What I Learned on Our Texas Coast Family Vacation
We’ve gone on a lot of Disney vacations over the last year and a half. While that never gets old (to me) I’ve really started looking forward to other places we could visit. This especially now that we have a more flexible homeschool schedule.
With my husband’s schedule and shift work it’s possible to get away two nights during his three days off a week. But we don’t take advantage of that very much. Hopefully this is the start of a new series of adventures.
Soon we’ll be heading to DC, and just before school started we took a road trip down to the coast for a South Padre family vacation.
My husband and I have lived in Texas for eight years now, but we had yet to visit the coast. I’d asked friends over the years which beaches they liked. I’d heard Port Aransas, Mustang Island, and a couple others but most people told me South Padre Island was their favorite. It was also one of the furthest away from us.
About a six hour drive with breaks, I worried someone might not survive the trip down there. Three and a half hours to Dallas was the furthest we had driven with them before so we didn’t know how they’d handle almost double that distance.
It’s absolutely beautiful driving onto the island and if I wasn’t half asleep (I can not stay awake on car trips for the life of me) I would have tried to take a picture of the long bridge from the Texas coast out to this little island.
During Spring Break I imagine this place is packed and crazy, but it felt nearly deserted and the beach was beautiful.
So if you’re thinking of heading out there with your family at some point, don’t think you can’t have fun in what’s commonly known as a party town.
On our way down we drove through Harlingen, TX and stopped at a Mexican bakery called Laura’s Bakery that sold this delicious sweet bread called mollettes. They only take cash but everything is very inexpensive. We actually went to an ATM only to find that we had enough change for what we wanted.
After that last pit stop we went straight to our hotel at Holiday Inn Express South Padre. We partnered with Intercontinental Hotel Group and booked the room using IHG Rewards points they hooked us up with which are as good as cash.
I feel like I’m terrible at using rewards like frequent flier miles because I rarely get to take advantage of them before they expire. Other programs like pizza or take-out rewards (ok, or most anything involving food) I rock at and often get free meals.
IHG Rewards work similar where you earn points every time you stay at one of their participating hotels. That’s not just Holiday Inn Express but any hotel that’s a part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group.
My kids, especially my daughter are really fascinated with hotels. The continental breakfast, big fluffy beds, the elevators… It’s all just too much to handle.
Their reaction when we walked into the room would make you think we walked right into Magic Kingdom (I have video proof coming soon). They busted open the refrigerator, checked out the bathroom, extra sink, and the view outside the window.
Naturally jumping on the bed was next.
After we settled in for a bit, we changed and headed out to the beach. The people who got us all checked in were so kind to point us in the direction which was really just a quick walk outside the side door.
We spent the rest of the afternoon out there. I didn’t realize how long some sand and waves could entertain my kids and shoot… Myself.
It was so relaxing laying there and listening to the water, and just watching my kids have fun. I feel like I can get down with the beach vacations. Big T was more scared of the waves (I think he’s seen The Good Dinosaur one too many times) but Lil’ J, my water baby, was in heaven.
We asked the woman who checked us in at the hotel for food recommendations and she gave us a long list of places to eat, including some family friendly places.
Since we had a long drive in and were pooped from the long day we ordered takeout from Gabriella’s, a yummy Italian restaurant.
My kids had never slept in the same bed before and I worried my son might fall out (not enough to actually share a bed with him myself) so I lined the floor next to him with some of those comfortable pillows just in case.
He didn’t fall out. Thankfully.
The next day we woke up shortly before breakfast ended. The kids got their fill from muffins and juice and my husband and I enjoyed omelettes, bacon, biscuits and gravy.
We decided to explore the island in the morning then head to the beach for the rest of the day. We drove around and stopped by an interesting looking store called Jaws… Easily noticeable from the street because of the giant shark head entrance. There was a lot of overpriced stuff in there but also some weird dead baby sharks in a jar. I took a snapchat photo but my phone didn’t save it… Probably a good thing cause it was really weird.
We considered going to a popular water park called Schlitterbahn, but decided against it since the weather was iffy and our kids aren’t into water thrills.
Instead we visited an amazing place called Turtle Inc. It was right across the street from our hotel. It’s a rescue, rehabilitation and release facility for sea turtles.
Of course your kids can’t touch the animals, but that doesn’t make them any less fascinating. You’re up close and personal with half a dozen of these beautiful creatures. We walked around and read about each one, why they were there and if they’d be able to go back into the ocean.
Merry Christmas was the most friendly. She swam right up to us and seemed to be waving hello.
Lil’ J loved Maddie, who they actually lifted up and out of her tank to take back to the ocean while we were there.
This place is free to visit but asks that you leave a donation to help keep the organization going and we had no problem chipping in.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach again. We had our own little stretch of sand and attempted to build sand castles together. Lil’ J brought her mermaid tail and we FINALLY did part 2 of her Ariel photoshoot that we started back in December. I’ll post those in another week or so!
We really enjoyed the warmth and sand and waves. Although my son was more nervous about the water, he sat on my lap and let the water run over us together. It was amazingly soothing.
