I Live Where You Vacation

If you don’t already know, Greg and I live in Dunedin, Florida (click HERE to read about our move to Florida). Dunedin is on the west coast of Florida, about 30 minutes west of Tampa and north of Clearwater- it is right along the Gulf of Mexico and is known for their beaches, downtown area, Honeymoon Island, and their part of the Pinellas Trail. We have enjoyed this area so much and have taken advantage of many opportunities it has to offer; we live like we are on vacation… well after getting off work and during the weekends. Here is more information and some of our favorite things to do- there is so much more that may attract you, we hope this urges you to visit!

Speaking of visiting, luckily there are 2 airports close by: Tampa International Airport (about 25 minutes) and St. Pete- Clearwater Airport (about 20 minutes- here you will be able to fly smaller airlines, this is our go-to airport)

Dunedin Causeway– The causeway is a 2.5 mile route that leads from Bayshore Boulevard directly to the entrance of Honeymoon Island State Park. The causeway has free parking and is our absolute favorite spot to watch the sunset, especially from our hammock that hangs in between the palm trees. No dogs allowed on the beach but they are allowed on the trail which runs the entire 2.5 miles. Unfortunately, we do not have a Jet Ski but there are always people on theirs here so if you have one, go for it! We often bring our kayak to this location and head to Caladesi or Honeymoon Island (you can also rent kayaks and paddleboards, HERE is the website). Their hours are from 5am – 11pm.


Honeymoon Island State Park– A Florida State Park located on Honeymoon Island. The island receives more than 1 million visitors each year and is the most visited state park in Florida. There is an $8 entrance fee per vehicle (8 people or less in the vehicle unless you are alone which is $4). Greg and I have their family annual pass which we paid $125. The park is open from 8am to sundown, 365 days a year and offers the following: trails (biking, walking, running), fishing, picnicking, beaches (cheaper and less crowded compared to Clearwater beach), concession and restaurants, playgrounds, interpretive exhibit, and our favorite the dog beach (Dogs must be on a leash at all times. There is a wash station outside but you have to bring your own dog shampoo and towels- this is great for getting the sand off before your dog gets back in the car. If you are visiting during the weekend plan on arriving before 11:30am or you will sit in traffic for about 25 minutes on the causeway- gorgeous views but you’ll want to get in).

Caladesi Island– An island accessible by boat, kayak, the ferry, or by walking 3 miles from Clearwater beach. You can take the ferry from Honeymoon, $7 for children and $14 for adults (you also have to pay the fee to get into Honeymoon). This island has a small restaurant with foods like burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, etc but has a great beach!

Pinellas Trail– The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail is a linear trail currently extending from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs (over 30 miles) and is a multi-use trail everyone can use for: running, walking, skating, and biking- no motorized vehicles are allowed. Greg and I enjoy hopping on the trail by bike and going downtown to eat or visit one of the many breweries.

Breweries– There are 7 microbreweries in downtown Dunedin, all within walking distance. Woodright Brewing Company, Dunedin Brewery, Dunedin House of Beer, 7venth Sun Brewing Company, Caledonia Brewing, Cueni Brewing Co., and Soggy Bottom Brewery.  All are different in their own ways and offer things like live music, pool, darts, beer pairings, food, games, etc.

Spring Training Baseball– This speaks for itself. I grew up in Philadelphia and was raised to be a Phillies Pan, luckily, we are 8 minutes from the Phillies Spring Training field which also holds other events during the non-baseball season. The other stadium right in Dunedin is for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Downtown Dunedin– Okay our downtown offers so much, there is literally something happening all the time. I was told they will be decreasing the number of events held this year because there were over 150 in 2018… I think they are great and they should keep it how it is, that is what attracts people! From November to June we have the farmers market every Friday and Saturday morning (clothes, homemade items, food, drinks, entertainment, etc.) Our main street is filled with local shops, cafes, and restaurants that are great, you’ll be able to find whatever you are looking for and if not take in the amazing views of the Gulf of Mexico down by the arena.

You can even go fishing off the pier!

