Pre-planning was stressful for me but here are some tips to cut down on the stress:
1. Order the guide for the area. It's full of ads basically for all the rental agencies, local attractions, restaurants and such.
2. Make a list of your needs and wants. Beach front, beach view, lagoon? Condo or house? Pool on site? Kitchen? Washer and Dryer? Location to area attractions? Things like that. I decided we needed a beach front condo with a full kitchen and washer and dryer, a pool or kiddie pool would be nice. I found all of that!!!
3. Frequent all of the rental sites and get familiar with all of the amenities each complex offers. I was able to narrow it down to a few complexes that would affordably meet our needs. I suggest using each website search tool with your travel dates. That gave me a great idea on price ranges.
4. Once you've narrowed down what units are available and will accommodate your family- CALL!!! I was able to save a few hundred dollars by calling to book because I asked what units were available at the best rates.
We loved our little home away from home. We rented through Gulf Blue Vacations, they are on site in the complex which made check in and out very convenient.
We went with the intentions of spending all day everyday at the pool or the beach. For the most part we did exactly that but we did venture out and had fun without overspending. Here are our recommended must sees:
#1 Alligator Alley
2. The Hangout
The Hangout is a great place to, well, hangout. We stopped here a few times, but never ate a meal here together. Our first stop there was to just check it out and of course take pics and post on IG. They have bands playing almost every night, the night we planned to check it out a storm rolled in. Bummer! The sign out front says they have a dog show every day, so we decided to check that out on Wednesday, well Wednesday is zoo day at The Hangout so we got to see a few animals from the local zoo. We never made it back to the dog show but would have liked to. The Hangout also had a breakfast event for kiddos, er I mean for your pirates and princesses. Go hungry!!! It's all you can eat breakfast foods with lots of action while you eat and a treasure hunt with goodies around the property.
3. The Gulf Shores State Park Pier
I don't advise walking to the pier!!! At least not from where were staying, pushing a stroller and walking with a 3 year old. Never again!!! I believe admission just to walk out on the pier was $2 per person, a small fee for all there was to see and do. My husband and oldest son spent a few hours at the pier one evening fishing. They had to buy fishing licenses and rent poles and purchase bait. They caught a few cat fish like fish called "Hard heads." They both enjoyed it. When we all went to the pier just for sight seeing we took our time walking to the end watching all the fishermen and checking out their catches. We saw a few guys spend 20 minutes or more reeling in some pretty large fish.
4. Sea n Suds
This restaurant just happened to be next to our condo complex so we dined there twice. It is great for families with smaller kids and pickey eaters. The menu has everything from grilled cheese to seafood.
We dined at Lulu's for our one big meal out. The place was fun and had plenty to do while you waited for your table. It's a great location to check out some boats, we even saw a barge go by.
Here are a few more tips that made our vacation perfect:
1. Take the beach bypass!!! There are signs, just take it. Or stay in bumper to bumper traffic for another hour or more knowing the beach is just a few miles away but you can't get there for all the other cars.
2. Pack flashlights, nets or sand shovels and buckets. Every evening the beach was full of families out catching crabs. It is lots of fun!!!
3. We saved money by taking advantage of the kitchen in our unit and cooked most meals there. I pre-planned meals and finished up my shopping list on the drive. We brought along the crock-pot so I wasn't in the kitchen cooking and cleaning the whole week. I mean it was my vacation too.
4. Zip top baggies were a must. We each had our phone in a bag so sand and water wouldn't be a problem. You don't get great photos through the bag so take it out, snap the pic and put it back. We used the baggies for shell storage as well.
5. If you have room for sand and water toys I suggest taking them. I found them much cheaper at home. I even found boogie boards at Michael's for $5 each, way better that $10+ at the beach stores.
We like going to different places when we vacation so this was a first for all of us to visit Gulf Shores. We all said we would go back!!!
Thanks for stopping by At Home with Sweet T