Our Key West Trip Part 1: Islamorada

For Christmas the last few years we’ve cut back on gifts and instead have given the kids a trip. It was a struggle to decide what to plan for Christmas Trip 2020 because I mean hello the whole world is kinda in a crazy spot and it seemed likely that whatever we tried to plan would just be canceled anyway (it’s now been a full year since we were supposed to go on the Christmas Trip 2019 Disney Cruise and who KNOWS when/if that’ll EVER happen now!).

So for Christmas this year we gifted a trip to Mexico. We planned Mexico because it was ONE thing to plan and it could be easily canceled. When travel guidelines changed a few weeks prior to our trip we went ahead and canceled and came up with a Plan B.

Throughout the last year we’ve traveled to Florida and are very comfortable with Florida traveling and know what to expect in Florida. It’s THE safest bet for a trip.

Zach and I have NEVER been to Key West but in our hunt for a similar-to-Mexico experience, we came across Hawks Cay in Duck Key and decided to make Key West our Christmas Trip 2020 Plan B!

We had the trip planned for the kids school break in February and we just planned Key West for the same dates. We’d already planned for Spear to stay with Big Papa and G-Mama and decided to keep that plan in place as we knew the drive would be LONG and many of the things we wanted to do on the trip would be difficult with him along and he’d be too young to really enjoy/appreciate them.

We DID agree – this was the last big kid only trip. We both (well I should say we ALL) missed Spear a TON and had that guilt feeling in our gut that he wasn’t there with us. He had a BLAST with Big Papa and G-Mama but from now on he’ll most likely be part of any family vacation! Typically around 3-4 is when we stop leaving the youngest behind!

The drive to Key West wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d always thought it’d be. It’s a 9 hour drive all the way to Key West and our resort stay was in Duck Key which is about an hour north of Key West so we had an 8 hour drive ahead of us!

We decided to split it up on the way down and stay a night in a hotel on the way. That allowed us to check the kids out of school so they’d be considered present for the day and it wouldn’t count against their attendance πŸ˜‰

Zach and I are PLANNED TRAVELERS. Truly. We thrive with a solid game plan. We do NOT do well when things are just casually decided or spur of the moment. I’m pretty sure majority of our car ride arguments have been deciding where to stop and eat when traveling haha. We ended up at a dang CHILIS. Which is SO LAME but we just couldn’t agree on where to stop and traffic was tricky so we just STOPPED and ate at the first place we saw. We were all so tired that we didn’t care much what the food was anyway.

Zach did a great job in finding our place to stay for the night. It was a hotel called Club Lux and we were all that good exhausted from a long drive and being cooped in the car and we just thought everything was hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing about CLUB LUX.

It was a legit nice room especially just for a one night situation! We had two separate sleep spaces so we all were able to get some really great sleep!

The girls and I packed our matching pjs from the company store to wear on the trip too.

We were not in a big hurry the next morning which was nice. We did majority of the driving the night prior and made plans to ENJOY the trip down so we’d be able to stick to the resort area for the majority of the trip rather than be loading back up in the car to go and do a bunch of places.

Zach cracked me up with his packing. I pack myself and all the kids for trips and he packs himself hence why he’s not always matching our theme but it was hilarious that he packed PANTS and LONG SLEEVE BLACK SHIRTS for a tropical trip!

Growing up we drove from near Atlanta to Cape Canaveral area and we would ALWAYS say “at least we’re not going to Miami!” and this trip we went PAST Miami! πŸ˜‰

We saw some really cool sights including this massive guitar building. We also saw a TON of Trump supporting which surprised us because we always thought south florida was more liberal leaning?

We made a stop for the day in Islamorada. When I was doing planning for the trip there were SO many things to do and see and several were in Islamorada but it was a good 30-45 minutes from Duck Key where we were staying so we thought it was smart to do all the Islamorada stuff on the way DOWN!

First stop? Breakfast! Zach did a little quick research that morning as we learned from the Chili’s debacle that we thrive with a plan and we hit up Harriette’s Restaurant in Key Largo . It was FANTASTIC and such an awesome way to really kick off the trip.

The food was delicious, the key lime muffins were awesome and the service was just above and beyond. We had THE best time.

As I said earlier, Zach and I had never been to Key West and we’d always heard it wasn’t “our kind of place” so we had NO CLUE what to expect. We warned the kids that we might overhear things or see things that are inappropriate and that they could tell us if they felt uncomfortable about anything or had questions about anything etc. Because we truly had NO CLUE what we’d encounter! (Spoiler alert: Key West, it turns out, IS our kinda place and we LOVED it and had a totally family-friendly experience).

