JTR

Keys Trip 4/2-4/12 - Making It Affordable - Fully Detailed Trip

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I’ll be making my second annual Florida Keys trip next week. Take off from Boston to Fort Lauderdale at 6:15am on Tuesday 4/2 and touch down back in Boston on Friday 4/12 at 12:35am. I think for a lot of guys, a trip to a premier fishing destination like the Keys seems out of reach financially. I want to share with you that it isn’t, and in relative terms, can be done comfortably and is very affordable.

 

First off, the flight. You’ll notice that I’m flying Tuesday to Thursday (red eye into Friday) - that’s not an accident - it’s way cheaper to fly mid week. I’m flying Southwest for a number of reasons - the most important reason being that you get 2 checked bags, a carry-on and a personal item included in the price. I take FULL advantage of that.

 

One of my checked bags will contain most of my tackle, wading boots, fly fishing gear, and clothing to fill the voids. I basically fly down with a full tackle shop in my bag. A luggage scale ($6 on AMZN) will allow you to fill the bag right up to the 50lb allowable max. My second checked bag will be my rods. I’m bringing 6 rods that fit into 2 pieces of light weight 4” pvc drainage pipe that’s available at Home Depot for $8 per 10’ length. These 2 tubes will be boxed together. If you really wanted to, I’m guessing you could easily fly down with at least a dozen rods using this method. I’ve been using the same tubes for years and just make a new box each time to fit them using scrap cardboard. I believe the max for southwest is 92”, so as long as you stay under that and under the 50lbs, you will have no issues. Also, use this box to your advantage - make the box bigger than the tubes and use it for any clothing that you can’t fit elsewhere.

 

Next - my carry on/personal item. My carry on is an ozark trail padded cooler. I  use this for some of my heavier items - reels, cast net, etc. The best part about this item is that it will let me have a cooler down there that will keep ice for days (critical when you plan on eating a lot of fresh fish). My personal item is a cabelas fishing backpack. I’ll be packing other essentials in here, like clothing, phone chargers, action camera, etc. but once I’m down there, this transforms into my fishing tackle center for the week.

 

Southwest has a calendar option available to view flight costs for an entire month at a time. Use this to have an idea of when the cheaper flights will be.

 

Total round-trip flight cost - $190.88

 

Next up is the rental car (or truck in this case. Rental car rates can differ A TON between different companies AND locations. Renting a car from the airport will set you back hundreds more than renting from a location near, but outside the airport. Use orbitz or a similar website to key in on which companies/locations will be the cheapest and then go to that company’s website for an even cheaper rate. I’m renting a full size Chevy pickup from Budget at the cruiseport shuttle in Fort Lauderdale, which is a $5 Uber from the airport. I go to Florida a fair amount, so I bought a Sunpass for $20 online. When I pick up the rental, I add it to my sunpass account and avoid paying those ridiculous toll fees that the rental companies charge.

 

Total Rental Fee - $296.78

 

Lastly - lodging. If you want to make this trip affordable, forget about a hotel. Airbnb is your best friend. Lodging is what will make or break the trip and you’ll have to book relatively early and be flexible with dates. I booked an RV in Key Largo. It’s an older RV, but gets great reviews. Comes with WiFi, satellite TV, refrigerator,  A/C, hot water, a stove and grill. I don’t need anything fancy, just a place to crash when I’m not fishing and cook my own meals. I will only book places that are well reviewed and established. I’ve never had a bad Airbnb experience and I definitely don’t plan on having one either.

 

Total Lodging Cost - $860

 

So, as you can see, my total for flight, rental car/truck and lodging is about $1,350. For 10 days in the Keys, I really don’t think that can be beat (maybe by a few bucks). I won’t be booking a charter or anything like that, but if I wanted to, there would be plenty of room in the budget. I make a grocery/supply list ahead of time and stop at Walmart on my way to the Keys to pick everything up. Obviously, the two other main expenses are food and gas.  Having an Airbnb with a refrigerator and stove/grill will cut way down on the food expense.

 

Last year I stayed in Homestead, because the lodging was cheaper, but that was offset by the gas costs for driving back and forth from the Keys every day. I won’t make that mistake again.

 

All things considered, I plan on spending a total of $1,600. You could EASILY go for under a grand if you go with a buddy and split the costs. The biggest piece of advice that I can give is to be flexible with dates, research prices and keep a spreadsheet while you do so. A trip to the Keys is very affordable and with some effort ahead of time, you’ll be set to spend 10 days fishing in one of the best fishing destinations in the country.

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Edited by JTR

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This is an excellent post and should help a lot of people trying to navigate the costly Keys!  :hi5:

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23 hours ago, kayak99 said:

This is an excellent post and should help a lot of people trying to navigate the costly Keys!  :hi5:

Thanks man. I could go on and on about the details of what I posted as well. I’m more than willing to help anyone out with the specifics of anything I posted. 

 

Im hoping to post some exciting stuff from this trip. I fully plan on cooking some ocean side lunches, landing some big fish and hopefully landing a tarpon and permit.

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Good info for equipment transfer. I do something similar using the pvc tubes. However, I ship mine USPS (not the other two) to a shipping store in the nearby area, we have one here in poe-dunk, there are three in the town I fish.

