Roberts Point Park

I’m in Port Aransas, falling in love with my beach house and town all over again. The weather could’t be more perfect – 50’s at night, 70’s with sunshine and blue skies during the day. The dog and I are doing the pre-season check up and supply drop off, but there’s plenty of time for some R & R too.

There’s quite a bit of deck work going on and the workers accidentally sliced my DirecTV line, so we are sans cable for the time being. That actually is better for my plans for the few days we are here anyway. Who wants to be tempted to be a couch potato when the beach is calling! The deck rails are being finished today and construction is quite noisy, so we headed into town for lunch. Emmy (the pup) and I grabbed lunch to go at Subway and had a picnic at Roberts Point Park. It’s one of my favorite places to go when in Port Aransas. The park is located adjacent to a marina with some GORGEOUS boats/yachts. It’s also Where the Pollyanna, the local shrimp boat docks.

The park is a great family play area. There is a covered pavilion with picnic tables, horseshoe pits, playgrounds for kids and soccer fields. The park is next to the ship channel, so it’s a great place for watching dolphins. Benches are set up along the sidewalk if you want to take a break, sit and watch the ships, boats, pelicans, dolphins, etc. There are almost always fisherman fishing along the wall and at the pier.

 

We are on Airbnb!

We’re diversifying our listing exposure. While remaining on HomeAway and VRBO, we are also listing the Galveston Beach House, Las Brisas, on Airbnb. Go on over there to check it out! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/7761435 Add us to your wish list! It will help other travelers find us.

I’d love to hear from travelers and owners if you have a favorite travel website you like best and why. When would you choose a hotel vs choose a home? Does it depend on location/number of folks/whole vs. partial place?  We’ve rented three times through VRBO for extended family gatherings in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. All three were fantastic experiences for all ages – grandparents, aunts, uncles and kids.

And of course, we love sharing our beach houses!

 

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Las Brisas

Progressive Dinner in Galveston

Best Oysters Rockefeller at Gaido's in Galveston, TX

We love food.

My daughter and I went on an unplanned progressive dinner in Galveston recently. Our usual stop is Mario’s on Seawall. We can’t get enough of their gluten free pizza. It’s really the best one I’ve ever had. It was our first stop as we arrived on the island around dinner time. We placed our order (Gluten Free Margherita Pizza) and a small caesar salad and a small garden salad. As we were finishing our salads, the pizza arrived, but it wasn’t gluten free. HORROR. Turns  out they were out of gluten free dough. So, we made the best of it, paid for our salads and went on to Landry’s. We arrived at Landry’s and hoped to get one of my daughter’s favorites, but it wasn’t on the menu any more. We asked for a gluten free menu, and while it had some good choices on it, nothing really caught our eye. So we decided to have 1/2 dozen raw oysters and a shrimp cocktail and moved on. Stop #3 was the Rainforest Cafe. By this time we knew to ask about the menu before sitting down! We both found something to satisfy – I ordered the fish tacos (not on the dinner menu, but they made them for me anyway) and the daughter had pot roast and mashed potatoes. The food at each restaurant was good and it was a fun way to spend an extended evening with my big girl.

The next night, we planned a little better and called ahead. The winning choice was Gaido’s. How we’ve had a house on the island for 5 years and never made it to Gaido’s, I cannot say. It was fantastic!!  We started with the Oysters Rockefeller. I’d never had that dish and it was delicious. The presentation was beautiful – the oysters were covered in a saucy spinach and cheese mix on a bed of rock salt on a sliver plate. We followed the oysters with shrimp and blue cheese grits with a side of asparagus and chicken ponzini that had a wild mushroom swiss cheese cream sauce on a bed of dirty rice and a side of potatoes. Just writing about it is making my mouth water. We can’t wait to go back!

Gaido's Shrimp and Blue Chees Grits

The delicious Chicken Ponzini at Gaido's in Galveston

1% to Conserve Galveston

Protect This Land!

We are so happy to be a partner with 1% To Conserve Galveston Island™.

“1% To Conserve Galveston Island™ funds land conservation projects on Galveston Island. These permanently protected lands helps preserve: our beach, bay and upland ecosystems; ocean and bay view sheds; wildlife and avian habitats; recreational access; and, clean water.” This is a program of Artist Boat, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization.

Please support the program, and the Island, by shopping with local business partners in Galveston and saying yes to donating 1% of your purchase for conservation. For more information on the program and how to be involved see 1% To Conserve Galveston Island™.

1% to Conserve Galveston Island.

A Marketing We Will Go

Ideas for updating vacation rental marketing plans and strategy with resource links.

