I'm excited and ready for our next trip to Aruba! We have been there twice since I have started this blog and posting about all of our adventures has been on the list of things to write about. Time just has a way to totally getting away from me. This ...

 

Flight Booked to Aruba using Southwest Rewards points and more...




Flight Booked to Aruba using Southwest Rewards points

i-heart-aruba

I’m excited and ready for our next trip to Aruba! We have been there twice since I have started this blog and posting about all of our adventures has been on the list of things to write about. Time just has a way to totally getting away from me.

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This trip is particularly exciting because this is the first time we are going there with friends. We convinced some of our long time friends to come with us. I know they will love it just as much as we have.

Why do I love Aruba? There are so many reasons, here’s a general idea of why this is one of our favorite places to travel.

  • Beaches. Beautiful water and sand makes Aruba’s beaches some of the best in the world.
  • Weather. You will consistently get weather in the 80s with a slight breeze. It makes it perfect for hanging at the beach. Also, because of the geographical location of the island, it is very rare but not impossible that there will be any hurricane weather related issues.
  • Food. While the food is expensive because almost everything has to be flown or shipped into the island, you will find some of the finest restaurants in the world in Aruba.
  • Water. You can drink the water. They have some of the best water in the world and it is perfectly safe to drink.
  • Safety. Despite a couple of major headline news stories in the past years, overall safety is top notch in Aruba. We have never felt that safety was a concern even when we ended up downtown on the wrong bus late at night. Honestly, we would have never taken that kind of risk in some of the countries we have visited in the past.

aruba-beaches

I just booked our plane tickets using our Southwest Rapid Rewards points and companion pass. It is only going to cost us a total of $150 for our tickets after booking with our rewards points. The high cost of the fees using rewards is due to the out of country travel. Normally, when we use our points for travel within the United States, it is just a few dollars in fees for each flight. If you haven’t signed up for a Southwest Visa card, you can do so here and earn up to 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. When you use my link, I will earn 5,000 bonus points too.

I’m so excited about our upcoming Aruba trip, in my next posts, I’m going to share where to eat, where to stay, and what else there is to do besides food and sunbathing!

Visit AHappyTraveler.com, the best travel website, to find more deals on your next hotel room and vacation.

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Best Restaurants in Clearwater Beach, Florida

Frenchys Rockaway Grill

Over the years, I have visited Clearwater Beach, Florida numerous times. Too many times to count, actually. It is one of our favorite areas in Florida to visit because of the perfect beach, the variety of restaurants, and of course, our family that lives nearby. Here are some of our favorite places to eat while visiting Clearwater Beach.

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Best Places to Eat in Clearwater Beach, Florida

 

  • Frenchy’s Rock Away Grill: We love all the Frenchy’s restaurants on Clearwater and each has a slightly different menu and atmosphere but the Rock Away Grill is probably my favorite. Their self titled “Floribbean” style menu has something for anyone in your group. Try the Caribbean Grouper Sandwich which isn’t available at every Frenchy’s location but it is definitely a family favorite. Any of the Grouper sandwiches and the She-Crab soup are popular items in our household.There is live music daily and it is a great place to watch the sunset on the beach. It is a casual environment so you will feel comfortable coming straight off the beach in a cover-up and flip flops for lunch or enjoying a casual dinner in the evening.
  • Cooter’s: There are many things I love about Cooters but my boys will tell you that they love the All-You-Can-Eat Snow Crab night (Monday and Tuesday) the best. One of the teenage boys in our group claims he was asked to leave because he had exceeded his limit. 😉 All the kid’s meals come in a take home frisbee, which is a great activity for the beach. For an appetizer try the “Skinny Rings”, which are deep fried, beer battered thinly sliced onions with a special yummy sauce. For a side, try the beans and rice for something a little different.
  • Frenchy’s Saltwater Cafe: Right next door to Cooter’s is another Frenchy’s restaurant. The open air inside of the restaurant allows you protection from the elements with the feeling that you are still outside. Try the Cajun Grouper, which isn’t available at the During dinner time, it is a crowded place with little waiting area so plan ahead and visit this restaurant at the optimal time.
  • Angelo’s Pizza: This is a fantastic place to get carryout pizza. There is not any seating inside but they do have a little outdoor area for seating. The authentic, thin sliced pizza is absolutely delicious.  Small, hidden gem with friendly employees. One of the boys in group received a small discount because he was able to sing a Johnny Cash song. We also really love the location since it is just about a half block from where we normally stay.
  • Palm Pavilion Beachside Bar & Grille: After an almost 10 year boycott of this restaurant due to a bad experience on the outdoor patio, our group talked me into trying this restaurant last year. Yes, I had a 10 year personal boycott due to an experience that had me sitting at a table with just one of my young children because of a policy to not put tables together outside. Two little 4 top plastic tables were the issue. Most likely, I was upset because of how I felt we were treated. Anyway, I’m glad my friends decided to force me to lift my personal ban. The location is perfectly situation on the beach with a great view to watch the sunset. They also have live music with delicious food options. Oh, and the Happy Hour is weekdays (M-F) 4 – 7 p.m., which is something you will want to take advantage.
  • Post Corner Pizza and Restaurant: This family owned restaurant offers a variety of Greek eats as well as pizza offerings. I suggest a large salad and pizza. (Maybe pizza a couple of nights!)

