Summer Vacation 2016: What We Brought

I think our summer vacation was successful in large part due to the time we took to get the right gear to take. We have taken many trips to the Keys and have learned a lot each time. I think now we know exactly what to pack and what we need to make our lives easy and fun while on vacation.



So every time our kids have gone out on a boat they have been absolutely miserable in their life vests. They must wear them on the boat so I knew this was one item I was going to have to shop around for in order to get the best one. In previous years the ones we had for the kids were very bulky and cumbersome and when they wanted to rest the vest would always rub them in the face. I looked all over, at Academy Sports, West Marine and even Amazon for slimmer vests. I finally just happened upon two in Target and they turned out to be perfect!! The link to hers is here. This is what it looks like on. Very slim and comfy! She had no problems wearing it constantly.IMG_1409


Here is hisIMG_1415

We wore our bathing suits A LOT. It was basically our uniform for the month. I got most of the kids suits at Target and Old Navy. I brought 5 suits each so I didn’t have to do laundry every second (I actually ended up doing laundry every second anyway). 


Here was my outfit pretty much every day. 





I absolutely love the Athleta Twister Bikini. It has the best support and still looks really cute. I have one in Jazzy Purple (shown above) and also Electric Jade. I don’t think I will ever buy another suit top. I bought the Shirred Bottom in Electric Jade and also bought these bottoms from Target and just mix and matched. 50726464


My sunglasses

You MUST have polarized sunglasses to be out on the boat all day. I mean I guess you don’t have to but it makes such a difference in the water color and you can actually see really far into the water while wearing them. These are very comfy and unlike my cheap aviators I normally wear I don’t squint at all. They are cute and protective at the same time. This company is really great to because they have a lifetime warranty! You can read about it here! My whole family loves Costa’s and they are never more perfect than in the Keys. Here is what they look like on.FullSizeRender

Shoes for the Boat

These are tricky because most boat shoes aren’t really adorable. I wanted to find something with a light bottom so it wouldn’t scuff the boat but really needed to grip well and and also be a little cute. These were perfect and extremely comfortable! I just threw them on each day and they had a great grip!

I wore the shirt in the collage as a cover up (along with a rotation of 4 others) and threw on the earrings and I was good to go.

Normally, on all my other trips I would leave off my wedding rings completely. Swimming and snorkeling, I found myself holding on to them so they wouldn’t fall off and I just couldn’t do what I wanted while in the water. Before this trip I came across Qalo rings and ordered one for myself and one for my husband. They are PERFECT. I could wear this and it stays on tight, doesn’t shimmer in the water (hello barracuda) and if it were to slip off I wouldn’t be heartbroken (only $20). I still wear mine every day when I go to the gym. These are so perfect!FullSizeRender


We all had masks, snorkels and fins for the trip. I got these before we left and they were great. The mouthpiece did come off somewhat easily but it wasn’t enough to be a real problem.IMG_1821

Every day we loaded up the boat to head out. I used two of these Thirty One bags every day  to carry what we needed and they were perfect. One held towels and the other one held sunscreen, a grocery bag with snacks, any extra swim shirts, and drink koozies. 

Another item I wouldn’t be able to live without is this waterproof  phone case. It was perfect. I even loved it just to keep my phone from getting wet while on the boat. The underwater pictures turned out pretty good too!IMG_7347


Food and Drink


You definitely need one of these if you go on a boat, to the beach or anywhere you take your cooler. They are perfect for keeping things like sandwiches (or limes) from getting soggy in the melting ice portion of the cooler. There are also Tacklewebs for your boat. These are great for keeping things organized while you are on the water.IMG_1681

If you are visiting the Keys during the summer it is really really hot and if you enjoy beer I would recommend bringing lots of koozies. I normally keep some in my purse because even restaurants have a tough time keeping beer cold. It is just really hot. Having koozies handy really helps. IMG_7323


If you forget one, some places will loan one to you.

They even have koozies for wine glasses!IMG_1473

Another item for keeping drinks cold is a Yeti or RTIC cup. We used these every single day. They keep drinks cold even overnight. We have both Yeti’s and RTIC’s and we didn’t notice a difference. They both work great! I also brought one of these bottles and we used it to mix up margaritas and mimosas. IMG_1537

So that is a little look into what we took on vacation that really helped to make our lives a bit easier.  I know that when you are prepared from the start, you are able to spend more time having fun. If you decide to take a Keys trip or any boat trip really, maybe some of these things will help you too.IMG_1653

Here are the other posts if you missed them!

Summer Vacation 2016: Where We Stayed

Summer Vacation 2016: What We Did

Summer Vacation 2016: What We Ate


Summer Vacation 2016: Where We Stayed

We just returned from a wonderful month-long vacation in Big Pine Key, Florida. We had a truly unforgettable time. We were so fortunate to be able to take this trip and we really made the most of the time we had together. I’m going to devote a few posts to our vacation. I’ll share where we stayed, what we did, what we ate and what we brought.  I am by no means an expert only using this as a way to share our experience.

We used HomeAway Vacation Rentals to book our house. We stayed here and we couldn’t ask for a better place. Our family of four stayed the whole month, and we split the weeks of the month up with friends and family who shared the house with us one to two weeks at a time. This house was perfect for 8 people. We didn’t feel cramped and everyone had their own space. You can see the inside from the listing. What made this house though was the backyard. The pool was perfect to entertain the kids when we weren’t out on the boat (and perfect to hop in after a long day out). The tiki hut was a great place to relax and be outside without being too hot and miserable. The dock and sea wall provided the perfect amount of space for the two boats we had and the landscaping was just beautiful.IMG_7232









Outdoor Shower




Big Pine Key is located in the Lower Keys about 30 miles north of Key West. You can see from the map where it is in relationship to the other Keys and South Florida. Big Pine definitely has a very laid back vibe. You don’t go for the nightlife and restaurants like in the Upper Keys or Key West. You are definitely there to enjoy being out on the water each day and resting each night to do it all over again.

We took our boat out almost every day and it was incredible. We brought our masks, fins, snorkels and fishing poles then each day we set out on adventure. There are so many things to explore by boat. Where we stayed is the “Start” and each day we would head out and try new things. We would go to the patch reefs that were very close. The water wasn’t as clear but there were so many fish to see while snorkeling. 
Map 2

Our favorite by far was Looe Key. It took us about 35 minutes to get there each time but it was worth the trip. The water is so beautiful and there are so many different types of fish, coral and sea life. It is part of the Florida Keys National Marine SanctuaryIMG_1831





The sandbar was also a favorite. The kids swam and explored and the grown-ups floated and relaxed.

We really enjoyed staying in Big Pine. It was perfect for what we wanted do to. I really enjoy staying in the Upper Keys too though. But if we are going to stay for longer than a week we will definitely head south and stay here.

Tomorrow I will share what we did while we were there.