Some of our favorite things right outside of Dunedin:

Weeki Wachee – An enchanted spring where you can see live mermaids, take a trip on a river boat cruise, learn about Florida wildlife, swim, or paddle down the river. There are many places you can kayak from but we recommend the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park Kayak Rentals (click HERE for their website). The cost is $50 for a tandem kayak for 4 hours which is plenty of time to complete the 5 mile river trail. If you are looking to book, I recommend a week day as the weekends are so crowded you have no room for yourself! We were told the manatees are in this are from the middle of January to the beginning of April- we visited April 2 and saw about 10!

Dog Bar– The dog bar is another one of our favorite places to take Nash (click HERE for their website). It is a unique combination of an off-leash dog park and a full service bar, is there any better combination?! They have 2 pools and various areas for the dogs to play on as well as a “rufferee” that watches over the dogs, although you will be too. You must be 21+ to enter but you do not need a dog with you. You can catch us either here or at the Honeymoon Island Dog Beach every weekend!

Busch Gardens– Although we have only been here once since moving to Florida, this is a great amusement park, ZOO, and water park about 35 minutes from Dunedin. Click HERE for their website.

Clearwater Beach– If you are looking for a tourist beach this is the place for you. In 2018, Clearwater was named #1 beach in America and was in the top 10 beaches in the world; not only will you get great views but there are so many things you can do to fill your time- boating, fishing, shopping, water sports, dining, dolphin watching, etc. We typically will bring out guests here once during their trip and then to Honeymoon Island because, to be honest, sometimes it is too crowded and parking can be a little expensive. If you are visiting during the “warmer months” which is basically May- September I would recommend arriving by 10:00am so you can get a parking spot or you can take the Ferry from Dunedin!

Tampa– It would take me forever to list all of the fun things to do in Tampa. Fortunately, because there is so much to do in our town of Dunedin we do not spend as much time in Tampa- we go there maybe once a month. Do your research before you go because visiting Tampa could be a vacation in itself.

Planning a National Park Honeymoon

Planning a trip to a National Park or planning your honeymoon, I am here to help! I have already done the work and hope you can take something from this. Be aware, this is long but can be helpful!

Greg and I have always loved to travel, especially together- we met in Europe, vacationed in the Bahamas, traveled back to Europe together, and went on many local weekend trips together. While talking about our honeymoon we realized we have seen more of Europe than the USA. We decided our honeymoon would consist of renting an RV and traveling to various National Parks out west.

I am writing this before we go on our honeymoon- this was the planning process and our itinerary, I will write another post after the honeymoon regarding tips, things I wish we knew, what I would do different, etc. (Stay tuned!)

The first part of our planning process was deciding when to visit. We knew we wanted to visit during the warmer season but also had a lot to think about: summers at the National Parks are crowded (people have said they felt like they were at Disney, not appealing to us!), some parks remain closed up until the end of May or beginning of June due to the snow not melting, traveling during a holiday probably isn’t the best idea, and deciding when we could afford to take 3 weeks off work was huge. After much talk, we decided our trip would be June 2019.

Second. We have set the dates, now what? Where do we want to go?… or should I say where can we really go during our 18 days without being on the road every day and being able to relax… I mean this is our honeymoon. We looked at a map and realized in order to get the most out of our days, starting in California will be best.
After researching multiple parks, we decided our trip will include: Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Grand Teton while making a day stop at Horseshoe Bend (20-minute detour while traveling from Grand Canyon -> Zion). Now, if you are reading this thinking “What, why aren’t they going to (INSERT PARK HERE)?!”, listen, if we could, we would literally quit our jobs and visit every park but that is not possible right now… we will visit every park, just give us time; our 2nd trip is already in the works.
Thanks to Google Maps, we were able to see the distance between each park and plan how long we could stay to make the best out of our time. Planned is: 10 days of no driving AT ALL and 8 days that requiring driving (average of 3 hours with 2 days that have a 10-hour drive).

Third. How do we get around? Okay this process was much more stressful than anticipated mainly because we were not planning a “round trip”, we knew we wanted to start in 1 state and end in another. CRUISE AMERICA offered this option but we had to get special permission as they must keep specific inventory at each one of their rental locations (this is much more complicated than “special permission”, it required us to change our trip about 10 times… no lie, before they gave us permission). Their cheapest RV to rent was the 7 passenger RV but that was 1: way too much space for the two of us and 2: way too big of an RV for us “first time RV drivers” to drive. The rental we ended up booking was the 19-foot compact RV that holds up to 3 people (much more expensive than the 7 passenger- around $2,000)- don’t worry, it has a shower, a toilet, and a small kitchen!

