Destination: Shopping, the A1A Way


Heading to Florida to escape from the cold any time soon?  If you find yourself wanting to do a little more than relaxing on the beach or hanging out at some of the hotspots in the area, stop by a few of the trendy boutiques surrounding Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Cocoa Beach, and Orlando. This article from Endless Vacation® magazine lists some of the best places to visit in Florida for your shopping fix.

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Relaxation or Adventure? Key West is great for both!


Emily SA few months ago, my boyfriend Blake and I planned a trip down to Key West. After a lot of research (on my part!), we arranged for our accommodations, booked our flights, and began our trip.

We flew into Miami and, at the urging of many articles and reviews, we opted to rent a car to drive to our resort in Key West instead of hopping on another plane – wow, were those authors and reviewers right! The 3+ hour drive on Highway 1 from the Florida mainland to Key West, while lengthy, was incredible! The views of the water were incredible, especially when we went over the Seven Mile Bridge.

After arriving at our resort in Key West, we headed over to a restaurant for dinner and then over to Mallory Square – an open area on the water with all kinds of street performers and vendors – to see an amazing sunset. If you want a front row view, get there early because it gets very crowded!

Our next few days were filled with catching some sun at the resort’s pool, seeing the action on Duval Street and exploring the town. We rented bicycles on two of the days to help us get around quickly to all of the Key West must-do’s: Southernmost Point, the Ernest Hemingway Home, the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum. Another Key West must-do, in my book, is breakfast at Blue Heaven on Thomas Street – great setting and even better food.

Key West is a wonderful vacation destination. Whether you want to just relax by a pool and watch beautiful sunsets or take small adventures exploring the town – or a combination of both – Key West has it all! Come back to the RCI Blog this week to read stories and see photos from RCI Subscribing members who vacationed in the Florida Keys.

 

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Ballooning Kissimmee


Ballooning Kissimmee

Up early on the first morning of a July week in Kissimmee, Florida in 2011 allowed us to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee on the beach as the balloonists floated by. The mirrored surface of the lake provided the perfect opportunity for the mirror image! We really love vacation relaxation!

-Timothy A. from Farragut, Tennessee

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Florida in July


We spent the Fourth of July in Florida. My daughter and my three grandchildren went with me to Hilton Grand Vacations Club in Orlando. I did an exchange through RCI about ten months before to book the July 4th weekend.

We had no problem finding the resort and checking in. While I checked in, the others checked out the pool, shops, and activity center...Our unit was one building away from the pool and activities. We had a three bedroom, which was actually a two bedroom with a lock out unit. This was great for my two oldest grandkids. They had a place of "their own." The whole unit was very roomy for all of us. The kitchen was fully equipped, as you would expect from a Hilton resort. This resort is close to International Drive, which has many nice restaurants, so we ate dinner out several times.

Fourth of July we drove to Cocoa Beach and spent the day there and stayed for the fireworks on the beach. It was a great day and only a little over an hour drive to get there. We were back to the resort by 11:30 p.m...

The next few days we spent at the resort relaxing. The pools were large with a fountain and a waterfall and plenty of lounge chairs. We played shuffleboard and there was a nice playground for the kids. There was a bingo game one day by the pool. I won a beach towel and $5 gift certificate for the snack shop...

Altogether this was one of our best vacations. The resort is beautiful and I was glad to get it through RCI. If anyone has a chance to exchange into this one, go for it!

-Carol S. from Charter Township of Clinton, MI

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Florida Vacation


We went to Summer Bay Resort near Orlando, Florida and absolutely had the best time. My daughter and I took my 2 grandkids and we went to Walt Disney World. My grandson, Jordan, turned 4 while we were there and had a little birthday party at the resort. He had such a wonderful time. It rained almost everyday while we were there but we made a good trip out of it even with the rain. Summer Bay Resort was the most awesome place to stay and such a beautiful resort. We loved it so much that we are going back next month to celebrate my granddaughter's birthday as well. Her name is Taylor and she will be 2 years old. This trip was by far the best trip I have ever been on through RCI.

