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Old 31 Mar 19, 01:02 PM  
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Florida with a difference - with a dash of NYC too.

Well its pre-trippie time, and for the second year running, Im managing to write this prior to our arrival at the airport hotel the night before we travel. Believe me, that is such an achievement!

Its a shock to realise that its been 7 years since I last did a Florida trip report, as all of my more recent trippies have been based in other parts of America or Canada. Therefore, heres a very quick introduction for those of you that dont know us.

Im Jo and my husband is Martin. This is us on last years holiday at Lake Louise.

This is a very different Florida trip for us this year for many reasons. Here goes:
  • We are not sharing this trip with anybody else! Thats a first for Florida for us. In seven previous visits there, weve either been with our children (who are now 25 so mostly holiday with their partners now), or weve been there at the same time as our friends and enjoyed spending a good proportion of the holiday with them.
  • No theme parks at all. We havent had a full on theme park trip to Florida for about 15 years, but have had plenty of trips where weve only visited the parks a handful of times and then went on to travel a bit further afield. In conjunction with Orlando, weve previously tagged on and thoroughly enjoyed short trips to New York, Miami, Florida Keys, Marco Island and Treasure Island/St Petes.
  • The time of year. Before having our children we visited Florida at the end of June. Our first trip with our children was in September when they were 5, but all other trips since then have been in late July/early August. Weve never been in April before, so really hoping the weather is good. ☀️
  • Relaxation is key this year. Some of our early Florida trips left us exhausted by the end of them. We did learn from this and adapt to have more down days in later trips though, as we found that worked best for our family. However, relaxation is definitely the main focus this year - our family have had a tough 12 months and after suffering a huge amount of stress in my work life too, we need to completely wind down. Martin is really looking forward to the relaxing holiday that Ive promised him for years!
  • Flights funded with air miles. Weve steadily collected Virgin air miles over the years, and with the exception of the year we flew to Miami with some bargain Miles + Money flights, weve never spent any of them. We had to tweak our plan slightly though. Wed found flights in and out of Miami, but by the time Martin had got his holidays approved with work, there were no return flights available on the date we wanted. I think we were restricted because we wanted to travel Premium Economy on this trip, it was only 5 months before we were hoping to travel and we were looking for flights for the Easter holiday period.

    Wed found a villa in Cape Coral that we loved the look of, which the owner had kindly put our dates on hold for a week while we tried to book our flights, so we first toyed with a shorter time there. We didnt want to condense the trip too much though, and after seeing that wed only manage 8 nights there to get the return flight from Miami rather than our planned fortnight, we started exploring where we could get flights back to Heathrow from. Quite quickly we discovered there was PE availability back from New York, so got Flying Club to look at internal reward flights with Delta too from Fort Myers. We decided not to do all the homeward travel on the same day, as weve suffered delays in New York before due to bad weather in August, so wanted to give ourselves a little bit of breathing space to avoid the possibility of any last minute stress. We ended up booking flights that gave us 12 nights in the villa and the final 2 nights in New York.
  • A change with our accommodation after booking. Within a couple of weeks of booking our villa, the owner contacted us to say their circumstances had changed and they could no longer rent their villa to us. This was a huge disappointment as their villa was the whole reason wed looked at holidaying in Cape Coral. On top of everything going on at the time, I didnt take it too well and wanted to cancel our booked flights. Martin tried to get me looking at alternatives, but I had no real interest in it, which is not like me at all. We decided to put it on hold for a little while, and look again when I was in a better frame of mind.

    I did put a post on the Dibb asking for accommodation recommendations in the area, but struggled to find availability at a similar budget. A good proportion of villas were already booked for the Easter holidays, and those that were still available were either a bit run down, had no reviews (my naturally cautious self wouldnt let me entertain that idea) or very expensive! Although Martin likes to sun worship, I need plenty of shade, so if he found one with a large, shaded area, they sometimes only had availability for a few days. Gradually I began to take a bit more interest in the search and we explored staying in a villa for part of our trip, plus a hotel too, but it seems that hotels on the coast are mega expensive at that time of year too! The Hilton at Marco Island, which wed stayed at in August one year, was showing a cost of $500 per night for a basic room and $1000 a night for the room wed stayed in previously - we hadnt paid that for 4 nights there last time! The focus changed to other places a bit further away from the coast, but even a fairly basic motel room on the outskirts of a town was about $200 per night. We were getting very despondent again. It seemed wed be forced to make compromises on our plans for a relaxing stay, if we were adding a couple of extra hotels to our trip, which wasnt a good option when we werent happy with the alternatives.

    Back to the drawing board - we were left with two choices. Increase our budget for accommodation or cancel completely. By that time, Id realised that we definitely needed this holiday, so we increased our accommodation budget by 40% and eventually found a beautiful villa, which had been recently renovated by its new owners. It didnt have too many reviews, which gave me a bit of a wobble initially, but every review it did have was 5 stars with glowing reports of the owners. I still struggled to fully relax about it, with it being so new and not booked through a recommendation, but all of the communication with the owners has been outstanding and helped put my mind at rest. The owners live close by and appear really hands on. Theyve been so patient and helpful with every question that Ive had, and have recently sent me a huge list of personal recommendations for restaurants and other places for us to visit in the local area. Im finally getting excited to visit.

  • No regimented planning by me! This is a huge surprise and a bit of a revelation really. Martin wont know what to do with himself. Weve really not decided on anything to do there and we leave in less than a fortnight! I think I first planned a holiday on our third trip to Florida, when our children were 10. I had my first spreadsheet containing where wed visit on each day, along with a separate daily list with a plan of action for each park, that included a Must Do for everyone, along with a Do if we have time list. We also listed the shows we wanted to see, and which rides we should do first. I hadnt discovered the Dibb then, so this was all planned with the help of the Brits Guidebook and the Passporter guide. We also allocated some days off for relaxing around the hotel pool. That holiday worked so well for us, allowing us to get so much done, that I was hooked on planning for all future trips. This has really come into its own for the road trips we have done in recent years. Its actually going to be quite strange to get up and see what we fancy doing. Most of it will be relaxing by the pool and reading my Kindle, but we have mentioned visiting Captiva and Sanibel Islands while were there, plus Naples. Ive not even planned for our time in New York. This will be our 4th visit there, so weve visited most of the tourist attractions before. Our last trip there was the best one so far, as we felt it was at a slightly more relaxed pace, so were conscious that we dont want to cram too much in and risk making the end of our holiday hectic. Therefore the only thing weve booked is the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which we havent visited before. We could only get pedestal tickets, as we left it too late for Crown tickets, but Im not disappointed as I might have struggled a bit with the claustrophobic nature of the climb to the Crown. If the weather is good, well also visit the One World Observatory, as that wasnt open on our last visit, but other than that we just intend to wander a little, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the food and drink. Were staying near Bryant Park and the library this time, as we do prefer to be a bit further away from the madness of Times Square.

With no firm plans in mind, weve come to the end of the pre-trippie very quickly!

I dont know whether Ill end up doing a full trip report, as Im not sure yet whether there will be enough content, so I might do a condensed version in one thread instead. Will see what we end up doing.

If anyone has any must dos for the Cape Coral area, in case we end up getting bored of relaxing, feel free to let us know.
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