On a Budget in Fort Lauderdale? Don’t Miss This Millionaire Experience!

On a Budget in Fort Lauderdale? Don’t Miss This Millionaire Experience!

Why Not Just Book One of Fort Lauderdale Tours?

 

Anyone who reads this blog will know that we are currently on our world trip our first stop being Fort Lauderdale in Florida. And what better way to see Fort Lauderdale than by taking one of the many tours. Me, hair flying back in the wind, a glass of wine in hand, children laughing maniacally at the fact that there is no wifi. I could see it all.

But.

If you are a regular reader you will also know that we are on a super tight budget. If we wish to see the things we have set out to see then we have to stick to the rules. Like Glue. Harder when you are travelling with two teenagers than it was when it was just the two of us. But, just because you are watching the pennies, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun. Read about how we took a Fort Lauderdale water tour, ate lunch, hired bikes and drank wine – all for less than the cost of one ticket on one of the many super duper tours that are on offer within the city.

A happy family take the Fort Lauderdale tours on the water taxi. All on budget and happy!

On budget? Tick. Beautiful day? Tick. Bit of homeschooling thrown in? Absolutely!

 

 

What is Fort Lauderdale, Florida Like?

 

Ft Lauderdale is hot and pretty big. The population is 179,000. Remember, I am a Taranaki girl where the population of New Plymouth is 76,000 and although we emigrated from Bath in the UK where the number of residents was 176,000 –  that was a long time ago, so to me, Fort Lauderdale seems huge.

The buildings are towering and sleek, each nudging their way to the prime spot beside the pristine white sand beach. Kids ride around on bikes with no hands, no shirts and no helmets. There are swaying palm trees, parrots, geckos and white pavements. There are lots of muscle cars. And shops. Fort Lauderdale is surrounded by waterways. You can take a boat up the intercoastal from Fort Lauderdale all the way to New Jersey without having to go out into the ocean.

As you drive around you pass over numerous little bridges catching fleeting glimpses of the beautiful houses that line the exquisite waterways resembling Venice.

 

Apart From Fort Lauderdale Tours, What Else is There to do in Ft Lauderdale? Plenty.

 

We are very fortunate to have family living in Ft Lauderdale and so were spoilt with treats and wonderful days out that we otherwise couldn’t possibly have written into the budget. We have been taken to see alligators, geckos and have walked our legs off at Universal Studios in Orlando.

But on Saturday we found ourselves home alone in Ft Lauderdale to fend for ourselves. It was time to plan something for ourselves.

 

But What do you do in Fort Lauderdale on a Budget?

 

The kids very thoughtfully suggested we could just stay at home with the wifi all day but after I hinted that if this were the case they might want to do a homeschool project they flew to the door begging for mercy.

We have only been gone from New Zealand for two weeks. They are not ready to do schoolwork. Nor do I think they will ever be ready for it. I’ve told you before. I think I’m the only homeschooling mother in the world that has actually turned her children against learning. I hear all of these stories of how home educating children produces this wonderful hunger within them to learn. Wel,l I’m still sitting at the dinner table waiting for them to show up. I love homeschooling, I am a big fan, but you know what? Right now I’m schooled and teachered out. I’m having a break. But of course, I wouldn’t tell the kids that. If it means mentioning a project to get them out of the wifi sealed doorway, I’ll suggest it.

Remember, although December is Fort Lauderdale’s winter and everyone is always saying how the weather has cooled down, to us New Zealand softies it’s still bloody boiling.

The thought of trapesing around shopping malls with two sweaty teenagers and very little money is not my idea of fun and those waterways looked so inviting.

 

Why Not Take One of the Many Fort Lauderdale Tours?

 

There are expensive day cruises that you can take, but they are just that. Expensive. There are tons of malls and restaurants, but when you are on a world round trip you won’t be able to venture into those, no matter how many times the teenagers say please. Twenty dollars for a hoodie will give us three weeks bed and breakfast in India thank you very much.

And then we heard about the Water Taxi.

 

Enter the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi.

 

Just what we were looking for.

A fleet of bright yellow water taxis open on the sides but covered on top to protect you from the sun or rain. These taxis are a genius and affordable way to see the city.

