Sandals Ochi Beach

Disclosure: We were provided with two free day passes to the resort, however all opinions on Sandals Ochi Beach are my own.

Back in November when I sailed on the Carnival Vista, one of our stops was to Jamaica. I knew they had a Sandals resort there, and so I was really excited to spend the day exploring, in hopes of coming back for longer one day. The weather was dreary, but we still had a great time and I learned a lot about Sandals Ochi Beach resort!

This place has a beach club, 11 bars, and 16(!!) restaurants. You can take the shuttle to the other side of the road for more fun. Tranquil, lush gardens and quiet relaxing places to read or just enjoy your surroundings. This place has something for everyone!

Of course when you stay at Sandals Ochi you get top notch service such as free wifi, free airport transfers, unlimited land and water sports, unlimited wines and premium spirits, unlimited fine dining, golf, and access to the beach club where there are so many activities going on all day and into the night.

We were given a tour when we arrived, and this place is HUGE. I don’t think if I stayed for a month I could do all the things there are to do. So for those worried about getting bored at an all inclusive, that’s definitely not an issue here!

I loved the laid back atmosphere of the resort. No one was in a hurry, everyone was happy and relaxed, and it was so peaceful. The first thing we did was enjoy a breakfast buffet overlooking the ocean. I was handed a mimosa, and thought “I can get used to this!”

We enjoyed out food and the excellent customer service from the staff before heading to the pool to relax and enjoy some drinks. We ended up at the Beach Club area and at the swim up pool bar (so nice) where they will make you pretty much anything you want. I had a great time trying different drinks I normally wouldn’t order, and listening to the music as we looked out at the water.

Everyone was so friendly and we enjoyed chatting with other couples from all over the place. Some have been back several times which speaks very highly of Sandals Ochi Beach. Before we knew it, it was lunch time, so we headed back to the buffet area (there were other options as well) and enjoyed another meal overlooking the water, and I tried the drink of the day which was delicious.

After lunch I spent some time exploring the grounds and taking photos. I still didn’t have time to even take photos of everything!

I was jealous of everyone who got to stay there overnight when we had to go back to the ship.

I definitely would love to come back here, or try out another Sandals property, and actually be an overnight guest and experience more the resorts have to offer. I would also love a sunny day (haha).

If you are considering an all inclusive, I highly recommend Sandals Ochi Beach. There is something for everyone, and there are even direct flights from many airports. They have accommodations for all budgets, and activities and experiences you won’t soon forget. I know I was just there for a few hours, but I know I won’t forget the fun we had in Jamaica.

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Pppssst: If you are sailing here on a cruise ship, they offer a limited amount of day passes, which is what we had, so you can go check out the resort for yourself!

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Clearwater Uncorked 2017 Review

Disclosure: I attended the festival free of charge, however all opinions are my own.

The Clearwater Beach Uncorked festival takes place right on the beach next to Clearwater’s famous Pier 60. It’s a fabulous time to enjoy amazing food, drinks, and weather (December in central Florida is the best!) I had the opportunity to attend the festival for the first time, and it did not disappoint. 

Bobby and I checked in and were given media passes as well as some goodies before meeting up for a special presentation. The weather was PERFECT and I couldn’t wait to see all the fun things this day would bring.

The way the festival works is there are general admission passes and VIP passes for purchase. VIP’s get access to the tasting village at noon, while everyone else waits until 1:00. VIP’s also had access to an outdoor lounge by the pool at the Wyndham across the street. The lounge was open from 1:00-5:00, and the tasting village was open until 4:00. Media got to sneak in early before the madness and take some photos and here all about chocolates and desserts.

We toasted to the festival with the most adorable bottles of champagne.

And were treated to the most delicious chocolates I have ever tasted from Norman Love. (My favorite was the almond and chocolate one, I’m trying to figure out how to get my hands on more as we speak!)

We also heard from Norman himself.

