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Dec 11

November 2015 – Tampa Trip Report

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Me and Karen just did a quick weekend getaway trip to Tampa. Earlier this year, Spirit Airlines ran a couple of “hating an airline” promotions such as “Hate Thousand Miles” promotions during which both of us netted over 16,000 miles each. Free Spirit miles expire relatively sooner than all other airlines, and so I used them up for a free one-way flight from Los Angeles to Tampa this November.

Why Tampa?

Well, its Florida (our favorite vacation destination state in the US) and we have never been here before. We have been to Miami in 2009 before a Caribbean Cruise as well as Fort Lauderdale for July 4 weekend trip in 2013 so this time we wanted to see the Gulf Coast side of Florida.

Day 1:

We arrived on a late Saturday afternoon at Tampa International Airport and after picking up our rental car, drove straight to the Lettuce Lake Regional Park, just outside the city limits of Tampa. It is a nature lover’s paradise. I have never seen a more beautiful swamp than this !!

Lettuce Lake Park @ Tampa

The boardwalk over the swamp was very nice to walk on

We walked on the boardwalks that run along different parts of the park and got to see many beautiful birds as well as an alligator in the water (by a watchtower).

On the watchtower @ Lettuce Lake Regional Park, Tampa

Spot the alligator @ Lettuce Lake Regional Park

November is perfect weather to enjoy this sort of activity as it was not humid at all with perfect outdoor temperature.

Look !! a turtle

 

After spending about 2-3 hours in the park we went to our hotel for check-in and stayed indoors for the rest of the day.

Day 2:

After breakfast at the hotel, we drove to the Wat Mongkolrata Temple. We had read great reviews of the Sunday Market at the Wat Mongkolrata Temple with rave reviews about the food available in the market that day.

Wat Mongolrata Temple @ Tampa

Inside the Wat Mongolrata Temple

After spending some time inside the temple, it was time to check out the Sunday market. There were a lot of people there that day.

Waiting in line for some Thai Basil chicken + Mussaman chicken curry

There were all kinds of food available in the market. From curry to sea food to various fruits and vegetables – it was a Thai food lover’s paradise.

Thai Basil Chicken + Mussaman Curry combo

Karen wanted to get some fried plantains while I opted for a combo of Thai Basil chicken and Chicken Mussaman Curry.

Lady preparing fried plantains

It was such a wonderful experience eating the delicious thai food on a bench beside the river.

People enjoying lunch beside the river

Lots of space for sitting and having lunch while enjoying the view

Having some som-tam (Spicy Papaya Salad)

On the temple grounds

After a visit to the temple, we drove to Clearwater Beach. The readers in Tripadvisor have voted Clearwater Beach among the top 25 beaches in US  so this was definitely going to be on our itinerary. By the time we arrived at Clearwater Beach, there was almost no parking available close to the beach and we opted to drive along and go for the Sand Key Park instead which is very close to the Clearwater Beach just across a bridge.

Sand Key Park

Water not warm enough for a swim

Karen posing for a photo

What’s a trip to the beach without a selfie…

Day 3:

After breakfast we opted to go back to Clearwater Beach again. Parking at the beach was full again so we opted to park at the “Surf Side” parking structure right next to the Hyatt across from the beach. Parking is 4$/hr but you get the first hour free with validation of any purchase at the store.

Clearwater Beach

Posing for a selfie @ Clearwater Beach

Did not want to swim in cold water. Posed for some more selfie instead 🙂

After spending 2 hours at the beach, it was time to check-out from our hotel and drive to the airport for our evening flight back to Los Angeles. We had a great time in Tampa and we probably will be back again (but during summer next time to enjoy the ocean better).


Cost (Total for 2 travelers):

  • Airfare:
    • $154 + $5.6 for 2 one-way tickets on Southwest Airlines from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles ($5.6 for taxes for 1 traveler using Southwest Companion Pass)
    • $40 in taxes + baggage fees on Spirit Airlines from Los Angeles – Tampa
  • Miscellaneous:
    • $32 for 3 days airport parking
    • $4 for 2 hours beach parking @ Clearwater Beach
    • $14 gas for rental car

Miles/Points/Certificates Redeemed:

  • 30,000 Free Spirit miles for 2 one-way tickets from Los Angeles – Tampa
  • 32,000 Choice Privilege points for 2 nights at Comfort Suites Fairgrounds-Casino
  • Southwest Companion Pass for me for one-way flight from Tampa to Los Angeles
  • 1350 Hertz Gold Rewards points for 2 day rental

Miles/Points/Cash-back Earned:

  • Cash purchases were done with cards earning Ultimate Rewards points and Membership Rewards points
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