There are three scheduled routes that run the length of the city, each with their own designated stops. The Fort Lauderdale route, the Hollywood route and the new river route. The Fort Lauderdale route that we took has nine stops in total. You pay one fee and your pass is good for the whole day (and night). It starts running at 9.45 am and the last boat is 11 pm.

There are clearly marked stops at given stops. If you stayed on the boat and did the whole tour around the main Fort Lauderdale route without getting off,  it would take you about three hours.

From the moment we stepped on to the boat I knew it was the right choice. It’s more like an exclusive tour boat than a taxi. Each boat has a guide that stands at the front of the boat giving a running commentary on everything as you go along. Yes! I was getting my home-schooling lesson without having to open my mouth.

 

What is there to see on the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi?

 

You chug along at a gentle pace but not a boring one and watch all the super yachts gliding past you. Ladened with supermodels and their sugar daddies. The kid’s jaws were wide open – but not as much as mine. Then there are the houses. Worth billions of dollars, owned by movie stars and inventors of shampoo. The biggest cruise ship in the world was berthed. In the world.  You can imagine how much that impressed the kids.

Take a Fort lauderdale water taxi tour and be prepared to be impressed

The size of the houses and yachts you will see on this Fort Lauderdale Tour will impress even the coolest of teenagers. (Let’s face it. They may be owned by a YouTube star…)

 

There are toilets and also a bar on board where you can buy alcoholic drinks, sodas, popcorn and crisps. All pretty reasonable too. $1 for a bottle of cold water and $5 for a glass of wine. I won’t lie. I was tempted. The thought of watching superyachts from the little yellow water cab with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in my hand seemed a very attractive option, you know how I love my wine, but I resisted. Yes, it put me in a bad mood for about five minutes, sitting at the back of the boat resembling a water hog – but no matter, I’m a big girl. I got over it in no time.

 

Where to Eat While Taking the Water Taxi in Ft Lauderdale. (On a budget)

 

Teenagers have a habit of getting hungry so we hopped off the boat at stop 6. This is also where you get the connecting boat down to the Hollywood Florida area. I had looked on Trip Advisor and found a very highly rated deli so we gave it a try.

Walking anywhere in Ft Lauderdale is a mission. It is hot. Sonny is still in his thick black socks and his long pants. I swear that boy should have been raised in an igloo. The café was about a 12-minute walk from the boat stop and Sonny started to complain that his shoes were melting to his feet.

The New York Marina Deli serves HUGE sandwiches. The guy that runs it is from New York and is super friendly. Their motto is to make yourself at home and when S and T found there was free wifi they did just that. I think they were referring to the open tea, coffee and soda bar at the end of the counter where you can literally act as though you are at home. Just keep going back for more. Its all very relaxed and superb value for money. A HUGE sandwich fed two of us – and you know how a 16-year-old can eat. I won’t lie. He did ask for more but I said no. Free wifi and an unlimited amount of coffee. We would have been there all day.

We had to catch the next water taxi so I used that as my excuse and we bid adios to the New York deli and its free wifi charms, took our melting shoes and headed back to the water taxi.

 

Where did the Water Taxi Take you in the Afternoon?

 

We carried on down the river, all the while being told about the billionaire’s houses that lined the waterways. Jane Fonda had a place there, Samuel L Jackson – I think it was him. It might have been Spock from Star Treck – whatever, the houses are amazing to see. All I could think of was imagine cleaning that monster.

 

Hollywood District. Famous for the Margaritaville Hotel That Jimmy Buffet Sang about.

 

Fort Lauderdale Tours. The water Taxi

After years of driving home from work listening to this song, Brian was desperate to see where he was singing about.

It was now the afternoon and Brian was keen to go and see the Jimmy Buffet hotel Margaritaville. It’s in a district called Hollywood and it is stop number 9. The whole area feels like a cross between California and Blackpool. Lots and lots of bars but rather than northerners wearing kiss me quick hats it is lined with beautifully tanned bodies in pink diamante thongs. All over fifty. It does wonders for your confidence.

The fantastic thing about this place is the 2.5-mile boardwalk that runs alongside the beach. Note, this is not a boardwalk. There are no boards. It is made of concrete and is called a broardwalk. It reminded me a little of the coastal walkway in Taranaki my hometown, that too has an amazing broadwalk, but whereas in Taranaki you have to watch out for crashing waves splashing you, here you have to look out for the 80-year-old guy on his rollerskates with a Chihuahua in his arms.