 

I would like to know more about the truck/van rental. So far this year, Carl's looks to be my next bet available in 4 or 6 towns in FL.

 

Do you wade fish there?

 

HAVE FUN!

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22 hours ago, JTF said:

Good info for equipment transfer. I do something similar using the pvc tubes. However, I ship mine USPS (not the other two) to a shipping store in the nearby area, we have one here in poe-dunk, there are three in the town I fish.

 

I would like to know more about the truck/van rental. So far this year, Carl's looks to be my next bet available in 4 or 6 towns in FL.

 

Do you wade fish there?

 

HAVE FUN!

I’m renting through Budget. The trick is to get on the budget website and search for cars at all of their different locations in the area. I usually do a corresponding Uber search to figure out how much the Uber from the airport to car rental will be. Also, there are a number of different BCD and coupon codes available online. I’ve been using the BCD code U112000 for years, which is for friends and family. It almost always works to knock off at least $20-$40 bucks. It’s really just a game of trying combinations of different locations and codes until you find something that works. In my opinion, $296 for a full size pick-up is pretty incredible for 10 days. Also keep in mind that the pick-up/drop-off times matter. If you go over a 24 hour period, you get charged an extra day, which could be $30-$40. I’m picking up the truck at 2:30pm and dropping it off at 2:00pm. If I dropped it off at 3:30pm, I’d get charged an extra day.

 

I will definitely be doing some wade fishing on the flats. The wind forecast looks very favorable, so I’ll probably take the fly rod out and see what I can hook into - hopefully a permit if I’m lucky.

Edited by JTR

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Nice write up. Love the accommodations.

Been a while- but we used to go a lot from PA to the keys. Always drove & camped at Sunshine Key.

Later when we would fly to see my brother on the W coast-we used to get a vehicle at Rent a Wreck. Never had one fail and we drove all over.

Most of our times were before the completion of the "new" bridges so we would buy as the majority of supplies in Homestead. 

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On 3/26/2019 at 7:01 AM, JTR said:

I’ll . I go to Florida a fair amount, so I bought a Sunpass for $20 online. When I pick up the rental, I add it to my sunpass account and avoid paying those ridiculous toll fees that the rental companies charge.


First of all, I'm going down in mid-May, thanks for this post, lots of useful information.  Couple of questions-which rental company do you use?  Also, do they charge you to put their transponder on it to use your sunpass?

 

Thanks in advance for any info and I'm looking forward to your reports.

 

Good Luck!!!

 

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2 hours ago, Craig Pablo said:


First of all, I'm going down in mid-May, thanks for this post, lots of useful information.  Couple of questions-which rental company do you use?  Also, do they charge you to put their transponder on it to use your sunpass?

 

Thanks in advance for any info and I'm looking forward to your reports.

 

Good Luck!!!

 

I’m renting through Budget. But they all have toll fees that you can waive, if you already have your own transponder. What you have to do is go online, order the transponder, create an account, and when you go to pick up your rental car you add that car, license plate, make, model etc. to your account. When you book the rental, just waive the toll coverage. There is no charge to use your own transponder.

 

 It pays for itself the first time you do it. I think the toll fee through Budget is $6.95 a day, and they don’t let you do it one day at a time, so you have to do it for the entire length of the rental. So for a 10 day rental it’s going to run you are at least another $70. And if you’re going from Miami or Fort Lauderdale to the keys and staying in the keys for your entire vacation, there’s no tolls down there, So the only time that you would need the toll coverage would be your first and last day. But since they don’t let you do that the Sunpass is the way to go.

Edited by JTR

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I did a trip to Islamorada end of January $135  to fly mid week from Hartford to Miami as you stated. $45 for a car. I splurged at Bud and Mary’s for lodging, It was pricey but very cool to stay there. Had a blast fishing under the bridges all over. The truck is key as I had planned on fishing out of a kayak and renting at Bahia Honda and John Pennekamp. With a truck you can be more flexible and hide from the wind some. I did this alone as an exploratory trip. Can’t wait to go back during Tarpon time

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1 hour ago, turkaholic said:

I did a trip to Islamorada end of January $135  to fly mid week from Hartford to Miami as you stated. $45 for a car. I splurged at Bud and Mary’s for lodging, It was pricey but very cool to stay there. Had a blast fishing under the bridges all over. The truck is key as I had planned on fishing out of a kayak and renting at Bahia Honda and John Pennekamp. With a truck you can be more flexible and hide from the wind some. I did this alone as an exploratory trip. Can’t wait to go back during Tarpon time

Agreed. The truck is key. For a couple bucks more than a car, the truck provides so much more convenience transporting gear between fishing spots. Plus, for exactly the reason you mentioned, I’d like to rent a kayak if need be.

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On 3/26/2019 at 9:01 AM, JTR said:

 

I go to Florida a fair amount, so I bought a Sunpass for $20 online.

 

 

We go to Florida at least 3 times per year.  I have wanted to purchase a sun pass so I don't have to pay the absurd amount the rental car companies charge.  However I thought you needed a plate to get one.

 

After seeing your post I figured I would try but it won't let me go past entering a plate number.  How did you get your 1st transponder? 

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