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Miami Beach with a Baby

Miami Beach

Vacationing with a Baby in Miami Beach

I was itching to travel with my daughter before her first birthday and I knew I wanted to go somewhere warm and tropical.

Our entire family was waiting on passports to come in the mail so I knew if we wanted to travel we would have to stick to US territories for this trip and get through the airport using only our driver’s licenses.

I began my research in Florida to find the best clear water beach on the east coast and that’s when I found Miami Beach.

Why Miami Beach?

My criteria for vacationing were simple: a clear water beach, short flight (less than 4 hours for us), walkable with a stroller, good food, and family friendly.

We could’ve ended up in Fort Lauderdale, the Florida Keys, or really anywhere on the western coast of Florida but I chose the vibrant and sun-soaked Miami Beach.

I swiped around the neighborhoods on Google Maps, looking at restaurants, places we could visit on our trip, things we could do, and of course, the beach. Miami Beach had everything I was looking for.

Staying in South Beach

Miami Beach is a little peninsula off the coast of mainland Miami and it’s split into three sections – South Beach, Mid-Beach, and North Beach.

When deciding between South Beach, Mid-Beach, and North Beach the proximity of our hotel to the beach, the pier, great food, and cool architecture were all reasons I went with staying in South Beach.

South Beach is definitely a party city with lots of clubs and restaurants staying open until 5AM for party goers. As a family, we didn’t party at all and stuck to visiting outdoor attractions and playing in the ocean. We went right outside the peak Spring Break.

First, South Beach is just so cool. You have the Art Deco district (where we stayed and more on that later), tons of places to eat, the boardwalk where you can bike or stroll, and you’re close to South Point Pier where you can walk out and catch a sunrise or just turn around and appreciate the beautiful coastline of Miami Beach.

Other places we visited close to Miami Beach

There is so much to see and do in Miami Beach we didn’t even visit Mid-Beach or North Beach while we were there. We did however take a short drive out of Miami Beach to visit a couple cool places during our stay.

Key Biscayne

Unfortunately for us, we booked our stay in South Beach during a rare season of dense seaweed. I mean DENSE when I say dense. The seaweed that was on the beach and in the first few feet of water was thick and trailed all along the coast for miles – I assume all the way up to Mid and even North Beach but we didn’t venture that far during our stay. There was one little patch of clear water closets to South Point Pier and we were able to swim there with almost no seaweed. We found ourselves leaving Miami Beach to visit Key Biscayne in search of clearer waters.

A short 15 minute drive to Key Biscayne, from Miami Beach, is well worth it if you have a rental car. The beaches on Key Biscayne were secluded and the water was clear and warm. It felt like we had a private beach all to ourselves.

There are two parks on the little island of Key Biscayne: Crandon Park to the north and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park to the south. Both parks had ample parking for a small fee. Entrance to Bill Baggs cost $8 you paid at a toll booth upon entering and Crandon Park had parking for an hourly fee you paid via the Park Mobile app.

Miami's Wynwood Neighborhood

Wynwood seems to be an up and coming area of mainland Miami. Another short 15 minute drive from South Beach to Wynwood and you find yourself immersed in a neighborhood that loves art. It can feel a bit run down in some areas but I had some of the best tacos I’ve ever had in my life in Wynwood at Coyo Taco and The Taco Stand. We also saw a bunch of cool stores and boutique shops while there. The art and murals on the walls of the buildings were amazing and really gave the neighborhood a special vibe.

Some Photos from Our Trip:

Our Travel Accommodations: What We Book and Why

Flight

Flying to Miami from Boston

I chose an early flight because I know my daughter is generally really happy and easy to please in the morning. She’s happy to be awake, energized, and loves to play early in the morning.

Our departing flight from Boston’s Logan Airport to Miami International Airport had our flight leaving Boston around 6AM. This meant that we were all up around 3AM to make sure we got to the city on time (about an hour drive from our house without traffic) and had enough time to check my husband and daughter in. Normally I would check everyone in on the app and have all the boarding passes ready but there was an issue with my husband’s ticket and my daughters. He was the person designated to have her as an in-lap infant and for some reason, during booking, her gender was not carried over with their passenger details. This caused Delta’s computer system to flag their tickets and forced us to check in at the airport with an agent.