Cake pops were also had by all (red velvet was delicious!)

After the dessert indulgence, it was time for us to work backwards and start tasting all the food and beverages in the tent.

There were so many options we really didn’t know where to start! Everyone was so friendly and answered all of our questions.

When I saw someone handing these bad boys out, I was so pumped. What a perfect invention! It was hard to eat and hold your drink at the same time, so, problem solved!

After awhile we decided to head over to the outdoor VIP lounge at the Wyndham across the street.

Patron popsicles? Yes please! I may have had more than one…

Again, so many options, and generous portions and as many seconds (or thirds) as you wanted!

Again, the weather was so perfect and the location was on point, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day with great food and great (and some new!) friends.

My only wish would be that it was open longer! I didn’t get a chance to visit all the booths because there were just too many and we only had four hours. I vote for opening an hour early next year. That would be my only criticism. 🙂

If you have the chance to go to Clearwater Uncorked next year, I would highly recommend it, totally worth the money. I have gone to a lot of events in the short year I have been in Tampa, but this one is near, if not at the top of the list!

To see more photos from the event search hashtags #UncorkedWeekend and #CLBU17. Fair warning, it will make you hungry!

Residence Inn Clearwater Beach

Over the weekend, Bobby and I were in Clearwater for a local beach festival, and were invited to stay at the new Residence Inn Clearwater Beach. If you follow me on social media, you may remember we attended the ribbon cutting for this gorgeous property last month. I was so excited to get to stay here after seeing the spacious rooms and pool at the ribbon cutting!

Our studio king room did not disappoint. It was HUGE and had a full kitchen plus living room and sleeping area with a very modern but cozy vibe. Plenty of room for a family to spread out.

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The kitchen had a stove, microwave, dishwasher, and refrigerator. There were even bar stools at the counter if you wanted to sit and enjoy a meal.

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There was plenty of space going into the bedroom area, and the television swiveled so you could view it from the living room or bed. (Not going to lie, we may have eaten dinner in bed while watching football!)

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My favorite has got to be the modern bathroom. It has a huge shower and ample space for storing your things. There is even a little hallway going into the bathroom with drawers and a counter to put your things (or your suitcase) on, as well as a closet. it was nice and bright and we had plenty of towels, which is always a bonus.

The best part about this property is the proximity to the beach. We were a block away from the sugar white sands, and we could even see it from our room! No need to use your car, it’s so walkable here to everything from shops to restaurants to of course, the famous Pier 60.

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Something special that this hotel offers is a gorgeous rooftop infinity pool overlooking the bay. What a set up!

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There is also a free breakfast, a fitness room, conference rooms, and valet parking. Everyone we encountered was so friendly, and we had a great stay. I hope to come back and visit this hotel soon, so I can enjoy it and all that Clearwater Beach has to offer.

Disclosure: I received a free night stay for my review, however all opinions are my own.

Adventures in House Hunting + a Hurricane

Last Tuesday, my friend Kelley and I left Mississippi bright and early and headed to Florida. We were going to check out homes in neighborhoods where Bobby and I are going to move, which is TAMPA! I already shared this news yesterday with my email subscribers, but figured it was time to let you guys in on it as well. 🙂 We are looking north of Tampa, to be precise. So anyway,  we drove, and we drove, and we drove. It was a gorgeous day, so it was hard to believe a hurricane was coming.

How cool is this rest stop? It has a “stretch your legs” trail!

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We finally made it to Clearwater after 10:00 at night. We stayed at the Sheraton Sand Key and really liked it. It’s right on the beach (well you have to walk out a bit but no big deal). Too bad it was chilly and overcast. It didn’t stop us from sitting out there a few hours anyway!

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We eventually ventured up to the pool before grabbing lunch and meeting with my awesome realtor.

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Our plan was to look at homes all afternoon and into the early evening since we were going to head out Thursday afternoon instead of Friday because of hurricane Matthew. We saw some great houses and neighborhoods. After awhile they just all start running together though!