 

What is There to do in the Hollywood District with Teenagers? (On a budget)

 

The boardwalk is worth getting off the boat for. Its filled with free entertainment. I wish I lived in a country where you could wear your bikini and everyone didn’t flee in the opposite direction screaming for their lives. It would be so liberating.

Much to the kid’s delight, we all decided to hire some bikes to cruise the broardwalk. Its far too long to be able to walk the stretch and back again within an hour, which is when we were due to get back on to the boat to meet our relatives.

 

Hire Some Cruising Bikes and c-r-u-i-s-e.

 

Go to the bike rental shop at the entrance to the beach. The bikes are $12 for an hour or $7 for 30 minutes. A little tip for you. Go to the shop with your phone or camera and start doing a vlog (a video). We have a camera and microphone that Brian bought for our trip, with along with the travel drone. You can read about that here and watch one of our videos. We all love filming vlogs – I have only just started and to be honest can’t figure out how to edit them, but Sonny is a pro. So I bribe him nicely and he edits them for me. He’s a good boy that one. Even if he won’t stop eating and using all the wifi.

Go to the shop looking as though you are vlogging and the lovely lady might do for you what she did for me, let me have the bikes for an hour at the price of 30 mins! It was fabulous, they are the kind of bikes with the huge cow horn handlebars and a massive comfy seat. Perfect for my big squashy old bum. I’m sorry, you can keep your racer thin sleek looking bikes. Those seats give women like me cystitis. If there had been a spare chihuahua going, I would have put it in the basket on the front to make me feel all Hollywoody.

 

Cruise the Boardwalk like a Local for just $7.

 

We spent a bliss filled hour cruising up and down the boardwalk in the warm afternoon sunshine. The sea is a beautiful turquoise, the sand is white and the people? Well, just do it for the people. It’s worth every penny, and at $28 for the four of us, it was a bargain. The kids loved it. Each one of us must have had our own little fantasy going on. Tess was McKenzie Zeigler cruising to dance class, Sonny was Logan Paul on his way to gatecrash some crazy party, Brian was Jimmy Buffet -one hand on the handlebar, the other holding something tall and strong. And me? I was the wicked witch out of the Wizard of Oz peddling really fast with Toto in the basket. Trying to keep up with the kids. “I’ll get you, my pretties…I’ll get you and you WILL do that home-school project…”

 

Don’t Miss This Extra Treat on The Water Taxi.

 

The afternoon was fantastic and cheap. Perfect. We boarded the taxi just after 5 and were in for a further treat.

Between 5 pm and 7 pm, the wonderful Fort Lauderdale taxi offers a happy hour. And oh, how this made Mummy happy. Two glasses of wine, ( I was kind, I gave one to Brian)  a coke, and an apple juice – $8. Plus, free popcorn.  It was divine. The wine was cold, the sun was starting to set over Hollywood beach, the kids were tired from the bikes – still not too tired to scoff as much popcorn as they could manage,  and all the while the friendly, funny staff on the boat giving us a light-hearted history lesson on Ft Lauderdale. I didn’t want the ride to stop. It was perfect.

A choice of Fort Lauderdale Tours. The water Taxi.

Two glasses of wine for the price of one you say? THAT makes me happy…

If you are lucky enough to visit Ft Lauderdale in December you will catch the holiday lights. As I said, your ticket for the water taxi is good for the whole day and night, meaning that you can hop on at night and cruise up and down in the warm evening breeze feasting your eyes on the lavishly decorated houses and yachts. And they are impressive. I can’t think of any better way to see them than from the water.

 

See the Christmas lights from the deck of your Fort Lauderdale tours taxi.

Nobody decorates their houses like the Americans. See all the beautifully lit houses form the deck of the boat on your amazing Fort Lauderdale tour!

 

The Cost of Our Water Taxi?

 

And with tickets priced at $26 for adults and $12 for children aged 5 -11, it’s an affordable option for those on a budget. If you just fancy the happy hour and the Christmas lights tour, hop on after 5 pm and it will only cost you $16 to cruise all night.

