Dreaming of sunny skies and palm trees? Us too. Before you plan your next vacation to the Sunshine State, be sure to listen to this week’s episode with Joella Doobrow from RovingJo. We break down the best Florida hotels and resorts up and down both coasts (and a few in the middle) for families, girls’ trips, and romantic getaways.
About Joella Doobrow
Joella was born in Venezuela and currently lives in Florida. She moved to the USA alone when she was 18 and is now married with two teenage girls. Together they enjoy outdoor adventures mixed in with a few great city escapes. Travel has been a part of her life since she was a few months old and it has undoubtedly shaped it. Joella now shares her travel experiences through RovingJo.com to help inspire others to find their own adventures and create memories that will shape their lives in a positive way.
She believes that no matter how busy life gets, there is always time to travel and discover something new. Even if that something new is just a few miles away from home. You can follow Joella on Instagram.
Best Florida Hotels and Resorts
- If you are looking for a bucket list resort in Florida and budget isn’t an issue, look at Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys. (One of Tamara’s picks for the most romantic resorts in the US)
- Hawk’s Cay in the Florida Keys is an excellent choice for families, with villas with kitchens, lots of activities, and even dolphin encounters. While in the Keys you could potentially take a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park.
- Margaritaville in Hollywood, Florida is also great for families. They have a Florider surfing simulator, a rooftop pool, and a Parakeets kids club. Just outside the hotel you can walk or bike along the boardwalk or go to the beach. The Margaritaville Orlando is also a great pick for families.
- In Palm Beach, The Breakers is old world luxury but has a kids and teens club and activities. They also offer activities like golf, kayaking, snorkeling, and complimentary bicycles.
- The Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne and Amelia Island both offer great properties and kids programs.
- On the Gulf Coast of Florida, the beaches are softer with white, sugary sand and the water is calmer with a beautiful blue-green color.
- Marco Island and Naples are favorite family travel destinations on the Gulf Coast. The JW Marriott in Marco Island is perfect for families. They have a beautiful beach, golf nearby, multiple restaurants, kids clubs, and even an arcade/brewery. You can also take Dolphin watching tours and other watersports, or tours out to the Ten Thousand Islands.
- Twin Rivers Island Resort in Captiva allows locals and visitors to pay a day rate to use the resort. Captiva is a great spot for shelling and watching manatees.
- In Naples, the Naples Grande or Ritz Carlton are good options for families.
- The Inn on Fifth in Naples is great for a girlfriend getaway or romantic getaway as it is right in the heart of town.
- Tradewinds in the St. Pete/ Clearwater area is great for families. They have a large ocean waterpark, five pools, plenty of restaurants and bars, as well as a kids club. It isn’t luxury but is great for pure family fun.
- We also like the Wyndham or Hyatt in Clearwater.
- Anna Maria Island is a great destination to rent a vacation home, but you could also try the boutique Rod and Reel Resort. They offers suites for families and they offer paddleboards, bikes, and other amenities.
- In the Panhandle, Port St. Joe, Rosemary Beach, and Seaside are all great communities, but they are better for vacation rental homes. Watercolor is one beautiful resort in that area.
- For Disney hotels, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a favorite for families because of the pools, playground, food, and, of course, the animals. The new Riviera is also very nice and it is on the Skyliner for easy transportation to the parks.
- The Swan or The Dolphin are also convenient if you are going to one of the festivals at Epcot, plus you can sometimes use Marriott points.
- If you want to stay outside of Disney, the Four Seasons Orlando can’t be beat.
- For a girl’s trip, head to Palm Beach and stay at either the Eau Palm Beach or The Colony.
- If you like a spa setting and want to be closer to the Miami action, the Acqualina Resort and Spa is perfect for a girls trip.
- For a romantic getaway, try the Bungalows Key Largo. It is an adults-only all-inclusive property. Cheeca Lodge is another option but they are remodeling right now.
- Amelia Island is another great spot for a romantic getaway, but you may want to rent a condo or stay at a bed and breakfast.
- When looking for deals, you can find good options in the summer when it is hot or during hurricane season in the fall.
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Read the Full Show Transcript
[00:00:00.090] – Kim Tate
Craving some sunshine and palm trees today, we’re talking about Florida hotels.
[00:00:17.120] – Announcer
Welcome to Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts, Kim from Stuffed Suitcase and Tamara from We3Travel.
[00:00:32.120] – Kim Tate
So, Tamara, before we get chatting with our guest all about Florida hotels, I thought since we’ve been talking a lot about vacation planning and we talked recently about finding hotel deals, I thought maybe you and I could chime in a little bit on some of the tricks or things that we do when we’re booking hotels, because you and I both just booked a whole bunch of hotels for our road trips. So did you want to start us off and share maybe a tip that you utilized or thought about with your booking?
[00:00:59.480] – Tamara Gruber
Sure, yeah. I think both of us with our road trips recently, we had to choose some destinations based on where we’re going. But then some of our in-between destinations were maybe based on where we might have a hotel that we had a connection with, whether it’s a loyalty program or, something through the credit card. So I feel like understanding where you are from a point perspective or if there are any certain deals like with your credit card or any certain like rewards points.
[00:01:31.550] – Tamara Gruber
You know, one of those like get the extra night free or, you know, double points or something like that. A lot of times I tend to ignore those. It’s not very good as a a travel blogger, but sometimes I ignore them because I’m very focused on the destination. I like what I want to experience and not necessarily like chasing a particular hotel but I did for this trip try to look at that a little bit more. Some of it was like we also wanted to be like right in the heart of the town where campus was.
[00:02:01.820] – Tamara Gruber
So that’s why in a couple of places I chose a Graduate hotel, because I’m like, OK, I know that this is going to give me like a very close to campus experience, but also a very local, authentic kind of experience because the Graduate hotels are awesome, bringing in local artists and local like culture and themes and things that you almost question. I know when we were in Madison, Wisconsin, and they have like Pink Flamingos and like, what’s the deal with Pink Flamingos in Madison, Wisconsin, you know, and you you learn about it. And so I like that element. So we did that. But then we were more in between, you know, we’re traveling, we just need a place to stop. I’m like, OK, let’s look at you know, we’re pretty loyal Marriott members like, what are the Marriott properties?
