Christmas Cruise 2021: Day 0, Driving to Miami

This is the pre-cruise trip to Miami in preparation for the biggest, longest cruise we’ve done so far.

La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Miami Airport East

It was listed as a 4 hour, 40 minute drive from Volusia County to the hotel in Miami (Springs). We targeted an 11:00 AM departure time and left the condo at about 11:20.

We stopped for gas at Bucc-ee’s in Daytona Beach, a massive travel center with over 100 gas pumps, a full selection of hot and cold sandwiches, fountain drinks, clothes, camping gear and gifts. Gas is cheaper here than many places, even with a loyalty discount.

Traffic was tolerable going south on Interstate 95, with the usual assortment of semis, cars and trucks and the occasional aggressive driver weaving between the traffic to get to the front of the line. In Broward County we drifted into the express lanes by accident. Hoping not to get hit with a toll and a fine when we get back.

We arrived in Miami just in time for rush hour traffic and got all the way to within a tenth of a mile of our hotel destination using Google Maps, but the very last turn to get onto the feeder road to the location’s driveway wasn’t marked, so we ended up turning into the parking lot for Embassy Suites. From there it was a huge hassle to try to get back out onto the main street to try again. All the traffic, all the “No U-Turn” signs and the frustration of being so close yet so far was maddening.

After another ten minutes of side streets, traffic lights and left turns, we got back to the entry point and onto the little side street that paralleled the highway exit coming the other way. The street wrapped around until we were in the parking lot of Holiday Inn Express, and then we made it past the defunct Red Roof Inn and behind that was La Quinta.

Check in was easy and we were assigned a first-floor room near the outdoor pool, where you could see (and hear!) jet airliners taking off and landing. I moved the car and parked behind the pool to make it easier to unload our stuff into the room. I was worried we would have too much noise, but the air traffic stopped during night and the wee hours and resumed around 6:00 AM in the morning.

Our room was simple but adequate. A mini-fridge, microwave, smart TV, luggage rack, and towels (just enough for the night) were all included. All the art on the walls was at eye level when seated, which to me looked too low when standing, but I got used to it. The window curtains opened up to a view of the airport nearby, and the A/C unit underneath cranked out very cold air. The sink was outside the bathroom so it was the first thing you see when you walk in, but it was practical and had a large area for toiletries and sundries. There was a slight mildew odor, but with the humidity in Florida it’s very common for buildings of any age.

After a short rest, we went to check out the pool. It was heated to 77°, which is brisk but tolerable. Suzy loves to tread water for exercise and the pool was six feet deep, which is perfect, so she got her workout while I sat poolside and relaxed after the long drive.

For dinner we ordered Papa John’s Pizza and had it delivered to the lobby, then enjoyed it in the room with the other snacks and beverages we brought from home. We’ve learned how to make a little hotel room into our favorite restaurant for the moment.

Suzy chose this hotel after getting a tip from another traveler that said the hotel allows free parking for cruise passengers for a certain number of days, and only charges a small fee for extra days. With the savings over what we would have spent on a different hotel in, say, Ft. Lauderdale, plus the multi-night parking while we cruised, it practically paid for itself. Brilliant.

I would recommend La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Miami Airport East for its convenience and economy, especially the “Stay and Park” option for cruise passengers departing from Miami.

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