The whole day, including water taxi, lunch, bike hire and happy hour boat drinks cost less than a single ticket on one of the flash tour boat cruises that are on offer in Fort Lauderdale.

I’m going to track down the guide that held my children’s interest with his historical stories for so long and I’m packing him in my suitcase. Out with the chihuahua and in with the water taxi guide.

Now. Where’s my pink diamante thong?…

Fort Lauderdale Tours are abundant but this ids the best for family travel.

A wonderful tour of Fort Lauderdale all within budget. Don’t miss happy hour on the boat when the sun goes down!

We were happy to have been guests of the Water taxi. Thank you for an amazing day.

A Fort Lauderdale Tours image

Renting Your House for a Year While You Travel The World. The Reality.

Renting Your House for a Year While You Travel The World. The Reality.

Before you move out of your house and start getting it ready to rent to another family, you will wrongly assume that you are living a sort of normal, clean, unattached life.

You will have this illusion that possessions mean nothing to you, that you’re a hippy chic that could wipe around her relatively clean and tidy house with a bleachy cloth and be out of the door and on the next plane to Florida before the sun sets.

And oddly enough, other people will have this conceived idea of you too.

They will come round to your house for dinner, see a clean on the surface house but will never be allowed to venture into the bedrooms.They may see a dog that has just been walked and so doesn’t sit there with her teeth chattering when someone picks up her ball. Or they might see kids that have just been rollicked and warned that if they get the phone out at dinner, there will be hell to pay. And finally, they will see a husband and wife that always seem so relaxed and chilled but who actually downed half a bottle of rum before you arrived.

You and I have a lot in common. Let’s be friends. (more…)

On a Budget in New Zealand? Two Places to Relax and Unwind.

On a Budget in New Zealand? Two Places to Relax and Unwind.

Being on a budget in New Zealand doesn’t mean you cant spend your days soaking and relaxing like a millionaire.

Hidden treasures in any tourist destination are not hard to find if you know where to look. If you’re looking for family-friendly natural hot springs in New Zealand, Rotorua has two of the best. One will cost you very little, and the other is entirely free- the perfect solution to travelling on a budget in New Zealand.

Having lived in the Roman city of Bath in the UK for ten years, I am somewhat obsessed with the romantic notion of bathing up to my neck in hot open-air thermal pools. There is nothing more relaxing than submerging yourself into deep water and feeling all those aches and pains of the day melt away.

Because of our decision to drop down to one income while we homeschooled both of our children, we are also on the constant lookout for things that are free to do in New Zealand. Or at the very least, budget.

Rotorua is up there as one of New Zealand’s top destinations to visit and rightly so. The place is steeped in Maori history and culture; the scenery is out of this world, ranging from serene hidden lakes of vivid turquoise blue to dramatic volcanoes- snow-capped in winter and home to wildflowers in summer.

Rotorua is perfect for families. Especially teenagers, but with adrenaline filled activities touted on every street corner, before long your purse feels somewhat empty.

These two family-friendly natural Thermal Hot Pools are the best in Rotorua. After trying both natural hot pool experiences, the paid version and the free version, I’m going to share with you the pros and cons of each. If you find yourself on a budget in New Zealand but long for a day to soak and relax, read on.

You will need a car for both of these hot pools.

On a Budget in New Zealand? 2 of the Best Natural Thermal Hot Spring In Rotorua.

WAIKITE VALLEY THERMAL POOLS.

Before we discovered our new favourite place, we would visit these pools every time we were in Rotorua.

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools sits 25 minutes South of Rotorua off SH5.

PROS:

Set in a Beautiful Location.

Once off the highway you twist and turn through farmland, down a hill into a beautiful valley. The first impression is that of a swimming pool complex set in the jungle. New Zealanders call it bush, but although we emigrated here eight years ago, I still think of it as jungle-like. The swaying palms, the mass of green, the sounds of all the exotic birds. 

Budget hot pools in New Zealand

Just because you are on a budget in New Zealand, it doesn’t mean you can’t soak and relax.

There are Changing Rooms and Showers.

When travelling with teenagers -especially those of that particular age who have to wrap a towel around themselves to do their shoelaces up, then you may appreciate this luxury. They are basic, but they are clean.