Fourth. Yay, the “when and where” is booked, now time to book the flights. Let me tell you, the app SkyScanner is AMAZING. Enter your: From/To locations and your travel dates and the app will do the rest including: tell you when prices are expected to rise/go down, and give a 1-10 point rating based on details such as when you will arrive, if there is a layover, price, etc. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
For our trip, we will be flying from Tampa to San Jose and then Salt Lake City to Tampa (we got our flights for $193 each heading to San Jose and then $177 each heading home to Tampa).
Our flights also were based on where rental locations for Cruise America were located (Newark, CA and Salt Lake City, UT). 

Wait, where are we going to sleep?  Yes, we have the RV but where will we park? The fifth part was booking RV sites. If you are reading this and plan to travel within the next 6 months, book now, Yosemite National Park fills up the day they open reservations!!! For real, call or look on RECREATION.GOV for more information- we found it was way easier to call rather than look on the website (877- 444-6777), you can talk to someone who knows more about the area and they can do a search of multiple campgrounds at once. We booked our trip 6 months out and only got into 2/4 National Park Campgrounds, Lodgepole Campground at Sequoia for $22 a night and Mather Campground at Grand Canyon for $18 a night (they are much cheaper than regular RV parks and campgrounds so we would have liked to get in more- Bryce National Park and Grand Teton are “first come first serve” so we will be heading there… still unsure of where we will sleep if they are full).
** Call the number above even if it says the campground is full, especially if you are staying more than a night. We have to change campsites at one location but we are able to be in the park.
** Make sure you research the rules of the campground ahead of time and plan, most do not let you run an RV generator during the night.

Sixth. The big details are done but now, what are we going to do to fill our days? How are we doing to enjoy the parks in the time we have?
So… I am a planner, I like to do my research, and spend way too much time looking up information but can you blame me? I want to make sure we are making the most out of our time. I wrote down each park name followed by certain information including: best time to visit, average temperature in June so we know what to pack/wear, common attractions, best things to do, where to stay, tips, things to remember, etc. (Greg and I also bought a National Park Adventure Guide off of Amazon that has the “Top 10 Things to Do” in each park, find it here -> NATIONAL PARK GUIDE BOOK).
Here is what we have planned at each park knowing this will not take up our entire time but will allow for free time to explore and get recommendations from locals:

  1. Yosemite National Park- Mirror Lake Trail, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome/Taft Point Loop, Tunnel View
  2. Sequoia National Park- Moro Rock Trail, Congress Trail, Big Tree Trail, Tunnel Log, Topokah Trail
  3. Grand Canyon National Park- Ooh Aah Point/Cedar Ridge, Bright Angel Trailhead, Mule Barn, Grandview Point Lookout
  4. Horseshoe Bend- Sightseeing
  5. Zion National Park- Narrows Hike, Angels Landing, Emerald Pool Hiking Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail
  6. Bryce National Park- Navajo/Queens Garden Loop, Sunset Point, Tower Bridge Hike
  7. Grand Teton National Park – SNAKE RIVER LUNCH RAFT TRIP, Colter Bay Village Marine kayak/boat rental, 42 Mile Scenic Route.

** Greg and I have done some leisure hikes while we lived in NJ so all of these listed above are at most considered “moderate”, like I said I will be writing another blog about our trip/hikes once we return.
** Some hikes in the park require a permit, do some research before you go… none of these require a permit.

Seventh, packing list. I think this is the worst part, right? Each park has a different average temperature listed in June so I know I am going to over pack, not like anyone ever does. Other than clothes, here are some essentials: backpack (preferably one with a water bag to stay hydrated), hiking shoes, bug spray, flashlight, copy of you license, rain jacket, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, portable battery pack, medication (you don’t want to get a headache or feel sick while you are on a 6 mile hike), National Park annual pass (worth it if you plan on going to 3 or more parks in a 1 year period), snacks, first aid kit., etc.

Eighth. RELAX BECAUSE YOUR TRIP IS PLANNED AND START A COUNTDOWN!

Things to remember: make sure someone has a copy of your exact itinerary, you’ll want to plan on checking in but be aware you may not have service everywhere you plan to go, let them know!