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5. Niagara Falls, Elvis and Amish. Oh My!
Update: this hotel is no longer part of IHG program.
My mom loves the ocean. I think it has to do with the fact that Belarus, the place where I grew up, is a landlocked country. We have rivers and lakes, and they are cold, even in the summer. There is a joke in Florida that you can always tell the German tourists, because they go in the ocean during the winter, unlike Americans. Well, they should add Slavs to the list as well!
Since my parents’ visit was at the end of May, I just had to take them to the beach. Honestly, if it was up to my mom, we would have spent the entire time by the ocean. But, that’s not how I roll! For various reasons we could only stay one night, so I wanted to make the most of it.
That’s where my Chase IHG MasterCard certificates came in handy. When you apply for it, each anniversary you get 1 night stay at any IHG property after paying a $49 annual fee.
I settled on Holiday Inn Sanibel Island. It’s located in my favorite part of Florida, just a short drive from Captiva island. It reminds me a bit of Key West, with a Caribbean flair. The place is located about 2.5 hours driving distance from our home. This property was very low-key, basically a motel on the beach, but not in a seedy kind of way. It has a pool, several hammocks and lounge chairs that you can use for free, while relaxing by the ocean.
We checked in at 3 PM, since I wanted to maximize our short stay. The rooms are a bit small and somewhat basic, though very clean. The mattress (queen size) was comfortable and the sheets seemed to be of good quality. They do have larger suites, but we couldn’t get an upgrade because the hotel was completely sold out during our stay. We were there on a Saturday night, so you may have a better luck on a weekday. Since some of my readers have 3 kids, I asked about a rollaway. I was told that it costs $15 per night, and will only accommodate a child 8 years old or younger.
My parents insisted on both of my kids spending the night in their room. Giggity! I saw Holly from Club Thrifty use this term in one of her posts, and can only assume it meant getting decent rest and sleep without interruption?
Anyway, onto the beach part. It’s very nice and uncrowded, with calm water that should be safe for kids to swim in. There are also a ton of beautiful shells, which is what the area is known for. One thing to note: I saw some cigarette butts in the sand, and some shells were broken and had sharp edges. So, I recommend you wear water shoes. We didn’t have any, and it made me nervous watching my kids running around the sand.
The hotel has a couple of restaurants, and “Kids Eat Free” program, a signature of Holiday Inn brand. We decided to eat breakfast on property. The food was good, and the price was fair by island standards. However, the service was painfully slow. Perhaps, it was a fluke, so your experience may be different.
Things to do on or near Sanibel island
You can tour Visitor Center at no cost. It features history of this particular part of Florida as well as various stuffed animal exhibits. My kids really enjoyed it. I do recommend you tour the refuge by car to see many plants and birds native to this area.
2. Drive on further to Captiva. Lots of funky shops and restaurants, as well as beautiful white sand beaches. From here you can take a dolphin cruise or a boat tour to various nearby islands. Check website CaptivaCruises for more.
This property is a good place to use your Chase IHG MasterCard certificates, as long as you don’t expect luxury and don’t mind the issues that I’ve brought up. Otherwise, it costs 35,000 points, not a good deal IMO, unless you are staying for one night or visiting during holidays. My husband requested that we go back there next year, and I concurred.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.