The agent was having an issue checking-in my husband and daughter and they were unable to print their boarding passes. It took a bit of time but they would eventually do something to override the system and get the boarding passes to print out and we would run into this issue again on our return flight from Miami.

On our flight to Miami we flew coach and the seats were like any coach seats except I had extra bags (carrying a cooler backpack with breastmilk and baby food along with a personal bag that had baby toys and distractions in it) that could not fit under the seat in front of me which made the flight more uncomfortable than usual, but I survived. TSA also had to open one of my bottles of breastmilk, to make sure it wasn’t explosive obviously, and the TSA agent that opened the bottle did not properly tighten it and I only found that out upon arriving to Miami when I opened my cooler bag to find breastmilk spilled all over the bag. I had to really keep my cool because any breast pumping mom knows that breastmilk is valued somewhere close to but well beyond gold and spilling it causes a surge of emotions ranging from anger to crying to panic.

Returning to Boston from Miami

On our return flight, leaving Miami, we were upgraded to Comfort Plus thanks to our military family member who was flying with us and I may never fly coach again.

The amount of leg room I had on our return flight was amazing. I could fit all of my bags on the floor in front of me and still had room to move my legs around or stand and turn around without bumping into my seat or the seats in front of me.

For future flights, I will be booking the extra leg room seats if I’m traveling with my daughter while she is still able to fly in our lap.

Our flight back home to Boston was scheduled to leave Miami around 7PM. I hoped my daughter would sleep for the entire 3 hour flight back to Boston but the flight home was not as smooth as the flight to Miami.

She had a hard time napping at the airport and staying asleep on the plane. There were other babies on board and whenever my ears would pop, it seemed the babies on the flight were all bothered by the pressure changes and crying and fussing would ensue.

Luckily, the comfort plus seating allowed my husband to stand up to rock her without having to walk the isles.

Outside The Delta Sky Lounge: Our Saving Grace

When we were leaving Miami we got to the airport about three and a half hours early because we had some issues with checking-in at Boston that I knew would arise again in Miami. I also had to pump to make sure I had enough breastmilk to last during the flight home and that can take an hour or so not including the time it takes to find nursing stations or pumping pods scattered through the airport. We had a lot of time to kill and our daughter was getting very tired so we headed over to the DeltaSky Lounge just to see if we could get in (even if it was going to cost me) because finding a quiet place in a busy international airport is very challenging boarding impossible.

I’m just a regular Delta SkyMiles member which costs nothing and has some nice benefits like miles earned on all flights and free in-cabin WiFi, but I’m not cool enough to get in for free at the SkyLounge in the airport. If you have the Delta credit card you get into the lounge for free at any airport that has one. 

I followed the signs and wandered over to the Delta SkyLounge entrance just to see what it was all about. To my surprise, I found an empty and quiet little seating area at the entrance to the elevator of the SkyLounge, tucked away far enough from the main terminal shops and buzz of the airport. This area was free to enjoy, empty, and quiet enough that my daughter fell asleep fairly quickly. We had a couple of nice leather benches and coffee tables all to ourselves. The SkyLounge members would walk in and take the elevator up to the lounge here and there but it was still very quiet. We really lucked out.

I think most people, who aren’t Delta SkyLounge members, just wouldn’t think to go over there at all because well, if you know you aren’t a member why would you go over there? But, if you are ever in the Miami International Airport in terminal H, check out the Delta SkyLounge elevator entrance and have yourself a seat in peace and quiet for free.

Take away: Know your baby and choose your flight times wisely

I’ve read enough and heard enough horror stories with babies and flights to know better yet I still wanted to see if my daughter was truly a morning person or if she would be okay on a nighttime flight. I can confirm that she flies better in the morning than at night and will always book morning flights from now on, or at least until she is much older.

Flying with Delta

First, I want to say that I have zero loyalty to any single airline and am on a hunt for a good price and a reliable airline when I book travel. I do find myself booking Delta more often because they usually have the best price out of Boston, I’ve never had any issues or even a delay on my flights with them, and the staff are always great. If I am not mistaken, Delta also has one of the largest terminals at most major airports around the US so you are bound to have the most flight options flying with them.

