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Packing More Travel into Your Summer

Packing More Travel into Your Summer | CosmosMariners.com

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, it's official:

Summer's here! And those summer travels are ready to begin.

For as long as I can remember, those hot days have been my favorite part of the year, filled with long, lazy days at the beach, surfing lessons (before my husband broke the fins on my surfboard), swimming at the pool, and family gatherings (usually with lots of watermelon and strawberries).

But my favorite part of my favorite time of year has to be the summer traveling. When we were small, my parents would pile my sister and I into our car (which varied from a 1989 Oldsmobile to a 1994 Volvo as we got older) and head out on the open road. Some years, we'd end up in Walt Disney World, while other years took us to Canada, Mexico, or any of the states along the eastern seaboard!

Now that I'm older and have a kid of my own, I'm still carrying on the tradition of family trips: we've got some fun jaunts planned to Edisto Island, South Carolina; St. Augustine, Florida; and Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Between those trips, we'll be doing everything we can to pack even more fun and travel into our summer months. Here's how:

Make a summer bucket list. If it's written down, you're more likely to accomplish it. So, have a big gathering with the kids, your spouse, your friends--whoever you'll be with during the summer--and see what you'd like to accomplish. Ice cream all around if you manage everything on the list by August 1!

Use your long weekends wisely. Make use of those extra days you get off of work on Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day, and take a road trip. You could also take a longer trip each of those weeks, but only have to take four days off from work. Make the system work to your advantage!

Packing More Travel into Your Summer | CosmosMariners.com
St. Simons Island lighthouse, Georgia
Utilize the free stuff. With warmer temperatures comes the ability to use those water-based activities. For the most part, going to the beach, lake, or pool costs little to nothing, which makes them all attractive options even for the traveling family on a budget.

Summer's also a great time to visit a few county, state, or national parks. They're packed with activities for the whole family, and the entrance fees are very reasonable.

Packing More Travel into Your Summer | CosmosMariners.com
Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Check out the deals. Even though summer is the high season for travel, you can still find great ways to save money through travel rewards programs and attractions. Some theme parks run specials on ticket packages or hotel rooms to make the most of those fleeting summer vacation days. Don't assume that you won't find a great price on travel just because it's peak season.

Packing More Travel into Your Summer | CosmosMariners.com
The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida
Combine family visits with sightseeing. Summer's a great time to catch up with family, and many people are driving or flying to visit the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and children. Make use of that time away from home by exploring your destination: when you're at Grandma and Grandpa's in Tampa, go see the Dali Museum or Fort De Soto. While you're out in California seeing your siblings, make a detour at the Hearst Mansion or have an impromptu road trip up U.S. 1. See what's nearby and make a family outing of it!

What are your summer travel plans? Do you have a miles program to help you make the most out of your travels?

The Ultimate Paris Food Guide: All of the Amazing Things to Eat in Paris

The Ultimate Paris Food Guide: All of the Amazing Things to Eat in Paris | CosmosMariners.com

Today, you, my awesome readers, are in for quite the treat (literally, since this post is about food), so I hope you're hungry!

 Jordan from The Hungry Traveler has been kind enough to create the ultimate Paris food guide so you can head to the City of Love with confidence for some tasty cuisine. Below, she leads us the best things to eat in Paris--and where to find them--so newcomers and foodies alike can experience the culinary delights of the City of Lights to the max.

She's very passionate about food and traveling, and has been to 30 of the states in the U.S. and over 15 countries; when she's not eating her way around the world, Jordan is a chef and culinary instructor in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Bon appetit, Cosmos Mariners!

Experience the Magic of Glacier Bay, Alaska: Guest Post by Dirt In My Shoes

Good morning, lovely readers! I'm floating around somewhere in the Caribbean for my fifth anniversary cruise and enjoying every minute of it. I'm really excited to hand the blog over to Ash from Dirt In My Shoes today because she's had some amazing adventures in parts of the U.S. that I haven't visited. Plus, her posts are peppered with gorgeous photos! 

Enjoy her guest post about one of Alaska's most beautiful national parks. See you in a week!

Hello, fellow Mariners!  My name is Ash and I write over at Dirt In My Shoes.  Because I am a former park ranger, I love to help people create unforgettable memories and experiences in our beautiful National Parks.