This Fall I’ve been exploring different marketing strategies for the beach house rentals. Up to this point, we’ve primarily relied on two major listing sites and that has given us all the traffic we’ve needed. However, this year, the booked days have been down a bit. I can’t do anything about the rainy season we had in the spring, but I can do something about reaching a larger pool of guests. Here are the steps I’m taking this Fall to work on marketing.

  1. List on More Sites. Just listing on one or two sites may limit our exposure to potential guests. Vacation rental properties are increasing in huge numbers. Our beach houses return on the first page of results on our listing sites, but there are a lot of listings out there! I’ve bundled both listings on VRBO, at the platinum level, and they are on Homeaway, as well. That has been awesome and kept us pretty steady for 5 years. This Fall I’ve been experimenting with listing the Galveston house on Flipkey (to get into the TripAdvisor market) and AirBnB. The jury is still out, but it hasn’t cost me a fee unless I get a booking, so there’s not really a downside. My only angst with going outside the Homeaway family listing sites is the multiple calendar management.
  2. Consider Niche Marketing. We love to have large extended families with dogs at our beach houses. There are some interesting sites that promote vacation rentals to specific groups. Clanventure.com is just getting started and looks to be a great new site for listing and finding rentals for families with kids under 5. They plan to limit the number of homes per geographic location so there aren’t a million to wade through as a guest or to compete with as an owner.  I also just ran across Bringfido.com that advertises hotels, B&B’s and vacation rentals world wide that are dog friendly. So, maybe it’s worth working with a niche listing site and see if there’s a way to capitalize on it.
  3. Get Educated. I’ve taken two great social media classes from BlogClarity. One called “Content Brew” which covered all things blog content related and the other “Pinning Perfect” about driving traffic back to the website via the smart feed on Pinterest. Both classes were incredibly informative and worthwhile. I’ve also found a lot of helpful info via twitter and used tweetdeck to create a list of and follow active vacation rental professionals including @RentMoreWeeks (marketing), @GuestHook (copyediting) and @MarcinkDesigns (VR photography) for ideas and help. Next on my list is checking out some courses from RentMoreWeeks.com and BookingsPlus4G.com
  4. Utilize Social Media. I have a VR friend who’s focused his social media strategy on Facebook – he’s up to 18,000 likes and that drives most of his rental traffic. Another friend found that after taking the “Pinning Perfect” class, her web traffic significantly increased. I’ve been using Facebook since we started renting, and the traffic is growing. Right now, I’m working on building up my Pinterest account using things I learned in the “Pinning Perfect” class. I also blog once or twice a week. I do have some work ahead of me planning social media strategy!
  5. Connect with Other Owners. There is a great deal of information out there and it’s helpful to have other VR owners. There are great ways to connect – Facebook, owners associations and conferences like the Homeaway Summits. I’m looking forward to catching up with some other Texas Coast owners at the summit in Austin on November 6th.

Really, it’s all good. The beach season slows down a bit after Labor Day and it’s a great opportunity to look back, evaluate and see what changes or improvements in strategy need to happen with the vacation rentals.

Have your marketing plans changed this year? What are you trying?

Girls Gathering at the Beach House – A Quick Guide

A few weeks ago I hosted a 2 day retreat for some girlfriends at Las Brisas in Galveston. We arrived at the beach house on a Sunday afternoon and didn’t get in the cars again until Tuesday morning. What luxury! For busy moms who seem to do life in cars, to have nearly 48 hours to relax, renew and connect was so needed. Here’s how we managed to make it work!

A Quick Guide to planning a girls getaway at the beach - including a DIY craft collage project!

Tip 1: Timing is everything!

We planned the getaway about 2 months in advance for an off season Sunday – Tuesday.  We left home on Sunday mid day – this got the Dads and kids through most of the weekend activities and returned by the time school got out Tuesday afternoon. While we were there, we talked, walked the beach, hung out at the beach club, share meals, did a fun craft project that helped remind us of who we are and walked the beach some more. We came away refreshed!

Tip 2: Bring two days worth of food

Our Menu:

Sunday Night – one sweet friend roasted a chicken Sunday morning, chopped the veg for a salad and brought a bowl full of quinoa and greens that assembled quickly. Dinner done!

Monday Morning – gluten free cinnamon rolls from my favorite local farmer’s market vendor, Sweet Texas; coffee.

Monday Lunch – ham and turkey sandwiches and leftover salad and chicken.

Monday Dinner – turkey burgers, vegetable sautee with zucchini, squash and mushrooms

Tuesday Morning – eggs scrambled with leftover veggies; coffee.