Delta Member Benefits

Becoming a Delta SkyMiles member is free. With membership you get to check in early with the Delta app or through their website, you can get your boarding passes directly on your phone along with every passenger on your trip, you get free in-cabin WiFi on all your flights, and you earn miles that can be used towards future flights or checked baggage regardless if you book third party.

We flew with my husbands cousin who is active military and were able to get 2 checked bags for free. If you are active military and on work orders you get up to 5 bags checked for free.

Becoming a Delta SkyMiles member is free and worth doing if you have ever flown with them. Any flight you have booked on Expedia, Chase, or anywhere else will earn you miles with Delta. If you download their app to your phone, you can get your boarding passes in QR code format and check gate changes and flight updates in real time.

If you aren’t a Delta SkyMiles member and want to create an account it’s easy, just go over to their website and make one. You can even add your KTN information for TSA precheck so you will always have it on all your boarding passes when you fly with Delta.

I feel like everyone has a different experience with different airlines – both good and bad. I had both a good and kind of bad experience with Delta on this trip that probably had more to do with TSA, the airports, and to some extent Delta. I won’t get into it again, but just make sure that if you are not able to check in for your flight on their website or the mobile app, that you allow enough time to wait in line to check in at the airport. Also, always always always make sure TSA precheck shows up on your boarding pass if you are a TSA precheck member because there are weird instances where it will not populate on boarding passes and that can be fixed by the agents at check in at your airport or you can call Delta directly to make sure it’s showing up on your boarding pass for the mobile app.

Stay

Hotel vs. Airbnb

I considered booking an Airbnb for this trip at first but settled on a hotel for a few reasons. I thought an Airbnb would be great to have a kitchen, but all I really needed was a sink, a place to dry baby bottles and pump parts, and a mini fridge to store breast milk.

Hotel’s offer room service, fresh towels everyday, they will make your bed, and they have security. If you check in early, hotels usually let you drop off your bags. If you have to check out and wait hours before your flight leaves, they will let you keep your bags there and they usually have a lobby or waiting areas where you can still hangout even if you don’t have a room to stay in.

So, I looked for the coolest hotel that was closest to the beach.

Our Hotel: The Gabriel, Curio Collection by Hilton

The Gabriel was great. I’m not picky when it comes to hotels and my travel and accommodation needs are likely not going to be the same as everyone else’s but I’m going to be as detailed as I can about what I liked and disliked about our stay here. Overall, it was the perfect hotel and I would stay there again despite the few things I didn’t like.

PRO: Location

You absolutely cannot beat this location. This hotel is right across from the beach and the only thing across the street from it is the boardwalk and a bunch of beautiful palm trees. No building obstructing your view. None of the buildings in the Art Deco District are very tall so you aren’t going to get a super high up view of the ocean HOWEVER you will get a really nice view. Our room overlooked the pool but if I looked far to the left I could see the palm trees on the boardwalk and the ocean in the distance. The Gabriel also had two other buildings on the property and one of them had a rooftop pool with a great overlook of Ocean Drive, the boardwalk, and an amazing view of the ocean.

PRO: Service

The staff was so nice from the people at the front desk to the servers in the restaurant and bar area. Every time I would come out of the elevator with the baby stroller someone was running to open the door or literally pick up the stroller for me to get it down the front stairs. There is a handicap ramp that can be used but I often opted to exit out the front door and walk down the steps – don’t ask me why I like to do things the hard way.

Con: Air Ventilation in Hotel Room

The windows did not open in our room. I actually really like to open the windows (or slider if there is one) to get fresh air in the room every now and then during my stays. The windows could not open at all. We couldn’t air out the room if we wanted to. The best we could do was open the door to the hallway.

The bathroom had no vent. After a day of swimming our wet bathing suits and wet towels were just always damp and never could fully dry out. By day 3 and 4 the bathroom started to smell weird. I imagine it was because of all the wet stuff in the bathroom and the fact that there was no ventilation. The only work around for some of this is to use the hotel towels and return them everyday for clean ones so you never have wet towels hanging in the bathroom. Your bathing suits will just always be kind of moist though.

Con: One Elevator

The one elevator in the hotel was used by guests and hotel staff and it was small.