I was blessed to live and work in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, and I truly believe it is one of the most magical places on this earth.  Nowhere else is as wild with the sheer beauty that comes from being untouched by the human hand.  It took my breath away just to stand and watch the forces of Mother Nature hard at work, shifting and shaping the landscape.  The grand and majestic glaciers move with such force that the rocks and the trees bow down to their power.  Living creatures dot every inch of the region, some big and some small, that make me grateful to be a part of this incredible world.

The thing that people always said was that they wished that they had made it to Glacier Bay sooner, and that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them.  Although I can’t get you on a plane and take you there, I can provide you with these 5 things to do to experience the magic of Glacier Bay!

1.  Go Halibut Fishing
Halibut fishing with Forrest Braden of True North Sportfishing
I am not much of a fisherwoman, but I could not pass up the opportunity to go fishing in the Alaskan Seas.  I will never forget the feeling of reeling in not only one, but TWO fish that each weighed in at half of my body weight.  What a grueling process trying to wrestle those things into the boat.  Oh yeah, and then there was this time that a very rude sea lion ate my fish while I was reeling it in.  My heart was pounding frantically.  Halibut fishing in Glacier Bay is an experience that will forever be etched in my memory.

Fishing is a part of life for all who live or lived near Glacier Bay.  The area was once inhabited by members of the Huna Tlingit Tribe, who were long ago displaced by the glaciers creeping through the waters and onto their land.  Even today, they depend on the ocean and its creatures to stay alive, and you can feel that reverence and respect being passed down to all who visit.

2.  Hike to the Bartlett River

Not many hiking trails exist in Glacier Bay, so the Bartlett River Trail was one that I hiked often.  I enjoyed weaving through a forest of old trees covered in a blanket of moss, listening to the warble of the birds perched high above me.  In the distance, I loved hearing the occasional crunch of a moose making its way through the brush.  And then there is the river.  That gorgeous river with such crystal clear water you can see every detail of the salmon swimming under its surface.

This was one of my favorite areas to just sit and watch and listen, taking it all in.  We need more places like this in the world.  Somewhere that we can truly experience nature.

3.  Explore the Intertidal Zone

The tides at Glacier Bay are a force to be reckoned with and something that should not be taken lightly.  Land that is exposed at one time of day can be completely immersed by feet of water within a few short hours.  At low tide, the area that was once covered in water becomes entirely visible and dozens of unique creatures can be found.  My favorites were the starfish and the sea urchins, but sometimes I would see things that I never knew even existed on this earth.

My supervisor at Glacier Bay was one of the first Rescue Swimmers for the Coast Guard.  He was actually interviewed for the movie The Guardian and was a great inspiration to me.  The most memorable piece of advice I learned from him was to take time to get down on your hands and knees and appreciate the smallest things before you.  While appreciating the small things, the big things start to make more sense.  That is how I felt peering into those tide pools, and that is why everyone needs to experience the intertidal zone at Glacier Bay.

4.  Kayak in Bartlett Cove

The magic of Glacier Bay is best seen from the water.  Kayaking gives you a chance to be close to the many animals that call this place home, and gives you a greater appreciation for the landscape that surrounds you.  I had some incredible encounters with marine wildlife from my kayak.  I felt the spray from a humpback whale, was playfully followed by a seal, had harbor porpoises swimming underneath me, and was caught in the middle of an otter play-time.

Harbor porpoises that were following me around in my kayak

Being on the water is a humbling experience as you submit to Mother Nature and her tidal mood swings.  In a way, you almost feel out of control because you never know what is going to happen.  Often, I wouldn’t even paddle.  It was so invigorating to be surrounded by so much beauty and to truly allow myself to be taken by surprise.

5.  See the Glaciers
Reid Glacier

Well, you can’t visit Glacier Bay without seeing any glaciers!  Have you ever seen a glacier calve and heard the thunderous roar that the ice makes as it drops into the sea?  You need to visit the Margerie Glacier and just wait in patience to witness this glorious sight.  

Margerie Glacier

Next, be sure to snap a photo of the Johns Hopkins Glacier with its dramatic mountain backdrop and seals hanging out on the drifting ice.  Then, if you are really lucky, you will be able to see the Reid Glacier from the shore at low tide, getting up close to appreciate its vastness.

