Ask Joan

Miami beach, off-beat Spain and the Northern Lights

Sat, Sep 7, 2013, 01:00

We are a family of four with kids, aged 13 and 10, who are heading to Orlando next Easter. We decided to stay in Miami for two nights on the way. Would it be better to hire a car when we land at the airport and go to the hotel, hopefully near South Beach, or wait and rent a car only when leaving Miami? Is the airport far from the centre of Miami? Is there anything we shouldn’t miss in Miami or on the drive to Orlando? – JSB, Dublin.

Miami airport is close to the town centre and the traffic can be quite busy, especially during holidays. You can take a bus from the airport to South Beach for around $2.50 each. Parking can be difficult and some hotels charge for it, so you can save two days’ car hire and parking, for $20 in bus fares.

Miami is a lovely city and two days is not a lot of time to explore it. Wander around and look at the pastel Art Deco buildings, and South Beach is fascinating for people watching. You can hire bikes or take a boat trip (there are lots of ideas on miamiandbeaches.com).

Your family would probably love the Space Coast en route to Orlando. Florida’s Space Coast is where man set out for the moon. The Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canavarel Air Force Station are here, as is the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and one of the space shuttles is on view.

It is about 320km from Miami and 60km from Orlando. Rocket launches still take place from here throughout the year, so you may get to see one.

Space Coast also has great beaches and water-sports (visitspacecoast.com).


I would love a holiday to northern Norway to see the Northern Lights preferably in October as, because of
health reasons, after Christmas might be too cold. – ACJ, Dublin


The Northern Lights or aurora borealis are reaching their 11-year peak this year and expected to be spectacular.

They begin to appear from the autumn equinox. With the clearer, colder nights of January and February they can be stronger and more likely to be seen, while October might be a bit early.

As it is a natural phenomenon, there is no guarantee that you will see them.

You should plan your holidays to northern Norway around other things to see and do and be very patient. For ideas check out northernnorway.com.

Some travel companies in Ireland arrange trips to Norway to see the Northern Lights.

Project-travel.ie also has trips on the Hurtigruten, the ships that ply the coast of Norway visiting remote places (01-210 8391). Cruising the coast can be a great way to see the spectacle due to the lack of light pollution.

Rory McDyer Travel has a number of trips to Norway over the season, but not until January (they cost from €979pps). However they could arrange a separate trip for you (rorymcdyertravel.ie).

You might also like to have a look at polarlightcenter.com based in the Lofoten Islands.

The Travel Department will have a trip in October that combines Norway and Iceland in a six-day trip to see the Northern Lights. It costs from €999pps. However, it only goes as far as Oslo and not right up to northern Norway (traveldepartment.ie).

I have booked flights and a car to Malaga for me and my husband for five nights in late September. We would like to stay away from the coast, rather than in a tourist spot, between Malaga and Granada (preferably, but I am open to suggestions).

We hope to see Granada and some of the white towns. I checked out the Paradores option, but that was too expensive.

We would like authentic hotel accommodation (B&B), with a pool, for about €100 or less. – LF, Cork

Away from the coast means more authentic accommodation for less cash. Hacienda Olontigi, outside Seville, is a series of cottages in lovely grounds. It is ideal for exploring the Donaña National Park and the white villages. B&B is from €68 per night and dinner is €20 each (hacienda-olontigi.com).

In the Alpujarras mountains, Capileira is the highest white village. The Hotel Rural Real de Poqueira is in the village centre, with a swimming pool. Double rooms with breakfast in September cost from €72 per night (hotelpoqueira.com).