Where To Go Wednesday: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, Fl

It’s Wednesday again! I look forward to Where To Go Wednesday. It gives me an excuse to research new places, or talk about a place I have been! Today’s adventure falls into the second category-I have been to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and it’s amazing! And, I promise, I am not just saying that. ☺️

We recently took a trip to South Florida and hopped in the car and took day trip to Key Largo so we could take a glass bottom boat tour at the park. It was only about 2 1/2 hours, so completely manageable with kids (if you have kids, this information is necessary information). 

The park was easy to get into. There was a fee to get in. For 5 of us it cost $10.50. Their sign was the most inviting state park sign I’ve ever seen (ok. I’m no authority on state park signs, but I’m still sure I’m right about this. 😒)

  

Before I go any further, I have to tell you 2 very important things- grab a pen, screen shot this..whatever you need to do so you do not forget these two things:

1.  When they say be there an hour before the tour starts-they mean it. 😱 Well, what they mean is, be in line to get your tickets –not just in the park. 😖 I will save you the sordid details, but we got on the boat. 😇

2. When the boat pulls away from the dock they will tell you they sell Dramamine on the boat for $1. Buy it. Don’t waste time dithering about it-get up to that counter and buy it. Even if you think you don’t need it-better to be safe than sorry. 😷

The trip out to the reef is AH-MAZING. It really is. You can watch the water color change from a murky green to gorgeous squad and blue. If you watch from the bow (yep. Fancy boat word for front 😁) you might see sea turtles cutting under the boat 🐢. If you watch from the stern (the back) you could possible see Dolphins 🐬

Did you know that the third largest coral reef in the world is in the Keys!? Right-I didn’t either! That’s where the boat takes you to-the third largest coral reef in the world!  It stops over a portion of the reef. THIS is why the Dramamine might be necessary. When we were on the boat, the swells were 4 feet tall! So, the stationary boat was heaving up and down and up and down and..well, you get the idea. Let’s just say there were plenty of people standing on the decks trying not to throw up  taking in the view.  😨🤒😷

The tour guides were so incredibly knowledgable. If any fish swam through, they were immediately telling you all about it. Clearly, they have to know it all. There is no way to know what will show up under that boat. We saw barracuda, sting rays in the sand, countless fish I cannot remember, turtles and I SWEAR she said a Nurse Shark swam through! The kids were enthralled. It was truly something they’ll remember. 

The ride back to shore was as wonderful as the ride out. 

In addition to offering the glass bottom boat tours, they also offer snorkeling and scuba tours. You can  rent kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and power boats. You can camp, fish or rent snorkel gear at the beach. So, there is something for everyone!! 

Photos from John Pennekamp website
Some of our pictures

If you are even remotely close to South Florida, make the trip. You won’t regret it. This trip was 2 1/2 hours of great quality time. 😊

Visit their website or Facebook page:

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

John Pennekamp Facebook Page

Travel Tip Tuesday # 2: Duct Tape

Yepper. You read that right. Duct tape. You should NEVER travel without it. That’s right, I said it. NEVER. Don’t ever do it.  💪🏼

I’ll start by telling you our personal Frogger story about and the moment I realized why it’s a must have and we’ll move on from there. 😬

If you follow my Facebook page (insert shameless plug: Five Sandals Travel), you might already know what story I am going to tell you, but humor me and follow along. 

Picture it: G5 was all packed up and on our way to Florida for Spring Break. We have one of those hard shell turtle type carriers for the roof. My husband always puts bungee cords over it even though it latches. It was SUPER WINDY, but we were happily traveling down the highway (this happiness credit can pretty much be given to Dodge for having a plug in the van, Roku for working in the van, Netflix and Verizon for my hotspot 😍😍). I happened to be driving and looked out my mirror and thought “that sucks, someone just lost a big, blue bag.” A few seconds later I looked up and said (well, I cannot say what I actually said 😳 so I’ll translate it) “that was a softball glove and a softball!-OUR SOFTBALL AND GLOVE!” 

Ultimately, our latch was a bit loose on the carrier p, and it was so windy, that the latch actually BLEW OFF the carrier!!! Thank GOODNESS my husband also bungeed the carrier closed (points for G1)  However, it was flapping open a bit and stuff was being sucked out!! 

We had just bought that stinking $80 softball glove for my daughter, so we went back to look for it! There was my husband, crossing 3 lanes of traffic to get the glove (kids, do NOT try that 💪🏼) -and we got it! We ended up stopping at a gas station because I broke Traveling Tip # 2 and did not have duct tape. 😖 I will never make that mistake again. 