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This pool was awesome but unfortunately the rest of the house was not.

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How cool is this kid’s super hero room?!?

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Loved this kitchen but the neighborhood would be way too long of a commute for Bobby.

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We even rode a golf cart in one neighborhood.

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That night we hit up a restaurant in Clearwater before turning in for the night.

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The next day we were up early again for more house hunting. The Sheraton was so awesome and let us cancel out last night and refunded us no problem because of the hurricane. It was super simple and we were so grateful.

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We loaded up my SUV and were just going to meet the realtor at the first house that morning. Well, the directions I put into my map app on my iPhone were not exactly right. They took us through these back roads and down a dirt road where we came across this gentleman. We then went down ANTOHER dirt road and Siri told us to get out and walk to our destination. OMG. I felt like we were in a horror movie where the two young girls get led down a series of winding dirt roads to their deaths. We couldn’t stop laughing!

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We finally made it back to a main road and found where we were going, but whew what a way to start the morning. We saw gorgeous new neighborhood and some model homes, and then made it out of the area heading north just as the first rain bands started.

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Someone please explain the below photo?

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We had a LOT of traffic headed up 75 to I-10, and I-10 was basically gridlocked all the way to Talahassee. What should have taken us 6 hours took well over 7, and I was over it by the time we finally got to Destin around 7:15 that evening. We very much deserved good food and drinks so we headed to Rockin’ Tacos which was delicious.

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The next morning, we woke up to SUNSHINE! We were finally going to get some beach time. We were legit out on the beach by 7:45 in the morning, and we laid in the sun until around 12:15 when we finally packed up the car and had to head back to Mississippi.

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Hello sugar white sands! Oh how I missed you.

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It was totally worth driving in the traffic to get to Destin for a morning at the beach. Also it was nice to break up the 11 hour drive into two parts coming back.

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My friend Kelley was SO super sweet to spend her vacation time with me looking for houses and neighborhoods. She in her last year of residency at the hospital and could have been doing a million other things with her limited time off, but she chose to help me out.  I think I may have killed anyone else in the car for that long but we talked, listened to awesome playlists, and made it work. We also may have eaten at Chipotle twice. She had never been so I thought it was necessary. We had a great time and now I feel more confident as we narrow down where to live in just a few short weeks, so hopefully our house sells soon!

QOTD: What is your favorite beach? Do you like house hunting?

Disney Fantasy Cruise 2016: Mr. Sanchos

We woke up the next day in Cozumel. We have been to Cozumel many times before on previous cruises, and we typically go to the same beach, but wanted to try somewhere different this time. I had heard great things about Mr. Sanchos through various message boards, so we decided to give it a try. Mr. Sanchos is an all inclusive beach club that has  pools, drinks, tons of food, the beach, free wi-fi, and many other amenities. It is kid friendly, and open every day except Sunday.

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We were so stoked to go bask in the sun and drink fruity drinks all day…until we woke up to a storm. When I say it was raining…it was raining, yall.

In true Disney fashion, we were handed awesome ponchos as we exited the ship. We trudged up the pier in the driving rain, getting soaked along the way. We made it to a taxi, and were headed to the beach. As soon as we got to our destination, it stopped raining! This was a miracle because it was supposed to rain all day.

Excited to get going, we headed to the entrance and were greeted by our server for the day. We were told what was included for us, and what was extra (the inflatable water toys are extra but because of the weather, they didn’t even have them out, also things like massages, hair braiding, wave runners, snorkeling, and horseback riding were extra.) If you don’t want to go the all inclusive route, there are al la carte options as well.

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You get a LOT of stuff for the price! I am married to a garbage disposal, so I knew he would eat over $55.00 in food alone, and well, I like my fruity drinks. We were shown around, and explained that there was a buffet but we could also order from the menu. Because of the weather, there were not many people there, which was fine with us! There were plenty of lounge chairs and tables with adorable straw umbrellas.

