The Digital Nomad: A 12-Hour Layover in Miami

When I planned my trip from Barbados (BGI) to São Paulo (GRU), I intentionally set myself up for a 12-hour layover in Miami. Before you call the psych ward, let me explain the method to the madness.

The primary reason is that I had been using an iPhone 6 Plus with a badly cracked screen for the past month and a half. With no Apple Store in Barbados, and not even a reseller that does repairs on the 6 Plus, and prohibitively high shipping prices, my only real option was to take advantage of my upcoming travel to take the phone into an Apple Store to have it repaired.

I booked my trip with a long enough layover that I could make it to an Apple Store and back to the airport with plenty of time to accommodate any unforeseen circumstances and a little “fun time.” It had been a long time since I ventured out onto the streets of Miami even though I have transited through MIA airport on several occasions, so any remaining time after my repair would be devoted to exploration and revelry in the South Beach atmosphere. With my birthday coming up on the weekend, there could not have been a better excuse either.

Arrival

Despite a slight delay out of Barbados, my flight landed on time in Miami at 10:50 AM. By the time I cleared customs and re-checked my baggage for the connecting flight, it was 12:45 PM, giving me roughly an hour and a half to make it to the Apple Store for my Genius Bar appointment.

Bag Storage

I got my checked baggage off my hands but there was still the small matter of my carry-on. I could have lugged it around with me, however, I considered it a safer and much more convenient option to take advantage of the baggage storage facility at Miami Airport.

I try to limit myself to only the essentials needed at any particular moment in time, so when I left the airport I had nothing more than my passport, my wallet and my iPhone with me.

With my carry-on baggage now secured, it was time to make my way to the Apple Store. By that time it was 1:10 PM.

It is a flat-rate fare of $35 from Miami Airport to the South Beach area by taxi. I consider it a bit steep but acceptable. For that price though, I did intend to make the most of my time in the area.

Apple Store

I arrived at the Lincoln Road Apple Store with 35 minutes to spare before my 2:20 PM appointment. After a short wait, I was seen by an Apple Genius who would help me resolve my iPhone issue, which was pretty obvious just by looking at it.

After assessing the problem, disclosing the repair procedure and taking my information, I was told to return in 2 hours, by which time the repair should be completed.

It was my intention to spend some time looking around; however, the 29ºC summer heat, inclined me to do otherwise. I found a nearby Starbucks coffee shop where I could relieve myself from the sweltering heat, rehydrate and kill some time until I was ready to return to the Apple Store.

After slowly sipping away at my bottle for an hour and a half, it was safe to say I was becoming restless as time slipped by.

I made my way back to the Apple Store. Fortunately, when I checked back in, I was informed that my phone was successfully repaired and ready for pick-up.

I wrapped up my business with Apple by 4:00 PM and hastily made my way over to Wet Willies to finally kick back and relax.

Wet Willies

It was just over a half hour walk to get from the Apple Store to Wet Willies. I was drenched in sweat by the time I got there, and a cold drink could not be more welcome.

I first sampled Wet Willies during a Spring Break wile I was in college. Since then I’ve been longing to return. You have not truly enjoyed South Beach until you have tried The Superman.

I ordered myself a large Superman then sat back to bask in the South Beach ambience. It always feels alive with activity but never in an overwhelming way.

Miami Beach

After I had cooled down and had a refreshing drink, it was time to take stroll along South Beach. 

I had previously resigned myself to not working out since I’d practically be spending 36 hours on the road between my departure and final destination. Like a crack addict, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to at least get a few reps in when I stumbled upon any calisthenics junkie’s dream. I felt like I was amongst family. I did about a half-hour workout on the pull-up bars and dip bars before heading out onto the beach.

Before I knew it, sunset was approaching. There was no rush but I'd rather be safe than sorry, so I felt it would be wise to make my way back to the airport. I'd continue my festivities in the Admirals Club at the Airport.

It didn't take very long to make it back to the airport. It was a blessing that I didn't have to spend a disproportionate chunk of my day stuck in traffic.

Time check: 7:10 PM.

Admirals Club

I arrived at the Admirals Club (near D30) at approximately 7:45 PM after retrieving my hand luggage and clearing security when I returned to the airport.

The $50 one-day pass for access to the Admirals Club was well worth it (there are a number of membership options available if they’d better suit you).

Access to the Admirals Club grants you free Wi-Fi, shower facilities, complementary light snacks (cookies, crackers, baby carrots and celery were the options on this day), house wine, beer and spirits, coffee, soft drinks and much more.

After the day I'd had, a nice warm shower ranked top of the list for me, though I did take a moment to get settled in with a vodka-Sprite and some snacks first.

The atmosphere in Admirals Club makes you forget you're at the airport. It's very relaxed and devoid of the hustle and bustle of passengers dashing back and forth with suitcases to make their flights.

I rode out my remaining time before boarding with a call home then some quiet time writing—while continuing to enjoy the bar's offerings of course.

Departure

At 11:30 PM, 15 minutes after scheduled boarding, I very reluctantly made my way down from Admiral’s Club to my gate, which was conveniently stationed at Gate D30A.

With an on-time push-back from the gate, we were in the air en-route to GRU by 12:22 AM. Thanks to polite weather and strong tailwinds we managed to arrive 40 minutes ahead of schedule at 8:45 AM.

It had been an awesome journey to reach São Paulo, and frankly one of the best days of my life. It was not because I had done anything particularly outrageous, but rather the realization of a dream in finally visiting Brazil and a deep appreciation for the simple pleasures of being a digital nomad.