Each glacier in Glacier Bay has its own personality and characteristics.  Taking a boat tour of the Bay will help you get to know the massive sheets of ice that give this beautiful National Park its name.  You will be awe-struck and inspired.

Thanks for joining me on this magical tour of Glacier Bay National Park.  While these 5 things are guaranteed to provide you some amazing experiences, I’ve got a few more ideas for you up my sleeve!  I am happy to help you plan your visit so be sure to keep in touch!

Make sure to show Ash and her fantastic blog some love!

Cruising into Our Fifth Wedding Anniversary

I first met my husband Landon in August 2003. We were freshmen, and he was helping my roommate move into our room.
Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
November 2003, just a few months after we started dating (the first time)

I didn't know it then, but seven years, many breakups (one that lasted over two years), and an engagement (to another person) later, Landon and I would get engaged. 

And unlike my first engagement, this one would actually stick. I'd still be petrified at the thought of getting married, and I'd seriously consider my dad's offer to go get ice cream rather than walk down the aisle, but I'd go through with it. And be so, so happy I did. 

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Getting hitched, May 2010

I've now known Landon almost half of my lifetime. We've watched one another grow from headstrong, stubborn teenagers into well-rounded, responsible adults (who are both still pretty headstrong--and stubborn). We've bought two houses together and supported one another as we began parenthood. 

We've traveled as much as our jobs, student loans, and budgets would allow since we've been married. We've ziplined in St. Maarten, explored Scotland, snorkeled in the Bahamas, watched plays on London's West End, and traveled all over the Southeast

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Edinburgh Castle, 2011

For our honeymoon, we decided to go on a cruise through the eastern Caribbean: I'd just finished my graduate program, and I wanted nothing more than to relax for a few days. That week-long trip allowed us to learn about one another's travel habits (good and bad!) since we hadn't done much traveling with one another while we'd dated.  

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Honeymoon cruise, 2010

We enjoyed ourselves so much on that trip that we've made the anniversary trip an annual tradition. We went to Jekyll Island, Georgia, Balsam, North Carolina, and St. Petersburg, Florida, for our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th anniversaries, respectively--they were smaller trips, but just as much fun. 

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Jekyll Island, Georgia, 2011

Now, five years into this marriage gig, we're headed back out on another cruise--but this time, we're going to the western Caribbean. Even though the locations are different, I hope we manage as much relaxation and fun as we did on our honeymoon cruise. 

Since I'm going all out on this trip and making it a real vacation, I won't be working next week. (Plus, have you seen how much wifi is on a cruise ship!?!) 

However, I am leaving the blog in the hands of some very competent guest bloggers while I'm lazing by the pool and soaking up some sun, so show them some love next week. I'll be back to life as usual on Monday, June 1 with lots of pictures, stories, and adventures from our Caribbean cruising. 

Happy 5th anniversary to us! 

How do you celebrate your anniversary? Have you taken a cruise? How did you like it?

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History, Picnics, and a Surrey with the Fringe on Top: Fort De Soto, Florida

In between checking out of Cay Pointe Villa in Indian Rocks and checking into the Plaza Beach Hotel in St. Pete Beach, we had a few hours to kill. Most people would've headed straight to the nearest public beach access, but I'm not most people.

Instead, we headed to Fort De Soto, a park that sits at the mouth of Tampa Bay. It is the largest of the Pinellas County Parks and straddles five small islands.

When I'd written an intro about where we were going on our Superior Small Lodging road trip, I had several readers write in and tell me that Fort De Soto was not to be missed. When we had that free morning, I knew exactly where I would take Landon and Britton.

At first glance, the park was quiet with only a few bicyclists making use of the path. But as we drove further in, we began to notice all of the different things we could do. There were kayak rentals, a self-guided fort tour, six miles of beaches, a fishing pier, picnic areas and a little cafe just off the fort.

Normally, I would've headed straight to the historical stuff since that's my Achilles heel, but Landon and I had promised our toddler that she could ride a bike.

Of course, with her tiny legs and toddler coordination (or lack thereof), we didn't actually expect her to ride her own bike, but we were hoping that there would be a carry-on option for her. We lucked up and found that there were two and four person surreys, which absolutely delighted Britton to no end.

Landon and I loaded up the surrey with some snacks, drinks, and a picnic lunch, and headed out on the biking trails. Britton loved zooming along (at 5 MPH) with the wind in her face while Landon and I huffed and puffed. We needed a little exercise after all of the delicious food we'd tried on the trip.

