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

Galveston Island Happenings

It’s a great time to visit Galveston. Yes, it’s technically in the middle of winter (what’s that?) and not officially beach season, but there’s a lot happening on the island!

Galveston Restaurant Week

It’s the last week of Galveston Restaurant Week – Jan 9- 23rd. Select restaurants around town put together a prix-fixe menu at price points between $10-$40. Along with the celebration of food comes the voting of a winning restaurant. You can vote for your favorite eatery to be crowned “Galveston Restaurant Week Restaurant of the Year!” #CelebrateDelicious

Here’s a list of places with the “Magical Affordable $10 Lunch” a great option to savor food at some of the best restaurants without breaking the bank.

  • The Gumbo Diner 3602 Seawall Blvd.,  (409)762-3232

  • Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar 2107 Postoffice St., (409)744-8626

  • Nick’s Kitchen & Beach Bar 3828 Seawall Blvd., (409)762-9625

  • Nonno Tony’s World Kitchen 2100 Harborside Dr., (409)621-5100

  • Rainforest Cafe 5310 Seawall Blvd., (409)744-6000

  • Riondo’s Ristorante 2328 Strand, (409)621-9595

  • Saltwater Grill 2017 Postoffice St., (409)762-3474

  • Shrimp ‘N Stuff Downtown 216 23rd St., (409)974-4609

  • Sky Bar Steak & Sushi 2102 Postoffice St., (409)621-4759

Vote for your favorite here! http://www.galveston.com/galvrw/

Mardi Gras

Galveston has one of the largest celebrations of Mardi Gras in the country. The festivities begin January 29 and run through February 9. Parades with floats, Golf car parade, concerts and even a 5K race provide something for everyone. For the full schedule and all the details go Galveston.com. I did notice that Cory Morrow will be headlining the entertainment on February 5th beginning at 10:30pm. We saw him play at Stubb’s in Austin last summer at a concert and had a great time!

It’s always a good time for Island Time on Galveston! Spring Break is around the corner!

It's always a good time for Island time! Mardi Gras, Restaurant Week, Spring Break....

Children of guests at beach

 

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!

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!

Bringing the Beach Home

Relaxing, connecting, slow, family, fun, water, waves, sun, cook outs…..

Adirondacks on deck

These are some of the words I’d use to describe my times at the beach house. I’ve been there alone, with lots of girl friends at once and also sometimes with just one, with immediate or big extended family, with my sister and nephew, with just one of my daughters. Each time is treasured time with the people who are at the beach with me. When we get away, I think it’s sometimes easier to get in touch again with who we really are – away from the hustle and bustle of regular life that sometimes feels like it’s moving at the speed of light.

When I’m not at the beach, I long for it. While I do long for the smell of the salt in the air and the sound of the birds and the water, I’m really longing for the connection that being there allows us to have together.

So the question, as summer comes to a close, is how to capture that feeling?! That will look different for everyone, but here are a few of the things I do to “Bring the Beach Home.”

1. Beach Gear for Everyday

Beach bags – not just for the beach! One time on a return trip from the beach, we stopped at Hruska’s Bakery in Ellinger, TX. It’s an incredibly eclectic store with homemade kolaches and interesting household decorative times as well as local preserved food, worth a stop if you are in the area. I saw a cute coated burlap bag with a giant white shell stamped on it. I just couldn’t resist. I love that bag and carry a bit of beach around with me – I also thought it might be a good conversation starter with other beach goers.

shell bag

I bought some of those $18 plastic adirondack chairs (you can buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot and some of the heavier duty ones at Costco) and set them up around the yard at home. They are so inviting – great for morning coffee or a casual al fresco lunch as the days get cooler. Honestly, I do feel like I’m on vacation (ever so briefly) when I go sit down in one!

2. Trigger memories

I have an antique jar by my kitchen sink that hold black sand from a beach on the road to Hana on Maui. We took the kids there several years ago. They were in late elementary school and we had a great time of discovery there. When I look at the sand I remember our beach exploring and the curiosity and excitement we all shared.

I keep several important photos in my family room that remind us all of special times and places. I have a collage of photos from my grandmother’s 100th birthday celebration with extended family. I also have some large poster sized pictures of a sunset and the view at high tide from my uncle’s beach house. Those photos remind us we belong to each other and to take time to celebrate together.

 3. Make Hospitality a Habit

Connections are what really mean the most to me both at home and at the beach. I wrote about making Shrimp Pico de Gallo recently. Food is always a way to connect with people. We love having folks over for dinner. Making hospitality a habit doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. My dear friend Jan’s best advice about housekeeping: “If you wouldn’t notice it as you rode by on a galloping horse, don’t worry about it.”  She’s totally right. Focus on making your guests feel welcome and known and no one will notice if there is dust on the shelf or spots on the floor.

Bringing the beach home for me means maintaining those connections that are deepened there – they need to be nurtured. That doesn’t alway happen when life gets busy with carpooling to kids activities, jobs, etc. So, grab a loved one, pull up a chair (whether it’s a beach chair, Adirondack chair or a seat on the couch), stay awhile, eat something yummy and share life.

red chairs

Summer Don’t Go Yet!

I dropped one daughter off at college on Sunday and the next one starts school in a week. Temps here in Texas are still hovering around 100 – upper 90s, though I hear we have a “cold” front coming later this week that will lower things to the low 90’s. Summer’s not quite ready to let us go, and that’s ok with me. I’m not ready to let it go either. One of my favorite go to meals for a hot day is Shrimp Pico de Gallo.

This started when I had a great summer of garden produce a few years ago. Husband LOVES salsa and especially pico fresh from the garden. So, I whipped that up one one day – combining jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, red onions, lime juice, cilantro and salt with avocado and cooked shrimp! I don’t really measure out much when I make it, it’s a very forgiving mix – unless you add too much jalapeno! (I usually cut one in half and throw half the seeds away. If you like it spicy, add all the seeds.) So, to start, I’d suggest 3-4 good sized ripe tomatoes, 1 jalapeno pepper, about a cup of cilantro, 1/2 a large red onion, 1-2 avocados, juice of 1 or 2 limes and about 1 lb of cooked, peeled shrimp. Add salt to taste. Chop everything in to bits of the size that will easily scoop on a tortilla chip. I serve it in a bowl of shredded iceberg lettuce topped with the Shrimp Pico de Gallo and scoop it with tortilla chips.

For those of you that like exact measurements, here’s a recipe that will be pretty close (minus the olives) from The Pioneer Woman for her Shrimpo de Gallo – hope you enjoy!

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!