Grocery List: (I brought these things with me so we didn’t have to make a grocery store run) apples, bananas, creamer, eggs, lunch meat, cheese, condiments, ground turkey burgers, buns (for sandwiches and burgers), cinnamon rolls, foccacia bread, Seeds of Change brown rice/quinoa microwave pouch, mushrooms, farmer’s market zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes, assorted snacks and wine. My friend brought the roasted chicken and all the fixings for a super salad.

Tip 3 – Do Something Creative

We brought along poster board (1/2 sheet per person), glue sticks, scissors and a TON of magazines – mostly Coastal Living, National Geographic, Southern Living and Eating Well because that’s what I have. We set up at the kitchen table clipping out pictures and words that caught our attention. Everyone’s was different and was a great reflection of who they are and visions had of what they want in life. The photo below is of mine. Nothing fancy but meaningful for me. With a daughter off to college and another with one foot out the door, I’m wondering what’s next in my life. These pics helped me remember how important hospitality and connectedness is to me and to be open new ways to doing that.

A Quick Guide to planning a girls getaway at the beach - including a DIY craft collage project!

Tip 4 – The Housekeeper

I never ever clean the whole beach house when we stay. I do start the laundry but I hire my housekeeper to come in and do all the make ready for the next guests. If I had to clean, it wouldn’t be a getaway!

Port Aransas ARK – Animal Rehabilitation Keep

Port A has a gem of a place – the Animal Rehabilitation Keep – otherwise known as the ARK. It started in the 1980’s when Tony Amos, a University of Texas Marine Science Institute research associate, found injured sea turtles and aquatic birds during his research outings and brought the animals in to heal.  At the ARK, injured animals are rehabilitated and cared for with the goal of returning them to the wild. Tony writes weekly for the Port A South Jetty (local newspaper) and the article are always educational about the local wildlife.

According to the UTMSI website, “The ARK also cares for large sea and freshwater birds, including pelicans, loons, gannets, boobies, cormorants, gulls, terns, herons, and egrets. About half of them can be rehabilitated and returned to the wild.  Most of the creatures, regardless of their species, are injured because of some kind of human activity. Birds often get caught in fishing lines or hit by vehicles on beaches or the roadside. Turtles can fall victim to fishing lines as well as shrimp trawls and boat propellers. Sometimes the animals have been hurt deliberately.”

In addition to the rescuing, the volunteers and staff at the ARK give educational tours for schools. Port Aransas is a better place for the work that goes on at the ARK!

Last week they released several turtles and our Blue Roost guests were able to go to the public release. One of these days I’m going to to see this in person!

Checking out a turtle release is a fun family event to share while at the Blue Roost beach house in Port Aransas.

5 Reasons to go to the Beach in the Fall

1. No Crowds

It’s all yours – the beach is lovely, warm and uncrowded. Perfect for morning walks, evening walks and anything in between. I’m always surprised at how warm the water can still be in the Fall. My kids have even been in it at Thanksgiving!

It's all Mine!

It’s all Mine!

2. Great Shells

I’m amazed at the different shells we find on the coast. A few Septembers ago I was in Galveston with some friends and we found the entire beach was littered with quarter sized shells – I think they were disk clams (Elegant Dosinia). Shelling on St Joe’s Island is an adventure anytime of the year. One contributor to TripAdvisor said they found fantastic shells in November.

Sea Treasure

Sea Treasure

3. Great Temperature

The average highs and lows in degrees fahrenheit for October are:

Galveston 79.7 and 68.4.

Port Aransas 82 and 71.

Very. Nearly. Perfect.

Perfect conditions

Perfect conditions

4. Great Fishing

Port Aransas, TX Offshore Charters & Bay Fishing Guides says that Fall is a great time to fish – still warm, not crowded and with more flexibility in booking trips. In searching for charters/guides for family trips, I’ve also seen that some rates are less in the Fall.

5. Fun Local Activities Happen in the Fall

Check out the local calendar for goings on in the area  Port A Calendar of Events and Galveston Calendar of Events.

Highlights include – October 16-10 The Port Aransas plyWooden Boat Festival and Oct 23-25 The Harvest Moon Regatta

Boats heading to Port A

Boats heading to Port A

6. Bonus: Just Because You Can

Always a new place to explore!

Always a new place to explore!

We don’t really ever need a reason to head to the coast – Just grab friends and family and hit the road!

Good times ahead!

Desperately Seeking Shade

Beach days on the Gulf coast require a little bit of mid-afternoon shade. In preparation, we purchased a pop up tent for the Galveston beach house for guests, but we have never actually used it. I had no idea how to set it up!

