What I Spent: Four Nights in the Florida Keys

  • 01 of 06

    Upfront Costs

    sign in Key West
    cristianl/Getty Images

    The upfront costs of vacations are predictable. It’s the little things—airport snacks, cocktails before dinner, tipping a tour guide—that can throw even the most well-planned vacation budget off track. In this new series, we’ll look at the spending patterns of real travelers in popular destinations, so you can estimate what you’ll actually spend.  (Thanks for the inspiration, Refinery29!)

    In this installment, four friends spend four days and nights road tripping through the Florida Keys. All restaurant prices include tip.  

    Flight (Tallahassee to Miami): $318.20

    Accommodation: $230.43

    On-the-Ground Transport: Rental Car $168.70 Gas: $35.15

    Size of Group: 4

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06


    Key Deer in middle of road
    Victor Estevez/Getty Images

    7 a.m.  I drove from my home in Austin, Texas the day before to Tallahassee to meet two of my friends who live there. (I planned the trip to the Florida Keys as part of a road trip to visit my family in South Carolina.) The three of us Uber to the Tallahassee airport from my friend’s house. I gave my friend a referral to use Uber for the first time so our taxi ride is free. Cost: $0

    9:05 a.m. Our flight lands on time, and we pick up our rental car. The fourth member of our group flew into Miami the day before and meets us at the rental car counter. Cost: $168.70, spilt by four, so $42.18 each

    11:06 a.m. We are starving so we head straight to Key Largo to Mrs. Macs Kitchen, a legendary eatery known for their key lime pie. I order fish and chips. Then, I split a piece of key lime pie with one of my friends. Cost: $18.04

    12:51 p.m. Since one friend home brews beer, our next stop is the Florida Keys Brewing Company to try local brews, which all have hilarious names like Pelican Poop Oyster Stout. Since I’m not driving, I taste several beers and decide on the Hogfish Ambers, which was probably my favorite beer of the trip. Cost: $15.50

    3:40 p.m. We stop at No Name Pub, an old general store from 1936 that was turned into a bar. It’s known for good pizza and the hundreds of thousands of dollar bills that cover every inch of the ceiling and wall of the bar. It’s located on Big Pine Key and isn’t easy to find. The four of us spilt their white shrimp pizza, which was 23.64 total. I have a No Name Amber, a tiny, half-sized beer served in a plastic cup. Cost: $11.70 for the mini-beer and a fourth of the pizza + a dollar for the wall = $12.70

    8:41 p.m. After a checking into the hotel and grabbing a quick nap, we head to Garbo’s Grill, an airstream food trailer located on a palm tree-lined courtyard behind Grunts Bar. I order the Korean BBQ burrito, which is both spicy and amazing, and a Hogfish Amber beer. Cost: $19.13

    9:51 p.m. Sometimes my travels revolve around places mentioned in Jimmy Buffet songs, so I drag my friends to Captain Tony's Saloon—a legendary dive bar—for a quick drink. I get a Captain Tony’s amber beer, which is a tiny beer served in a plastic cup. Cost: $4.75

    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06


    Hemmingway House, Key West.
    Franz Marc Frei/Getty Images

    7:04 a.m. Since I’m a photographer, I always get up a sunrise to shoot while the light is nice. My first stop was the Key West Lighthouse. A staff member notices me taking photos outside the fence. He lets my friend and I climb the 88-stairs for free, hours before the lighthouse opened to the public. Cost: Free

    9:16 a.m. We head back to grab breakfast at the hotel buffet and pick up the other two members of the group who slept in. Cost: $19.50

    10:24 a.m. We drive over to Fort Zachary Taylor, a public park with the ruins of an old fort and a nice public beach. We stop to walk through the ruins before heading to the beach. We get caught in a heavy but brief rain storm that cuts our beach time short. Cost: $6 entry free for a car with four people ($2 each)

    12:40 p.m. We lucked out by finding a free space to park our rental car for lunch, which is a rarity in Key West. Cost: $0

    12:47 p.m. We head over to Firefly Key West, a modern Southern restaurant for lunch. We grab a table on their upstairs porch to enjoy the warm weather. Since they make their biscuits from scratch, I can’t resist ordering the spicy chicken biscuit with a side of cheese grits served in a skillet. We also spilt an appetizer of pimento cheese.  Cost: $24.99 (my meal plus my share of the appetizer)

    2:05 p.m. We walk over to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum for a 30-minute guided tour. Afterwards, we explore the grounds of the gorgeous house and photograph his collection of six-toed cats. Cost: $14

