Avery’s school lets out in February for a midwinter break, which is the perfect time to head South! A good friend and her eleven year old daughter, Avery’s best friend, were also free that week; so, together, we jetted off to Antigua for an eight day adventure in Guatemala. Well, mostly together….
Our adventure began at 3:30 a.m. catching a ride with Uber. For those unfamiliar with Uber, it’s a car service – kind of like a taxi service, but cheaper and more convenient. You upload the app to your phone and in a matter of seconds you can summon someone to pick you up. (To get your first ride free (up to $15) and share the love with me, sign up with my invite using this link.)
We opted to fly standby because Susan’s husband works for a major airline and offered discounted “buddy passes” to me and Avery. There are definitely pros and cons to flying standby, but you can’t beat the price. Our goal was to fly to Miami in time to make the noon connection to Guatemala City, Guatemala. Three flights came and went – each one full. It was a heavy travel day being President’s Day weekend and Valentine’s Day on Sunday. It seemed every happy couple in the world was flying to Miami to soak up the sun for three days. Finally, one flight had room – but only for three of us. With just seconds to decide, we opted to have the girls and me go on that flight and hope that Susan would be able to get the next one.
When we arrived at the Miami airport without Susan we knew that catching the noon flight to Guatemala was out of the question. That meant we would be laying over at the Miami airport for at least five hours. What would you do with two eleven year olds and a five hour layover at the Miami airport? Sit around twiddling your thumbs or go find an adventure? We opted for adventure, of course! Lucky for us, South Beach is just a quick twenty-five minute Metro ride from the Miami airport.
If you packed light, like we did (welllll, except Nayeli – she packed a library full of books), it’s easy to take your bag with you. (Optionally, the Miami airport does have a place to leave luggage, but you pay per bag.) To get to the Metro just follow the signs, stop at the ticket machine before boarding (buy your return ticket at the same time), then jump on! Easy peasy! For $2.65 each, we rode the Metro bus called the Airplane Flyer. Ask the driver which stop to get off to get to the closest beach and, then, no matter where he drops you, the beach is just two blocks to your left.
This is the way to spend a layover in Miami!
Unfortunately, Susan was not able to get on the next flight…or the next four. She was stuck in Philadelphia watching the waves of planes, not the blue ocean waves. But, she did catch up on her reading!
Since there was no availability to fly standby on the 3:00 p.m. flight, we knew Susan would not make it to Miami for the 6:30 p.m. (last flight) to Guatemala City. It was time to start making plans for the night. While the girls played in the water, I reached out to my Couchsurfing network and, also, started looking for inexpensive hotels. Ha! There are no such things in South Beach! Being a holiday weekend, everything reasonably priced was already booked. The cheapest hotel we could find came with a staggering $250.00 price tag. That was more than our entire accommodation budget for the whole trip! Around 6:00 p.m., still homeless, the girls and I made our way back to the Miami airport to meet up with Susan.
It isn’t funny being stranded at the airport, especially one that discourages sleepovers; but, some of our proposed solutions had us in stitches. At one point we considered renting a van for about $60.00 and driving into the Everglades to catch a few winks. Park benches started seeming appealing – as did the infant changing tables in the airport bathroom. We wondered if the Metro bus ran all night – those seats didn’t seem so bad! Luckily, though, around 9:30 p.m. a Couchsurfer came to our rescue!
Now, here’s the thing about Couchsurfing. When you are in a pinch, you can’t be too choosy. Yes, you definitely want to read the profiles, so you have an idea of what quirks you might expect from your host; but in our case, after ex-naying the nudist and the party animals, we were happy to put up with just about anything. This particular host’s profile noted that he has cats and that “the cats are in charge.” That didn’t seem too bad. I mean, if saving $250 means you are spending the night with a cat on your head, you just go with it.
Just before 11:00 p.m. our generous host met us at his gate and after escorting us in, showing us his couch and the spare bedroom (and stressing the importance of not letting the resident (territorial) cat out of the room), he left to run an errand. That’s right; he invited four perfect strangers into his home and left. That may seem incredulous to you, but not if you understand the Couchsurfing community. The vast majority of its members participate because they like and trust people. A world where these wonderful thinkers exist is a beautiful thing.
Avery and I took the couch, while Susan and Nayeli settled into the guestroom. After scooting four or five kitties off the sofa, we threw on the sheets and snuggled in; heaving a sigh of relief that we weren’t scrunched up on an airport chair or fending off alligators in the Everglades. Our accommodations, while not fancy, sure were cozy. Throughout the night, one by one, each of the six cats took turns sleeping with us. In the morning, the spare room cat came racing down the steps with Nayeli in hot pursuit. She and Avery managed to get hold of him and pop him back into the bedroom. Meanwhile, Susan strolled into the living room holding her bag at arms length away from her.
“I guess he is territorial,” Susan said.
“Who?” I asked.
“The cat,” she grimaced. “He peed on my toiletry bag.”
And with that, we finished gathering our things, bade farewell to the wonderful cat man and his clan that saved us from being homeless in Miami, and headed back to the Miami airport.
Antigua here we come!
Ever get stuck at the airport? How did you deal with it?