With our compact baby stroller, myself, my husband, and his cousin, there was only room for MAYBE one more person depending on how big they were. We used the stairs a lot because waiting for the elevator was either going to take 3 seconds or 10 minutes if it wasn’t full and we could get on.

I had a stroller with us most of the time, not to mention the bags we would pack with all of our stuff for the beach or whatever day trips we were taking, so when the elevator just wasn’t coming or it would open up and hotel staff had it loaded up with giant laundry bins and cleaning supplies and weren’t getting off on our floor, we would fold up our stuff, split up the bags amongst ourselves and head for the stairs. For the hotel to only have one elevator, that was shared by the hotel staff, taking the elevator was not always guaranteed and was a time consuming activity.

If you don’t mind taking the stairs then this isn’t an issue. When it’s hot, if you have lots of bags to carry, or just want to ride the elevator to the lobby or up to your room this is a bit of an annoyance. Not a deal breaker, but something worth mentioning since a lot of guests complained about the elevator during our stay.

Other Notables:

I read a lot of mixed reviews before I went ahead and booked the Gabriel in South Beach.

Some of the main complaints were the sizes of the rooms being too small. Sometimes I wonder what people expect when they book hotels because I rarely have an issue with the size of my hotel rooms. I just want a clean room, clean bed, and clean bathroom.

When we arrived early, the host at the front desk told me that if we waited a couple of hours for a room to turn over she would upgrade us to a larger double queen room because the one I booked was going to be really small. I didn’t know it was going to be small. A double queen you would think would be pretty big? But, in her words, the door almost touches the bed in some rooms and the room I booked was going to be one of those rooms.

I personally only sleep and bathe in my hotel rooms when I’m on vacation so the size is really not an issue for me at all. I will make do with what I have. The room we were upgraded to had plenty of room for our luggage, back packs, strollers, etc. and I wish I could’ve seen the other room to compare, but you can read about those rooms on Google reviews.

Some people complained about noise. Being next to the stairwell, during prime room cleaning hours, sometimes it was loud but it wasn’t like that everyday. Daytime naps for our daughter were not entirely quiet but it wasn’t an issue for us – the sound of the AC hum was enough to drone it out or we turned the TV on for background noise.

Some people complained there were no drawers to put clothes in. This is not an issue for me and technically, there were two drawers on the credenza in our room AND there was a giant armor closet with hangers and shelves to put clothes in. The nightstand was a night table that did not have drawers but again, this was not an issue for me.

Car Rental

Hertz booking through AAA with a FREE car seat

This particular booking was key for us.

I was not going to lug around a car seat through the airport, check it on the plane, and lug it around again (mind you twice for both ways of travel).

We rented a car even though I knew Miami Beach was going to be walkable because I like having travel freedom and cars let you have all the freedom you want when getting around cities. I knew it was going to be hot (average temperature during our week stay was 85 degrees F) and I didn’t want to ever be waiting outside for an Uber.

Second, we had our daughter who needed to be in a carseat when traveling by car. I considered buying the Doona carseat stroller hybrid but I didn’t want to deal with the logistics and hassle involved in folding, unfolding, securing, un-securing every time we were to get in and out of someone else’s car.

I booked our car rental originally through Chase’s travel portal but when I found out how much it was going to cost to add a carseat to the rental I shuttered. I could’ve bought a brand new car seat whilst in Miami for the price they were going to charge. So, I cancelled the car rental reservation and rebooked through AAA when I found out that I could get the carseat for the week for FREE by booking Hertz via AAA. The carseat was cheap quality (Cosco brand) and honestly I think my daughter hated sitting in it, but most of our driving was short distance and she would be out of the carseat in less than 20 minutes for each trip.

Thanks Miami Beach, see you again some day

There was a lot to see and do and we had a very eventful week in Miami Beach. We loved going to the beach and swimming in the water and we had some really great food including some of the best tacos to date. We loved our trip to the botanical gardens and the Miami Zoo.

That being said, we won’t be visiting Miami Beach again for awhile! There are so many other places to visit in Florida that we want to try before we return.

about the author:

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Andrea

Andrea is the voice behind Living Like Lacasse. She is a mom, designer, and all-around creative who loves good food, good company, and good design.

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