Just Florida Things: Blue Spring State Park
Since we enjoy gorgeous weather most of the year here in Florida, Justin and I tend to hole up indoors for the few weeks of the year that qualify as 'winter.' This particular weekend, though, the days were to be sunny with the highs in the 70s. The more balmy forecast combined with the low overnight temperatures drew us out of the house, in search of adventure... and manatees.
Just Florida Things: Epic Beach Crawl: Theater of the Sea
Very rarely do we go anywhere unscripted. Having full time jobs means limited and fairly inflexible time off, so when we go somewhere, we go with well-planned purpose. With our travel style requiring ample relaxation/down/nap time, we've found we enjoy our trip most by limiting our plans to 1 morning & 1 evening activity per day, of varying length and energy level.
On our epic Florida Keys road trip, for my birthday, we had planned to spend the morning on a Key West beach, then drive several hours north & arrive just in time to check into my birthday splurge resort and enjoy the amenities for the evening. For one reason or another, after a long walk on the beach, instead of lingering beach-bumming, we hit the road. Meaning, we had a few extra hours to fill before check-in.
Ports of Call: Cozumel
Cozumel, Mexico. A seeming stalwart on many cruise itineraries, we’ve now been to this port three times in our cruise adventures and for good reason! While some ports have been ho-hum, Cozumel has no shortage of fantastic and reasonably affordable excursions.
On our first visit, we went zip-lining and snorkeling at one of the many resorts on the island. On our second, we swam with dolphins and snorkeled at another resort. This time, I wanted to do something more ‘authentic’ that we could only do and see on this specific island, but that still involved fun in the sun and that beautiful, electric blue water. We chose a snorkel boat trip to two notable Cozumel spots: the Palancar reef in the Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel (Cozumel Reefs National Park) and the El Cielo (heaven) starfish sanctuary.
Happy almost New Year, everyone!
It’s that time of year where we get to spend some extra time with our loved ones and get all sentimental reminiscing about the past year. So I thought what better way to get in the spirit and ring in 2018 than to reflect on not just 2017, but on our last 8 years together!
Our next cruise is looming on the horizon, Black Friday is tomorrow, and the holidays are just around the corner! So, we thought we would share with you some of the items we’ve purchased over the years specifically for our travels to inspire your own (shopping) adventure. In no particular order:
Travel Thoughts & The Big Wide World: Global Entry
If you’ve been through an airport anytime in the last several years, you may have noticed that some people zip through security a lot faster than others. These seemingly normal people walk leisurely into a (usually) shorter line and get to bypass some of the more unsavory TSA rituals like removing one’s shoes. Why are they so special? TSA Pre-check. They paid for the privilege of a background check and fingerprinting to make their security line transit a little bit speedier. It took Justin missing a flight for the first time in his 29 years to decide this was a privilege he was going to pay for!
Upon recounting the tale at work, his boss mentioned Global Entry as the way to go since, if approved, you get a Known Traveler Number for TSA Pre-check and if you travel internationally, you get to fast-track through customs upon re-entering the U.S. Only slightly more expensive, Global Entry requires a more rigorous background check, fingerprinting, and an in-person interview with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, not TSA. So…I went ahead and let Justin go through the experience first before following suit!
Just Florida Things: Epic Beach Crawl 2017: The Dry Tortugas & Fort Jefferson, Garden Key, FL
"You doing alright, sir?" I asked Justin, who was resembling a sad puppy. "Mhm." He responded between his 4,999th and 5,000th cheerios. In the name of adventure and "Babe, we can't not do this" experiences, we were on a boat again.
Just Florida Things: Epic Beach Crawl 2017: Southernmost Point, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, & Smathers Beach, Key West, FL
We spent a couple of days in Key West on our Epic Beach Crawl this summer. Turns out, there is rather a lot to do in just a few square miles! Of course, we didn’t do nearly everything, but these were the highlights we felt were must-do’s:
Travel Thoughts: Hotels
I was traveling for work this week (for my real job, which is not blogging) and, as I was showering in the first of two hotels on my itinerary, I got to thinking about what really makes or breaks a hotel. Yes, this post is a shower thought and I am detouring from our FL Keys Epic Beach Crawl to share it with you! Although Justin and I are still young in our travels, we've stayed in our fair share of hotels. The number one thing that, for us, makes or breaks a hotel is:
Just Florida Things: Epic Beach Crawl 2017: Bahia Honda State Park & Seven Mile Bridge, Bahia Honda & Little Duck Keys, FL
Bahia Honda. The foreign name brings thoughts of faraway lands. Rather, we were still in the FL Keys, approaching our next stop, a state park known for its beaches, a bridge, and snorkeling trips to the Looe Key Marine Sanctuary.
Just Florida Things: Epic Beach Crawl 2017: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, FL
What do you get when a guy who gets seasick and a girl who is mildly to severely afraid of the ocean go on a snorkel trip off a boat with no land in sight for the first time? An adventure, of course!
Just Florida Things: Epic Beach Crawl: Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, FL
Looking out from our hotel balcony early Saturday morning, ominous dark clouds lingered in the distance, threatening to spoil the start of our great adventure. As is a regular occurrence, we could see select areas under downpour (à la “drench this spot in particular”). We crossed our fingers, undeterred, and headed out.