Great photo spot in front of Post Corner:

Sofia in front of Post Corner

  • Clear Sky Beachside Cafe: We have found this to be a great breakfast spot. We have been told it is a great for other meals too! The breakfast menu has a wide variety of omelet, french toast, and other specialty items such as breakfast skillets, quiches, crepes, and burritos.
  • Crabby Bills: I will say this is probably my favorite restaurant for a large group as they have space upstairs to accommodate large groups. They specialize in seafood. Try the Florida style crab cakes.
  • The Brown Boxer: This restaurant located right in the heart of the Clearwater Beach “strip” almost didn’t make the list. However, the food was so delicious that I will overlook the hopefully one time occurrence of bad service.  It is located in the old Outback Steakhouse location with a large bar area. Our group enjoyed the Cuban sandwich, nachos, and a couple varieties of quesadillas.

What are your favorite restaurants on Clearwater Beach? We plan on trying some places next time we are in town.

Frenchy’s Photo Credit: Kevin T via Flickr

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Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, Florida

What to do at Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island State Park in Florida is just a short drive from Clearwater Beach in Dunedin. They are currently working a beach renourishment project, which means part of the beach will be closed at times. However, there is still plenty to do for a short day or half day trip.

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Originally called Hog Island, it became Honeymoon Isle in 1939 when a developer built 50 palm thatched bungalows for honeymooners. Today, you can visit by driving across Dunedin Causeway and enjoying the gulf beaches, mangrove swamps, and wildlife.

On a recent trip, we spent a couple of hours walking along the beach collecting shells. The shells are plentiful as well as the wildlife. There is also a nature trail that is good for catching views of wildlife and enjoying the Florida virgin slash pine trees. I could spend quite a bit of time just walking along the beach looking for shells. I really loved this beach on the gulf as it is uninhabited and not commercialized. You are able to just have a wonderful walk along the beach enjoying nature.

Bird on Beach at Honeymoon Island

Besides shell hunting, here are some other ideas of things to do on your day trip to Honeymoon Island State Park…

  • Picnic
  • Playground
  • Pet Beach
  • Bicycles are available to rent by the hour or day
  • Kayaks are available to rent

Here’s a few things to take with you: 

  • Sunscreen
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Towel
  • Sandals or tennis shoes if you plan on hiking in the nature trails
  • Bag or bucket if you plan on collecting shells.

When you enter the park, you will be alerted to the conditions of the beach. The day we went there was a high alert for dangerous wildlife on the beach…possibly because of jellyfish like this washing up upon the beach!

Jelly Fish on Beach at Honeymoon Island

Visiting Honeymoon Island State Park was a fun day trip on our recent visit to Clearwater Beach. Stay tuned for my next post where I will share other fun things to do and great places to eat in Dunedin, Florida.

