Sunday, November 25, 2012

TradeWinds Island Resort: Florida Resort!


A few weeks ago, we took a drive to the Tampa area. I've never been, even though I'm only about four and a half hours away. We had reservations at TradeWinds Island Grand and I was really excited about it. On their website, the resort seems to have it all. They charge a resort fee, but they did away with many of the incidental and a la carte charges. If you are going with your family, it can save you a lot of money! If you are vacationing without the kids, the resort fee will allow you to take advantage of some things you might not have done before.

The resort fee covers paddleboat rentals. Trust me, you really need to take one out! TradeWinds Resort has the coolest waterway where you can cruise lazily and take in the lush tropical landscape. The fee also covers your use of the tennis courts, fitness center, a parking pass, and my favorite, a cushioned beach cabana!

The last time I went to the beach, we rented one at a daily rate of $40!!! Wireless internet is included along with daily delivery of a newspaper, use of an in-room safe, and pool towels during your stay. The pool towels are located by the main pool and you can "check them out" each day! They were thick, blue towels that kept my kids warm when they decided to leave one of the five heated pools!

My little one discovered the hot tub. There were plenty of times when the hot tub was empty, so we let him sit on the steps while mom and dad let their worries float away! They have a covered pool to help you escape the Florida sun, a toddler pool, and they even have an adult only pool! If you check in early or decide to stay and play after check out, they have dressing rooms with showers!!! I hate checking out early because the kids always want to stay a few hours longer to play on the beach. It was nice being able to use a shower and not riding home covered in salt and sand!

Check in went smoothly and I was grateful to get everything written down. I can never remember things once I leave the desk. They even drew me a map so I could find my room. The parking area is large and they have special parking for compact vehicles across from regular parking. I walked to the parking area several times during our stay. I am happy to tell you that the parking area was never overcrowded and there seemed to be more than enough spaces, even if the resort happened to be filled to capacity. Of course, I don't know that for sure, but I was happy with my observations.

They even have their own pirate!

We met several couples during our stay and they all seemed to be enjoying the many amenities and on-site dining. We took part in a "pub crawl" and hopped from bar to bar for dinner and drinks. I got a shirt to help me remember! Our first night, we discovered the Flying Bridge. We dined outside and had a lovely meal. I ordered the Blackened Grouper and it was a generous portion. The intoxicating smell of another guest's meal teased me and there was no way I was ordering anything but that amazing fish. I wasn't disappointed. I think I ate in silence, only sounds of pleasure escaping my lips while I finished my plate. My oldest had a Burger and Fries and he enjoyed them. The fries were outstanding! My little one had Chicken Fingers. He always gets them (unless shrimp is on the menu) and I can tell you they were wonderful! The batter was excellent and they were not greasy. My husband ordered a Mediterranean Veggi Wrap and he said it's the best wrap he's had in years. He didn't talk much through his meal either!

The room was a one bedroom suite with a living area, dinette, kitchen, dressing area, and a bathroom. The space in the bedroom was a little tight, but I only noticed it when leaving or entering the room. The door was next to the end of one of the beds. When you opened the door, it would sometimes catch on the bedding.

The beds were so comfortable I wanted to take one home. It may be the best night I've ever had in a hotel. The mattresses were fairly soft but really supportive. The linens were clean and soft. There was a large TV in our bedroom and plenty of closet and drawer space. The mini-fridge was hidden in the cabinets.

I placed a suitcase in front of the cabinet so my little one wouldn't get into it! He can be sneaky when it comes to sweets and sodas. Since I have a little one that I always worry about on trips, I was happy to see that the door had a latch up top similar to the one I installed at home. My little one couldn't reach it to leave the room but even if he did, I doubt he would be able to open it. If he did, he would definitely wake me in the process. There was plenty of floor space around the beds and when you leave the bedroom (there is also a door so you can have privacy) you enter the dressing area.

There is a sink here and a lot of counter space. While I prefer sinks in the bathroom for handwashing, it's really easier to have the sink outside because more people can get ready at once. On vacation, when you only have one sink in the bathroom, it can be difficult to pull off. I end up getting up about half an hour earlier if we have the other setup. The last thing I want to do is get up earlier on vacation! The bathroom is small, but it is also well planned. The real test was cleanliness and I can tell you, it passed my test. I didn't see anything that wasn't clean. The shower curtain was pristine and the shower/bath was large enough that it didn't get wrapped around me while showering. The towels were clean and absorbent. The granite countertops in the dressing area and kitchen gave it a touch of luxury. There was a hair dryer on the wall and a magnifying mirror with a light! The lotions, soaps, conditioner, and shampoo were nice. They smelled like almonds!
They left us an assortment of snacks!!!Thank you!

