myfiftyplusjourney

With all the world in turmoil thanks to the Corona virus, I never got the chance to write a travel blog about my February trip to Florida. The first of 3 scheduled trips, but the only one that I was able to take.

Jackson plays baseball for Delta College here in Michigan. Part of the college baseball experience is they go to a big spring break tournament and play baseball for 10 days straight. This is especially important for those colleges in Michigan, because quite frankly it is the first time they get to get outside and play on a real baseball field since October when ‘fall ball’ ends. The winters here (and sometimes the springs) just don’t support baseball during the school year very well. Our weather usually turns for the better in mid to late April and school are out by the first weekend in May. Both of my college kids are studying for final exams right now!

So last year and this year I had the opportunity to fly down and watch them play in the tournament. I work for an elementary/middle school, so the timing isn’t idea, but I feel like it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity (okay twice) but you know what I mean. Last year my daughter and a dear friend went along and we stayed in a lovely condo in a beautiful Holiday Inn resort. I would recommend it over and over, the grounds and the amenities were beautiful! This year I was traveling alone (initially) so I stayed with another baseball family. It was kind of nice to let someone else do the leg work this time. She found a beautiful home in a subdivision (gated community) called Championsgate. I had heard of it and I actually saw it last year, it wasn’t far from where we stayed (but closer to the ball fields), very easy access to Hwy 27 and Interstate 4.

Championsgate is HUGE! 8 miles long, for a total of 15,000 acres, this place is massive. Each day that I stayed there (10 in all) I learned a little something new.

There are two sides to the property; the homeowners side (no short term/vacation rentals allowed) and the rental side. Honestly, you might thing that that rental side would be less luxurious, but it wasn’t. Our home was absolutely stunning. Managed by a property management company and staged by professional interior decorators, it was a beautiful home. It was plenty big for the 7 of us. 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The kitchen/living area was well set up and all of these homes had little tiny pools in the backyard (covered by nets to keep the gators out) which entertained the children for hours!

We discovered, after about 5 days that there was a little “downtown” to Championsgate with restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, drugstores and little shops. This made for easy treks for dinner or whatever we needed. The sidewalks and walking trails went for miles. Perfect for someone who likes to start their day out with a little 3 mile jaunt with sunshine, palm trees and golf courses for a view. Although quite honestly “the club, clubhouse Oasis on the Championsgate property offered THE BEST shrimp salad I have ever had!

It’s probably a little closer to fly into Orlando than Tampa where we flew into, but Tampa was an easy drive, we just took non-interstate roads. This gave us a lovely view of central Florida along the way. We saw farms, orange groves, orange packing plants (those were new to me) and a whole lot of Dollar General stores… who has noticed that every small town in America now has a Dollar General? From years of searching, sometimes it is cheaper to fly into Tampa and sometimes Orlando. But if you’re staying in the middle of the state, either one works fine. For me it worked out really well because I had a night on the end by myself, so I drove over and stayed in Clearwater for the night….. that’s another blog in and of itself. I may have fallen in love with that area.

I rented from Thrifty Rental Cars (my first time). Apparently they are a division of Hertz (I hadn’t realized this) but if you sign up for their rewards program, they offer GREAT rates. Less expensive even than TURO (a new app I discovered for cars that is similar to AirBnb for home). I didn’t want to try Turo when I was traveling by myself, but when I booked through Thrifty, I was pleasantly surprised at the price. That was no other special discounts (no military, no USAA, no AAA, just their rewards program). Plus , although there were a few glitches at pickup (and these are simply convenient glitches… like my car wasn’t sitting there with my name on it and the keys in it…. which apparently to some who were right in front of me or right behind me was a BIG deal), they were very quick and efficient to get me my car and even upgraded me to a luxury car because it wasn’t there waiting for me (totally not necessary) but I guess being kind and courteous when others are being rude pays off.

SO… Championsgate through AirBnB or VRBO, Thrifty Rental Car and Southwest Airlines (ALWAYS for the customer service and for the 2 free bags and no hidden charges. I’m not so fussy about seating). Made for a lovely little vacation.

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