That lovely, silver roll of duct tape held the carrier shut for the 1,000 remaining miles of our trip. ❤️

 

Duct tape will fix anything, and if it won’t-you’re not using enough!
 
In addition to keeping my carrier closed at 75 mph for 1,000 miles, there are a gazillion other uses for duct tape when traveling. Let’s list a few:

1. Band aids.  No kidding! In a pinch, you could wrap a Dunkin Donuts napkin (I know you have a giant stash of those and straws in your glove compartment-we all do) around a finger or over a cut and secure it with duct tape. 

2. Fix any hole.  Slap a piece over a hole in a back pack, suitcase, jacket-pretty much anything. 

3. Fix a hem.  You’re heading out to dinner and realize the hem on your skirt or pants is hanging. Cut a small piece of tape and tape it back up.  Wa-lah! 

4. Make your luggage unique.  Use one of those fancy rolls of duct tape and fold it in half and put it through the handle of your suitcase, or put a piece across the front. 

5. Hide your loot. Use duct tape to hide your money, passport, keys, etc. under furniture or under a cabinet in a hotel room.

6. Receipt holder.  I use this for random things at home and took it on vacation with us. I picked up a coupon holder at the Dollar Tree and grabbed a roll of matching duct tape. I prettied up the coupon holder and I then used it to keep track of receipts for gas, food, activities-basically anything we swiped our cards for. It worked beautifully to keep us organized! 

$2 receipt/ money holder

So, see, I wasn’t kidding! You really need duct tape for traveling. It’s uses are only limited by your imagination (and desperation level 😂) 

If you’ve used it while traveling, comment and let us know what you’ve used duct tape for!

☀️Heather 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding-Get your family out there!

Stand up paddle boarding is currently number one on my bucket this for this summer and I thought that maybe it should be on yours, too. 😬

What is stand up paddle boarding and what makes it different from just plain ol’ paddle boarding, you ask? (Or maybe you didn’t ask, or even know there WAS a difference) 

Paddle boarding is done while you remain KNEELING on the board and use your arms to propel yourself. 

Stand up Paddle Boarding is done while you are STANDING on the board and you use a paddle to move yourself through the water. 

One would think that because I have a tendency to keep my toes firmly planted on the Lazy Line, I’d be more interested in traditional paddle boarding so I wouldn’t have to stand up (😂). However, for some reason I’m definitely drawn to the idea of standing up!

I think the great thing about stand up paddle boarding is that ANYONE CAN DO IT-children and dogs are doing it. No. Really-just look!

  
The fact that this is an activity that you can do is a family is something I love about SUP (I decided that writing this allowed me to use the acronym 😉). I’m always looking for something that G5 can do together. I’m ALL about making memories-those are the best part of any trip! 

The other thing that makes this a great family activity is that you can do any place there is water. SUP is not limited to the ocean. If you can kayak somewhere, odds are you can SUP there: lakes, rivers, the ocean, in the city our off the beaten path.

  

I also just discovered that SUP Yoga is a thing. Yep. You read that right. Yoga on your stand up paddle board. It’s actually offered in a lot of locations (even where I live in Upstate NY 😱)

  

I cannot provide links to all places that offer SUP (the laundry will not do itself (I know. I’ve waited before ☹️)), but here are some places to check out if your family is in the area!

Binghamton, NY: Southern Tier Stand Up Paddle 

Tampa, FL: Tampa Bay SUP

Myrtle Beach, SC: Express Water Sports

New Hampshire: Stand Up Paddle Board New Hampshire

South Florida: South Florida Paddle

San Diego, CA: Isle Surf & SUP

If you have experience trying SUP, I’d love to hear about it! Once I’m Ble to try it, I’ll be sure to let you know how it went!

So, get out there and try something new with your family. Even if you never do it again, trying something together as a family is what it is all about. ☺️

☀️Heather 

P.S.  None of these images are mine and could very well be copywriten by SOMEONE, I just have zero idea who!

Taking your child’s friend on vacation: yay or nay?

I had no intention of writing a post tonight. In fact, I said I was taking the night off and giving you a break. How did that work out for me?! I clearly have no ability to follow my own rules (don’t mention this to my kids-they’ll find a way to hold it against me. 😱) We’re taking a couple of my daughter’s friends to a hockey game tomorrow night and for some reason this question popped into my head.

It’s probably because my family has a couple of issues when it comes to amusement parks, sporting events, etc.

1) We are a family of 5, so that can automatically be a struggle because we’re an odd number.

