Going to Sanibel Island Again, Plus Other Obscure Beaches in Florida

This trip started out as just another beach getaway. There wasn’t anything special about it, and we weren’t flying to an exotic locale. Except, this time was different. On the day we were about to leave, my father-in-law found out that his heart is extremely weak and he could drop dead any day, according to his doctor. I’ll save you the suspense and reveal that he is still alive (for now), and currently trying to exercise and medicate his way out of it. But, needless to say, the mood on the way to Sanibel was quite somber. Everyone (except for the kids) was aware of the fact that this could indeed be our last trip together.

I’ve written about this Holiday Inn before, so you can go ahead and check out more photos if you wish. We didn’t get an upgrade because we were told the hotel was completely sold out. Platinum status didn’t do much for us this time, but I still stand by my claim that it is quite valuable (especially since it comes  free with Chase IHG MasterCard). The check-in person arranged for us to get  connecting rooms, which came in handy so we could swap kids back and forth.

I won’t focus on the room because, to be honest, there is nothing to write home/blog about. If you are into fancy travel, avoid this hotel like a plague! If you just want a clean place to crash and play with your kids, this Holiday Inn could fit the bill. BTW, I’m not being sarcastic here. I believe everyone should be happy on their vacation and stay where they want to stay. There are some things I’m not willing to do, like tent camping. That doesn’t make  me a snob, right? Right?

Upon arrival, we  discovered a nasty surprise. Due to stormy summer Florida weather, the beach was full of seaweed, the water was murky and the waves were rough. Not how I remembered it. Last time we went at the end of May, and the water was clear and calm. I strongly recommend you come here in the spring. It didn’t bother us too much since we are locals, plus we used our certificates from IHG promo “Into the nights” (now over). If I had to pay $170 per room/per night and spend money on airline tickets, I would have been disappointed.
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Of course, the kids still had  a blast, regardless. Also, thankfully, the hotel had a heated pool which was a hit with our entire family.

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When we were in the room, my son was constantly testing the strength and quality of the furniture. And by “testing” I mean he was trying to break everything in sight like he usually does. IMG_2827 We ended up getting breakfast on-site. As you are probably aware, Holiday Inn brand provides free food to children 12 and under, as long as  parents are staying in the hotel.  Award rate usually qualifies.

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We didn’t have time to do a  whole lot of sightseeing since we were only staying  2 nights, but we did get to drive further down to Captiva island (highly recommended). Lots of “fancy pants” homes and just relaxed, laid back atmosphere.

I don’t normally mention restaurants, but have to give a shout-out to George and Wendy’s Seafood grill Fantastic! I’m salivating just thinking about it. I got a swordfish special, and it was “da bomb.” The waiter was quite a character. As soon as he started talking to us, it was clear he was off-the-charts smart. That fact was confirmed when he didn’t have to write down any of our orders. And yet, he got all of them right. He told me his ex-wife is Lithuanian (borders Belarus, my native country). I didn’t ask for details on the “ex” part, though, I admit, I was curious.

This wraps up my trip report. Not much more to say other than I love Sanibel and plan to come back again. I think this is an excellent place to use renewal certificates from Chase IHG MasterCard, especially in peak season. Award rate runs at 35,000 points, a bit steep, though in spring, this hotel goes for more than $300 per night. So, considering the fact that you can get a 10% rebate on your points as a Chase IHG cardholder, it could make sense to burn them under those circumstances.

Right now, the official sign-up bonus on Chase IHG MasterCard is down to 60K points, but some have been able to get 80K points offer by logging into their IHG account and trying to make a reservation. My cousin-in-law applied for the lower offer (she couldn’t get the 80K offer to show up), but sent a secure message to Chase and they matched it. Overall, this is an excellent card, and I think every family should get it at some point. For $49 renewal fee, you get a free certificate which can be used at any IHG property worldwide, including this Holiday Inn in Sanibel.

Speaking of other obscure Florida beaches I happen to love:

  1. Anna Maria Island. No high-rises, and within close proximity of Tampa airport.
  2. Manasota Key in Englewood. Here is a rental I recommend if you are not too picky. Let me stress again the “not too picky” part because this is as no-frills as it gets. I honestly think they picked up their recliner off the side of the road. But the views, those views… They make it worth it. You can fly into Fort Myers, Sarasota or Tampa (a bit further away).
  3. Palm Coast beaches. I had my cousin-in-law write a trip report on this area after she had  a chance to utilize PointBreaks program courtesy of yours truly.
  4. Grayton Beach State park. It’s located in Florida panhandle. Technically, it’s a campground, but you can book a cabin for $130-$160 per night. It’s extremely spartan, but the park is so much fun. There are forest trails to explore and a beautiful beach to boot. We got to spend only 1 night here on our way to visit New Orleans, and my husband has been asking to go back ever since. Check it out, y’all!

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This photo was taken 3 years ago. It’s hard to believe how much our kids have changed since then. Time flies, so don’t waste it.

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14 thoughts on “Going to Sanibel Island Again, Plus Other Obscure Beaches in Florida

  1. We’re heading down to that area this weekend. I hope the beaches are nice considering there’s been more storms. We are using our Hyatt renewal certificates to stay at the Hyatt in Bonita Springs. I just found out that Hyatt has a private island and a free ferry to get to it! Fingers crossed for good weather.

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    • Jennifer, in all likelihood, you’ll be fine! It’s hard to tell with Florida weather. We’ve stayed at the beach in September, and the water was crystal clear. There is more of a gamble in the summer and fall months, though, that’s why I had to caution readers who might have to book airfare etc. As a Floridian, I don’t mind not having it 100% perfect because I can always come back later. I can’t wait to hear about this Hyatt. How about a short trip report, very short? 🙂

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    • @Shoesinks Thanks! He is working on it. Unfortunately, at his age (he is 71) there are no guarantees. Anyway, I didn’t mean for the post to come off as sad. It’s about celebrating family travel in all its glorious dysfunction!

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    • @Jen No worries! Take your time on both. If you want to do just Bonita Springs, that’s totally fine. I think readers would be curious about this property since many have Hyatt Visa. Getting this hotel for $75 is quite a bargain in any season.

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  2. Thanks for the post. It may not be a big deal to you Floridians… but my kids would love picking through all those shells! Was it like that everyday or just due to a storm the night before? Lake Michigan (a.k.a. “the inland ocean”) can be like that – perfect one day and then there is an overnight storm which results in large waves the next morning. Which can be fun to play in as a kid, I might add…

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    • @Erik If your kids love looking for shells, you should totally take them to Sanibel! It’s considered a shelling capital of the world, whatever that means… Honestly, tons of shells on any given beach in this area, and I don’t believe it has to do with seasons.
      You are right about the waves, those can be fun. The murky water kind of creeps me out, though. I’m always afraid there is a shark lurking beneath!

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  3. @Nick Hey! The weather was actually OK while we were there, but the previous weekend was super rainy. So, the water was stirred up from that. I agree with you, Gulf Coast is the place to visit in Florida. Oh, and thanks for your input on Little Talbot island State park. I’ve never heard of it and I’ve lived here for many years. Can you believe it? We’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

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  4. Pingback: What You Need to Book Now: IHG 2016 Category Changes – Miles For Family

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