Britt came out of the bathroom at the restaurant and said that she saw something SUPER INAPPROPRIATE written on the bathroom wall. Naturally I had to go check it out and yall know all the things I was imagining. Instead I saw this sign hahaha I love how innocent my kids are!

Our next stop was Theater of The Sea. In looking for family-friendly activities in Key West this place kept popping up on lists as a fun visit and I thought it’d be a great way to kick-off the trip.

It is a very different sort of animal experience as it’s set up where you literally move from show-to-show. The shows aren’t traditional shows but many are more of an employee educating guests about the areas in that particular area, feeding the animals, answering questions etc.

It’s a really neat way to set things up and only took a couple of hours to see and do it all. We all really enjoyed it, even Kye and Zach who tend not to love zoo experiences.

Little Tessie is JUST like her mama and immediately started chatting up the employee and it earned her and Britt a special privilege of getting to feed the sea turtles! One was even named MORTIMER which is crazy as that’s our turtle’s name too!

Birds just aren’t my jam but it was neat to see them doing tricks and such. And I LOVE this picture of the girls because it totally showcases their individual personalities. Britt = SUPER PUMPED Tess “that’s cool.”

By far THE best part of the entire experience was the dolphin show. It was AMAZING and so cool and WAY better than the one at Sea World or the Georgia Aquarium. We ALL loved it! TONS of tricks and it was all put to music that fit really well and we loved the ACTION!

They have animal encounter experiences and I debated having us do an animal encounter there but in the end decided against it as the photos just didn’t make it look that awesome and it was pricey!

The sea lion show at Sea World IS better than the one at Theater of the Sea but it was still cute and we were glad to watch it. Sea Lions are so intriguing to me. I want to eventually do some sort of sea lion experience!

I thought it was very interesting to see this salt scrub in the bathroom and the claims that it prevents corona. Super random and interesting that I’d never heard of it before!

We were surprised at the chill laid back vibe of Key West as we’d anticipated there to be very strict guidelines everywhere but it wasn’t the case. Yes, masks were required many places but they weren’t nearllllly as hardcore as Disney about stuff!

I would totally consider Theater of the Sea a great spot on a first visit for a family to the area. We wouldn’t go back but none of us regretted doing it either!

Another must-do I kept seeing everywhere was Robbie’s Marina and feeding the tarpons is like a Key West rite of passage. So duh we HAD to do it!

We were still all super stuffed from breakfast so we decided not to eat anything meal-wise while at Robbie’s but there is a pretty decently sized outdoor market area that was fun to walk around and browse all the little trinkets and beach souvenirs.

While we were walking through Zach randomly started saying HEY to someone and I looked and realized it was our sweet friend Leslie! We legit haven’t seen her in probably a decade or actually probably even more than that because I don’t think she’d met ANY of our kids before!

She used to work at the local country club here in town and back in the day Zach’s parents were members and so when Zach and I were college kids and early married we’d hit it up and grab food etc from there (the BEST chicken fingers) and we got to know Leslie and she is THE sweetest! I can’t believe she remembered us from that long ago and recognized us!

She is actually living there now and working at Robbie’s. Such a fun place to live and getting to interact with tourists has to be so fun all the time to meet so many different people passing through! I’m SO glad we ran into her and got to introduce our babies and give her big hugs!

The main event at Robbie’s is feeding the tarpons fish. They are HUGE fish and I saw all the pics of people laying on the dock and leaning over the water to feed them and these fish jumping up to eat out of people’s hands. As seen here (which I mean now looking at the photo more it’s probably pretty dated huh? haha);

I’m ALL about a hands-on experience and also all about providing my kids with experiences like that. I love doing different things (the more random, the more memorable right?) so this was RIGHT up my ally.

Zach was a BIG NO on participating because he didn’t want to handle the little fish to feed them and then smell like fish. I also think he sensed the vibe and just hung back to avoid the chaos. He just tossed me to the wolves…or should I say pelicans hahah

It was so CRAZY all you could do was laugh. Here I am with three kids. Two buckets of fish and about a billion pelicans trying to bite us at every turn. I’d try to help one kid and the dang pelican would be trying to eat the fish from the bucket. I’d try to scare one away and another one would be attacking a kid. It was INSANITY.

