Has anyone ever come back from a weekend in South Beach, Miami and NOT felt financially violated? We only spent one night there last weekend but the four-hour drive back to Orlando was a quiet and reflective time for everyone in the car; we reeked of fiscal irresponsibility. It was a far cry from the energized group of girls who – only 24 hours before – were driving down to Miami with all the childlike wonder of 3rd graders on their way to Disneyworld (okay, more like teenagers whose parents were out of town).

The problem was that our annual incomes weren’t equivalent to that of a second-round draft pick for the NBA. The minute we drove over the bridge and passed Star Island I think our E-pass was immediately charged an 18% gratuity, and that was only the beginning of the hidden-fee game that South Beach has perfected. There’s an automatic 18% tip for valet, for ordering food, for carrying your own bags to the room, for asking for directions, for hailing a taxi, for getting in the taxi, for getting out of the taxi, for not taking a taxi. We took comfort in knowing we got a great deal on a nice hotel, but after the overnight parking tax, the room tax, the energy tax, the pool-towel tax, the tourist tax, and an optional no-rape tax (this last one is a good investment) it came out to about $46,347 for the night.

Have you ever tried to get into a club in South Beach? It’s like trying to win a beauty pageant by bribing the judges. From what I gather, the correct way to pull this off is to form a thick cluster outside the red velvet ropes and continually crane your neck over the crowd to see if there is actually a door and if someone other than the staff is walking through it. Then you slowly, but firmly push your way to the front and plead your case to the bouncer. Some good lines are, “I’m a modeling agent here with some of my clients.” Or, “I played the son of the uncle in Soprano.” Or, “I’ll pay you a hundred dollars if you let me come into your club and allow me to pay no less than $35 for each drink while I mingle with people who who’ve read more designer labels than newspapers.” We considered trying to pass off Cortney Hall’s sister as Naomi Campbell.

When we finally got inside we realized the crowd waiting outside was actually bigger than the crowd inside, but when all was said and done it was naturally a night we won’t soon forget. Our bank accounts won’t let us. It was definitely a good reminder of why South Beach, while beautiful almost any time of the year, is only affordable once a year. If that.

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