Day Trip: Clearwater Beach

The water really is crystal clear in Clearwater – it’s so beautiful! Clearwater is located about 2 hours west of Orlando, FL so it is certainly doable to do it as a day trip, although there is a strip along the beach of amazing hotels and motels you can stay the night in if you wanted to stay a little longer. For us, we thought one day in Clearwater was enough but I am sure there is much more to see!

Getting There

Again, the trip is about two hours west of Orlando. The traffic gets really congested between Tampa and Clearwater and you need to take a fairly long bridge to get into Clearwater. Also, FUN FACT: Hooters Restaurant was founded right in Clearwater, FL in 1983. There is also limited parking close to the beach, so you’ll want to arrive early to ensure you can get a spot. Otherwise, you’ll need to park far or pay for parking at one of the hotels in the area (if there are some free spots available).

The Beach

The beach is very long and there are lots of good spots, but ideally, you’ll want to be relatively close to the pier (Pier 60) or at least be up for the trek to get there. It is super cool and definitely a highlight of a trip to Clearwater Beach. You can pay a fee to get access to sun huts/umbrellas, or you can just lay in the sand and soak up the sun! The sand is also super white, fine and soft. The photos don’t do it justice, but in person, it is absolutely beautiful. The water is also super clear! (They don’t call it Clearwater for no reason!) Clearwater is also situated on the Gulf of Mexico (day trip to Cancun, anyone?).

The Pier

Pier 60 is probably the main attraction to this beach, other than the beautiful sand and lovely waters. You can walk along the pier and even fish from it! There were these boards along the railings where people could cut their fish (yuck!) and there are a BUNCH of pelicans!!! By the way, pelicans are way larger in person than I had ever thought, they also look pretty mean. We didn’t have any bad luck with the pelicans, luckily. Aside from walking ON the pier, walking UNDER the pier is even cooler. You can get some pretty sweet shots under the bridge, some people even set up their picnic spots here for some shade!

The Wildlife

Honestly, there is MUCH wildlife at the beach aside from birds and fish. We’ve never seen pelicans before and the fish in the Gulf of Mexico are very different from those in Lake Ontario – so we found them pretty interesting. Along the pier, you can also use binoculars to check out sights in the distance like boats and such. We also saw two dolphins swimming around the end of the pier for a brief moment! Seeing a wild dolphin, even for a moment, was a really cool experience.

 

 

 

Travelling On A Budget? How We Save Money On Our Trips:

We’ll be the first to admit that we are in no means living in the lap of luxury. We save up for our trips and try to get the best deals possible. Here are a few ways we were able to save money on our most recent vacays.

Last Minute Deals
When we went to Mexico we booked the trip less than one month prior to our departure date. We went through a smaller airliner website and were able to browse through their hotels, flights and vacation packages. It pays off to check out the “Last Minute Deals” section because you can end up saving lots of money and landing an amazing holiday!

Sort by Price: Lowest to Highest
Seeing the cheapest holidays first is always the best because you can gauge your budget this way. Now, if the cheapest hotel is a 2 star hotel then keep browsing, but you should be able to find something you like on the first page or so, keeping your costs down!

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Hotel vs. Resort
If your destination permits, opt for a simple 4-5 star hotel as opposed to a 4-5 star resort. Your costs will be cheaper for accommodations. Also try to get a European plan or Breakfast plan, as opposed to an All-Inclusive. The prices tend to be significantly higher for All-Inclusive bundles when it is unnecessary. When we were in Mexico we had a hotel, not resort and a breakfast plan and we found this much more convenience and cost-effective. We were able to eat and drink when and where we wanted. We could check out awesome new restaurants and spots without feeling guilty for already paying for food through an all-inclusive plan, and if we just weren’t very hungry we could opt for a small snack instead of a meal and again, didn’t have to feel guilty because we paid for all-inclusive.

Purchase Excursions Once You’ve Arrived
It was very tempting for me to “add to cart” all of the exciting excursions and tours I could have purchased during my online checkout. I did purchase one excursion for both of us which was a day trip to Tulum, but all of the other exciting stuff we did in Mexico was purchased in Mexico! It was much cheaper and they had some great promo’s going on for last-minute stuff! (Gotta love last minute stuff).

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Don’t Upgrade Your Room
Unless you plan on spending a lot of time in your room it just isn’t worth it. Take the money you would spend on that and use it for a tour or day-trip or just put it in savings for your next vacay! We got the most basic room we could and it was perfect. It was beautifully decorated, modern, air conditioned, stand-up shower, TV, room safe and balcony! That’s all we really needed. Upgrading your room could cost you hundreds of dollars extra which you really could spend on something else.

Don’t Buy The First Trip You See!
Research a little bit before purchasing your next holiday. There may be cheaper sites, cheaper dates (if you’re flexible) or even promos going on. Keep a few tabs open on your browser or get your partner or friend to help you with the search. Once you’ve found your best deal lock it in and you’re booked!

Know of any other tips that we didn’t mention? Drop us a comment below to share your knowledge! Happy travelling!

What We Learned From Staying in the Heart of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Because of the cost-effective folk that we are we opted for a Hotel, not resort, in the heart of downtown Playa Del Carmen. We decided on a breakfast plan instead of all-inclusive and chose the cheaper dates to fly out on. We had an amazing time and I would not have done our trip any other way and I’ll tell you why. Here are the things we learned while staying right amidst all the action.


All Inclusive, What?
At first when you see a vacation package that offers “All Inclusive” you think you are getting great value and a great deal, and this may be the case for some, however we actually much more enjoyed the breakfast plan! We were able to eat our breakfast at the hotel prior to leaving on a bus for the day to our excursions (we had a lot of excursions and lunch was always provided and included in the cost). At night when we got hungry we could go venturing into Playa Del Carmen and check out a new restaurant every time. There were many options to choose from and many different varieties (there was even an Irish Pub!). We found we probably saved money and had a more authentic experience of the city.


The Hustle Is Real
Playa Del Carmen, being a tourist destination, tourism is what the locals here rely on for their main source of income. There are many shops, restaurants, products and services that they will offer you. Some of these people are very friendly and polite, but beware as the competition is high and many will say things to your that are untrue to get your attention. We had multiple people say very similar lines including “Remember me from the Hotel?” or “I was your waiter at the restaurant!” or simply “remember me?”. Like any other business they are doing their jobs, so don’t be rude to them – but it is best to be short and just smile and say “No thank you.”.

Rain and Shine
This may not come to a surprise to you if you’re from a climate where this occurs, however in Ottawa this is definitely not the case. We were amazed by how short the rain falls were in duration and by how quickly things were able to dry up following an afternoon shower. Here in Ottawa when it rains it pours and stays wet for hours afterwards – so this was a real treat!