The scorching hot “Sunshine State” – a.k.a. Florida – is one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. I’ve always enjoyed my trips here, but this one was extra special as I was visiting my dad and my stepmom’s new house in Palm City, Florida. They had their house built from the ground up and the last time I saw the house, there was nothing inside. However, this time around I was going to see it furnished and decorated. I was blown away with how everything came together. I took this trip purely for relaxing: hanging out by the pool and checking out some cool spots in the area which we’ll discuss shortly. We can all use a vacation away from it all from time to time, right?

Flying Main Cabin on American Airlines

While I did fly the main cabin on American Airlines for this flight to West Palm, Florida (PBI), I flew in Premium Economy which had more legroom. It will cost you an additional fee to do so, so please keep that in mind. There are times where I have the extra disposable income to splurge on an amenity that makes my flight more enjoyable.

I flew out of LaGuardia (LGA) and one downfall when flying out of LGA is there weren’t any direct flights to West Palm Beach (PBI). However, it’s a cheaper option than flying out of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Islip (ISP). So, if you’re someone who prefers only direct flights, you’ll have to shell out some extra money to get a direct flight and fly out of JFK or ISP. This was the only pre-flight inconvenience that I encountered, but since I’m someone who doesn’t mind layovers, I was okay with it.

I arrived at LaGuardia using Uber and was pleasantly surprised that the Uber pickup I scheduled the day before for a 5:00 am pickup went off without a hitch! At first, I didn’t think a pickup from Long Island that early on a Saturday would be possible, but it turns out it was! It’s an important tidbit for me to keep in mind for the future.

Once at the airport, I was able to use both priority check-in and priority security to get myself through the airport quickly since I was flying Premium Economy. I was at my gate in around 5 minutes and had plenty of time to relax at the gate before boarding.

I also had priority boarding and was in the main cabin; the first row behind the first class cabin. The first observation I made was the main cabin seats compared to the first-class seats didn’t appear to have much of a difference in terms of size. That observation alone was a reassuring reason not to upgrade to first class. On top of that, the Premium Economy seats were quite comfortable so I had no complaints.

Once the plane took off, there was the traditional in-flight service, but it was nothing special. You could choose a drink order, but on all flights to and from PBI, they just gave you cookies as the snack. There was no choice here and I’m guessing it’s because the flights were only 2 hours in both directions, even with the layovers. I have been on flights shorter than this on Delta where you can choose a snack so I think this is a lazy, half-assed approach by American Airlines.

Secondly, they dropped the ball with in-flight entertainment. Other Airlines like JetBlue and Delta have built-in TV’s on the back of the seats. My flight from LGA to PBI did not have that. You would need to have your device with you (phone, tablet, etc.) to watch the in-flight entertainment available. I found this to be unfortunate considering watching media on your device can drain your device’s battery at a pretty steady clip. Considering there weren’t any charging ports on any of these flights, it seemed counter-intuitive to use your device. If that’s what they’re going to have you do, then they should supply charging ports at your seat.

During each flight, the flight attendant promoted the American Airlines credit card. They were making a strong push for people to sign up and even walked around the cabin with applications. Their promotional read over the intercom was quite long. A short ad-read would be fine, but this went on for 2-3 minutes.

Finally, it’s worth noting that having “priority” on your itinerary also means that your checked-in bags will have a “priority” tag on them and this means that your bags are “supposed” to be one of the first bags to come out on the turn-style. This was the case when arriving at PBI, but on the flight home at LGA this didn’t happen which was confusing. This certainly seems like a lack of consistency, right?

Finally, the flight home wasn’t too bad, but there was a delay during my layover in Charlotte because the flight attendants were late getting in from their previous destination. Hey, it happens. My bigger issue was at PBI, they didn’t have a priority security line and if they did, it wasn’t open. To be fair, there were so few people at the airport on a Saturday at 5 pm, so I’m guessing that’s their reasoning, but again, for those paying for that benefit, it should be available regardless if it’s busy or not.

 

Things To Do In Beautiful Sunny Florida

If there’s one thing about Flordia I believe wholeheartedly it’s that there’s always something to do. I couldn’t fathom the idea of ever being “bored”. Outside of spending a nice amount of time swimming in the pool – this trip was about relaxing, that was my plan – I also took in some of the unique restaurants/bars in the Palm City area.

To kick things off, I checked out Tommy Bahama. Yes, this is a clothing store, but my dad had told me is that it double as a restaurant where you can get drinks and food. Living on Long Island, I have never seen this before. I’m sure something exists like this in Manhattan, but in the suburbs, it’s not something I’ve come across.

Tommy Bahama

It was my first time having a margarita on the rocks compared to what I’ve had in the past which was a frozen margarita. Drinking it on the rocks was delicious. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it if it’s a drink you haven’t had before. Additionally, we ordered some sliders which were also very tasty. For bar food, it tasted a lot more high end and was very good.

For dinner, we went to Guanabana’s, an outdoor only restaurant surrounded by palm trees near the water. It felt like you were in the rainforest and played well into the tropical climate that Florida is known for – especially in the summer. I highly recommend their pulled pork sandwich. It came with cooked potato chips so they weren’t greasy nor were they very salty. It was a nice compliment to the pulled pork instead of going the traditional route I would normally go which is french fries.

Before we discuss the two other places I checked out, I wanted to discuss a fun getaway day trip we took on the Island Princess. It’s a “cruise ship to nowhere” as my stepmom calls it. It takes you from Hutchinson Island to Stuart which takes a total of two hours. Going back is another two hours, so it’s a relaxing and educational four-hour adventure. I say an educational adventure because the two hour trip to Stuart is narrated. The Captain of the ship provides insight and historical tidbits about the houses you’re passing and the surrounding land.

