Take a Break without Breaking the Bank

Posted by Maryanne Salvat On May - 19 - 2016

cheecaBy: Dr. Mary Jo Almeida-Shore

While many would argue that “family vacation” is an oxymoron, there are a few places that offer exciting, entertaining and relaxing activities for the whole family, without depleting the college funds. The Florida Keys and Club Med Sandpiper are excellent “island” getaways for Florida families that don’t require a plane ticket. Washington D.C., the premier family travel destination, is a short, inexpensive flight away, with loads of affordable hotel accommodations, and the history of the world and our nation at your fingertips. The best part? Most of D.C.’s world-famous museums and attractions are absolutely free. InWeston has hand-picked a few favorite recommendations for your next family adventure.


The Florida Keyscheeca lodge

The place where the rest of the world vacations, the Florida Keys is just steps away from home. Each distinct in its unique atmosphere and offerings, both the Cheeca Lodge & Spa and Hawks Cay resorts are perfect places to unwind, get up-close and personal with marine life, enjoy fine-dining and create special memories with the family.

Cheeca Lodge & Spa

Dubbed the “Queen of the Florida Keys,” the luxurious Cheeca Lodge & Spa is set on a 27 acre private estate in Islamorada, the Sportfishing Capital of the World. This gorgeous tropical paradise boasts classic Florida Keys architecture, chic West Indies décor, and “barefoot elegance”- a term coined at Cheeca.

Cheeca houses 212 spacious guestrooms, suites and bungalows, including 62 enormous Premier Oceanfront and Island View Suites that offer panoramic ocean or island views, expansive private lanais, open-air hot tubs on the terrace and posh amenities.

While Cheeca is luxurious and extremely romantic, it is also a great spot for the whole family, as there are lots of fun activities in which to engage. Children of all ages will delight in the resort’s signature 525 foot wooden fishing pier, which extends so far into the ocean- you will feel as though you are on a fishing expedition. All throughout the day and night, fishing enthusiasts can be seen pulling up snapper, nurse sharks, barracudas and the like. Cheeca provides complimentary fishing rods and sells bait to set you up for hours of angling. One of the highlights is feeding the friendly pelicans who hang out on the pier, excitedly waiting to snag your catch.

The resort offers guests complimentary kayaks and paddleboards for hours of fun on the water. Available for rental are two cutting-edge clear canoes, catamarans and paddle boats.

Those who prefer marine encounters in the water will enjoy Cheeca’s saltwater snorkeling lagoon, with room for only fish that are smaller than its human guests. Cheeca’s also got a children’s environmental activity program, bicycles with which to explore the island and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

Of note are the quality, variety and elegance of Cheeca’s restaurants. Nikai Sushi Bar serves outstanding, fresh sushi- quite possibly the best in the Keys and a unique selection of Japanese sake and wine.   Atlantic’s Edge is an elegant restaurant with a seasonal fine-dining menu of fresh local seafood, prime steaks and organic local produce. Don’t miss the crab eggs Benedict for breakfast or the breakfast buffet, which is also a bargain. For casual, traditional Italian fare, Limoncello, serves cuisine inspired by the Tuscan countryside. All three restaurants boast excellent service and are ideal for couples, groups or families.

The expanded Spa at Cheeca includes 11 treatment rooms, which join the poolside cabanas, Tahitian-style Spa Lagoon, adults-only lap pool and an oceanfront tiki hut for al fresco treatments. There are also shops and a rooftop bar to enjoy and a conference center. It comes as no surprise that Cheeca has earned the distinction of being the Crown Jewel of the Florida Keys.

Just across the street, Lorelei is a restaurant and bar that hosts a daily sunset celebration, complete with live music, casual fare and sweeping views of the sunset over the ocean.

A local favorite eatery, M.E.A.T, in Tavernier, serves the #1 Burger in Florida, the Inside Out Juicy Lucy and a house smoked Pulled Pork (named Top 10 Sandwiches in Palm Beach County 2015) along with home-made sodas, floats, shakes and gourmet food.

Cheeca Lodge & Spa

81801 Overseas Highway, Mile Marker 82

Islamorada, Florida




hawksHawks Cay

Situated on Duck Key, Hawks Cay, home to NBC Sports’ Saltwater Experience, offers full-scale fun in the sun for the entire family, with virtually every water-related activity imaginable. In addition to a full-service marina, Hawks Cay’s guests have access to some of the world’s finest diving, snorkeling and fishing sites; kiteboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, guided Jet Ski tours, SNUBA® and kayaking in the lagoon.

Dolphin lovers will rejoice in the onsite Dolphin Connection, home to four bottle-nosed Atlantic dolphins- the only resort-based program of its kind where guests can interact and swim with dolphins in their natural environment, with free public viewing of trained dolphins.

Preferred Hotels & Resorts Lifestyle Collection member and AAA Four-Diamond Award-winner, Hawks Cay boasts a total 427 villas and hotel rooms, several restaurants, a saltwater lagoon, five swimming pools, and an award-winning spa. The recently-renovated resort has added a number of amenities including luxury cabanas at the Tranquility Pool in The Oasis, a new adults-only area for leisure and relaxation, chic penthouses and family suites with a built-in sleeping area for children.