-Deborah M. from Denver, CO

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Most Memorable Vacation


This was probably the most memorable vacation that my sister and I have ever taken...Mainly because we generally go by ourselves, but this time, my niece, her husband and little daughter decided to go with us. It worked out perfectly because we had two bedrooms and the couch turned into a bed, as well. What made it really great is that they all live in Florida and I live in Georgia. We each flew to Las Vegas to stay at this really beautiful location. We had a great time just being together, using the pool, eating out at several buffet locations, and catching all of the action on the main strip. It was also very restful. Even though it was very hot, I was told it was fairly mild compared to how much hotter it could be. We were able to get extra towels for use in the pool and showering in the room. Everyone came away wanting to get together once again next year at vacation time.

-RCI subscribing member

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Christmas in Florida


My favorite vacation was the one where we surprised my son (who was away at school) and picked him up at his residence. We took him to the airport and flew him to Orlando. We didn't tell him where we were going but ended up staying at Summer Bay Resort. We had a great time and two days later, to my surprise, my daughter and her husband flew down as well.

What a great vacation and a very special Christmas. It is a vacation we will all never forget. Thanks RCI for making it all possible for all of us!!

- Heather C. from Clermont, FL

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RCI® subscribing membership benefits that you might not know about


Catherine S. - Cruise Stories and RCI NewsWe love helping to send you, our RCI subscribing members, on vacation!  In order to provide you with even better vacation options and enhancements to your overall membership, we have an established alliance with International Cruise and Excursions (ICE) – which is sometimes referred to as Our Vacation Center.

 

Through this alliance, we’re able to provide you with many benefits that you may already be familiar with:

 

  • The RCI Cruise program gives you the option to purchase a cruise at a reduced price with exchange, or purchase a cruise without exchange (sometimes referred to as “Cruise Extra VacationsSM getaways”) both with the Best Rate Guarantee.

 

  • RCI Cruise & Resort Vacations* offers you the opportunity to receive up to two weeks of vacations in one convenient and flexible package.  You can spend one week cruising to great destinations like Mexico, Alaska or Hawaii, and the second week in an awesome resort destination like Las Vegas or Florida.

 

  • With RCI Vacations*, you can save up to 70% off at select preferred hotels in popular destinations worldwide. Our members can purchase up to five hotel savings certificates which can be used to book hotels and save hundreds of dollars on each stay compared to popular online travel sites.  In addition to the hotel savings certificates, every RCI Vacations package includes a choice of a prepaid cruise, resort or hotel vacation. 

 

  • RCI Platinum® Lifestyle Benefits, including golf discounts, spa getaways and gift certificates, ski packages, an online wine store, tickets to movies, concerts and sporting events, and online shopping. 

 

  • RCI Travel, which allows you to get the best pricing on air, rental car, and hotels, making your vacation planning more convenient!

 

Our alliance with ICE helps us provide you with even greater enhancements to your RCI membership.

 

Have you taken advantage of any of these benefits yet? Let us know what you think by commenting below!

 

 

*Not available to all members

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Shelling Near Sanibel


At the very last minute, my sister, my three children and I hopped in the car and drove for 24 hours straight to get to Florida! I had worked all summer and had missed being a stay at home Mom with my kids. This was a special treat for us to hang out on the beach together. Lehigh Resort Club in Lehigh Acres had plenty for us to do, a cool bed in the wall, and a kitchen so we could save money by eating in. Nearby, was Sanibel Island. We went shelling everyday, and once after a day of thunderstorms we jumped in the waves and found the greatest shells ever.

My husband has had 3 layoffs in three years and we are now trying to build our own business, plus I am back to work...I am so grateful that we were able to book a vacation through RCI and have one week of pure summer fun!

 

- Kristine T. from Lisle, IL

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Spring Camp


Along the gulf coast of Florida, is a hidden gem on Bradenton Beach - Smuggler's Cove Resort. The resort offers beautiful sunsets along the gulf coast. On the back side of the resort, they have a Florida-style deck to gather with others to recap one's adventures of the day.... There is a trolley which runs the length of the island, taking you to local hot spots. Within walking distance is a host of bars and restaurants. This modest resort reflects the style of old Florida, offering a truly relaxing getaway...Play on the beach in the morning and sit on the deck after the sunset...casting a fishing pole in the water to see what might hit. My husband brought in a 28" redfish, the perfect end to a wonderful vacation getaway!!!

