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Boating in Florida this winter?

CaptainJon
Guest Contributor

Want to go to Florida every month this winter? Check out how we did it! 

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Every year, we Midwesterners see signs that advertise cheap flights to Florida on discount carriers, such as Allegiant, Spirit, and Frontier to name a few.  $39 tickets from Grand Rapids to Clearwater sounds like a great deal. Book online, and then the fees add up. $50 per bag (either carry-on or checked) each way. $31 to select a random seat, $51 to select a bulkhead seat, and an additional $39 for an exit row… each way. Finally, it is $44 for airline fees and $41.54 for government taxes and fees. Not so cheap anymore.

We tried everything we could to try and lower the cost of travel to Florida, simply so we could travel more. As Freedom Boat Club Members, we have reciprocal access to boats all over the world, and about 600 vessels in the Tampa area. We always had two (2) checked bags we needed, which has our:

  • Large First Aid Kit (Trauma) style
  • Boat “Go Bag” w/ tools, lines, VHF, EPLB, etc.
  • Cooler w/ wheels which doubles as a suitcase when needed.
  • Auto-Inflate PFDs, foul weather gear, etc.

Hotels will allow you to “mail” yourself a package with your equipment, but it almost always ends up being as much or more than the airline fees. Plus, we like to boat all day Sunday and fly home late Sunday nights. Most UPS / FedEx and other shipping stores are closed on Sundays. HEY!!! It's Florida in the winter! All you need are some swim trunks, t-shirts, sandals, and maybe a sweatshirt.  So... what do we do? (FBC clubs don’t have “winter lockers,” but that’s a great revenue generating idea)

thumbnail_IMG_4971.jpgthumbnail_IMG_5082.jpgI found a place called “Extra Space Storage” on Gunn Highway, just outside of the Tampa International Airport. They had a 3’x3’x12’ storage locker for $11, but I found a Black-Friday deal for $9/month. The locker is for “surf” fishing rods and other gear that doesn’t need to go home with you.  I booked the unit starting in December and ending in April for $45 total, plus some fees. Then, I became resourceful with the flights. Southwest Airlines can get us to/from the Tampa area for around $300 each from Chicago. Two bags fly free per person, and there is no seat fees. 

Here is how we did it…

  • November: Last boating trip on the Chicago River
  • December: Flew Midway to Tampa on SWA, our 2 bags flew for free. ($200 total)
  • January: Flew Allegiant, $100 per person, round-trip
  • February: Flew Allegiant $100 per person, round-trip
  • March: Flew Allegiant, $100 per person, round-trip.  
  • April: Flew to Tampa ($49), and rental a car and drove one way to Miami. We used Freedom Boat Clubs in St. Pete, Winter Haven, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm, Miami Beach, Homestead, and Islamorada that week.  Then we flew home on SWA for $45 per person, which included 2 bags.thumbnail_IMG_5086.jpg

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  • For an Allegiant Flight, it is $86 each way, plus $50 per bag, which we have 2. Then, so sit in either a bulkhead or exit row (I am 6’4” tall), it is +/- $45 each way. And done forget about the $85 per person fees and taxes. That is $462 for one person to fly from GRR to PIE one round-trip. My entire winter air travel costs were less than $594, for five separate trips! Even adding the cost of the rental storage unit, it was still only $127 per round-trip!  

     

Imagine that! I can fly from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Clearwater for $49 in 2 hours. They have Thursday evening flights, so I can work on Thursday and catch an Allegiant flight to Florida, and I only skip a Friday. When we land, we simply walk to the rental car desk and head to the storage unit to retrieve our things. We even had leftover snacks and drinks from previous trips which we stored in the cooler, and it was ready for our return trip(s). With Freedom Boat Club, I can boat all day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with a 8pm flight back to Michigan. On Monday morning, I am the tanned one with the awesome stories at the staff meeting.  As an added bonus, all the gifts and souvenirs we bought our family and friends flew home with us in April for free.

Make the most of your Freedom Boat Club memberships. Visit Florida and Boat Often. 🙂 

1 REPLY 1

WaterWanderlust
Team Ripl
Team Ripl

Such great tips for us in the colder states to get to the warm states more often!! Thanks for sharing.