[00:02:42.020] – Tamara Gruber
You know, which ones are rated, you know, this where how far off the highway are they? But there are a couple of things that we saw because we were trying to book with points and we were also, you know, with the three of us being on the road, being in the car together so much, it’s like, you know, a lot of togetherness. They thought we might want to spread out like a little bit when we get to the hotel and just, like, chill out and maybe have more than just like your typical to queen kind of room.
[00:03:06.320] – Tamara Gruber
So I was looking at different properties that have an extended room or have a one bedroom suite. So I’d find these Courtyard Marriotts that have a one bedroom king suite. So it’s a king bed and then a separate room with a pullout couch. That gives us like lots of space. So I went and created a document with all the links to it and sent it to Glenn because he’s the one with all the points and I’m like, can you book these? And he comes back to me and he’s like, none of these are showing up.
[00:03:36.710] – Tamara Gruber
So what I learned is that a lot of times those premium rooms are not available for points, so then you have to make a choice do you really want that space? And the other thing is he is a titanium member so we could get there and get the upgrade potentially. So sometimes I’m like let’s book the regular and see if we can get an upgrade. And other times, I’m like, we’re going to be very tired. We’re there for two nights, let’s pay and make sure we get what we want.
[00:04:09.380] – Tamara Gruber
But when we were paying for it, I saw American Express Platinum card had a certain offer for Marriott where if you spent two hundred, you got a certain amount back. So then I was like, OK, well, let’s use this deal. I made sure, like on my itinerary to write like use use Amex card.
[00:04:31.040] – Tamara Gruber
It wasn’t just like an automatic thing. So sometimes like when you get those emails from your credit card, it does make sense if you have a trip coming up to really read through them and understand, because even though sometimes even deals like, I don’t know, for restaurant chains or something like that. So I’m like, OK, let’s like make a note of that so that I remember to use this credit card.
[00:04:54.930] – Tamara Gruber
So those are some of the things that we are doing. We also always get into the discussion of is it worth it to pay or not? You know, because as I mentioned, like on one of our episodes, you know, some of the inner city hotels are a little bit cheaper right now versus, you know, more of a leisure property. So we found a lot of good deals. And it’s like, well, if it’s only like one hundred and twenty five dollars, should we just pay for it, but then we decided towards the end of our trip, we wanted to, like, treat ourselves a little bit. So we decided to use the points.
[00:05:24.970] – Tamara Gruber
And actually, instead of staying at, like the Courtyard, we’re staying at like an Autograph collection hotel, you know, something that’s in the city has a little character, sometimes they’re historic properties but it just has a little bit more character.
[00:05:38.980] – Tamara Gruber
I mean, I love a Courtyard and a Hilton garden inn because, like, I know exactly what to expect when we are stopping in Nebraska. I’m like, we’re stopping in a Courtyard. I know that they have a washing machine. I know I can do my laundry. Like there’s there’s a comfort to that. They don’t charge for parking. The Courtyards don’t do breakfast, but if you stay at a Residence Inn and they do, you know, so you can always kind of figure out like what is going to be your state of mind?
[00:06:05.530] – Tamara Gruber
Are you in the middle of nowhere? And you really just want, like, a quick breakfast before you hit the road? Or are you staying in a city where you might want to go out to brunch or pick or see like a local place, you know, and therefore you don’t need breakfast at the hotel.
[00:06:16.780] – Tamara Gruber
So I don’t know. Those are some of the things that we think about and we thought about and planning our recent road trip. But I know you were a little bit more strategic in the way that you were using, like your points and your certificates and things. So why don’t you talk a little bit about kind of what the process you went through?
[00:06:32.380] – Kim Tate
Well, I think you brought up something really good. I need to go check my Chase offers, because if you guys log into a credit card that you use, the offers will be like on your dashboard. And, you know, like Tamara said, she scored that Marriott one. And so it’s always a good idea before you start doing a big trip like this to look and see what, you know, little bonuses you might have. And so I need to go check my Chase ones and see if I had anything from there.
[00:06:59.170] – Kim Tate
And then I also think that it’s good to mention the breakfast thing, because that was something that really has me at a quandary right now, because I’m curious which hotels actually will have breakfast still and what that will look like because.
[00:07:13.180] – Kim Tate
So I’m not a yogurt eater. So I’m really worried that I’m going to be getting bags of like an orange or an apple and a yogurt every morning on right now when I have the free breakfast ones, because on the West Coast, you know, everything’s still pretty, pretty locked down a little bit. So we’ll see what happens. I have no idea what to think about the breakfast, but on a road trip, that’s definitely something I look for is the free breakfast.
[00:07:34.900] – Kim Tate
Because for us, you would get this, but I have some late sleepers and it’s hard to get up and get going in the morning. And if I have to make a stop for breakfast, then we are totally already going to be hours longer for us. So that’s something that I keep in mind for sure. But I think one of the things that I do when I’m doing a big trip is I, I definitely plan.
[00:07:57.880] – Kim Tate
Like I said already last week that I look at how far I need to drive each week and or each day. And so I look at like, what are the main cities in those destinations? And I think what Tamara already touched on that a lot of us know is if you’re doing a road trip, you’re going to be doing a lot of these smaller towns. And so you’re going to be drawn to a lot of those chains like Holiday Inn Express.
[00:08:17.140] – Kim Tate
You know, I for like Tamara said, Courtyard’s I had a lot of Fairfield inns on mine. So you’re going to be kind of looking at that. And I think the important thing is just to log in and check out what those hotels have going for promotions. For example, I saw that Holiday Inn Express, which is IHG, had a stay two nights, get double points promotion and you have to register in advance for it. So I registered in advance for that.
