By: Holly Poast, CTA
Are you ready to travel again? As bans begin to lift and restrictions loosen, travel has changed, perhaps forever, requiring preparation and awareness. So, I “hit the road” to experience air, hotel and rental car travel in today’s world to provide a first-hand update along with travel tips from my first trip after the virus whose name shall not be spoken. My apprentice and I visited the beach towns of Marco Island, Naples and Sarasota. All exceeded our expectations in terms of precautions as well as amazing scenery, outdoor activities, and complete relaxation.
You can read our air travel, rental car and hotel travel tips in this post!
We checked into the acclaimed 4-star JW Marriott – Marco Island Beach Resort, originally the Marco Beach Hotel & Villas. The open lobby layout and immediate view of the pool and beach area reminded me of a Hawaiian resort. From a social distancing standpoint, standard plexi-glass partitions and 6-feet markers on the floor were in place near the check-in counter. Sanitizers were readily available in multiple locations, and masks were encouraged but not required in common areas. After a quick check-in, we opted for the elevator with only requirements being one family per elevator ride.
Arrival in our Pool & Gulf View King with Balcony room featured a custom welcome message on the TV which was a nice touch. The in-room mini-fridge and coffee maker made eating in our room easy after a quick grocery run (delivery was also available). Restaurant service was limited with approximately half of the restaurants either completely closed or hours of operation modified (usually closing an hour our two earlier). And, all restaurants followed the typical CV-19 restaurant experience with spaced tables. Room service was a convenient alternative. A QR code was provided on a sign at check-in for easy access to restaurant menus and information on resort activities to simplify planning.
After a quick bite, we couldn’t wait to get to the beach! Marco Island offers over 6 miles of beachfront. The white sand is luxuriously soft but firm enough for your morning or evening walks to catch the breathtaking sunrise and/or sunset. In addition to plentiful beachfront, shelling opportunities abound. Along the shoreline, the gentle surf tumbles in conchs, starfish, sand dollars and shells galore in abundant colors and sizes. It is nearly impossible to step foot on the beach without also stepping on several shells too – so bring your flip flops!
When we arrived at the beach, the social distancing and sanitizing process was thorough but easy. Colorful beach umbrellas were spaced to accommodate up to 6 chairs that were 6 feet apart. We were instructed by the beach attendant when we collected our towels to simply stand near a closed umbrella, and the beach attendants would bring our sanitized chairs. After settling in, we ordered food and drink service from Quinn’s (highly recommend the amazing quesadillas!). Prices were reasonable for an upscale resort and we enjoyed being served on the beach.
After a relaxing stay on the beach, we closed our umbrella and folded up our chairs as a signal to the attendants that we were leaving. They promptly removed the chairs to complete the sanitation process in preparation for the next group of guests.
The next day was filled with sun and fun on a jet ski excursion with Avi, the Dolphin Whisperer. Avi has been on the water in the Marco Island area every day for the last 17 years! We saw several manatees, sharks, birds and many dolphins. One family of dolphins (mom, dad and baby) circled around our jet ski (turned off during encounters) for quite a while and got very close. Although swimming-with-dolphin experiences are great, viewing marine life close up in their own habitat was unique and memorable. We also passed by Cape Romano and learned of its unique history, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and traveled through the mangrove forest of the 10,000 islands off Marco Island. Throughout the tour, Avi was taking videos and pictures of our experience, which was included in the price of the tour. This experience was one of the highlights of our trip.
The following day, we took a day trip to nearby Naples. We counted 13 thrift shops between Naples and Marco Island in a short 20 miles! (Trash to treasure hunters rejoice!) Upon arrival, we checked into our planned Segway of Naples tour. If your kids have used hoverboards, they will be able to easily operate Segways. This tour was a great way to begin our day trip since it provided a quick overview of the area, allowing us to pinpoint areas of interest that we could explore on our own later. Most of our after-tour activities included shopping at all of the cute gift, home goods and clothing shops and some time on Naples Pier. After our time in Naples, we returned to Marco Island for dinner at DiVinci’s, one of the many great area restaurants. The portions were generous and everything was tasty. I recommend ordering the Tortellini Di Carne (YUM!) and of course, Tiramisu for dessert.
Alternatives to the Segway tour include Naples Mangrove Estuary Preserve Kayak Adventure or the Guided Bike Tour- Marco Island Florida. Both perfect for Another alternative to the Segway tour for families. Contact me for more information on the wonderful tours available in these areas!
The next stop on our “road trip” was a quick but memorable stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota. We encountered a similar social distancing experience as other hotels on our trip. The rooms and property were impressive as expected, but the real showstopper was the private pool and beach area - The Ritz-Carlton Beach Club. There was quite a bit of seaweed on the beach from recent hurricane activity which was purposefully maintained since it was sea turtle hatching season so we spent most of our time at the pool, which was fine since we had plenty of beach time on our other stops. As expected, anything you could possibly need was provided at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club— complimentary bottled water, towels, sunscreen, after-sun lotion and aloe. They offered a fantastic poolside menu - we ordered the fruit plate which was refreshing and delicious! Our pool attendant offered impeccable service and friendly chit-chat, providing us with several recommendations for the area including ending our day with ice cream from Kilwins, an old-fashioned ice cream and candy shop whose tagline is “Sweet in Every Sense Since 1947”. Although our time in Sarasota was short, it is a destination worthy of a week-long vacation visit.
Are you ready to plan your Florida beach getaway? Contact me for a quote! email@example.com or (608) 206-0944
Holly Poast, CTA is an agent/independent contractor with Magical Moments Vacations specializing in Disney Destinations (land and sea), the Caribbean, select European Markets and Alaska. Ready to plan your next adventure? Contact Holly for inspiration and complimentary concierge-style vacation planning services! Ready to get started? Schedule time to chat here!