:00 p.m. While standing in the hot and slow-moving line, a man in front of me that looked to be in his thirties tried flirting with me. I was not in the mood and was disgusted when he asked me if I was in high school or just starting college. I know I look very young for my age but I do not like it when men try to approach me because they think that I am in high school it gives me very creepy vibes. I take deep breaths to calm myself and ignore the man and try to start conversations with my sister, whom he also asks if she is in high school. I am 23 years old and my sister is 31: we are both disgusted. The line finally starts moving and we are able to get away from him. $50
3:30 p.m. – I get through security and I do not see my mom. I sent her a text message telling her I will meet her at the gate as we have 20 minutes left until it starts to board. My sister walks me to the gate. The gate is farther away than expected and I get more anxiety that I may miss my flight. I make it with 10 minutes to spare until boarding and I run to a snack cart to get something to munch on so that I can calm down. I buy sandwiches: peanut butter and jelly for me and a hummus and veggie for my mom, and I bottle of apple juice. I pay for it and I finally see my mom. I take a Xanax before getting on the plane as I still have anxiety. My mom and I say goodbye to my sister and exchange hugs and board the plane. Before checking into the flight we noticed that our seats were changed. The man sitting next to me agrees to switch seats with my mom and I sleep to the two-hour plane home ride. It was a great trip and I enjoyed having girl time with my sister and mother. I am thankful for the time off to recharge and slow down to appreciate the present and still getting used to life after college. $21.88
Daily Total: $89.88
How did you prepare for this trip?
Time Out is always my go-to when I travel to a new city and look up places to go and things to do. When I follow their suggestions I do not have any regrets. I got most of the restaurants we ate at from here.
When did you book your flight? Do you think you got a good deal? Flights were booked three weeks in advance, we could have gotten better deals but this is a work trip for my mother and we had to wait until her job approved her work trip to book all the tickets.
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation? If so, how much?
No credit card debt.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
My favorite part of the trip was going to the Miami Beach around 5:00 p.m. The timing was perfect, the beaches were not crowded and it was not very hot. I got to enjoy laying down in the sand, eating and drinking, and enjoying the moment.
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
Eating ice cream at Aubi & Ramsa was the best. It was hot the whole time we were in Miami and I was sweating a lot when we found the shop. It is small but it was perfect. When we walked it the lights were very dimmed and the AC was on full blast. The ice cream was very delicious and refreshing I loved every bite and I do want to go back the next time I am in Miami.
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
If you are vegan or plant-based, Miami has an array of restaurants and places to eat. I was very happy and surprised to see it. There was always something for me to eat at any place I visited, and I wish D.C. had more options like Miami.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
I had on my list to visit a few are museums but they were closed on Monday when I had free time to do it such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Lowe Art Museum.
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time? Would you have come home sooner or stayed longer given the chance?
Four days were perfect as I was active on my travel days. I feel that I had the perfect amount of time to stay and still got to explore the area.
Travel Diaries is meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and does not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.
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