 

- Debra B. from Stronach, MI

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Planning a trip to Florida? Check out the gulf coast!


Jennifer H. - RCI Technology UpdatesLooking for a fun vacation spot in Florida? While Orlando and the normal coastal cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale are great, don’t rule out the panhandle on Florida’s gulf coast. There are so many options that I never even knew about before visiting last year for the first time. I was lucky enough to have to travel there for work, but I’ve gone back since (as have many of my co-workers!) for rest and relaxation.  I’ve had the opportunity to visit Destin, Fort Walton Beach and various beaches along the beautiful Route 30A in northwest Florida.  There is something for everyone there!

 

If you want something fun and family friendly, Fort Walton Beach and Destin have many restaurants, shopping (the shops in Destin Commons), marinas that offer boat rentals, mini-golf and other fun activities for everyone in the family. Tommy Bahamas (great for fish tacos!) and Cuvee Bistro (Grouper Vince was my favorite!) are two of my favorite restaurants that I never miss when I visit.

 

Another gorgeous area you don’t want to miss is the beaches of South Walton along Route 30a. There are some beautiful options off the beaten path. I couldn’t believe how different the areas are from one another and how much there is to do. Grayton Beach, Seaside and Rosemary Beach are my personal favorites.  Grayton Beach has a beautiful state park (Grayton Beach State Park) – this part of the panhandle is just breathtaking! And it is perfect for kayaking, riding your bike or just relaxing on the beach and enjoying some well-deserved R&R. In Rosemary Beach, one of my favorite places is a little apothecary shop named Pish Posh Patchouli’s. They have amazing homemade lotions and bath products along with cool gifts and beauty products.  Shopping at Seaside is fun, too – I can never walk out of Sundog Books without a handful of new reading material.

 

Want to hear more? Come back to the RCI Blog this week, where we will be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have visited the many towns along Florida’s gulf coast.

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FORE! A golfing vacation


Marcel O. - Occidental Vacation Club1I consider myself very fortunate. I live and work in the Dominican Republic and spend much of my time in Punta Cana where there are plenty of great opportunities to golf. My role takes me all around the Caribbean to great resorts and great golf courses. Even with all that, one of my favorite vacations is (you guessed it), golf, golf and more golf.

 

Each year a group of my golf buddies and I get together for a golf trip. Before we even leave we are counting down to the excursion. Three weeks. Two weeks. One week. We even shop for the perfect attire; making sure to match our socks with our belts. It can be a bit extravagant.

 

For six years, our tradition has been to go to a great location and play a round of golf every day for seven days. Sometimes we even play two rounds the same day. We tee off early enough to go for 36 holes on many days.  And certainly, by the time we get to the 19th hole we are reliving the first 18 holes all over again…which certainly makes it seem like we have played two rounds at the end of the day.

 

Most years we have gone to Myrtle Beach, SC to be challenged with the great courses that the area is known for – TPC Myrtle Beach, Barefoot courses, among others. This year, however, we changed the destination to Florida and tackled a course at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando and Copperhead Course in Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club near Tampa. We also played on some other great courses, such as Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course and the Reunion Resort’s Palmer, Nicklaus and Watson courses. Whether it’s a Fazio-designed or Nicklaus-created course, no matter what, we are there to have fun and challenge the course.

 

We are setting our goals high as we start planning next year’s trip and the next.  Our group hopes to get to destinations like Pinehurst, or maybe England, Ireland and…Scotland…where it all began.

 

This may not be the Masters, but it certainly is the best “tournament” ever to a group of guys from the Dominican Republic.  We are already counting down to next spring!

 

PS:  handicap 2, wishing to be 0 hcp, one day!!!