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{Family Fun} Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio

Kalahari Resorts Has Lots of things to do for family fun

Back in 2011, we visited Kalahari Resort in Sandusky Ohio. It was just me and my four children ranging in ages from 5 – 13, which made me a wee bit nervous. The kids had been begging to go to another water park after visiting the Wisconsin Dells so I knew they would have a blast at this indoor and outdoor water park.

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We were welcomed at the door with a African themed motif and were quickly processed in the line.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out we had a family suite, which meant a private bedroom, living room, kitchen, two bathrooms, and a separate room with two beds for the kids. With a family suite like this, you could almost have two families in one of these family suites.

Bedroom at Kalahari

If we had more time or stayed for additional days, we would have had lunch in our room as this suite had a fully stocked kitchen. We did pop some pop-corn as a night time snack. Every room has at least a mini-fridge and microwave, which can help you cut expenses.

Kitchenette at Family Suite Kalahari

There are variety of restaurants throughout the resort if you don’t want to mess with making your own. On a side note, I was pleasantly surprised there were quite a few vegetarian options to choose from at the restaurants we dined at.

Family Dining at Kalahari

Here’s a view of the living room, which had a pull out coach, TV, and two chairs. It was very spacious. Though, with everything that is available outside of the rooms, I wouldn’t foresee using this room much since you will be busy at the water park most of the trip.

Living Room at Kalarhi

As I mentioned previously, it was me versus four kids. The kids range from age 5 to age 13, with varying swimming abilities. Any child under a certain height was required to wear a life vest, which was a great way to force the youngest child to wear the vest. The older two kids took off on their own to ride the bigger slides and eventually came back for their younger brother (7) who was excited he was tall enough to go down those slides  as well.

Family Fun at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky

The youngest child spent most of her time running around and mysteriously always getting to the front of the line in the Leopard’s Lair. This was a fun area with slides, climbing ropes, waterfalls, and more! In the Lair, we met up with Marcy (Stretching a Buck) and her family. Our two little girls had a blast taking over this area.

Leopards Lair Kalahari

My youngest son enjoyed the indoor water basketball area. It was very competitive in that area. All the kids and mom enjoyed the wave pool. I didn’t personally get to go down any of the slides because I was unable to convince our youngest daughter to go with me. Though, everyone else enjoyed them and felt like they were able to go down a variety of water slides.

Basketball at Kalahari

The kids were in awe of the Safari Adventures Animal Park. You can feed the animals in there, pet them, and just enjoy watching the variety of animals.  The older two kids had fun in the outdoor rope course. They wanted to zip line but didn’t want to wait and we ran out of time to do it later. There was truly so much for the kids to do.

I didn’t hear an “I’m Bored,” the entire trip. In the evening, they were entertained in the arcade for hours. I had to drag them back to the room as they were having so much fun. If you are looking for a fun, active, family getaway, this is the place to go. There is something for everyone with a variety of indoor and outdoor adventures. Plus, if you have time, there is a spa for mom to have a little quiet time.  Kalahari Resorts also has a exclusive offer for my readers to save on your stay.

Arcade at Kalahari

Kalahari would be a great place to end or to start your Cedar Point trip!

 

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Crown Reef Resort Myrtle Beach Review

 

Photo Credit: Crown Reef Resort

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Photo Credit: Crown Reef Resort

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is one of the most popular summer destinations. It is a very nice, family friendly area and has a beautiful beach. Beach vacations are always popular in our large family so we jumped at the chance to try out the newly renovated Crown Reef Resort during fall break.

I was a little nervous about the weather in South Carolina during this time of the year but we got lucky and had beautiful weather the entire trip. The highs were in the low 70s but when on the beach it actually felt much warmer than that. It made it very enjoyable to swim in the pools, enjoy the waves in the ocean, or just relax with a good book on the beach.

I love the beach…look at the beautiful blue skies….

Myrtle Beach

Crown Reef Resort is a 20 year old resort, which has been undergoing $7.5 million in renovations since last fall, which includes the opening of their water park. In addition, the new Town Center features an arcade with state of the art games, coffee bar, ice cream shop, and a casual restaurant. Crown Reef Resort is located near the southern point of Myrtle Beach so it is a little out of the heavy traffic area but it is quite easy to hop in the car and get to a variety of attractions, restaurants, and shopping quickly.