I was DYING laughing. Kye’s hand got TORE UP by a pelican and poor Tessie had one literally try to swallow her entire arm.

The girls were crying and freaking out and Kye went into protector mode trying to chase off the pelicans.

We had to pay to even WALK on the dock plus paid for the fish. A $17 nightmare hahaha

When we first paid for everything the employees acted like there would be staff members down on the dock to help scare away the pelicans. We legit called for help and NONE CAME.

In addition there are nets everywhere. So you can’t even SEE the tarpons, let alone FEED THEM. And ain’t no-one laying down on the dock to hold their hand out over the water. Total false advertising haha

Pelicans were EVERYWHERE. And MEAN. And NASTY. They’ve been added to our animal hate-list right there beside zebras πŸ˜‰ I kept YELLING “NO SIR! NO SIR!” at them the entire time haha!

If you find your children freaking out and or getting attacked by animals hilarious then Robbie’s is the place for you. Seriously they should sell “We Survived Robbie’s” shirts! Meanwhile Zach was just watching it all go down from the mainland haha

We DID get to see a legit shark and several manatees which was really neat! And we did get some great war wound scars for our efforts. When Kye went back to school someone asked what happened to his hand and he said “pelican attack” hahahah Def an experience none of us will EVER forget! It’s a good thing Spear wasn’t with us as he would have probably been eaten alive, literally.

Just to show how hardcore the pelican attacks are…Robbie’s legit had a little booth when you came off the dock with hydrogen peroxide to clean out your wounds!!!

While Zach didn’t offer us any protection, he did reward us for our efforts with some shaved ice! It was SO GOOD. Like that legit, legit shaved ice. I ordered the Islamorada which was tigers blood + pina colada + ice cream + condensed milk. SO GOOD.

After our survival at Robbie’s we headed over to check into the resort!

We literally decided to visit Key West due to our finding of Hawk’s Cay. We felt like it was a very similar vibe to the all inclusive resort we’d planned to stay at in Mexico. While Hawks Cay is NOT all inclusive they do have a TON of activities and it just has that tropical, relaxed, resort vibe!

We stayed in a 2 bedroom villa. They ARE individually owned (sort of like a time share set up but we didn’t have anyone ever ask us to do a tour or anything so I don’t think they are actual timeshares) so each unit is different. The one we saw online was different than the one when we checked in and we were disappointed at first with the accommodations.

We went back up to the check in and explained our concerns and reality vs what we’d booked and they were AWESOME about it and moved us to a new unit which was only a couple villas down but way nicer! If you’re looking to book unit 5090 was awesome!

If we plan another trip we will look into the 3 bedroom villas, we made the 2 bedroom work (scroll down to see how we brought an air mattress from home to allow for the three of them to share the room) but I do think the 3 bedroom would have had more space…which we would have enjoyed and will also be a must-have with Spear with us!

We got unpacked and then headed out to find some dinner! There are a lot of food options on the resort property but there is also a town just a few minutes drive away with lots of food options too. We wanted to go to the store to pick up some things so it made sense to eat out while we were in town.

We found a great little pizza place and were the only people in the entire restaurant!

We then hit up Publix to get some food essentials that we didn’t bring down with us. I wasn’t sure how food prices would be as often in travel destinations even grocery stores are more expensive! I did a lot of food buying at home and brought things with us but since we split up the stay I didn’t want to bring any cold items.

We were happy to discover that Publix pricing was just the same as at home! When we planned the Mexico trip the kids had been SO excited for the all inclusive experience so Zach had the genius idea to give them each $30 to spend on WHATEVER they wanted to bring on the trip and they could snack on it all trip long.

They each saved some of their money to use when we arrived so they could get ice cream and such. Kye was cracking me up with his BOGO deals and getting SO MUCH ICE CREAM. He had five days to eat 3 tubs of ice cream (spoiler alert – it didn’t happen).

This is our FIRST family vacation ever that we didn’t have a stroller with us! Tess did SO WELL without one but I mean she also should do well since she’s SIX. But the girl just loves a stroller…and loves to also sweet talk people into carrying her πŸ˜‰

We let the kids get a “midnight snack” at 8:30 to end our super fun filled first day!

If you want a good laugh be sure to watch the video in this post for our Club Lux silliness as well as the great pelican adventure at Robbie’s πŸ˜‰

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Emily Parker

Hey Y’all, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happiest place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Love What Matters, Today Parenting and Babywise.Life. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

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