Keys to Happy Travel: Patience & Flexibility

Miami's South Beach

Miami’s South Beach

A hotel room with a broken air conditioner is not the way to celebrate the first day of summer… or a wedding anniversary.

My husband and I had heard about Miami’s colorful South Beach for years but never made time to go. I had to fly out of Miami International on June 22, so we decided to drive down for our anniversary the day before.

A South Beach budget is not for the meek of heart but, after all, it was our anniversary. I booked a fairly reasonable (by South Beach standards) Art Deco hotel on Expedia, and we planned to spend the afternoon and evening walking and photographing.

The Aqua Hotel was lovely and had the history and architecture I wanted… until we opened the door to our room and stepped inside an oven. We looked frantically for a thermostat. Nada! It was back to front desk where we learned the air was centrally controlled and had been broken all day for some of the  rooms. The clerk was apologetic and immediately recommended we call Expedia for a refund, but she could not recommend another hotel because everything in Miami was booked. A film festival and the Miami Heat’s NBA championship win had people coming to Miami in droves.

The Aqua’s courtyard was cooler than our room and conducive to explaining the situation to Expedia which found us a room near the airport — 2.5 hours later.

Before heading to the Miami Hilton on Blue Lagoon Drive near the airport, we checked Urban Spoon for a Cuban restaurant on South Beach. We drove down  Collins Avenue to Puerto Sagua where I had the best roasted chicken in my life while my husband enjoyed fried plantains and ropa de vieja. And I shouldn’t  forget to mention that Puerto Sagua serves half bottles of Chandon Champagne, perfect for two mature lovebirds. The authentic food gave us the energy to trek around South Beach for awhile before heading back to Miami.

Apparently, Expedia had told the Hilton about our sad anniversary tale. We were upgraded to a suite with a bottle of a champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for us. The customer service throughout our stay was exceptional.

This experience reinforced several important lessons that every traveler needs to know. First, be patient. It was hard to maintain my cool in more ways than one during the 2.5 hours on phone with  Expedia’s call center. I almost gave up several times but knowing there were few hotel rooms available that evening kept me hanging on.

Secondly, travel often does not go according to plan. Not staying in South Beach was a disappointment at first, but I kept reminding myself that being closer to the airport for my international flight the next day would be more convenient. And it was with the late checkout and airport shuttle service. The  luxury suite was also much quieter and more relaxing than a street-level room where revelers would most likely extend their parties into the courtyard  outside a room where aging Baby Boomers were trying to sleep. An unfortunate piece of luck turned out to be quite fortuitous in the long run.

Finally, remember it’s all about the journey and not the destination. We made a memory as a friend used to say to me whenever we had to deal with unexpected inconveniences. And the best part is that my husband and I can still look forward to visiting South Beach… when the weather is a  little cooler.