First, we biked along the historical trails, where we saw some of the ruins from the military encampment that was once there. While the area was first scouted in the mid-1800s as a possible military defense spot, it wasn't until 1898 that the buildings and fort were constructed. Although the post house, cafeteria and barracks aren't standing any longer, there are markers outlining where each building used to be.

After we'd been doodling around in the surrey (with the fringe on top) for about an hour, Britton started hollering about lunch. We pulled into the nearest picnic area, plunked our cooler down, and enjoyed our food with only the waves and the birds as company.

Our bike rental was up after lunch, so we had to head back and return it.

Next, we headed to the fort, which (unlike the out buildings) is still is great shape. When it was being built, there was an issue with the stones that were being sent from the North down to Florida. Rather than wait for the delayed building stones, the workers decided to make use of the plentiful shells around the island to construct the walls and ceiling of the fort.

With walls that range from 8 to 20 feet deep and ceilings that are 5 feet thick, this place was built to last. Yet, the fort has never been in any battles and the weapons have never been fired! The men assigned to Fort De Soto didn't see any conflict--unless you count the hordes of mosquitos that harassed them day and night. The bugs were so bad that they even made it into the post quartermaster's report in the early 1900s. Yikes.

We perused the fort, ducking in a few of the rooms and reading the plaques that we came across. Along the way, we found this little girl had been thrown in the clinker for excessive noise, but we were feeling nice and posted bail.

It wasn't the longest trip, but we managed to pack a good bit in. I wish we'd had more time to play on the beaches or bike around more. Fort De Soto is definitely worth a stop if you're in the St. Pete area!

Do you like visiting county or national parks on your trips? Which activity would you have liked doing at Fort De Soto the most?


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Road Trip Stop #3: Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

For our third and final stop on our Florida road trip, we packed up the car and headed south to St. Pete Beach. Throughout our adventures, which took us from Pass-a-Grille all the way to Clearwater Beach, we'd passed through St. Pete Beach multiple times, but hadn't slowed down to take it in.

After stays in two of the area's quieter locales, we were excited to see what it would be like in the middle of the action at the Plaza Beach Hotel.

Situated along Gulf Boulevard in the heart of St. Pete Beach, the Plaza Beach Hotel is in an enviable position--it's steps from the beach, yet it is within walking distance of multiple restaurants, ice cream shops, putt-putt golf places, and the nearest Publix.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

If you plan on just enjoying the resort and beach, there's little need for you to get in the car during your stay since everything around it is so close.

We had one of their bottom floor rooms (109) that was on the non-parking lot side of the building.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

It came with two queen beds, a large wardrobe area, and a kitchenette.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

The room was plenty for the three of us, but if I'd come with older kids, I think I would've wanted to get adjoining rooms. There were only three chairs at the kitchen table, so having more options for eating would be great with larger families.

Everything (both in the room and out) was fun, funky, and colorful with a unique beachy kitsch that definitely set this place apart! Furthermore, the room was extremely clean, which cannot be an easy task for the housekeeping staff since the hotel is situated right on the beach.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

The one thing that we didn't love about the room was that we didn't have an oven included. We worked around it using the microwave and oven, but it would've been nice to throw our chicken in an oven to cook. Still, I doubt that many people are coming to the beach to bake and cook that much, so the lack of oven shouldn't stop you from visiting.

Since this was a much larger hotel than the other two on our road trip, I didn't have as many opportunities to interact with the staff. That being said, everyone that I encountered was friendly, prompt in their responses, and eager to assist.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

When I first stopped by the hotel, our room wasn't ready, but the front desk clerk took my number and called me when it was prepared about an hour later. He helped me with directions to the nearest ice cream stand and Publix so we could stock up on necessary supplies while waiting for our room.

After I came back to the front office to get my room keys, the general manager, Robert, and the guest relations manager, Luanne, were there to welcome me. They both emphasized the fact that they, and the rest of the staff, was there to help if we needed anything.

Our housekeeper, Kat, was very sweet and gladly gave us extra towels after we used all of ours at the pool and beach.

For a mid-sized hotel, Plaza Beach packs plenty into its grounds. The office has a computer cafe for all of those visitors who want to unplug as much as possible but still need access to a desktop for printing boarding passes and the like. There's also a coin-operated washer and dryer just outside the front office if you need to freshen up those vacation clothes.

