This summer, we opted for the quiet lushness of Palm Beach instead of action-filled Miami. A perfect getaway if you're looking to disconnect on a beach with a book, a cocktail, and not much more. What it lacks in hipness, it makes up for in natural beauty and old money glamour.
The absence of crowds and lower rates make Florida one of my favorite summer destinations. As long as you don't mind the possibility of a hurricane strike, the weather is glorious on the eastern coast. Our friend Laura convinced us that a deal was to be had at The Breakers, where standard room rates can run to $780 (and beyond) in high season. May-September rates are as low as $249 per night, and include free amenities Sunday through Thursday. For those with children, like Laura, this was a true value, as those amenities include kids' camp and kids' meals.
Though we tried, Dan and I did not navigate Palm Beach as well as we should have. There is a way to get more value out of a trip, and we learned some lessons the hard way (see $75 breakfast). Here are some tips to create the perfect balance between luxe and low cost.
Dine locally - often. The Breakers has a number of fine and casual dining establishments, but somehow they all cost the same -- $100+ per meal (for two). Dinner entrees run $24+, and $32 for an underwhelming Chicken Marsala seems excessive. The hotel automatically adds a 20% gratuity to each bill, plus a service charge and tax.
The resort is within walking distance of a variety of restaurants, so it's simply a matter of sourcing and planning. We had two nights out, at Nick and Johnnie's and Bistro Chez Jean-Pierre. Nick & Johnnie's is a fun, casual place with outdoor seating, while Cz Jean-Pierre is old Palm Beach glamour and excellent French food. Our meal there was better than any we'd had at the hotel. Both recommended. Laura tried Todd English's new casual dining place, Wild Olives, located a short cab ride from the hotel. Good with or without kids, and her report was that happy hour was a great value ($7 for two drinks), and the food was excellent.
Sunday-Thursday complimentary breakfast, and an on site Gourmet shop. A bonus to being there during the week, the hotel offers complimentary continental breakfast in the Circle restaurant from 7-11am. For $10 more per person, you can add on the full breakfast. A much better deal than the $75 breakfast we had the Saturday morning we arrived, not knowing the deal ahead of time. Because Saturday is out of the complimenary breakfast window, we could have picked up coffee and a bagel (or other breakfast food) at the Gourmet shop for $8.
Take advantage of the 5-7pm Happy Hour. In the Tapestry Bar, $6 drink specials paired with homemade potato chips (complimentary) and spinach dip (a delicious add-on) make a perfect cocktail hour pairing before dinner.
Stock your room with wine, beer, or your beverage of choice. This may seem gauche in a place like The Breakers, but I don't mind telling you that I like a glass of wine at the end of the day and don't want to play $20 per glass. You can purchase a few bottles at a local wine shop or at Publix, and it will go a long way towards the value of your trip. Bonus activity: A bottle of wine + some plastic cups poolside after hours, to enjoy the ocean view under the stars.
Always ask. We were upgraded everytime. The staff at The Breakers is unbelievably accommodating, so when we arrived early (looking a little weary from our 6am flight, I am sure) the front desk attendant upgraded us to an ocean view room. Much easier during the summer season no doubt, but a nice gesture on her part. Late check-out? Granted. Car rental so we could go to Miami for a day? No problem. Hertz has a desk in the hotel, and the concierge handles the rentals. She upgraded us as well, charging us an economy rate for a standard car. Always ask.