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We set up our little spot at a table, and ordered our first round of drinks as well as some chips and guacamole.

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The drinks are good, yall. I didn’t taste a ton of alcohol, but they were delicious. My favorite was the Blue Sea. The chips and guac were amazing as well. II t was so nice to know we didn’t have to look at food prices all day!

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I decided to take a walk around to get some photos while Bobby read a book. Also, the free wi-fi is up by the buffet under a giant pavilion, so I brought my ipad up there to check my email and text my mom to check on the wee one.

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I also checked out the bathroom which were very clean, for those wanting to know (this is always important to me!) In fact, everything was very clean on the whole property.

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The pool looked really awesome with the bar at it and there were tables and chairs IN the pool which I thought was neat.

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Anyone care to swing?

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Hammock for a nap maybe?

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Our server was very attentive and balanced that very hard line between coming to check on us too much and not enough, he really did a great job.

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After a little reading we ordered some more food. I got the quesadillas, Bobby got the shrimp tacos as well as coconut shrimp, and I got more of the delicious guacamole and a bottle of water.

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We also ended up ordering a couple other things but I can’t remember now, however everything was tasty!

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We left around 3:30 as all aboard for the boat was 4:45 and we still wanted to shop for some tequila. One thing to note is as you walk in and out you have to pass by a bunch of people trying to sell you things and some were kind of…persistent, and I just told them no thank you, but just a heads up for those who get anxious by those types of things. Some ladies came around a couple of times asking if we wanted a massage or hair braiding and we politely declined. They weren’t annoying or pushy though which was nice.

Would I go back here? Absolutely! Hopefully on a sunny day, and I would ask for double shots in my drinks. When I weighed out the price of the food and drinks alone, we would have spent more than $55 a person, not to mention the use of the facilities and what was super important to me, the free wi-fi. It’s great to be able to check in on work or family without paying the ridiculously high prices for data on board the ship!

All in all we had a great day at Mr. Sanchos despite the weather. If anyone has any questions about it I would be happy to answer! (Be sure to follow them on Facebook for updates and great beach pictures!)

QOTD: Have you ever been to a beach all inclusive? What do you do on a rainy port day on a cruise?

Disclosure: I was provided with two complimentary day passes from Mr. Sanchos, however all opinions are my own.

Beach Trip 2015: Day 3-5

In case you missed part one and part two, you can check them out before reading today’s installment.

I combined the next days because, well….we did pretty much the same thing! We got up, stuffed our faces with a delicious breakfast overlooking the beach, then Bobby left for his meetings, and my parents and I hit the beach.

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After lunch with Bobby, we all went to the beach.

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Then of course, happy hour.

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We had dinner scheduled at the Beach Walk Café, the nice restaurant at the Inn. We got dressed then walked over for our reservation.

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I started off with a blackberry martini which was delicious!

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I had the filet with mac ‘n cheese, and it was very tender, and the mac ‘n cheese was my favorite.

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Bobby had the lobster tail, and got a side of the mac ‘n cheese.

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My dad had the catch of the day, and my mom had shrimp ‘n grits. Everything was SO good and rich and we were stuffed after.  However, we still had enough room to all split a slice of peanut butter chocolate cheesecake made in house. Heavenly.

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The next morning my parents packed up and went home and I was pretty sad because we had such an amazing time. I hung out at the beach reading by myself until Bobby got back from class, then we ate lunch and headed back for our last bit of time on the beach.

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Some dark clouds rolled in in the afternoon, but it never actually rained. We enjoyed one more happy hour, and went to dinner down the street.

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Afterwards we went for a walk on the beach and the clouds cleared up just enough for a beautiful sunset. We also saw the Beach Walk Café setting up for “toes in the sand”, which is  ocean side dining with a private waiter. I want to do this one day!

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We sat on a swing and watched the sun go down one last time in Destin.