    7:40 p.m. After going for a four-mile run along the water, we head to dinner at a Cuban eatery named El Siboney Restaurant based on a recommendation of a friend who used to live in the Keys. The line is out of the door when we arrive. I order the roast pork with beans, rice and a small side of plantains. Cost: $14.52

    9 p.m. We park the car in a lot near Duval Street, the main drag of Key West. The rate is $5 an hour. Cost: $5 split four ways ($1.25 each)

    9:04 p.m. Since you can never eat too much key lime pie, we stop by Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe for a piece. I also order key lime ice cream. Kermit’s was the best pie of the trip! Cost: $9.08

    9:57 p.m. We walk over to the funky, outdoor Blue Heaven Bar.  I try a Key West Sunset Ale. We call it an early night because we must be up super early tomorrow for a day trip. Cost: $5.50

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06


    Turquoise waters and white sand beach in front of Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida Keys, Florida, United States of America, North America
    Michael Runkel/Getty Images

    7:02 a.m. We booked a day trip to the Dry Tortugas, a remote national park located 70 miles west of Key West. The park is made up of seven islands and home to some pristine snorkeling and diving sites. It’s only accessible by one daily ferry, sea plane or private boat. We opt for the daily ferry which includes the park entrance fee, breakfast, lunch and snorkel gear. We spend the day snorkeling and exploring the ruins of Fort Jefferson built in 1875. Cost: $175

    6:28 p.m. After walking to Mallory Square to watch the sunset, we walk back to our rental car. We scored free parking again! I manage to somehow cut a deep gash in my index finger while putting my bag in the trunk. We arrive at the Urgent Care an hour before they close only to be rudely told they aren’t seeing any more patients that night. Then, we decide to go make our own DIY ER in the bathroom at Walgreens with bandages, peroxide and butterfly closures. Cost: $33.38

    8:17 p.m.  We leave Key West to head to our hotel in Marathon. We stop on Stock Island at the Hogfish Bar and Grill, an open-air seafood restaurant hidden off the main road. I order a Hogfish sandwich with fries and a Hogfish Amber. Cost: $28.21

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06


    Bahia Honda
    Matthew T. Carroll/Getty Images

    9:25 a.m. We take advantage of our hotel’s free breakfast then head to Walgreens to find a way to wrap up my injured finger so I can still go kayaking. Cost: $6.49

    9:57 a.m.  Our next stop is Bahia Honda State Park. We pay a $10 entrance fee for the car. Cost: $2.50 each

    12 p.m.  After walking around the park and taking photos of the old railroad bridge, we finally rent kayaks. Since my finger is hurt, my friend agrees to spilt a double kayak with me. We end up renting two double kayaks for four people. The water is calm and shallow, which is perfect for me since I can’t paddle with full strength. After an hour, we head back because we are starving. Cost: $9.67 each

    2:36 p.m. We start our drive back to Miami and stop at the Island Grill in Islamorada for a late lunch. We sit out on the restaurant’s mini-beach, and I order a chicken sandwich.  Cost: $16.28 

    4:02 p.m. We stop to see the African Queen, a boat used in the Humphrey Bogart movie of the same name. It’s available for tours, but we just snapped a quick picture. Cost: $0

    4:22 p.m. We stop to fill up on gas for the first time of the trip in Key Largo. Cost: $30.40 total ($7.60 each)

    4:51 p.m. We stop at a bunch of shops to buy postcards but have no luck. We end up finding a few at another Walgreens. Cost: $1.61

    5:20 p.m. We headed over to another Humphrey Bogart movie location, the Caribbean Club. We grab a couple beers and sit at the picnic tables outside waterfront dive bar to watch the sunset set. Cost: $10

    7:30 p.m. Our last stop before heading to Miami is Hobo’s Café for dinner. I order the Mahi quesadillas and my last piece of key lime pie for the trip.  Cost: $23.83

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06


    Aerial View of Miami Beach
    Bernhard Lang/Getty Images

    6:58 a.m. We stop by the gas station to top up the rental car before heading to the airport for our 9:30 a.m. flight.  Cost: $4.75 total

    7:40 a.m.  I’m starving so I grab an overpriced sandwich at Starbucks in the airport. Cost: $8.23



    Food & Drinks: $230.26

    Accommodation: $230.43 each

    Flight: $318.20

    Rental Car & Gas: $50.96 each

    Tours/Entrance fees: $200.67

    Miscellaneous: $41.48