The culinary experience at Hawks Cay includes a variety of dining options. Signature restaurant, Alma features Nuevo Latino cuisine, and the soon to open, Angler & Ale, will serve fresh seafood, craft beer and the resort’s signature hook and cook experience. Additionally, there are several casual eateries at the resort.

Coral Cay, the adventures and activities center for kids and teens is home to the Pirate Ship Pool, complete with slides, tunnels and water shooting cannons. Babies and toddlers can splash around and explore the zero-entry shallow pool while older siblings enjoy the ship. Camp Hawk (ages 5-12), the game room for teens (ages 13-17) and babysitting for infants, keeps children busy while parents relax. Camp Hawk offers organized snorkeling, scavenger hunts and dockside fish feedings, just to name a few. Arts and crafts projects, interactive games, stories and more.

Hawks Cay Resort 61 Hawks Cay Boulevard Duck Key, Florida

Mile Marker 61




Club MedClub Med Sandpiper Bay

For guests seeking a sunny, active, fun-filled vacation, Club Med Sandpiper Bay, located just north of Weston and within reach of St. Augustine, Miami and Orlando offers a perfect getaway. As the only Club Med in the United States, Sandpiper allows locals to experience the unique all-inclusive Club Med experience without needing a passport. With a plethora of varied activities for parents and children, this resort affords guests the opportunity to be as adventurous or relaxed as they’d like. There’s even a L’Occitane spa on site for parents to enjoy while the kids are on the flying trapeze at circus school, sailing, paddle-boarding or fishing on the lake, or improving their volleyball game with a trained professional. The little ones may also participate in a fun-filled summer-camp like experience at the kids’ club.

Club Med Sandpiper Bay is most well-known for its dedicated sports academies offering guests of all ages and skill sets an opportunity to up the ante on their tennis, volleyball and golf games. All family members can also take advantage of the onsite fitness/wellness facilities alongside expert instructors.

Also noteworthy is Club Med’s abundant and varied world-class cuisine, available at all times of the day, served in three restaurants (the white chocolate bread is the stuff of legend). Families will also delight in the nightly entertainment, as the talented GOs put on a show every night followed by dancing- much-needed to work off all of that delicious food. Free-flowing cocktails, all part of the all-inclusive packages, make for an extra fun and relaxing vacation. Starting this summer, Sandpiper will be offering free golf green fees at Sandpiper Bay’s 18-hole course for guests ages 18+ and free group lessons for all levels. The offer is from May 1 to October 31.


capitol hill hotelWashington D.C.

Washington D.C., home to the most important and historic sites, monuments, museums and artifacts in the world, is the premier destination for a family vacation. Teeming with attractions, families could spend days or weeks exploring the city, depending on their pace, and never experience a dull moment. Budget-conscious travelers will be pleased to learn that most of Washington’s attractions are free, including all 19 Smithsonian museums and the Library of Congress, Capitol Building, Supreme Court, White House and all of the monuments. Most are accessible without advance planning, except for the White House and Capitol tours, which should be booked well in advance by contacting your local Senate or House representative.


While teenagers will be disappointed to learn that the National Mall, is not an actual shopping mall, they will be dazzled by all of the cool exhibits contained in the major Smithsonian Museums and the sheer magnitude of our Nation’s monuments and memorials. From the first signs of human life, to the Hubble telescope, to Neil Armstrong’s spacecraft, the Columbia, to meteorites containing every element of the periodic table, a visit to the Smithsonian museums trumps a decade in the classroom.


Spend a day or two exploring the Mall, stroll toward the Washington Monument and keep walking past the reflecting pool all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Take time to visit the World War II Memorial and walk around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Monument. Also visit the Vietnam and Korean Memorials.


Worth a visit, Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, a short subway ride from the Mall is impressive, especially the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Teens will especially enjoy a trip to Georgetown. The university is gorgeous and the hip, neighboring town is filled with terrific shops, restaurants and bars. The National Cathedral and National Zoo are close to one another. The top highlights of the zoo are the giant panda bears, with whom you can get up close and personal in an intimate viewing pavilion. Four year-old Bao Bao loves perform and her baby brother, four month old, Bei Bei will make you want to take him home.



The Capitol Hill Hotel is conveniently located walking distance from historic landmarks and sites, including the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the National Mall. The hotel offers complimentary breakfast every morning and is located a couple of blocks from several excellent dining options. Two favorites include: Goodstuff Eatery and We the Pizza, both owned and operated by celebrity chef, Spike Mendelsohn. A favorite restaurant, filled with pomp and history (including Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting trophies) is the Old Ebbitt Grill, located near the White House. Another “must”is Founding Farmers, a terrific local restaurant chain with comfort foods and signature desserts that will delight the whole family. For a fun night on the town for the adults, the 18th Street Lounge features multiple venues, with varying music playing, set within a three-story brownstone, complete with a rooftop bar. Quarter + Glory is one of D.C.s newest bars, with a chic, sophisticated, New York vibe.


Consider taking the Big Bus Tour for a convenient way to see and visit Washington D.C.’s top attractions without wearing out your soles or worrying about transportation. Spend a day or two hopping on and off the tour bus, getting acquainted with the city, then visit the top museums and attractions on your own.



Capitol Hill Hotel

200 C Street SE

Washington D.C


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