Travel Thoughts: Trip Planning
In part one, we spent some time progressing from daydreaming to researching. Now, we can start to formulate a plan and finalize the details to make the trip a reality. Here is where we look at the time we have, all of the things we found to do, and the places we found to stay and create a realistic schedule according to what we know about how we like to travel. There will always be something left undone – make sure it’s not important to you unless you are already planning to go back! Then, we keep going:
Travel Thoughts: Trip Planning
Justin and I are in the middle stages of planning our biggest adventures for the year, so I thought we would share with you our adventure-planning process. There are usually some tweaks along the way and we are definitely still far from experts. But, if you are getting ready to embark on your first forays into the big wide world, or even just dreaming and want to know what your trip of a lifetime is going to cost so you can save for it without compromising, here's how we go about it:
Just Florida Things: Longines Global Champions Tour 2017, Miami Beach, FL
A year ago, I happened across an article about an inaugural horse show on the beach in Miami. That’s pretty cool, I thought. Since it had already passed in 2016, but appeared to be a now-recurring tour, I made a note in my to-do list app and promptly forgot about it. Fast forward to January and my reminder popped up. I looked it up online. The website said they were coming back to Miami Beach, but did not confirm if it was in the exact same place yet. “Want to go?” I asked Justin. “Sure,” he said. We gambled and booked the least expensive ocean-view hotel behind where the venue was in 2016. It was a good sign that the hotel was already almost sold out.
Ports of Call: Progreso & Cozumel, Mexico
Justin and I started dating in college in December. A few short months into our relationship, we faced a critical juncture and the catalyst of our first adventure together: Spring Break! A group of Justin’s friends had invited him on a cruise and he in turn invited me and one of my friends to join in the fun.
With pay day another week away and faced with paying both the deposit for the cruise and rent for the month, I did the only thing a sensible college kid could do: took out a loan from the bank of Mom and Dad! Why they agreed to temporarily fund a last spring break hurrah outside of the United States with 7 other people I barely knew, I will eventually have to ask them…
Ports of Call: Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
It was a dark and stormy night… Wait. No. It was a sunny and gorgeous day in the Caribbean.
Just Florida Things: Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, FL
A few weeks ago, I was writing up our memories exploring one of the forts in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While doing research for that post, I googled myself into discovering another fort right here on Florida soil: the Castillo de San Marcos, in St. Augustine, FL. Like all good adventurers, rather than finish our story in a timely fashion and maybe clean our house or do other responsible things like grocery shopping (side note: sometimes this results in a week of the weirdest meals!), we headed out for our next adventure, only a couple hours from our home near Orlando.
Ports of Call: San Juan, Puerto Rico
If Indiana Jones and Lara Croft were real people and met in real life, they would fall in love immediately and travel the world having fantastic archaeological adventures together, living happily ever after. Much to Justin’s trepidation, I like to model our life together how I imagine they would live. Less a few million dollars, for now! Which brings us to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Just Florida Things: Smyrna Dunes Park Dog Beach, New Smyrna Beach, FL
co-written by Joanna & Mischka
We first discovered Smyrna Dunes Park when we were looking for someplace special to take our dog, Mischka, on her 10th birthday. Yes, we’re those kind of people. A decade for a dog is a major milestone and when Justin found this place, it was just the ticket. We enjoyed it so much that this is now our go-to beach. Having just celebrated Mischka’s 11th birthday here on August 1st, we thought we’d let her be the one to share it with you:
Water Parks: Noah's Ark Water Park, Wisconsin Dells, WI
book by Robert D. Smith
review by Joanna
[Travel Reads: These are books that one or both of us have read and found fascinating, inspiring, or just plain entertaining. So we thought we would share them with you! ]
20,000 Days And Counting is the kind of book you could read on a short flight. Or on a hotel balcony while you sip your morning coffee. Or on the beach when you get tired of playing in the ocean. That’s not where I read it.
Just Florida Things: De Leon Springs State Park
“Never Stay Home Two Weekends in a Row.” For whatever reason, I was reading a post a couple of weeks ago written by a twice-divorced man for his sister on the eve of her marriage. In it, he detailed the things he had messed up and would ‘do-over’ differently so that hopefully she can avoid the same fate. Justin and I, although not married yet, are doing pretty well on most of them, but this one… this one stuck in my head until the following Saturday night at home…again. Justin and I are both out of the house during the week for about 12 hours each every day, so being home together on the weekends is its own sweet relief. But not the second one in a row! “We’re going on an adventure tomorrow.” I told Justin that night. As with most things if I say it with enough excitement, he acquiesced.
Travel Thoughts: Cruising
Cruising. Judging by content on the internet, most people either love it or hate it. With 25 days of cruising now under our belts – a paltry number compared to some of the people we’ve met while cruising! - we are pretty confident in saying we love it. Sure, there are some things we don’t like (that’s for another post) and we’ve been on one we considered quite “meh,” but, in general, we both think cruising is a fantastic way to travel. Here’s why.
Just Florida Things: Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island, FL was designed for bike riding; you can literally go anywhere on the island by bicycle. And so, on the second day of our first trip there together, along with a friend from college, we found ourselves at a bike rental shop. On the way there, I tried to convince Justin that a bicycle built for two would be the perfect way to see the island. But as soon as we pulled into the lot, I spotted a surrey: part bicycle, part Flintstone-mobile with an enticing sunshade but only a single speed. We had to have it.