A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were supposed to spend three nights in Aruba while celebrating our wedding anniversary. That didn’t materialize. Our flight from Orlando was set to leave at 11:00 AM, so I thought we had plenty of time to drop the kids off at school before heading to the airport.
And on a normal day, that would have been the case. But this was no normal day. When we approached I-4, the traffic was backed up for miles. Judging by the fact that there were several ambulances rushing to the interstate, there has been a bad accident. By the time we finally arrived to the airport, it was too late.
Southwest rep told me to talk to someone in customer service and see if they can put us on a flight the next day. So, I had a decision to make. We would need to spend one night in Orlando and would have only two nights in Aruba. On top of everything, my husband had a mild cold. He was taking antibiotics, but I didn’t want to put him through this kind of stress. After all, the whole point of the trip was to relax.
Where should we go?
I decided to cut my losses and just cancel Aruba flight so we could spend three nights in Florida instead. I only had 30 minutes left before flight departure, so quickly called Southwest and agent happily redeposited all of our points. Love, love, love Southwest! We have one year to use up $140 in credits from refund of international taxes, which may or may not materialize.
There was also a matter of canceling our hotel reservation in Aruba. At that point the deadline has passed, but I called IHG and the agent got in touch with the property manager who refunded 45,000 points as a courtesy. I know I complain about IHG sometimes, but they really came through for me in this particular case. Thumbs up, IHG!
Now we had to decide where to stay in Florida. I didn’t want to use my Chase Ultimate Rewards because I’m saving them for flights or cruise. So, Hyatt option was out. I don’t have a lot of SPG points, so we circled back to IHG. Unfortunately, last-minute bookings are IHG’s achilles heel.
We wanted to go to St. Petersburg and stay in Hotel Indigo, where we’ve spent our previous anniversary. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available via points. So, my husband suggested Holiday Inn Sarasota Lido Beach. We’ve stayed there a couple of times with kids, so it would be fun to relax and enjoy it as a couple. Done!
I used my annual renewal certificate for one night and burned 70,000 points for the other two nights. I should receive a 10% rebate later on. I’ve acquired the points for around $200 via various promos, not counting $49 I paid for annual fee on Chase IHG MasterCard. The rate for three nights would have been $700, so we did alright. Yes, I burned a ton of points, but that’s what they are there for, right? Plus, my husband rarely voices an opinion when it comes to hotels.
Our wonderful weekend in Sarasota
Obviously, I was bummed that my special trip to Aruba went up in smoke. But I had a decision to make. I could be miserable for three nights, or I could make lemonade out of lemons. I chose the latter.
The weather was gorgeous, my husband was relieved that he didn’t have to fly with a cold, and we would have a relaxing local getaway with no pressure of sightseeing. Last but not least, I got all of my points refunded.
I was really hoping to get an upgrade to an oceanview room, but that too didn’t materialize. They did give us a deluxe room (with two queen beds), which was considerably bigger than the one we got last time.
Obviously, unless you are into forest green color scheme and miss the eighties decor, the room is nothing to write home about. But it was clean and the beds were comfortable. That’s mostly what I look for in hotels. We also had a nice balcony where I enjoyed having my coffee while watching sleepy Lido beach community.
Be aware, this is an old hotel that has been recently remodeled. But as it goes with older properties, you can only do so much to cover up the age. It’s like when a lady is close to 50. She may do plastic surgery and use expensive skin creams, but she won’t look 25. Well, unless it’s Jennifer Lopez. I’ll have whatever she is drinking!
My favorite part of this hotel (aside from its location) is the restaurant at the top floor:
Eating breakfast while enjoying this view? Priceless. Just a reminder: if you have kids under 12, they eat free at all Holiday Inn properties when you purchase an adult entree. The food here is pretty good, and the cost isn’t outrageous, about what you would expect to pay at an IHOP.
I was so happy that at least the weather cooperated, and we had three wonderful, rain-free days. We even got to swim in the ocean, though the water was a bit cold. The hotel also has a (barely) heated pool and we enjoyed it as well. It was nice to just walk on the beach, while watching various birds:
Aruba? We don’t need no stinking Aruba!
I never get tired of watching sunsets on Florida Gulf Coast:
I recommend this hotel if you are a low-key traveler who is mostly interested in close proximity to one of the best beaches in Florida. The place isn’t fancy, but at 35,000 points per night it’s a good deal, especially during Spring Break. Using your annual renewal certificate from IHG credit card is a smokin’ deal during any season.
Going to movies and eating out
As most couples with little kids, we don’t go to movies or eat out all that often. But not that weekend! We made sure to take advantage of our temporary freedom. When we are in a relatively large city, we like to try out exotic cuisines. That’s why I was excited to find a Peruvian restaurant called El Ceviche, located not too far from the hotel. It was just a hole-in-the-wall diner in a sketchy neighborhood. Those are usually the best kind.
I ordered a Peruvian tamale, which was somewhat similar to what you would get in a Mexican restaurant, but a bit spicier. I thought it was interesting that they brought a complimentary appetizer which consisted of fried corn and a special dipping sauce:
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, one of the best anniversary getaways we’ve ever had. What more can you ask for?
We got home on Sunday around 4 PM. My husband was supposed to go to work the next day when I noticed that he had no clean dress pants. Oops! I told him it was a good thing we weren’t coming back from Aruba since the plane was supposed to land in the evening, and we wouldn’t get home till 10 PM. He said, half-jokingly: “Yup, that would not make me happy.”
In response I started to sing lyrics from a corny song by Jennifer Lopez, called “Ain’t your mama”:
Me: I ain’t gonna do your laundry, I ain’t your mama.
My husband: I’m so glad I married you!
Me: Say what?
Him: I just love how feisty you are.
So, to all of you ladies who are labeled as “difficult.” There are guys who are into this sort of thing! Marrying my husband all those years ago was the best deal I ever made.
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.