There is a Café.

If your kids are anything like my two gannets, then this will be a top priority. I was always too tight to spend money for lunch, we’d take a picnic (there are picnic tables dotted around), but it’s nice to be able to get a coffee. If I really couldn’t be bothered arguing I’d succumb to a portion of fries and some sauce.

 Different Pools to Try.

There are eight different pools to try, all varying in temperature. There is a swimming pool which is 20 degrees for the kids to lay in. If you do have older children that don’t require constant supervision (New Zealand tends to put this age at 8), then you can slip away to another pool while they hang out somewhere else eating their fries and bothering other people. There is a pool with a sign saying “Quiet or else”; something like that, but I find that if you show teenagers a sign that says ‘quiet’, they will just have to think of the most hilarious YOUTube video they have ever seen and insist on wetting themselves loudly while they discuss it.

Relaxing on a budget New Zealand

That beautiful moment when everyone is happy…

There is a Campsite Next Door.

For $22 you can pitch your tent and enjoy the pools for free. We have never done this as we’ve always stayed closer to Rotorua itself, but I would imagine it’s an exceptional place to stay.

 There are private pools to hire (at an extra cost).

Obviously, we didn’t go for this option. I can only just about push to a portion of fries, I’m not about to spend extra money on a private pool. Anyway, I would imagine they’d be quite claustrophobic, but, if that’s your idea of bliss, then this is a big pro for you.

CONS:

The Cost.

At $22 for an adult $9.00 per child(5-15)  and $3 under 5s, it’s not too bad. In fact, it’s very reasonable compared to some of the more prominent swankier hot pools in Rotorua. But, Sonny being 16, we didn’t get much change out of $80. I’d rather spend that money on some lovely food and a nice bottle of wine.

It Feels Like a Swimming Pool.

Yes, there are the little nooks and crannies dotted around but this is a public pool and so has a very open feel to it. The pools are filled with other people. And other peoples kids. Unless you go off season (avoid January if possible, New Zealand summer holidays) you are likely to have to share.

The Café:

Yes, I know that this was also a pro, but you have to remember, with convenience comes the smell of deep-fried food. It’s a little off-putting when you’re trying to pretend you are Signory Weaver in her gorilla sanctuary and all you can think of is chip fat.

The health and Safety Restrictions.

You are not allowed to take food or drink into the hot pools. Yes, I understand why. Who wants my teenage son sitting next to you with his curly fries? But a nice cup of tea or a sparkling white wine wouldn’t go amiss. And yes, I know that you get dehydrated when in hot pools, I’m a big girl. Just saying.

 

And then, we discovered our idea of paradise in the form of natural hot pools. And not only were these pools heaven on earth, they were also FREE!  Perfect for a family on a budget in New Zealand. I promised you the pros and cons of both and that’s what you’ll get.

Kerosene Creek.The Perfect Place to Relax on a Budget. New Zealand

Kerosene Creek is situated 35 minutes from Rotorua (in the opposite direction to the other ones). Take SH5. Turn off at Walotapu Road and continue down the gravel path for about 2km.

The Pros:

It’s FREE.

Need I say more when you are on a budget in New Zealand?

You Become a Real Local.

Kerosene Creek isn’t somewhere where tourists arrive by the coach load. You’ll probably see a couple of Jucy campers and some teenagers in their Dads’ car. If you’ve been brave enough to drive your car down an unsealed road (this just means there isn’t any tarmac on it) without worrying about the suspension, then you can pat yourself on the back and class yourself as one of the locals.

The Beauty of the Place.

Get out of your car and follow the little signs along the riverside path. From the moment you duck your heads and enter onto the pathway, you will be met by the sight of steam rising from a magical babbling river. Ferns hang down onto the path enticing you to step further. It’s an easy walk. Take your time and meander down to the pools. In springtime the banks are covered in tiny pink and white flowers and the new korus (The coiled up new leaves of the ferns. A symbol of New Zealand) are a vivid green. The beauty charms you from the first step. If this is budget New Zealand you will be wanting some more…

 

The Pools.