We were given a wifi code at check-in, and I was able to work on my laptop and phone throughout the resort, even posting photos of the sunset from the beach! I know that wifi shouldn't be that important on a beach trip, but I'm always appreciative when I can access my email.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

In terms of entertainment, you're spoiled for choice here: there's a nicely sized pool that goes to 6 feet (nearly unheard of these days), shuffleboard, cornhole boards, a life-sized chess board, ladder golf equipment, hammocks, a few holes of putt-putt golf, children's beach toys, and (of course) the beach.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

If that's still not enough to keep you busy, there's a water sports hut out on the beach, where you can rent paddleboards and giant water tricycles, or arrange a parasailing tour.

Final Thoughts
This hotel, like the two we'd visited before, had such a unique vibe to it--one reason why I love supporting locally owned accommodations! The Plaza Beach Hotel had an old-school feel to it (in all the best ways) and reminded me of what it must have been like to stop at cute mom and pop places during the Golden Age of travel (back before chains and interstates!).

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

The Plaza Beach Hotel was quite a lively spot with patrons ranging from young families like ours to older couples from abroad to families with teenaged kids. It really was a great mix of people, and everyone was polite and friendly throughout our stay. While I was at the pool one day with Britton, I talked to a man and his teen son, who told me that they'd been to St. Pete Beach many times--and while they'd occasionally tried new places, they always came back to the Plaza Beach Hotel.

Plaza Beach Hotel, St. Pete Beach, Florida | CosmosMariners.com

The hotel isn't your cookie cutter chain hotel--and thank goodness for that!--and that quirky charm and stellar location will certainly keep people coming back for years!


Have you been to the St. Pete Beach area? Which part is your favorite? For a beach vacation, would you rather stay at a smaller, more relaxed place with fewer amenities, or a more upbeat, larger place with more amenities?

How to Choose Great Locally Owned Accommodations When You Travel

Over the years, I've stayed in many hotels. Some were awesome, some were so-so, and some had me worried that I wouldn't see the next sunrise.

One thing that I have learned along the way is that some of my favorite stays have been at locally owned and independently operated places: each is different, and your stay is more likely to leave an impression.

After all, how often do you think back and say, "Wow, those two nights in the Orlando area Hampton Inn were super stellar and unique"? Probably never since every Hampton Inn I've ever seen looked exactly the same.

If you're looking to break out of the mold of chain hotels, you're in luck, as there are some fantastic local places to call home while you're on the road. From 4-room bed and breakfasts to independent luxury resorts to someone's extra apartment on AirBnB, there's a huge range in what can be called "locally owned accommodations."

But how do you separate the delightful ones from the duds?

Thankfully, in this technological day and age, there are plenty of ways to research some independent lodging options. Here are great ways to choose a safe, clean, and memorable locally owned hotel:

6 Creative Ways to Preserve Your Travel Memories

6 Creative Ways to Preserve Your Travel Memories | CosmosMariners.com

You go, you have a blast, you take a ton of pictures.

Then, you come home. You might be proactive, downloading the pictures to your computer, printing them out, and carefully arraigning them in photo albums that you bought specifically for that purpose.

But more likely, those poor vacation pictures are still stuck on your computer (or your phone, or maybe even the camera!).

Don't leave them there: you need some exciting ways to preserve those travel memories. Everybody loves a new project, and the fun ideas below will allow you to relive the best parts of that amazing experience while getting all crafty at the same time.

Road Trip Stop #2: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

The morning we were scheduled to move from the Coconut Inn in Pass-a-Grille to our second stop of the Florida Superior Small Lodging road trip, we battled through pouring rain to pack the car. Thoroughly soaked, Landon and I were glad of the 30 minute drive up to Indian Rocks Beach, where Cay Pointe Villas awaited us. 

Just as the rain was starting to let up, we arrived in Indian Rocks Beach to find our next place to try out. Would Cay Pointe Villas be the ray of sunshine we needed on such a dreary day?

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

To make a long story short, it was everything we could have wanted and more! Read on to find out more about this great beachfront property and the people who made our stay so special.

Back in the late '60s and early '70s, developers began to purchase some of the area's old beach homes, knock them down, and use the space for large condo buildings. When a developer approached Lynn Timberlake's parents, they refused to sell their family's beach house.

