Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring Break Trip Report :-)

I looooove to travel, especially with my ride or dies: my husband and my kids. I am also keenly aware, as the mother of a high school senior, that my oldest chick is leaving the nest very soon. “We MUST go away for Spring Break,” I declared. No one disagreed.

We tend to do two types of vacations in our family. The “see it all,” on the go vacation, and the stay put and relax vacation. “Going to the beach sounds cool,” said the senior, so off to the interwebs I went to find something fun.

At the end of last year, the family airline (Southwest) started service to a couple new tropical destinations, including Turks and Caicos (TCI). Just google it up and you will find images of pristine white sand beaches and the bluest, blue water. It’s not very far away – about a 90-minute flight from Fort Lauderdale. We had miles to burn so our tickets were very reasonable, but it can be an expensive destination. Challenge Accepted!

I turned to AirBnB first. Partly because rooms at resorts that slept 4 were pricy, and partly because our kids are too old to share a bed, we’re too old to share a room with teenagers, and we LOVE having a kitchen, so we can eat breakfast in our PJs. The initial place we found was great – it came with kayaks, they would rent you a jeep, and they gave me some great recommendations for dive operators. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up and we lost out on our reservation. We were about a month out from our trip (gah!), but luckily I found a place that worked out better, a sweet two bedroom cottage about 5 minutes from the closest beach called Buddha Cottage. Our host Patrick met us when we arrived, and awesomely sat down and marked up our map with his favorite beaches and restaurants. 

Because diving was important to us, it was the one thing (besides our rental car) that I booked in advance. I had two local recommendations, and the one we went with was Flamingo Divers. Mickey and Jayne have lived in TCI for 17 plus years, and have a one-boat, no-more-than-8-divers operation that suited us perfectly. The water was so clear, you could see all the way to the bottom in 60 plus feet of water. Mickey and Jayne took us to two great spots, and also shared all the pictures they took on our dives. We would have gone diving with them a couple more days, but alas, they were already full for the rest of the week.

I hadn’t pre-booked anything else, and when we got here, any excursion that interested us seemed to be booked up already. But it turned out to be not a big deal at all. Patrick had advised renting a car which was very reasonable (however, “mid size” equals a 4 door hatch back). We dubbed ours Trixie and explored just about all the places he recommended. What I didn’t know about TCI before we arrived is that all the beaches are public and have access points and little parking areas. Some we had to work to find, but eventually we would turn a corner and find 5 or so other “mid sized” rental cars and a small path to paradise. Buddha Cottage came with beach towels and chairs, and they got used every day.

Food is another thing that can get expensive on island and eating out every meal steals a lot of your time. We adopted a 1 meal out a day kind of rhythm. I had brought half a suitcase of non-perishables (noodles, peanut better, oatmeal, pancake mix, coffee) and grocery stores were easy to find for eggs, milk, etc.  Grocery prices are about double what you’ll find at home, and a meal out for 4 at a casual place was about $120. We made good use of cottage’s kitchen and outdoor grill which made it a tad more reasonable. We weren't complete food martyrs though - Patrick's recommendations of Bugaloos, Da Conch Shack and Caicos Cafe were all delicious!

Lastly, we made full use of Southwest’s 2 bags fly free policy to bring along toys – snorkel gear and two inflatable stand up paddle boards. Because, why not? You should have seen us try and cram it all into Trixie :-)

We had such a good time and definitely want to come back. So many resort/beach locations feel like the tourists are segregated from the locals, and TCI didn’t feel like that at all.  We slept in a lot, enjoyed meals out on the porch, found a new beach every day, read some, watched movies, and discovered new areas of our skin where we hadn’t quite gotten the sun screen (ouch!). TCI has a very easy going vibe – I hope you get a chance to enjoy it too!

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