Step 1: Research hotels early! Anything on Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, or Washington Avenue between 5th and 17th street is well within walking distance. These streets are also where you will find the majority of shops, restaurants, and clubs. You can find hotels starting at $55 per night just by booking early. Affordable hotels are The Chelsea Hotel, Bel Aire, Claremont, or The Tropics Hotel and Hostel. Also, there are a number of private owners who are willing to rent rooms during this period. You can find a majority of them in classifieds on Craigslist or MySpace.
Fly directly into Miami International Airport and take a shuttle across the bridge. If you fly into Fort Lauderdale International, you may save $100 on the flight and spend $30 on the shuttle ride. You will NOT need a rent-a-car! Everything you need will be on the island (within walking distance) and therefore eliminate an added expense (ie: gas, parking, parking tickets etc).
Step 2: Eating in South Beach can be very tricky. Owners know when to increase their prices and charge double for that cheeseburger that’s only worth $2. There are local Burger Kings, Subways, and McDonald’s. However, if you want something even CHEAPER, I suggest the local cuisine. Groovy’s Pizza, The Pita Place, Soprano’s (my personal fav…they have $1 slices), or David’s Cuban Cafe are great alternatives.
~Important tip: If you are buying drinks at the club DO NOT use your credit card! This is a quick and easy way to get scammed by vendors. They automatically add tip after taxes to anything you buy. So that already overpriced $4 bottle of water now turns to $7 (speaking from personal experience). So whenever you can, use cash and tip when you feel like.
Step 3: Going out at night can also make your wallet whimper. The key is to get to the venue early! Most clubs offer free cover to women before 10 or 11 but men can get away with this as well. If you’re going to a club that doubles as a restaurant, eat dinner and then stay for the festivities. If not, you can usually call most places and put yourself on the guest list. Just talk to the promoter. They really don’t mind…the more the merrier! Good places with a cheap cover charge are SoBe Live, B.E.D, Club Deep, or even Opium on a good night.
Step 4: If you’re doing any shopping (clothes, shoes) don’t purchase them on the spot. There are a number of stores to choose from so if you have the time, window shop first and then compare elsewhere. If you have the same store in your hometown, the prices are probably better there. Do not get lost in the stereotype of South Beach. You know, everybody has a killer tan and is walking around buying or wearing a $200 pair of jeans. Spend wisely.
By this time you should have a full belly, wicked tan, be partied out and still have a little more than half the cash you came with. So you’re not scraping by when you get home to the real world! Enjoy your vacation!