When the sun started to set we took the short walk back to the hotel and washed off before going out to BurgerFi for dinner.
I hadn’t eaten beef since March since watching Cowspiracy. I gave in and bought a burger here and holy cow it was delicious. The kids enjoyed their grilled cheese and fries… The fries were wonderful.
We headed back to the hotel and watched a little bit of the Olympics before getting rest before our long drive home the next day.
During our journey back my husband said he’d love to go back there again.–An exciting statement since he’s not much of a traveler.
There are a couple of things I wish we had done that we didn’t on this trip.
Visit Port Isabel Lighthouse: I was barely conscious when we drove in and totally missed it. On the way back we were just starting our long drive and didn’t want to stop. Had I read the historical significance about it I definitely would have made a point to stop and get a photo.
Eat at Pirates Landing: We saw it on the “kid friendly” list that Holiday Inn Express handed us but we thought it was far away seeing as it wasn’t on the island. Turns out it was just directly off the bridge off the island and not far at all.
When we go back again we’ll definitely be doing these things again:
1. Visit the beach: Duh! But maybe we’ll branch out and visit some of the other sides of the island. A reader told me the North Shore has some amazing shells.
2. Staying at Holiday Inn Express: The room was so spacious, the beds were comfortable, the staff was friendly, the pillows rocked, and I love that we had a microwave and fridge for leftovers. It worked out great since we were so close to the beach and we had some snacks to enjoy and reheat when we came back to our room.
3. Visiting Turtle Inc.: Of all the places we saw, this place was the most crowded but I could see why with the educational aspect and beauty in the turtles you could watch, and it being such a great stop for families. We didn’t go watch the release of Maddie but I think that’s something we’d try to do next time.
I took so many photos and cute videos that I’m working on editing and I’ll share those in another post hopefully in a few days. I’m so glad we got away for this quick trip and explored more of this fun state we live in. I hope this is just the beginning of our journey exploring it together.
What family travel adventures have you enjoyed lately?
If you’re planning a last minute trip before Labor Day make sure you sign up for IHG Rewards. It’s free and you’ll get 65,000 bonus points plus a free night to share at one of their beautiful hotels (for reference, we used about 50,000 points for our stay). Aren’t going anywhere soon? Spread the love and share the points with a loved one with IHG’s Share Forever program.
I love making memories with my family and exploring more of this beautiful world we live in, which is why I partnered with Intercontinental Hotel Group on this post. All opinions are my own.
Tags: family travel, south padre, Texas
I can’t believe you did a post on Holiday Inn Express and did not mention the cinnamon rolls! They are my absolute favorite part of the breakfast there! (Hopefully they still have them…yikes!) A few months back my brother and I (who couldn’t be more different) were talking about hotels, and since he travels a ton I was curious what his favorite hotel chain was. I laughed when he said HIE because it’s my favorite too, and the cinnamon rolls are what put it over the top for both of us!
Looks like a wonderful family vacation.
Oh my word! I love this! I am so glad you had the chance to go exploring more with your family and that you had a wonderful time. My family has been trying to explore more of our own state, too before we venture off outward. It is amazing how much fun you can have when you’re together.
Yeah, I would never venture into South Padre during Spring Break. A deserted beach is more my style. Plus, I wouldn’t have to worry as much about my family’s safety that way.
It looks like you had a fabulous family vacation and made the right choice to visit South Padre. I have also heard great things and would love to visit one day. I am with your kids and think big fluffy beds and continental breakfast are awesome.
Your family looks like they enjoyed themselves at South Padre. I am narrowing down choices for our next family vacation. This one happens to be on that list. Yet, part of me wants to go without the kids.
There is just something so amazingly awesome about a hotel room! Not sure what it is! LOL I could live at the beach. We absolutely love it and make a trip just about every year. How wonderful to have South Padre almost to yourselves!
That looks like such an amazing trip! I’ve heard of Turtle Inc. previously and it is somewhere I’m really interested in going so it was great to hear more about it from you. The beaches look so wonderful too, I’ll definitely have to try going there sometime soon!
We’d totally live at Turtle Inc because we love sea turtles! The kids asked if they could one for a pet for this Christmas. I think they inherited their love of these delightful creatures from me because I was obsessed with sea turtles as a kid and had several pet pond turtles with my brother. Also, they love Crush from Finding Nemo.
Glad you guys had a great mini vacation. Nothing like those quick but still joyful family getaways.
Awww, you would love it then! Of course we couldn’t touch them, but it was tempting! haha. I was going to ask if they liked Crush or Squirt. I think you guys need a pet turtle mama!
Your realization about how some simple beach elements could entertain your kids and yourself was a nice one. A deserted beach does sound peaceful.
Lovely family, and informative guide. Thanks for writing!
Jumping on the bed….a hotel room classic when the kiddos are little! We travel with the kids and they always loved that, too. Since calories on vacation don’t count I’m sure we would have indulged in the mollettes, too! Yummy!!! Enjoyed the travel post 🙂
Thank you! And YES! Every hotel, they love jumping on the bed! haha
The kids really loved it. I’m happy that you got the chance to do this vacation. A must try indeed.