[00:08:41.590] – Kim Tate
And two of our nights on our road trip, are Holiday Inn Express’s. So that’ll work out and give us a little bonus on points. It’s not that much of a money savings, but it’s always nice to give. It’s kind of like getting the free money that’s sitting there. It’s not a big deal if you don’t get it, but it is a nice little perk. So that’s something I think is important. You know, recently I was booking a Marriott property and I actually found that they were doing a certain promotion and I canceled my previous booking and rebooked it.
[00:09:09.580] – Kim Tate
And that’s the other thing. Talking about cancellation of a lot of hotels offer you a much cheaper rate if you’re willing to pay in advance. So you commit and say, I’m ready to do this, but for my planning and just with where the world is right now, I went ahead and paid the extra to get the free cancelation. Or you can cancel at least anywhere from one to three days normally before your trip. However, a little tip I’ll mention is that there’s nothing that says you can’t log back in, recheck those rooms and cancel rebook at the lower the prepaid rate and then cancel the advance purchase rate.
[00:09:44.380] – Kim Tate
But that takes a lot of thinking in advance. But just a little heads up, you can set a little timer once you know that you’re going and there’s not any real risk if you have like a day before cancelation, there’s nothing that stops you two days before from rebooking at the prepaid rate.
[00:10:00.100] – Kim Tate
So that’s just some of the little hacks and stuff I have. I’m a triple-A, member. I actually need to reminds me I need to add, Lizzie, because I just always felt more. I don’t think I’ve used it once, but I like having it and it just makes me feel comfortable.
[00:10:19.980] – Tamara Gruber
I used to work at AAA so I’m a AAA fan.
[00:10:19.980] – Kim Tate
I remember you telling me about making all those triptiks. So I think AAA is another thing to have in mind, that for a road trip it it serves two purposes is it can, you know, offer you the peace of mind if you do lock your keys or need a tow or have car trouble or need a change of tire or whatever your case may be, you have them on, you know, at the ready. And then also because a lot of hotels offer triple-A discounts. And that’s a great little way to save, you know, save some money. I saved about I, I think I save, you know, around 10 to 20 percent on a room with it.
[00:10:56.880] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, it’s funny you mention that because, like, I do that and I don’t even think about I don’t even think about mentioning it. But yeah, I mean, so many of them, when you’re going and you’re looking at the price they have like little checkboxes, like if you want to see the AAA. Specifically like ask to see the rate.
[00:11:12.450] – Kim Tate
And then I know with Marriott you actually have to input your triple-A number when you’re making the booking. So it can be a great, I mean based on this trip alone, it paid for itself.
[00:11:27.930] – Tamara Gruber
By the way, with us I actually went and I upgraded our membership to plus before because our like my car is getting like a little bit older. And so the roadside assistance isn’t the built in like that when you buy it. Sometimes it includes assistance for a certain amount of time. So I don’t have that anymore. And your typical triple-A is only like a three or five mile tow. And I’m like, we’re going to be in the middle of nowhere. And so I want to make sure that I can. So actually, it’s funny that you mention that because I didn’t even think of it, but we actually upgraded our membership just so we can do that road trip.
[00:12:02.340] – Kim Tate
And the cool thing about triple A also for you parents who have teen drivers is it works for any car the person is in. So it’s a membership for the person. So if your teen is with friends and there’s something happens, they can always call AAA and get help even if their friend doesn’t have AAA. Same with you. If you’re renting a car or, you know, whatever the case may be, your AAA covers you. So it’s really getting membership is free.
[00:12:34.320] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. I recently just got a thing asking me like free two months of the plus or whatever if I signed up for that. So I need to log in and do that because I thought of doing that just for a road trip.
[00:12:46.230] – Kim Tate
So anyways, that’s some of the little tips I have. But yeah, I think hopefully we haven’t overwhelmed people, but that’s the way our brains work, right. We’re always I mean, I’m just always looking for deals because if I can save a little money here and there, it means you can splurge and do a little more in other places. But I think the chains are the big thing to recognize on a road trip.
[00:13:04.560] – Kim Tate
You’re going to be doing a lot of chains. And if you can have loyalty or look for those bonuses, it might pay off a little bit. I know a lot of hotels used to do, you know, stay two nights, get one night free you type certificates. And with my Marriott credit card, I get a free certificate every year. But figuring out how to use those is the tricky thing. And then also considering parking costs, like Tamara said, I considered an Autograph hotel as well.
[00:13:28.560] – Kim Tate
And one of our stops that was in a bigger city that had that. However, they charged a 35 dollar parking fee. And I thought that doesn’t make any sense for us. We’ll just stay at the Fairfield Inn and get our nice supposedly free breakfast. The differences between, you know, like just staying on the outskirts at a more of a chain property versus, you know, being in the city at a flagship property, you know, the extra expense can be insane between parking.
[00:13:53.550] – Tamara Gruber
Then you charge for breakfast and you think about like some of those chains, like I just love, like Residence Inn or, you know, one of the like Springhill Suites is that have also they have like the little happy hour.
[00:14:05.820] – Tamara Gruber
And then they have sometimes I know Residence Inn like sometimes on like a Tuesday night they have like the manager’s reception or something and they’ll like grill hot dogs, you know, like something like that. But there’s, there’s a lot of like little perks to some of the places that maybe don’t have you know, they’re not the downtown location.
[00:14:22.440] – Tamara Gruber
They’re not the more stylish, perhaps. But I also I like the consistency of a lot of those brands, though, in terms of knowing what you’re getting.
[00:14:30.990] – Kim Tate
Well, and I like the fact that if I’m on a long road trip, it’s, a money saving because they’re normally pretty affordable. And I just need a place to sleep for the night that I know it’s going to be clean and I like the chains because I know that there’s a cleanliness standard for the brand. And so you feel a little more confident there, even though they can’t be franchised.
[00:14:50.850] – Kim Tate
So we are going to talk today all about Florida hotels, and I’m excited to hear about that because I’m definitely dreaming of sunshine and palm trees.