The heat index in August in Port A was 105-109 degrees on the last trip, so it was either stay inside or figure out how to put up some shade. Guests had left a 99.9 UVA/UVB umbrella and we borrowed a giant deadly looking metal contraption from a friend that is supposed to secure the umbrella in the ground. We used the giant metal screw like thing that we twisted into the sand about 10 inches down. The first attempt in moderate wind was pretty good but as the afternoon went on, the umbrella became loose. So, we took off the bottom section of the umbrella and tried it again for some success. While we sat under the low umbrella I checked out the varieties of methods to secure umbrellas and tents to tried to figure out the secret science of securing shade.

Our umbrella and holder

Our umbrella and holder

Tents

Every beach trip I see at least one tent either mid tumble or post tumble. Tent skeletons collect around the trash cans. The wind that comes of the water is strong! This trip the tent next to us was secured with Lowe’s buckets filled with sand. Ropes attached the tent frame to the buckets. Excellent – that tent didn’t move in the wind at all. Bring the kids and sand shovels and put them to work! We also saw folks to the other side of us employing our tactics of putting the shade low….

Tent held by sand buckets

Tent held by sand buckets

Short tent

Short tent

Umbrellas

I saw all kinds of umbrellas stay put, but never was able to see one actually being put in. So, I googled it. Some sites recommended various forms of sand screws like we used. However, several sites had videos of people placing an umbrella in the sand and moving the umbrella back and forth about an arms length. This moves the umbrella down into the sand to a recommended depth of about 18 inches. Point the umbrella in the direction of the wind so the wind blows the umbrella into the sand rather than catching it and blowing it away. Step on the sand around the pole to pack it down. One post I read said they pour water around the pole to help pack down the sand around the umbrella.

Umbrella and sand chairs

Umbrella and sand chairs

What’s your solution to securing umbrellas and tents? I’d love to know!

Tropical Storm Bill – You Nearly Gave me a Heart Attack

Hurricane Season – I’m not ready.

Having a beach house on the coast isn’t for the faint of heart. We’ve already had an incredible year of storms and we are only 17 days into the 2015 Hurricane Season. The month of April was a monster and the storms over the 17th/18th resulted in two new roofs – one on each beach house!! I thought having homes in two different parts of the coast would protect us (somewhat) from doing major repairs from storms on each house at the same time. Well, not so my friends!

One of my Pointe West neighbors had a indoor security camera running and caught the storm on video. We had a mini tornado with 100 mph winds. The wind and hail in Galveston were incredible and seriously, why ANYONE would not evacuate in a hurricane, I have no idea. It was terrifying just watching the video and listening to the wind howl (yes it sounded like a train) and the hail pound and the hanging light in the foyer start to sway in the worst of of the wind. HOLY MOLY. The hail sounded like someone dumping rocks on the house. In case you are wondering, no one was at our place at the time.  Thank heaven!!  My first experience putting in a claim with TWIA and new roof and new paint job and Las Brisas is back in business thanks to Morgan Roofing and John Brock Painting.

Now all the wind and rain we had took a toll on the Port A home as well. But, sadly, that roof was just OLD and worn out and had to be replaced. Good thing that house is cute because it’s a bit of a pain. The blue roof they had to rip off, actually had been put on OVER a tan roof which also had to be ripped off, resulting in lots of extra work and a bit of a schedule delay.

The roof in progress:

Port a roof in progress

finished roof side Finished Roof back

We were very happy with Ricky at Upgraded Roofing and the job they did.  I think the grey of the roof makes the house look even more blue. Of course that gorgeous sky also helps. Perfect beach day!

And now onto Tropical Storm Bill – 16 days into the hurricane season. Seriously! I JUST put TWO NEW ROOFS on the beach houses. I was glued to the twitter feed from Galveston County OEM  (@galvcountyoem) and the Nueces County OEM (@nuecesoem) as well as the National Hurricane Center – Atlantic Ops (@NCH_Atlantic) for about 24 hours. My phone buzzed like crazy with updates. They were incredibly informative on the status of the storm. I was also in frequent communication with the guests at Las Brisas. Nothing indicated that it would be nearly as bad as the April storm, so I was not at all concerned for the guests at the house. It would be windy and rainy, but that’s about it. Gusts up to 40 mph. Luckily for all of us, the storm came ashore over Matagorda Bay – between Port Aransas and Galveston. And luckily, it moved just enough that the Galveston house received some rain, but not nearly as much as it could have been. Port A actually got more rain today, the day after the storm, than it did in the storm. My housekeeper said that some places may have received 5 inches of rain in an hour. Glad to have that new roof!!

Here’s hoping the REST of the summer is free from storms of any sort and full of sunshine.

I saw this at HomeGoods (my favorite store) this week and despite the drama and the trouble with homes on the coast, the statement is true. Let’s go to the beach!

Heaven closer