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Then, because we are old people, we headed up to the room for bed. Sad times.

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The next morning we enjoyed our last delicious Henderson Park Inn bed and breakfast before packing up and going home. We had an amazing trip, and I think that makes it even harder to leave! I was however glad to get home to family and routine, but I do hope we get to go back to Henderson Park Inn very soon!

QOTD: Have you ever dined next to the water? Favorite place to watch a sunset?

Beach Trip 2015: Day 2

If you missed the recap of our first day you can check it out here.

The next morning was Monday, and I was super excited about breakfast at the Inn. Yall, I wait all year for this delicious all you can eat wonderful spread.

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Made to order omelets and waffles, grits, biscuits and gravy, sausage, potatoes, bacon, tons of fruit, yogurt, cereal, you name it. After eating approximately 2.5 times my weight in food, Bobby headed off to his meetings and my parents and I headed to the beach. It was really cloudy, but the forecast said it was supposed to clear up around lunch, and I had faith it would.

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My dad kept saying “no way, It’s too cloudy!” but I stood firm in my amazing meteorological skills.

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I also laughed a lot at mom and dad playing badminton.

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At lunchtime we went up to the dining room, grabbed our boxed lunches and waited for Bobby to come back. We ate, and sure enough, the sun came out!

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YAY!

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Bobby and my dad threw the Frisbee, and I threw the football with my dad (and can I just say my arm killed the next day!)IMG_6284 (2)

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We stayed on the beach all afternoon, well until happy hour, of course.

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We got cleaned up ad went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday a few days early. We ate at Captain Daves which is right on the beach. We were all way too full and stuffed to walk on the beach when we came back so all us old pathetic folks went to bed at 9:00.

QOTD: When you go to the beach do you eat out or cook in a condo, or a mix of both?

Coming Soon: The Henderson

Destin Florida has been a favorite vacation spot of mine for many years. I have great memories of staying in a condo steps from the sugar white sands, staying out in the sun all day and playing board games with my family at night (I know, I was a super cool teenager).

As I got older and then got married, our tastes and wants in a beach vacation changed, and we quickly fell in love with Henderson Park Inn, a wonderful adults only bed and breakfast right on the beach that is a part of the Southern Living Hotel collection. We have been guests of the Inn for the past three summers, so you can imagine my surprise when an email hit my inbox at the beginning of the year outlining a new hotel to be built right behind my beloved Henderson Park Inn. I had a moment of panic, followed by several questions.

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We went to Destin for our annual stay last week, and I am happy to report that the Innkeeper, Ryan Olin, put my fears to rest, and actually got me..dare I say….excited about the great things coming to the property. I sat down with him one afternoon to discuss the new resort, and I had quite the list of questions. Thankfully, Ryan had a great answer for every one of them, and then some. Follow along as I tell you about the newest addition to the beautiful Destin skyline…The Henderson.

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The Henderson will open in the summer of 2016 as a five diamond resort managed by Salamander, who is known for amazing dining and spa experiences. It will boast 171 rooms, a spa with 11 treatment rooms, two pools including an adults only area, a lazy river, a bar, restaurant, and beach access.

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This beautiful upscale resort will also include amenities such as free shuttle service to and from the airport, complimentary cars to take you around Destin, and tram service to the beach walkway 24 hours a day. Every room will have a balcony, and a smart TV. This place is going to be so nice! Think of it as a “beach club” experience. There will be chair and umbrella service, a pool bar, water and beach recreation, and lots of attention to detail.

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On top of all of this, the Henderson will be home to 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space, something that is lacking in Destin. There will be private ballrooms, boardrooms, and 30,000 square feet of outdoor space to host private parties, weddings, and corporate functions. (Hello vow renewal?!?)

Guests of the Inn like myself were concerned about what that means for the adults only establishment that I consider one of Destin’s best kept secrets. I was assured time and time again that great strides will be taken to ensure the tranquility of the 35 room Bed and Breakfast remains intact. The guests of the new hotel will have beach access, but not free reign of the Inn itself, but instead designated areas and walkways (however, guests of the Inn will have use of the pools at the new resort!).