Picture a steaming river, tumbling over moss-covered boulders. The noise of a low gurgling temptress calming you.(Ignore the teenagers asking you where the café is) The pools entice you to walk a little further. The path snakes its way through a mass of tropical foliage. Eventually tumbling down a steep bank and creating the most exquisite waterfall. From here the hot water swirls into a vast hot pool. This, my friend, is where you are going to bathe.

 

 The People.

Yes, there are going to be a few people, but the ones that are there are there for the same reason as you. To relax and to be in nature. My two teenagers were speechless for the entire time that we were there (Ok maybe for the first 10 minutes). It will impress them believe me. I’ve already told you that there are going to be students and backpackers from all over the world joining you. The magical surroundings have a clear effect on everybody. People tend to speak in hushed tones so as not to break the moment. Even my two didn’t pull their YouTube trick. You will love it. It is heaven.

 The Waterfall.

Waterfalls at a budget destination in New Zealand

The waterfalls at Kerosene Creek. Beautiful, and free.

Once in the natural hot pool, you can move to different places with varying degrees of temperature. There is a huge log that you can sit against and grab a somewhat well-needed break from the heat. At the deeper end of the pool (still only came up to my chest and I’m of medium height) is the waterfall. Remember the chocolate flake advert on TV? Well, this is that. It is beautiful. It’s hot, but not scalding. You can stay under it for about 30 seconds before heading back to a cooler part of the pool.

No Restrictions.

Because you are a responsible adult, it is left to you to decide whether you would like to take an iced beer or a can of coke into the steaming pool. You can take a cool box down to Kerosene Creek with you and fill it with something cold and sparkly. This just completes this experience of perfectness.

Private Pools.

Anywhere along the riverside that takes your fancy. Hop in. Sit and splash your legs if the water isn’t deep enough and feel the fresh New Zealand air swirling around your shoulders. You will have all the privacy you need here. My son took himself off upstream to build a dam or something.

CONS:

Nowhere to Get Changed Other Than Behind a Bush.

We got changed in the carpark. If you have self-conscious teenagers just tell them to get changed in the car. It’s funny how they suddenly become contortionist when there’s a chance someone might see their pants.

You Can’t See Your Car From the Pools.

There are signs warning motorist about thieves in the area which can be quiet unnerving, especially if you are new to the country. We have lived in New Zealand for eight years, and nobody has ever broken into our car, but be sensible. Don’t leave anything valuable in the car that can be seen. Take it with you. You can leave it up on the bank beside the pools.

A Rather Big Step Down, Onto a Log, Into the Water.

If you are lucky, as I was, a gorgeous Italian backpacker will hold out his hand to steady you. If not, be aware that it can be a bit of a tricky step-down. I can’t quite believe I’m writing this. Twenty years ago I would have dive bombed in. Now I have to rely on an Italian. Honestly.

It Might be Too Hot For Little Children.

Use your common sense.It will probably be too hot for babies. That’s not to say you can’t sit on the side of the trickling pools and find a cooler spot. Just be aware.

It’s Dark, It’s Shady, It’s Beautiful. Is That a Con?

Not really. Unless you have an aversion to dimly lit places.

 

So there you have it. My two recommendations for Rotorua natural thermal hot pools when travelling on a budget in  New Zealand. Two very different experiences. But both special. You decide which ones would most suit your family.

If you are more comfortable going with the paid version, you won’t be disappointed. You won’t have as much of an adventure, but you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t be scared of going for the slightly rough and ready Kerosene Creek. They are stunning, everyone is super friendly, and you’re going to have enough money to sit and sip wine over dinner and talk about how you all feel as though you’ve just come back from the set of Jurrasic Park.

And did I mention they have Italian backpackers? It was these very same backpackers that influenced my decision to leave everything behind and travel the world for a year. But that’s a different story!

The Basement Theatre. Auckland. The Perfect Pace to Take the Family! 

The Basement Theatre. Auckland. The Perfect Pace to Take the Family! 

A weekend city break is pretty easy with little children. There are parks and zoos and usually, a bouncy castle hiding somewhere between the sausage sizzle and the honey stall on the Saturday street market, but taking teenagers away to the city for the weekend – especially on a budget, can be a bit hit and miss.

No parent wants to go to all the effort -not to mention the costs involved in packing the family away for the weekend,  only to be faced with long faces and wails of “I’m bored” from the teenagers. (more…)

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