One of the things I really loved about Crown Reef Resort is how quickly you can be at the beach from your room. The beach is a very quick walk from the resort. There was also plenty of showers from the beach to the pool area to rinse yourself off after getting all sandy. Other resorts we noticed along Myrtle Beach may require a walk across a street.

beach view from room at Crown Reef Resort

Oceanside view from room Crown Reef Resort

The Rooms

Crown Reef Rooms

My first impression when I walked into our room was not excitement. While the room did seem to a fresh coat of a paint and have a fresh look, it seemed like it was going to be a very tight space to accommodate eight people. Luckily, we weren’t planning on hanging out in the room much.

The new room upgrades included: new headboards, lamps, desks, cabinets, and other room furnishings, new mattresses, new bedspreads, a new flat screen television, a renovated kitchen with granite countertops, new dark wood cabinets, new appliances, fresh paint, and large bathroom mirrors. Our experience indicates that the rooms could still use some updating as there are still some worn items still remaining during the renovation process.

We obviously LOVE having a kitchen in our room wherever we stay. It helps us save money on breakfast and lunches by being able to bring our own food and beverages. For a family of 6 who was traveling with two extra kids, this was much needed.

Crown Reef Kitchen

The best highlight of the room was the view of the ocean. What a beautiful, clear view of the ocean, which is easily enjoyable with the balcony. All of the rooms at Crown Reef resort have a pool and beach view, which is rare for beach hotels.

View of Pool from our Room at Crown Reef Resort

The Waterpark & Pools

Waterpark at Crown Reef

The water park consists of three waterslides and a silly slide. Unfortunately for us, the first few days we were at the resort, only the two larger water slides were open due to the resort getting the features ready for enclosure for winter. The younger children (8&10) had a blast on these two slides. The teens (14&16) quickly got bored with the two slides. I even took a turn going down the tube slide with my daughter and I thought it was fun.

Crown Reef Resort Water

There are plenty of pools and hot tubs to enjoy at Crown Reef Resort. There are indoors and outdoor pools. Since the weather was nice, we stuck with the outdoor pools.

Hot Tub at Crown Reef Resort

 

Crown Reef Resort also boasts the longest oceanfront lazy river (575 feet) in Myrtle Beach, which we enjoyed over and over.

lazy River at Crown Reef Resort

The common areas around the pools are in need of some help too – possibly landscaping and some repairs here and there, which I’m going to assume is on the renovation and beautification list.

Town Center

The brand new Town Center at Crown Reef Resort includes entertainment, dining, and fun. It is a brand new space that is very modern with a sweets shoppe, very casual dining option, and state of the art arcade.

Town Center at Crown Reef

Arcade

Arcade at Crown Reef

The arcade was definitely one of the highlights of the resort. It is newly renovated and state of the art. No coins are needed, it is all via a electronic card that allows you to add money to the card to play games as well as redeeming your “tickets” via the card as well.

Extreme Fun Card

Restaurants

We ate at the Loco Gecko restaurant several times! It had a beautiful pool and beach view. The prices were reasonable for the type of dining and location.

At Loco Gecko Restaurant

The food had a variety of easy foods including vegetarian options, which my oldest daughter and I were pleased to see.

Veggie Wrap

 

 

There is also a more casual Grab-n-Go Grill and Coffee shop, which had newly renovated seating. Be sure to check the hours when you check-in as every time we tried to experience the Grab-n-Go, it was closed. (Note: We did visit during the off season, which is probably why we had this issue.)

Grab n Go

Other Activities

During the busier summer months, it looks like there are more activities. We did get to experience the pirate with his parrot. The kids thought this was pretty cool.

Pirate Guy at Crown Reef

Overall, I think this is a budget hotel that is great for large families or people on a very tight budget. I do hope they continue the renovations as this is such a great location especially with all the ocean front rooms.

Review of Crown Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach

 

Keep up to date on the latest promotions from Crown Reef Resort via Twitter @CrownReefResort or Facebook.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay to Crown Reef Resort and resort credit in order to facilitate this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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