There are a lot of houses on the water that you’ll pass and many of them are owned by very wealthy people. For example, we passed by Tiger Woods’ house and the Captain of the Island Princess told us that he’s got an entire golf course in his backyard for practicing. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, tall trees were blocking his backyard so you couldn’t see much except for some minor gaps within the trees.

Additionally, the ship had a cash bar, complimentary coffee, tea, and pastries. Also included in the price of the cruise was a boxed lunch which you were given on the return portion of the trip to Hutchinson Island. The return trip is not narrated and allows you time to yourself to just take in the sights and relax. Outside of the incredible and I mean incredible houses, my favorite thing to see on the cruise was the lighthouse in Jupiter, Florida. I thought it was cool looking. Finally, I highly recommend you bring sunscreen should you be interested in taking part in this cruise. If you don’t, you will get sunburned. I wish I would have been wiser!

Circling back to restaurants, the next two places I checked out where the Drift Kitchen and Bar in Jensen Beach and Kyle G’s Prime Seafood and Steaks in Hutchinson Island. Drift Kitchen and Bar is a very elegant looking establishment but still is a casual environment. They have a delicious pizza appetizer that tastes like coal-fired pizza which I like. Their meatballs were as good as meatballs served at an Italian restaurant. The bartender told us that the chef has always received a lot of great reviews from customers especially on the pizza. I also tried a whiskey for the first time in my life and for someone that has Crohn’s Disease, this was a mistake. I didn’t realize it would bother my stomach at the time, but lesson learned.

After the appetizers, we made our way to Kyle G’s. We started at the outdoor bar to have a beer, but the service at the outside bar was not very good. We felt ignored and it took a while for us to give our drink orders. I was starting to feel like this experience wasn’t going to be a good one with the way things were starting. However, we decided to go inside to eat and that’s where the whole experience took a complete shift and became an absolute positive. We met and were served at the indoor bar by the owner Kyle. Very nice guy, very hospitable, and made sure we had a nice time. It made a great impression to see the owner willing to help out on the floor when his restaurant was busy. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich for dinner. I know, very basic!

Finally, I was in the market for a powder blue pair of shorts for the summer and my dad had let me know about a place called Bealls. This store doesn’t exist in New York, but I compared it to a Khol’s on steroids. They had better deals and better quality brands of clothing. I recommend you check it out on your next visit to Florida.

 

The Ultimate Lodging Accommodations

As we close out this review of Florida, the last thing to go over is where I slept. Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that since I was visiting family I stayed at my dad’s beautiful new house. Whenever you travel, I highly recommend you go to places where you know someone. Your wallet will thank you.

In my dad’s new house, I was fortunate enough to stay in one of the three guest rooms. This house is huge and I couldn’t be happier for my dad and stepmom for having the house of their dreams. I liked that the guest room had a bathroom immediately adjacent to it and didn’t require me having to walk to the bathroom. However, I did choose to use one of the other bathrooms in the house to take a shower because it has a stand-in shower. I am personally not a fan of bathtubs.

While awake, my favorite room of the house had to be the office. I have always wanted – and hopefully will someday – have an office in a house of my own. I loved how it had sports memorabilia hanging on the walls. It was a great personal touch. Not only that, there was a TV in the room! With how much time I spend on the computer myself, this was the ultimate office setup.

The kitchen was tremendous and had that great open layout that so many people appreciate. There was so much room to walk around to the point where there’s no way you’re going to experience congestion while in the kitchen. I enjoyed waking up every morning and sitting at the island in the middle of the kitchen and having my coffee and breakfast and chatting with my dad and stepmom.

Without a doubt, the most fun thing to do around the house was to sit outside in the backyard within the screened-in lanai. The weather outside was always warm and was bug-free. Considering Florida is known for lizards, snakes, bugs, etc., the screened-in lanai is definitely worth the investment for any homeowner. My dad told me it’s highly recommended when you live in Florida. Even better is the overhang they have over their outdoor patio furniture. As many people know, Florida is known for having scattered thunderstorms throughout the day due to its tropical climate. The good thing is it only lasts about 15-20 minutes and then the sun is back out. The overhang covering the outdoor patio was great because we were still able to stay outside and listen to music all while the rain came down.

Additionally, a fun activity to do outside was to read during the day. I’m an avid reader and so is my stepmom, so during the day, it was nice to hang outside with her while we both read our books. I would be remiss if not to mention that one of the neatest features installed in the house was the surround sound Sonos system. As a fan of tech, I thought this was so neat to see implemented in the house. I know surround sound systems aren’t new, but what blew me away was that no matter where you were in the house, you can hear the music that was playing. In the morning and mid-afternoon, we tended to listen to easy listening music. No lyrics, just calming sounds which made for the perfect complimentary while reading. At night we would listen to upbeat music while hanging out by the pool.

Pool

Speaking of the pool… you want to talk about the ultimate place for relaxation? I could have stayed there all day every day. For me, I had to pinch myself continuously in awe of this being the life my dad and stepmom live every single day. I am so happy for them that they have this and get to enjoy every minute of it. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it and that I was given the open invitation to visit whenever I could. To sit in the pool in a complete zen-like state with that “not a care in the world” feeling was complete euphoria. As I look out from the pool to the palm trees and surrounding forest encompassing their backyard, I think to myself, “this is paradise”. It’s no wonder that in a closed, gated community full of peace that my stepmom’s cousin would say, “if I lived here, I would never leave”.

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