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Beach Rockets


We had been looking forward to our east coast beach vacation for months and had invited my son's friend to go with us. We lived in Sarasota, but enjoyed the "other" side of Florida in Cape Canaveral just as much. The four of us packed up and got ready to go for a long weekend, looking forward to spending some time at the edge of the ocean. We had no idea what awaited us. In the weeks before leaving, we had been watching the news that the space shuttle launch had experienced delay after delay. The day we departed, we found out the shuttle was scheduled to be launched the night of our arrival! We had front row seats to one of the most spectacular (and final) night launchings from the Kennedy Space Center. The crew included a young Clearwater, Florida astronaut, Nicole Stott, who was going to the International Space Station. My teenage son and his friend were so excited. What a stunning view we had of that launch from our balcony. It lit up the sky - and the ocean - for miles around! We were at Ron Jon several months later and incredibly, again totally by coincidence, we were able to see the landing of another shuttle that carried that same Florida astronaut back to Cape Canaveral! Good times... and the beach was pretty spectacular, too.

 

- Submitted by: Jim&Leslie

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I Love Cabo!


I want to tell you about Cabo! I just loved it there! I was amazed by all the cactus and foothills surrounded by the gorgeous deep blue water. The rock formations and the Arch in the Sea of Cortez are spectacular! Locals said that it only rains approximately 11 days a year. Since I live in Florida, I noticed the lack of humidity and enjoyed it immediately. It was true desert conditions, in the 80's during the day and cooled nicely each evening. This was a timeshare trade for me, staying at the RCI Gold Crown, five-star resort Pueblo Bonito Resort at Sunset Beach. The resort is situated on the Western side of the tip of Baja, on a hillside overlooking the Pacific. This spectacular getaway provides incredible views from hacienda-style villas overlooking a magnificent expanse of private beach and sparkling deep blue sea. This has to be the most fantastic resort I have ever experienced. The luxurious all-suite accommodations along with five ocean-view pools was amazing. Even though the beach there is non-swimmable because of the strong currents, walks on the beach and listening to the pounding waves was breathtaking. There is magnificent dining on property but be certain to make reservations. All the restaurants are very popular, The Spa massages and facials were relaxing and delightful. The resort provides complimentary shuttle golf carts to escort guests around the property. They also offer a shuttle bus to adjacent Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, and nearby (10 minutes) to Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos as well as Pueblo Bonito Rose where you can enjoy full use of all amenities and restaurants. These properties are adjacent to each other and are located on one of the best swimmable beaches in Los Cabos, Medano Beach. This is also near downtown and within walking distance to many shops and restaurants. Be sure to try the tortilla soup at The Office. Best I have ever tasted! And you can dine with your feet in the sand! The marina is also located nearby providing boats for diving, whale watching, deep sea fishing and glassbottom boats with boat tours for spectacular views of Lover's Beach and the Arch.

The Los Cabos International airport is approximately 45 minutes from the resort and is near the quaint town of San Jose del Cabo. I recommend arranging transportation with the resort in advance of your arrival. If you rent a car be certain to drive approximately 30 minutes up the Pacific coast to Todos Santos to visit the famed Hotel California and many other interesting shops and sights in that area.

As you can tell I definitely enjoyed Cabo and certainly recommend that you experience this destination for your next vacation. The people are extremely friendly and accommodating and do everything possible to make your vacation a wonderful memory!

- Janelle A. from Clearwater, FL

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Florida Vacations - Vacation Village at Parkway


 

Vacation Village at Parkway offers the best of Florida: great entertainment, fabulous shopping, thrilling recreation, and mouthwatering restaurants. The RCI affiliated resort is less than five minutes from the Magic Kingdom's main gate and offers lovely accommodations in stylish West Indies decor. Your stay here puts you in the center of Orlando's many attractions such as Epcot, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and Pleasure Island. Visit historic St. Augustine, the Kennedy Space Center, Busch Gardens, and Silver Springs--all within a short driving distance.

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Orlando 2009


In January of 2009, my wife and I were able to exchange through RCI for a beautiful three bedroom unit at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. We had been to Orlando many times before, but what made this trip so special was that, for the first time, we did it as grandparents. The unit enabled us to bring our oldest son, his wife, and our adorable grandson, RJ. We had all the space and comfort of home. Although we had always enjoyed the great Orlando attractions with our children, seeing them again through the eyes of a grandchild was extraordinary. Without RCI's exchange program, we never would have been able to do it.