[00:14:59.970] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, Florida is such a popular destination, so we wanted to cover kind of a variety, you know, from like what’s good for family, what’s good for girlfriend getaway, romantic, you know, different areas. So lots of, I think a little gems that we’re going to talk about today. So I’m excited to talk to Joella.
[00:15:24.700] – Tamara Gruber
Today, we’re here with Joella Doobrow, and she was born in Venezuela and now lives in Florida with her husband and two teen girls, travel has been a part of her life since she was very young. And today she shares her experience through her blog at Roving Jo to help inspire others to find their own adventures and create memories to shape their lives in a positive way. So welcome, Joella.
[00:15:45.680] – Joella Doobrow
Thanks. I’m really excited to be here with you guys.
[00:15:48.350] – Tamara Gruber
Now, I’ve been following you on Instagram for so long now, and I am always jealous of all of the day trips and, you know, weekends and overnights and things that you’ve been doing, especially as I’m kind of trapped in the cold up here. So I’m eager to get your opinion on some of the your favorite hotels and resorts in Florida. But before we get into some of the details, I’m going to ask you a really hard question. And that is, if you could stay at any resort in Florida with any budget, where would you go?
[00:16:17.000] – Joella Doobrow
Actually, I think it’s this resort, it’s called a little Palm Island resort. Tt’s a very exclusive. It’s on a private island and it’s voted like the number seven resort in the USA by, you know, Conde Nast Traveler. And it’s really the epitome of luxury and escape. I mean, you need to get there by boat or sea plane. And I just love the idea of no phones, no TVs, no guests under 18 and, you know, really good dining and just secluded and, you know, getting away from the world and having lots of luxury.
[00:16:51.770] – Tamara Gruber
It sounded perfect to me. Kim and I were actually just talking about this on our last episode briefly, because I was, kind of scrounging around for different ideas for the summer. And I came across it and I was so excited until I saw the price. So, yes, when I win the lottery, that’s where I’m going to go to.
[00:17:11.600] – Kim Tate
So we are going to be talking all about Florida, which I’m sure most people understand is a, you know, fairly good sized state. So let’s start on the East Coast. And, you know, there we’re looking at Amelia Island, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, the Keys, of course. So what are some of your favorite East Coast beaches and resorts for families that you recommend for, you know, a good, good getaway?
[00:17:34.340] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah, there’s actually several. And like I said, I mean, the East Coast is fairly large. So, you know, starting all the way on the south towards the keys for the family, we really enjoyed Hawk’s Cay. So it’s not all the way down in Key West, but they have a lot of really, really fun amenities that are for families. They’ll do dolphin encounters, you can do snorkeling, scuba packages, sunset cruises, paddleboards kayaks, fishing. They have tons of activities on site, game rooms, kids club, a wonderful playground.
[00:18:10.370] – Joella Doobrow
They have this little pirate ship type pool putting course. I mean, it’s it’s just there’s everything there and it’s getting into the keys. So there’s tons of things to do outside the resort as well. It’s really fabulous.
[00:18:24.440] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. I stayed there with my family once quite a few years ago, and I think I’ve told Kim before, I still have a scar on my knee from that pirate pool.
[00:18:33.740] – Kim Tate
I actually was talking to them recently and I think it kind of has that it sounded like a very all inclusive feel where or almost like, you know, like staying on on site with Disney in a way where you’re kind of insulated. They’re they’ve got everything for restaurants and all your activities. You don’t have to think about anything beyond that if you don’t want to. So it seems like it’s really great. Set it and forget it. Vacation destination.
[00:18:56.450] – Tamara Gruber
It’s a good one for now, too, because they have those villas that have kitchens and it’s you know, you’re you’re really self-contained and self-catering if you want to be.
[00:19:06.440] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah, they do. They have the both the the hotel side and then the villas. So if you need more space or want to cook your own stuff and or even if I think they even have places where you can dock your boat, it’s it’s really nice.
[00:19:18.500] – Kim Tate
Cool, so moving north, what else have you got on the East Coast.
[00:19:22.070] – Joella Doobrow
So a little bit closer to where I live and we’ve done this as a day trip or staycation is Margaritaville in Hollywood. And it’s really fun because they have you know, aside from the pool, they have the florider where you can kind of like, you know, surf. But yes, it’s lots of fun both for kids and adults. And they do have, of course, the rooftop pool with cabanas. And they do have a parakeets kids club with, you know, games and crafts for kids and stuff like that. I think between ages four and twelve.
[00:19:53.330] – Tamara Gruber
I’m a big Jimmy Buffett fan. And was it two years ago? I stayed at the Margaritaville in Orlando when it first opened and I loved it. So I’m I imagine that they all have a similar vibe. But it just I felt very relaxed when I was there, which I usually wouldn’t feel when I’m in Orlando.
[00:20:09.140] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah, I was really fun. And then right outside the hotel, there’s a broad walk or boardwalk. I don’t know how people pronounce it, but I mean, you can skate there, ride your bike some there’s tons of restaurants out there and cool places where you can get like ice cream. And it has that old town, Florida, feel. And, you know, it’s right on the beach, too. So it’s great.
[00:20:31.700] – Joella Doobrow
A little further north, if you go to West Palm, there is the Breakers, which kind of has that old style to it. It’s really great for adults and kids because they do have a lot of kids programs. There are even for teens, they have one for teens, thirteen and up, which is great. And they have activities like golf and kayaking and snorkeling and arcades and, you know, complimentary bicycles that you can take and and use for West Palm Beach, which is a great way to get around the area.
[00:21:01.030] – Kim Tate
Now are any of those, would you say, better for like a beach, like white sand beach vacation type thing, because I know as you move to the keys, sometimes it’s not always, you know, sandy beaches and sometimes with currents or tides or, you know, seaweed, stuff like that. So do you have any that are kind of more of a sure bet if you want the white sand beach?