The developer told the Timberlakes that he'd already bought the property to the left of the home, and that he was also going to buy the property to the right of the house, essential sandwiching their home in between two large condo buildings.

The developer ended up messing with the wrong family, as the Timberlakes outbid the developer on the property to the right of their home. With this extra space, the family decided to try and preserve a bit of this beautiful stretch of beach; in 1972, they opened Cay Pointe Villas.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com
Cay Pointe Villas is to the left, and the Timberlakes' original home is the grey one to the right.

The original owners' daughter, Lynn, now runs the place, along with her two resident managers, Carol and Bill. The three of them make a stay here feel more like you're visiting a favorite family member instead of staying at a vacation property.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

Indian Rocks Beach is a much quieter part of the St. Pete Beach/ Clearwater area--Gulf Boulevard narrows to two lanes, and the buildings don't reach the skyscraper proportions that they do further north.

Tucked among the personal homes, smaller condo properties, and locally-owned restaurants is this gem of a getaway: Cay Pointe Villas.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

Even though Indian Rocks Beach is quieter than Clearwater or St. Pete Beach, you're still minutes away from Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, Fort De Soto, and grocery stores.

It's not fair to call what we stayed in a room--it was a complete apartment! In fact, the three bedroom, one bath apartment was close in size to our first townhouse. We loved the full kitchen and used it to cook throughout our stay.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

The three bedrooms were all nicely sized: there was a queen in the master bedroom, and a twin (with trundle) in each of the other two rooms.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

The bathroom was quite large, and I could've easily shared it with Landon, Britton, and another family member or two during a longer stay.

There were plenty of comfy chairs in the living room and a flat screen TV, which we didn't watch much since the beach was right there!

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

And the best part of all? The wide porch that overlooks the ocean. There's a table in the kitchen, but we couldn't resist eating inside when there was outside dining space available. We ate every meal out there, relaxed after coming in from the beach, and looked at the stars--all from the comfort of our private porch.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

When I went into the resident managers' office to check in, Carol and Bill not only greeted me to Cay Pointe, but also ushered me in for a quick tour of their apartment. Carol brought cold bottled water for my daughter while we were out on the beach, and let us borrow her sunscreen and snorkeling goggles. When Bill was in the apartment next to us, he come out onto the porch and chatted with us while we were sitting on our own porch.

When we left, Carol sent us off with hugs and well wishes. I'd come back to the property just for the hospitality that she, Bill, and the owner, Lynn, showed us.

From the moment we arrived to the minute we drove off, the team at Cay Pointe made us feel as if we were family or long lost friends who'd stopped by for a visit. They run it as a home, not as a hotel, and that makes a huge difference to the feel of the place. I don't know when I've stayed in a property where I felt so welcomed!

When the ocean is just outside your door, you don't need many other amenities! While the beach access and view is definitely the major draw here at Cay Pointe Villas, Lynn and her team have done everything they can to make your stay as nice as possible.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

There are beach toys available for the little ones, several of which Britton gladly tested out while we were there. Carol, one of the resident managers, sweeps the beach in front of the property every morning, so you don't have to worry about seaweed or trash when you're laying out your blanket. The office also has sun hats, children's books, and paperbacks that guests are welcome to borrow.

Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

On the back porch, there are plenty of chairs on which to relax, read, or work (if you have to do such a blasphemous thing here!). Because the property is on a quiet, protected part of the beach, you might see some of the resident curly-tailed lizards or a beautiful heron, both of which frequent the patio area.
Your Beach Home away from Home: Cay Pointe Villas, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida |  CosmosMariners.com

Final Thoughts
Without a doubt, I would return here. While we were enjoying our time at Cay Pointe, Landon and I kept saying things like, "Wouldn't it be nice to bring our parents here?" or "Can you imagine having a family vacation here?" This was Landon's favorite property of the three we stayed in, and he's still talking about going back again, nearly two weeks later.

It really is the perfect spot for several families to all rent--and that's a popular way to rent the properties, Lynn told me.

If you don't have a beachfront home, Cay Pointe Villas is as close as you can get without buying a property yourself. Join the family on your next vacation, and tell Carol, Bill, and Lynn that I sent you!

What would you like about this property? Do you prefer to vacation with immediate family, extended family or friends?

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