2) My daughter can often feel left. She will be 10 in July and the boys will be 8 in November. They have a built in best friend (👬) on any adventure and that kind of leaves her out with nobody to pal around with.

When I was my daughter’s age I started taking a friend on vacation with my family for a similar reason. I have two younger sisters and growing up they were close and I was the odd man out. So, I took a friend with me for YEARS AND YEARS.   If we look back at family vacation pictures, you would think my parents had 4 girls! 😂😂

The funny thing is, I cannot imagine one of my daughter’s friends schlepping off with us for a week somewhere. Not because I don’t love them, because I do! 👯👯  They are all great girls, but it just seems like it would be too much for them to be gone with us for that amount of time. (G5 is tons of fun (🎉🎉🎉) so that clearly would not be an issue 😉) I wonder what the difference is between when I was growing up and now. Or, maybe there is only a difference to me. Hmmm. There is something to ponder  🤔

Anywho. Back to my original question. Taking a child’s friend on vacation. Would you? Could you? Should you? If so, at what age do you do that?!

I’d really like you to share your thoughts about this (because I have a grand total of zero about it 😕).

☀️Heather

Where to go Wednesday: Family Cruise 

Don’t be afraid. 

I promise that I am not proposing a family vacation that will require you to leave your first born behind as payment for your trip (unless you have a hormonal teenager that you would LIKE to leave behind 😁).

Most people believe that cruises are far too expensive for a family vacation. However, most people like to poo-poo anything they don’t understand. 😒

Let’s breakdown a cruise and see what you get for your hard earned dollars. 

I chose a 7 day Eastern Carribean cruise for a family of 4, out of Miami, leaving on July 9th in a balcony room. You would visit the Bahamas, St. Thomas USVI, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk. You also get to spend two full days at sea exploring your amazing floating city!

Food: For those 7 days all of your food is “free” (Free: meaning included in your fare-nothing in life is truly free! 🍷🍸🍻are also not included). You can eat all day and all night.  ***let’s put a number on this. A family of 4 who needs 3 meals a day for 7 days could easily cost $910 (average $30 for breakfast, $40 for lunch and $60 for dinner)***

Entertainment: Ships are LOADED with everything from giant water slides and outdoor movies on ginormous screens by the pool to miniature golf. Casinos, spas, pools (both family AND adult only so you can get a bit of time alone with your one and only 😉)..the list is endless! And, let’s use that “F” word again-it’s all FREE (except for spa services). Seriously. How could anyone say it wouldn’t be amazing to spend a week with your family making memories like these?! The ships also have amazing clubs for kids to spend time in while onboard. This is when they adult only pool I mentioned would be a good time to check out. 😍  ***this one is a bit more difficult to put a number on. If we figure $60 a day (4 people x $15 to play mini golf is $60) we’d land around $420***

  
 Shore Activities: What your family decides to do at the various ports of call is TOTALLY up to you. You can go to the beach, see the sights-the things to do are endless  and the amount of money you spend would also be up to you.  ***this is another shot in the dark. Let’s equate it to extra activities and souvenirs. I’m going to throw out $200 (which is prob too cheap- I know what my family of 5 can spend on entertainment and activities when we’re on vacation 💸💸💸💸💸)***

Getting to the ship: Ok. There is a catch to cruising. 😖 Getting to the port is an expense that is not part of the fare. That having been said, if you live on the east coast, there is probably a port within 6 hours of where you live. Most people  do not realize you can cruise out of New York City, NJ, Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston, Port Caneveral, Miami and Tampa. So, save the airfare and take a road trip to the port! 

Hotel: I came up with an average for an ocean front room for 4 people. That amount was $360.43/night. So. Over 7 days, that’s a total of $2,520 

I know by now you’re thinking “good GRIEF Heather-what’s the bottom line!”  Here it is. 

This cruise I mentioned above would cost $3771.88

The comparison (I use that term loosely) adds up to $4,050. That actually makes the cruise potentially LESS expensive than a week at the beach. 

So, see! You CAN consider cruising with your family and make amazing memories!!! 

We have 271 days until our family cruise, how long until yours?! 😉

☀️ Heather 
  
P.S. All images are probably copywriten and belong to Carnival 

Travel Tip Tuesday #1:Canvas Bags

I am a HUGE lover of tips, tricks, hacks..basically anything that will make my life easier. Or less messy. Ok. Mostly less messy. Either way, the travel tip I’m sharing today falls into both of those categories (it’s like getting 3 🍒🍒🍒 on the Travel Tip slot machine).