[00:21:20.200] – Joella Doobrow
Margaritaville is right on the water, and that is sand beach. I feel on the east. It’s not as white powdery sand. You’ll find that on the West Coast. There’s also the the Ritz Carlton, either on Key Biscayne down south or if you want to go north on Amelia Island. Both of them have great family programs. I mean, it is more luxury. It’s more that luxury family resort type thing. But they have, you know, different pools once for the family, once, you know, just for the kids and for the adults and the kids club is always really good with Ritz Carlton. So those are beach.
[00:21:56.760] – Tamara Gruber
They even have those cute little like rich kids check in like a little stepstool so the kids can check it. And I stayed that Amelia Island one one said it was it was nice because I think there’s a lot of, like, pirate history up there. So a lot of the kids program activities were involving, like, we’re going to look for sharks teeth. We’re going to, you know, learn about pirates. And we have like a pirate tuck in and we do stargazing at night in the dunes and some cool things like that that you may not think of as more Floridian, you know.
[00:22:25.300] – Joella Doobrow
And Amelia Island, the beaches there are pretty nice. So, you know, if you’re looking for more of that powdery sand, that’s as close as you’re going to get, I think, on the East Coast. Cool.
[00:22:35.440] – Tamara Gruber
Do you have any others that you would want to mention on the East Coast or should we move over to the West Coast?
[00:22:39.720] – Joella Doobrow
I think let’s move on to the Gulf Coast.
[00:22:42.550] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I love the Gulf Coast because there you do find that that powdery sand, but also that blue green water. And it’s like calmer and warmer.
[00:22:52.840] – Joella Doobrow
It’s my favorite part of Florida and it’s when we want to get away, that’s where we tend to go, even if we just go for the day. That’s that is, you know, what we love. We feel more at peace there because, you know, you don’t have the huge big waves. And like you said, the sand is like super white and powdery and the water is calm and it goes with that clear blue to that emerald green.
[00:23:17.290] – Tamara Gruber
What areas do you like to stay at or would you like to visit? What do you think families should go to on the Gulf Coast?
[00:23:23.380] – Joella Doobrow
So our our favorites that that we go to pretty much all the time as either Marco Island or Naples. So Naples, we do a lot of day trips there. And if we want to stay overnight, a lot of times we do, Marco, because we really love the J.W. Marriott that is there. It’s really family friendly. You can also use points, which is fabulous. You know, if if you want to reduce cost, they do have three miles of private beach.
[00:23:47.560] – Joella Doobrow
They have 12 restaurants inside. They have golf courses, you know, water sports day camps for the kids. And, you know, they even have the dove in movie. I mean, I don’t know if they’re doing that now during quarantine, of course. But, you know, they they used to do that where they had the huge screen outside. And you just you could stay on the pool and watch the movie from there. And on that side of the Gulf, they they can set you up to do the dolphin watching tours, which are fabulous.
[00:24:12.550] – Joella Doobrow
We’ve done like kayaking out there and out to the Ten Thousand Islands. And, you know, you can see the domes out there. It’s all it’s really neat is there are a lot of shelling. So there’s kids that, you know, like looking at the different shells and collecting them. It’s a great area for that. So we really like staying there.
[00:24:31.960] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, we’re definitely on the same wavelength here because you and I seem to like a lot of the same hotels. My daughter and I stayed there December of twenty nineteen and we loved it because they had also just open some kind of like microbrew, but it also had like a game room. So it was almost like Dave and Busters kind of place in a way. And so we played a bunch of games and we just had such a blast. And it’s not far to the Everglades, too. I know one day we took a day trip down and did an airboat tour, see the alligators, you know, all that kind of stuff.
[00:25:09.430] – Joella Doobrow
We did a kayaking tour through the mangroves and the Everglades there with a small local company. And, you know, it was fabulous. You get to see the alligators really right next to you and wildlife, all the birds. It’s we love that area.
[00:25:24.370] – Tamara Gruber
Although for some people, the whole alligators may not be right next to them, may not be a positive. I feel like every time I post something from, like a some type of tour that has alligators, they’re like, are you crazy?
[00:25:39.490] – Kim Tate
That’s so funny that I live in Seattle, you know, and I’ve actually done sea kayaking. And, you know, it’s funny because I’m scared of alligators. Yet I went out in the sea in kayaked where orcas regularly, you know, will come and they can really flip you. So, yeah, I’m like, I’m probably need to keep my mouth shut and just understand that, you know, alligators probably a lot less scary than orca whales, but.
[00:26:01.150] – Joella Doobrow
Well, you can always just do the the boat and they take you on the boat. Exactly. You know. Yeah. No problem with flipping the dolphins come right up on you.
[00:26:10.570] – Joella Doobrow
And then if you if you go when the the waters are warm, the manatees are
[00:26:15.530] – Kim Tate
I that’s what I would love to see would be the manatees that people are they now are the manatees more like inland from the, you know, Gulf side or are they inland?
[00:26:25.720] – Joella Doobrow
You see them right on the Gulf. OK, yeah. So on the Ten Thousand Islands and you can get there on a tour from Marco all through the canals there. When the waters are warm, you see the manatees, I mean, hundreds and thousands of them. But now, you know, during more of the winter, they migrate from the ocean and they go into the springs closer to central Florida. You see a lot of them up there.
[00:26:50.590] – Joella Doobrow
And then where the power plants are that keep the water warm so they all kind of migrate to where the waters are warmer. So that’s why everybody kind of goes up to the springs to see them there.
[00:27:02.200] – Tamara Gruber
When we were in Captiva, my gosh, Hannah was probably like four the resort that we stayed at, had a marina and they would always hang out there. So we would just go kind of sit in the marina and watch the manatees bobbing around. I mean, they’re so they’re ugly but fascinating and cute all at the same time, you know, so.
[00:27:18.700] – Joella Doobrow
So you said Captiva. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret that us locals here do. There is a little resort down there. It’s called Twin Waters Island Resort. And you have to call them the day of if you’re if you’re local. And it used to be for. Five dollars, but I think it’s gone up to 60 now per car, and if they have availability, you pay the 60 dollars, you park your car there.