Ryan showed me exactly where the walkway will go along the side of the Inn’s property down to the beach, and we talked about gates, security, concierges, and making sure everyone remains happy at the Inn, and at The Henderson.

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I know some people have a large family, or prefer to do some of their own cooking on vacation, so there is something for everyone coming! Ryan told me about a condo building that is in the works as well to be completed at the end of 2016. There will be  one and two bedroom units near to The Henderson, with beach access as well. These condos will be available for purchase pretty soon from what I hear.

The news of the new resort is exciting not just because it’s going to be gorgeous and fancy, but because this is something that you won’t find anywhere else in Destin. This place will be the nicest new hotel you will find from New Orleans all the way to Tampa, and the most grand hotel built in all of Florida in the past five years.

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I personally cannot wait to see everything come to fruition from renderings to reality, and hopefully enjoy The Henderson for myself in the future.

Be sure to follow along on their Facebook page for updates!

QOTD: What do you look for in a beach hotel?

Beach Trip 2015: Day 1

We woke up early Sunday morning to drive down to the beach. We had thunderstorms and heavy rain most of the way down, which is not something you care to drive through on your way to the beach. We finally arrived after lunch and my parents were already there. We checked into the Henderson Park Inn in Destin, Florida, and our room was ready.

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It was still cloudy, but not raining, and the forecast looked good for the rest of the trip, hooray!

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We were in an executive suite on the second floor. They have so much room, and of course a great view (beach photo above was taken from our balcony).

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When we entered our room, there was music playing, and roses, grapes, and wine on our bed.

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We unloaded the car, caught up with my parents, and soon enough it was time for happy hour! Henderson Park Inn has daily happy hour from 4-5 for the guests in it’s 35 rooms. It’s up on the deck overlooking the beach.

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After hanging out at the tiki hut, Bobby and I went down to the beach to take some pictures in my new shoes ASICS sent me. The Gel Quantum 360 comes out July 15, and I wanted to get some shots in t hem to share on social media and my blog since the “gel” shoe is “jellyfish” (jelly =Gel-y) themed.

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We decided we didn’t feel like getting all dressed for dinner, so we ordered pizza and had them deliver it to the deck. We sat outside listening to the waves eating pizza. It was perfect! Later, we went for a walk on the beach.

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We were all tired from traveling so we hit the hay. Bobby and I managed to watch about half of a movie before I fell asleep. I needed my rest for a big day at the beach the next day, of course.

QOTD: What is your favorite beach to visit?

Packing List for the Beach

On Sunday Bobby and I leave for Destin, Florida for his annual conference. Today I started thinking about packing, and decided to write everything down, which led to the idea for this blog post. I know a lot of people heading to the beach so hopefully this will help spark something you may have forgotten to pack!

Please note I am not listing things you would bring on ANY trip with you like your toiletries, etc. but just more specifically for the actual beach. Enjoy!

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Packing for the Beach:

  • Sunscreen
  • Swimsuit
  • umbrella or tent
  • beach towels
  • hat
  • sunglasses
  • cooler (preferably with wheels or backpack style works well)
  • Frisbee/volleyball/buckets/beach toys
  • personal fan /batteries
  • bottled water/drinks
  • snacks
  • beach chairs
  • book/magazine
  • camera and memory card
  • beach bag
  • aloe vera/after sun lotion
  • lip balm with sun protectant in it
  • bug spray
  • beach cover up
  • flip flops/water shoes
  • snorkel gear/fins/floatation devices
  • flashlight (for nighttime, obviously)
  • bag for trash/empty bottles
  • mat or towel to set personal items on

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QOTD: What would you add to this list for a day at the beach? (and wow I just realized we bring a lot of stuff when we go to the beach!).