As I said previously, we do a TON of traveling by car (actually, by van) and I am constantly looking for a way to keep the kids things organized and off the floor. I also want their items to be easily accessible to THEM. I emphasis “them” because I do not want to be crawling around looking for headphones, pens, gum, action figures..well, you get the point.

Now, I’m sure I did not invent this idea and I’m not taking any kind of credit for being the first person to do it (if I am, let me know. Maybe I’ll market them and charge far too much money for something people can make themselves 😂) I just don’t know anyone who has done it, so I’m hoping it will be a new idea to you!

And once you look at the picture, it will be obvious that I am not a person who spends a lot of time crafting 😳. For me, it was more about getting my hands on something quickly that would do the job.

I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted for a bag and I was short on time, so I ended up with CVS canvas reusable shopping bags. I turned them inside out and wrote each of my kids’ names on their bag. You could certainly let your kids go to town and decorate their own!

The bags will hang around the headrest of the seat in front of them. The kids are able to keep their Kindles, headphones, books or any other items they need for traveling in there. They will even slips their shoes in if we’re traveling a super long distance so they aren’t fumbling for them on the floor.

These bags have really been life savers on our road trips and I hope they will be for you, too!

☀️Heather

Traveling, packing and tips. Oh my!

Travel. We all love it. 

Well. Most people do. I probably shouldn’t speak for the world as a whole. That clearly would not be proper.  So, we’ll go with this:

Travel. Lots of people like it.

That seems better and a bit more inclusive. Right?

I am someone who loves to travel. I am from Upstate NY and moved to Tampa, Florida at 19. I spent many happy years exploring the state. I moved back to Upstate New York (I know what you’re thinking and I have NO IDEA what I was thinking 😒) in my late 20’s met my husband (I like to think this is why I moved back to a place with very little going on, but I digress) and we continued to travel. (I also like parentheses a lot. 😂)

I have been lucky enough to have been to the Dominican Republic and Riveria Maya in Mexico. We cruised to Roatan, Belize, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We have also taken countless trips up and down the East Coast. There were a lot of great trips in there. Most I remember. Some are a bit sketchy in my memory, but I’m sure those were good too! 

Then we had 3 kids. Not only did we have kids-My second pregnancy was twins! Yep. When my daughter was just over 2, I had twin boys. So, we went from a traveling couple, to a family of 3 fairly quickly and then jumped to a family of 5! We refer to our family as G5 and refer to our kids as G3. Our friends refer to us this way too. So, since we’re friends now (is that too forward..my thinking we’re now friends?!)  G5 and G3 we will be!

After our kids were born, our international travel went on the back burner. However, we continued to travel. My daughter is just about 10 and my boys are 7 and they have been to Disney World twice already. (Spoiled much?!) In our defense, my in laws live in South Florida, so one of those trips was with my husbands family. 😬  We have flown with the kids to Florida and taken COUNTLESS road trips to Florida with them. They have been to the Jersey Shore, NC, and the Keys.  We have our first family cruise scheduled for December (squeeeee!)

Why do I tell you this? So you’ll know that I have been around the block-in a good way. Not the icky “she’s been around the block” way 😉. I get traveling. I understand the excitement of deciding where to go. The anticipation of planning. The agony of packing. Not only packing, but PACKING. you know what I mean..packing for kids. 😳 I have packed for infants (x2), toddlers (x3), preschool age kids and now kids able to almost pack themselves (if you consider slipping in a Fart Gun and Nerf guns “packing themselves”). I understand the tug of war between the desire to get home and the sadness that it’s over. 

I AM you. 

Well, I am a lot of you-not all of you.  (there I go again speaking for everyone as a whole 😖) 

Not only am I a parent who travels, I’m a travel professional who loves research, social media, tips and information. My goal is to help families travel by offering ideas, tips, suggestions and information (or do the work for you, book your trip and take all the details off your mind. Just a thought! 😃). I want to help families find the joy in unplugging, for just a bit, and experience all the amazing things available to them. You can travel across the pond, cruise another country or stay closer to home. In the end, it’s all about experiencing something new and amazing. I hope I can help take a load off your mind with something as simple as a packing tip, a location suggestion or a horror story of my own that you can learn from (stay tuned for our Frogger story.  Yep. Pretty much exactly what you’re imagining. It WAS a $70 softball glove after all!)

I look forward to sharing my experiences and ideas with you as much as I look forward to hearing yours! I want this to be an interactive place where we can all help one another make the best possible memories! 

Until next time! 

☀️Heather 

P.S. Here we are!

  
G5

  
G3