[00:27:42.450] – Joella Doobrow
They used to give you, I don’t know, twenty five or thirty dollars in credit that you could use in the resort and you could use the facilities, the beach, which is right there, because, as you know, Captiva, there’s no real public like it’s all like you have to be staying at a home or a resort and so you can use all the property and the amenities and I mean pretty much have a day at a resort.
[00:28:07.500] – Kim Tate
Florida is really big on right now is day passes and I think that’s going to be I did that once when I had a cruise, that we had a late flight out and I bought a day pass to a resort in Fort Lauderdale. And we spent the day we had a room at the resort and we played on the beach and the pool. And then we went to the airport at five pm or whatever. And it was so great. And I know there’s a lot of Florida hotels that do that.
[00:28:31.140] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah, it’s great. It’s great. This one’s kind of hidden. People don’t know much about it. Yeah.
[00:28:36.750] – Tamara Gruber
Now, what about Naples? Do you have a favorite place to stay there?
[00:28:40.620] – Joella Doobrow
Yes, but I’ll talk a little bit about that when we talk about a girlfriend getaway.
[00:28:46.230] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I’d say there are a couple of times and you know, one, I think it was the Naples Grande, which I didn’t really love. It was for a family vacation. Yeah. And then the last time Hannah and I just spent a couple of days and I had Marriott points, so I went from the J.W. Marriott, Marco Island to the residence inn Naples. I was trying to balance the use of those points.
[00:29:09.060] – Joella Doobrow
I have stayed at the Ritz, they have the one by the ocean and then they have the one that’s the golf course. And we really do like that. We have stayed up at the grand and it’s there’s no luxury, but it’s we like that beach is really nice, although there’s public access to it. And then there’s the little inn on fifth.
[00:29:29.970] – Tamara Gruber
So any other favorite places on the Gulf Coast or even in the other families.
[00:29:34.350] – Joella Doobrow
I think Tradewinds in the St.. Pete Clearwater area is probably the best bet. I mean it is huge. It’s like close to sixteen thousand square feet of floating ocean water park, which I’m sure it’s not running right now. But you know, during regular times, having a great floating ocean water park is fantastic. They have five pools, you know, like ten restaurants and bars. Four hundred and fifty cabanas, kids club. I mean, all kinds of stuff.
[00:30:03.060] – Joella Doobrow
They think they have two different properties with different amenities on each. But and it is not a luxury. It is pure fun. It’s a great place for families just looking to really be entertained. So that’s what limitation for that tomorrow.
[00:30:19.620] – Kim Tate
And then we’re in Clearwater before. And I think it seemed like an ideal family destination.
[00:30:26.350] – Joella Doobrow
St. Pete and Clearwater has a lot to do. I mean, even if you don’t stay just in the resort, there’s tons of things in the area as well. Another place we really love as a family is Anna Maria Island. We just recently stayed in a small boutique resort. There normally will either rent a house or stay off the island with points somewhere and then just commute in. But we stayed at this small boutique resort that only has about eight rooms, and it’s called the Rod and Reel resort.
[00:30:50.880] – Joella Doobrow
And it’s super quaint, super nice. It’s all inclusive. They provide you with bicycles and kayaks and paddle boards. And the suites are great because there’s tons of room for the family. So like we stayed in a two bedroom, which was great. The kids feel like they had all the room to themselves or bathroom and just, you know, kind of on their own like that on top of us. So they really, really liked it. And the island itself is just great for families.
[00:31:20.370] – Joella Doobrow
There’s very laid back, cute little restaurants. You can get everybody by bicycle. And the beaches are absolutely stunning, beautiful sunsets. And we just love it there. That sounds awesome. I know that, you know, it seems like there’s these little hidden areas all around Florida, there’s so much coastline, I’m sure there’s a lot of little you know, I feel this this one’s kind of being more discovered now.
[00:31:44.150] – Joella Doobrow
And it’s yeah, it’s getting hard to even get rooms there. And they’re going up in prices, which is, you know, I think part of.
[00:31:50.940] – Kim Tate
Yeah, I think that’s one of the reasons we wanted to talk about Florida, because it seems like for people who are ready to travel and do feel comfortable traveling, Florida is definitely seeing a huge boom in tourism. So if people are looking for escapes, it seems like the hotels there are welcome.
[00:32:05.300] – Joella Doobrow
There are definitely open. It’s like nothing’s ever going on.
[00:32:12.980] – Kim Tate
Well, one last area before we move on, I just want to ask about is the Panhandle, which I hear a lot of people talking about. Do you have any?
[00:32:22.790] – Joella Doobrow
I have stayed in Port St. near Port St. Joe, but we rented we rented a house, a home there and stayed on the beach. But I know that there’s beautiful areas like Rosemary Beach and Seaside, and I’ve just never made it up there. It takes me nine hours to get to the Panhandle. So it’s not something we’ve done.
[00:32:45.290] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, you have enough beaches close to you. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s and I definitely hear that that area is more, you know, for like the vacation rental market, like I’ve heard of, like what is it, water color in or something that’s that’s would be very, very nice but definitely more known for its vacation rental home.
[00:33:03.820] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah, definitely. I mean it’s great you do a whole week and you mean you can split it with a family and you know, it’s, it’s really nice you bring in your groceries and just hang out. We did that in I mean, near Port St. Joe. I don’t remember what the name of the town was, but it was in that area. And I have friends who have stayed in Seaside and they’ve absolutely loved it.
[00:33:24.380] – Tamara Gruber
Well, obviously, one of the areas that people love to go to in Florida is Orlando. So not on the beach, but do you have any places that you really love if you’re in the Orlando area?
[00:33:33.380] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah, well, I mean, if we’re going to talk about some Disney hotels, our favorite is Animal Kingdom Lodge, just because we are big animal lovers and you know, the idea of having the giraffes walking by and it’s it’s just.