 

- Brian C. from West Sayville, NY

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Sweet 16


I gave my daughter a surprise 16th birthday staying at Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort near Orlando, Florida. I invited her 4 best friends and her brother and sister who are older than her and could rent a car for travel. I paid for the airfare, the exchange, and park admissions. I gave them spending money for food and fun. Unfortunately, I could not be there due to surgery, but it was a memorable sweet 16th birthday. All of them met at my house to present her with a card full of the tickets and a Mickey sweatshirt the night before. She was so surprised, happy and sad that I could not be there to celebrate. She knew I could not give her a party at this time but stated that this was the best trip ever and will never forget it. I am grateful for RCI to help make this dream come true and make this a memorable birthday for her.

 

- Carol T. from Ardsley, NY

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Orlando 2009


My wife and I have two children, a daughter (age 9) and a son (age 4). They are the perfect age for all the "magical" experiences you can have in the Orlando, Florida area. We live about an eight hour drive from Orlando so we try to go down at least once a year. Recently, in mid July of this year, I was going through my calendar and realized that my daughter would be starting school the first week of August (school starts early here). That meant we didn't have any time for a family vacation. I also realized that we hadn't been to the Orlando area since 2007, almost two years ago. On a whim, I called RCI and asked the guide about using some of my points for a long weekend (4 nights). But it would have to be the following weekend. The guide searched the available units and she "struck gold." One unit for the exact number of days that worked with my available points. Now all I had to do was convince the wife we could make the trip. I think that was more of a challenge than searching for the available unit!! A few days before we were to leave on this "spur of the moment" trip, we decided to drive half way on the day before our check-in. That meant we needed a place to stay for one night. I was searching online for the most economical hotel rate... when I remembered the RCI® Points Partner Program. I made another call and was able to use more points for our hotel stay. That was a GREAT surprise!! All I can say is that RCI made this mini-family vacation possible. Without RCI we would not have had a summer trip in 2009. Thanks RCI for the opportunity and for helping us make memories for my entire family!!

 

- Paul A. from Ocean Springs, MS

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Orlando, Florida – The right mix of sun, water and breeze


Manju S. - Vacation Stories from an RCI Associate

Warm breezes welcome guests as they arrive, taking away the winter blues from those of us traveling from up North. Lighter clothes, a slower pace of life and plenty of fun activities – a great escape from the office chatter.

 

We stayed at Holiday Inn Club Vacations at Orange Lake Resort in nearby Kissimmee, which was one of the many beautiful resorts in the area. We started to unwind by playing golf and lounging around the pool. The pools are kid-friendly and there are many surrounding play areas to keep them busy.

 

Our resort was close to Walt Disney World – a great benefit when traveling with kids. One day, we traveled to one of the theme parks and the fun rides kept all of us entertained. The next day, we went to SeaWorld Orlando…it is amazing to see the sophisticated interaction between humans and animals! SeaWorld had a lot of space to sit, eat and walk around. We enjoyed the evening show "A Sesame Street Christmas". The script was good and the actors really brought life to the characters!

 

I enjoyed every moment in Orlando. The sun warmed the heart, the water got the body moving and the breeze soothed the soul. Orlando really gives a great opportunity to go back in time, to being a kid again!

 

Want to learn more about Orlando? Come back to the RCI Blog this week to read stories and see photos from RCI subscribing members who have visited here!

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Florida Vacations - Bay Lake Tower @ Disney's Contemporary Resort




Bay Lake Tower at Disney is ideally located next to Disney's Contemporary Resort, just outside Magic Kingdom Park. Bay Lake Tower offers a distinctive modern design balanced by a warm and inviting decor with the feel of an urban boutique hotel. An enclosed sky bridge connects this property to Disney's Contemporary Resort-with a wide array of shopping and dining options. Relax at Bay Lake's sandy white beach or enjoy some parasailing, fishing or cruising on your own rental boat. The Monorail is next door. Visit the Top of the World Restauant/Lounge to view the Disney Property.

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