Off the Beaten Path

When planning a trip somewhere, it is easy to get caught up in articles online about all the tourist attractions that area has to offer. The beaches, waterparks, historic areas, museums, etc. but they normally shy away from where to go if you want to save money but still have the full experience. Let’s take Florida for example, you can’t mention this state without Orlando, Daytona Beach, Clearwater, or Key West being brought into the conversation. You know what all of those places have in common? TONS OF PEOPLE. Expensive shops. $20 parking (minimum). They are so crowded that you can’t fully appreciate the area or its’ beauty. So I’m gonna give you some tips on areas to go that won’t break the bank and that will blow you away.

The Keys are a HUGE tourist attraction, and for good reason. They offer beautiful beaches, soft sand, and warm water, but they are always packed. The sand is covered in rainbow umbrellas and bikini clad beauties laying on towels. If you have kids, you’ll spend the majority of your time following your kids around (like the helicopter parent you know you are) to make sure they don’t get mixed up in the jumble of people. So instead of packing up the family early in the morning to try and grab five square feet on the beach, take your time driving down to Fort DeSoto and catch the ferry over to Egmont Key. This little island is home to a bird sanctuary and the remains of Fort Dade, which are very interesting to stroll through during the day. The beach looks out into the gulf and has some of the most blue water I have ever seen. Only boats and the ferry (which can’t seat very many people) can get out there, so it is never crowded. Make sure you buy tickets in advance, pack lunch and snacks, and use a restroom beforeĀ you get there, because there are no bathrooms on the island.

If you don’t want to pay for a ferry, there is another area before you reach Fort DeSoto frequented mostly by locals called Shell Key. There is no direct path out onto the beach, so you will have to use your navigational skills to make it to the water (just walk straight to the water and jump the sea wall that stands between you and a peaceful day at the beach). This place is called “Shell Key” for a reason. Shells. Everywhere. So if you plan on DIYing a nice mirror or mobile, then make sure you bring a bag or a bucket to haul your findings out of there. If you make it to the end, make sure you put a shell on the tree to pay homage. Or something like that, my husband said we had to, so I didn’t ask any questions. You will not be disappointed by this spectacular beach, just make sure you watch for stingrays swimming in the shallows! After going here almost once a week every single week, we ended up having our wedding ceremony there because it was THAT perfect.

Another thing people tend to forget about when traveling is Groupon. Yes, Groupon. You wanna ride a banana boat or go parasailing down in Clearwater? Maybe you want to swim with the manatees, ride a boat in the Ozarks, or have a nice evening on a yacht in the Gulf? GROUPON. It will save you money and you can thank me later.

Always research the areas you are going because you may just be missing a hidden gem by sticking to the beaten path!