Awesome. Plus, I think the pools are really beautiful, the they have like that zero in depth entry that kind of looks like a watering hole. I mean, the way they think they’re their hotels is just great. You know, the playgrounds with the ropes and bridge and you can kind of overlook and see the animals on the other side. And of course, the food is phenomenal at that resort. So I’m all about the food, too. So we like it there.
[00:34:13.340] – Kim Tate
Now we’re talking about Disney, my newest favorite little spot is I loved the Riviera resort because it’s on the skyline. And just having that way of getting in and out of the parks, especially I two kids who really love Epcot and the Riviera. The skyline has a kind of back entrance to the world showcase in Epcot, which with teenagers, it’s really nice because they can you can kind of stay in the room if you’re tired and they can go back out.
[00:34:37.610] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah. For us, when we go to Epcot, we usually stay at either the Swan or the dolphin. Yeah. Just because I mean, it’s not over. Yeah. You can walk and it’s not it’s not technically a Disney hotel, so it’s not themed, you know, in that way. But if you have little kids you can still like I think it’s the swan has the, you know, the meal, the breakfast, the standards. So you can do that.
[00:35:04.130] – Joella Doobrow
You know, they do give you perks. You can get transportation to the parks, free parking, you know, the extra magic hours and the complimentary, you know, fastpass plus or whatever that’s that’s called. You get some of the perks.
[00:35:15.980] – Kim Tate
But yeah, there are Marriott property. So points person, you can try and snag a room. It’s really hard there.
[00:35:24.230] – Joella Doobrow
And I don’t think the redemption is all that great for either. But yeah. Because our prices I mean are are fairly low, especially compared to some of the other resorts that are right there. I mean some of the big Disney resorts that are super expensive are right there. So compared to them, this is a big deal. So that’s why we do that. Especially we’re going to like the food and wine or something like that. Yeah, we’re going to drink a little bit. And you can just walk home.
[00:35:50.450] – Kim Tate
Yeah. What other places other than Disney do you love?
[00:35:55.130] – Joella Doobrow
In Orlando, I mean, if we’re if we’re going to stay in the Orlando area and budget is not an issue, I mean, the Four Seasons is beautiful for a resort. You don’t have to leave. Yeah, you really don’t have to leave. It’s everything is just there. It’s just ridiculously expensive.
[00:36:13.850] – Tamara Gruber
Well, you kind of teased us earlier by talking about some girl trip destinations. Now, Kim and I did a girls trip down to the Keys, but I’d love to hear if you have any places that you love for girls trip to Florida. Yes.
[00:36:25.790] – Joella Doobrow
And I won’t mention the Keys at all. OK, so I actually feel Palm Beach is a fabulous place for girls trip. I would recommend two resorts. I mean, that you can pick depending on the kind of vibe that you want. I mean, there’s Eau Palm Beach which actually used to be a Ritz Carlton. So their spa is fantastic. It’s like a forty two thousand square foot spots, like one of the best ones there. And it’s phenomenal.
[00:36:53.810] – Joella Doobrow
So if you want to do that with the girls, that’s awesome. They have a great adult only pool. And of course, there’s all the luxury that comes with with the brand. And then if you kind of prefer that more cutesy Instagram style type hotel, there’s The Colony. So that one’s not on the beach, but they do take you to the beach. And not only do they take it to the beach, they have a beach butler that will deliver like little bites and stuff in a pink yeti cooler.
[00:37:23.450] – Joella Doobrow
So everything’s kind of very Instagram able. I mean, you’ll find pinks and blues and flamingo prince and banana leaf prints. It’s just all super cute and Instagramable.
[00:37:35.000] – Tamara Gruber
So it’s a good place to wear your lily Pulitzer dresses.
[00:37:37.820] – Joella Doobrow
Perfect. And it’s just fun, fun place for the girls. And they have bikes that you can take everything in. And Palm Beach is very either walkable or you can get around with a bike. So it’s you can just get on the bikes and go exploring lots of really good restaurants. It’s a fun place and shopping, of course, lots of shopping. If I was somebody that I follow on Instagram that’s been posting pictures from the colony this week and so I’m very familiar with what you mean with that like pastel pink and.
[00:38:07.590] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah, yeah. Looks very cute. It is cute but is cute and I mean another one. If you kind of like the whole spa thing and maybe want to be closer to some of the Miami action, there is the aqualina resort and spa. It is. It’s around Sunny Isles. So it’s it’s really kind of nice, the location, it’s on the beach and it’s close to both Aventura and Bal Harbor shops. So between spending time on the beach, pool, spa and shopping, I mean, make for great girls getaway.
[00:38:42.600] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I’ve heard great things about that hotel also.
[00:38:45.930] – Joella Doobrow
I’ve gone there just for spa, like we have a month here that is spa month. So they have like really discounted rates. So we’ll we’ll take the girls and we’ll just go for a spa day though.
[00:38:56.610] – Kim Tate
So nice. I’m definitely dreaming of a girls getaway. Yeah. So but what about if we’re looking for a romantic getaway.
[00:39:03.960] – Kim Tate
I know Tamara. That’s one of the reasons she’s eyeing Florida a lot in case her Greece trip doesn’t happen. So what do you think about that?
[00:39:11.420] – Joella Doobrow
Well, if you win the lottery and want to go to Little Palm Island, go for it. If you don’t, then I think a little less expensive alternative are the bungalows at Key Largo. That was the other one I was looking at. Yeah, it’s an adult only property. It’s all inclusive. It’s, you know, kind of smaller in size. Has that feel of like you’re in Bali. They have like that little spa garden getaway kind of thing.
[00:39:36.570] – Joella Doobrow
It’s it’s supposed to be really nice and romantic. I personally have not been, but I would think that that would be a great place. I have been to the Checca Lodge. And that was really nice. I know they’re remodeling it right now, so I don’t I think it won’t be ready till sometime in 2022, but that’s another really nice option.
[00:39:57.100] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, Kim, that was one that we were maybe going to stay at when we were in Key Largo. Yeah, but then we ended up at Baker’s.
[00:40:03.580] – Kim Tate
I really liked that Baker’s Cay spot that they put us up at. I thought that was nice and I haven’t even heard of that.
[00:40:11.590] – Tamara Gruber
That was was that an autograph? I remember one that we stayed at was not autograph. And when we visited was a curio collection by Hilton or I may have flipped those, something like that. Yeah.
[00:40:22.660] – Kim Tate
I think the curio one was the baker’s key I think. Yeah. And then there was the one next door to it too and I don’t remember what that one was.
[00:40:29.740] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. I playa Largo I think. Well that’s some nice options. Do you have any others for a romantic getaway. I mean at this point anything sounds good to me. Yeah.
[00:40:38.920] – Joella Doobrow
I mean I like, I like Amelia Island on the East but I would rent, I would rent or stay in a little bed and breakfast or something. Right.
[00:40:48.500] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, and the Omni has those residences right on property, so you can, like, have your own condo. I mean, that’s not maybe quite as charming, romantic as you might be imagining with a bed and breakfast.
[00:41:03.170] – Joella Doobrow
Yeah, it’s an option and it definitely is an option.
[00:41:06.230] – Tamara Gruber
Cool. Well, that’s a lot of ground that we covered are a lot of coastline at least. I was going to say a lot of state. You gave us some great ideas to think about. And now I just, of course, want to travel more than ever. But out of everything that we talked about, do you have a favorite that you’ve been to?
[00:41:23.690] – Joella Doobrow
Oh, it’s it’s hard. I think we just keep going back to the day of Marriott in Marco just because we love the location. The amenities are great. It’s the prices reasonable. It just kind of ticks all the boxes for us. Lots of, like little day trips and things that we can do from their little excursions on boats and kayaking and that kind of stuff. So it takes a lot of the boxes for us. So that’s where we keep going back to.
[00:41:53.150] – Joella Doobrow
I feel like the changes by the mood, it’s seasonal too, right? Yeah, that’s true. I mean, some of them, you know, get decorate are really nice around Christmas when you go, you know, I mean, Disney is absolutely beautiful. During Christmas.
[00:42:07.640] – Kim Tate
I was just going to ask, is there a season that you think that people, you know, if they’re looking for kind of a resort beach, you know, we’re thinking more of the traditional Florida beach escape. Is there, you know, any seasons that you think are great for either weather and or money? Like savings, like getting deals?
[00:42:24.120] – Joella Doobrow
Well, for savings, hurricane season. But yeah, but you probably don’t want to travel during hurricane season.
[00:42:31.970] – Joella Doobrow
Summer usually, believe it or not, has the better deals because it is incredibly hot. So you do get better deals like this time of the year is expensive because it’s horrible everywhere else and everybody wants to come to Florida. Yeah, but the weather’s great. And that’s why everybody I mean, this is perfect weather here now. I mean, you can still go in the in the ocean. It’s, you know, seventy three degrees out. You know, it’s perfect.
[00:42:56.960] – Joella Doobrow
I mean, spring is great here, but it’s expensive.
[00:43:00.650] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. You’re in season.
[00:43:04.190] – Tamara Gruber
Well, I guess we want to wrap up by asking a question that we ask all of our guests, and that is, do you have a favorite travel outfit or brand of clothing that you like to wear when you’re traveling?
[00:43:14.990] – Joella Doobrow
Oh, well, in Florida, I mostly wear like sun dresses and maxi dresses. I have some favorite rap rap style dresses that I get from Lulus when they’re on sale. But I’m not I don’t like just subscribe to one brand. It’s whatever I find. I’m not brand loyal. So if I find something else that’s comfortable, it’s fine. But if I’m going to do anything outdoors and hiking, which we love to do, but we don’t do that in Florida, we go away for that.
[00:43:39.290] – Joella Doobrow
Then usually we do Columbia. We have a great we have great outlet shops here. So I actually live really close to a Columbia outlet and we get most of our stuff from there. And then, of course, also Prana when they’re on sale.
[00:43:52.460] – Joella Doobrow
So those are kind of my those are two of them, too, like outdoorsy, relaxed, you know, gear. I absolutely love Prana and Columbia both. Yeah.
[00:44:00.920] – Tamara Gruber
And I know from seeing you on Instagram, you always have very cute dresses.
[00:44:06.320] – Joella Doobrow
I have I have these wrap dresses from Lulus, which I mean, one, they’re super, super comfortable for travel, too. They look fabulous. Some pictures. And, you know, you can dress them up or dress them down.
[00:44:19.380] – Kim Tate
Great. So, you know, Tamara mentioned seeing you on Instagram, so do you want to let our listeners know where they can find you online? Yes, I do live most of my life there on Instagram, on my handle is roving Joe, I do have the same handle on Facebook and my website is the same as roving Jo Dotcom.
[00:44:38.060] – Tamara Gruber
And that’s Joe with no E at the end.
[00:44:39.860] – Tamara Gruber
Just so. Yes, everyone knows and we’ll link to that in their show notes. So thank you again for coming in and sharing your expertise with us. And we hope everyone does pop over to Instagram and give you a follow and a little shout out there.
[00:44:55.260] – Joella Doobrow
And thanks for having me. This was super fun and I hope I was able to provide some valuable information.
[00:45:01.130] – Kim Tate
I think you have us all dreaming of kind of a nice, you know, warm weather beach escape right now. So it’s helpful to have an idea of where to look.
[00:45:12.530] – Kim Tate
As always, thanks for joining us for another week here at Vacation MAVEN’s.
[00:45:16.790] – Tamara Gruber
And stay tuned because next time we’re going to be talking to someone all about family travel tech. So your favorite gadgets to help make family travel a little bit easier.
[00:45:25.970] – Kim Tate
Can’t wait for that one, because you know me, I’m all about travel and tech gadgets.
[00:45:29.960] – Tamara Gruber
So stay tuned.