The dinette, kitchen, and living area had a great view of the gulf thanks to large sliding glass doors. There wasn't a "real" balcony that you could walk out on, but it was nice to be able to open the room and feel the ocean breeze and smell the wonderful salty air. The "balcony" had a rail and it was very secure.

The furnishings were nice and seemed to be newer. I didn't open the sleeper sofa, but it was a nice bonus. The living area also featured a large TV on one wall. The kitchen had a cooktop, refrigerator, sink, and microwave. There were pots and pans, dishes, and flatware in the cabinets and there were enough glasses for our family. The appliances were all immaculate. Nothing was out of place.

photo taken at night
The rooms were accessible from outside, but there was plenty of lighting throughout and we ran into employees after hours that kept an eye on everything. There was also an employee that worked in a booth to monitor anyone entering the parking area. It was very secure. The grounds were well maintained and the pathways were covered with pavers. It was kept neat and clean.

The resort is set up so you can walk to entertainment, dining, and the beach very comfortably. They host a lot of events here. I personally hate ending up at a hotel and finding out they are hosting a wedding or reception. I feel like I'm pushed out of the way and a second class guest. You know what? The resort hosted more than one event while I visited and we were never pushed aside because the resort actually had room for us all!!! The wedding parties didn't disturb the guests and I don't think they were disturbed by anyone. It was a wonderful experience!

Once we arrived, we didn't leave until it was time to check out. We ate all of our meals there and it was nice to be able to walk to dinner without worrying about driving in an unfamiliar place. As far as dining options, kids will be thrilled to know they have a Pizza Hut Express!!! There is also an ice cream place. We skipped it this time. Hurricane Sandy was causing windy conditions and it was a little cold outside! We ate at beef O'Brady's. It was a good choice for lunch. My favorite meal was the last night of our stay. We ate at Bermuda's Steak & Seafood. Kids eat free Sunday through Thursday from 5-7:30pm with adult dining. Up to three kids eat free with a paying adult! I ordered steak and whipped potatoes with veggies. Oh. My. Goodness. One bite of those potatoes and I couldn't stop eating! They were the best mashed potatoes I've eaten in a restaurant. The steak was seasoned to perfection. When the server came out, he noticed my steak wasn't cooked perfectly. I agreed, but it wasn't a big deal. He (and no, I was paying and he didn't know I was a guest of the resort) brought the manager over to our table. The manager apologized and told me he was getting me a new plate. Instead of taking the food I was eating (or even taking the steak) he left it for me to enjoy and share with my kids. A new plate (and a hot serving of all the sides) was put in front of me as soon as it was plated by the chef and the manager insisted on bringing everyone at the table a decadent dessert! This is the first time my order wasn't "perfect" (even though it was pretty perfect to me) that a manager or server allowed me to eat whatever I wanted from the plate with my family instead of taking it, leaving me to watch everyone else enjoy their dinner. I can't say enough- it was the perfect dining experience.

TradeWinds Island Resort even offers a Kid's Program, also known as KONK. That's Kids Only, No Kidding! I was given a tour of the resort and had the opportunity to check out the activity room. It was impressive! If I had more time at the resort, my kids would have had the time of their life with the wonderful staff! This is also the first autism friendly resort I've heard of.

In November of 2010, TradeWinds Island Resorts was designated an Autism Friendly business by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (C.A.R.D.). TradeWinds employees underwent C.A.R.D.’s training program, which taught employees how to better meet the needs of guests who have autism and their families.
At TradeWinds, you can rest assured that we will take all your needs into consideration so you can “just let go”.
During your visit we have a “Safety Kit” available for your use, which includes a hanging door alarm, corner cushions for tables and outlet covers.
For those with special diets, we have gluten free offerings available in our dining outlets. As a special treat we also have our Snack Attack amenity available, which includes a TradeWinds lunch bag and gluten free snacks.
For children, the KONK (Kids Only No Kidding) has special sensory activities available as well as selected drop-off programs for kids. Please call the KONK at 727.363.2294 in advance to speak with a counselor about your child's needs and so they can staff appropriately.

The resort is also pet friendly! Pet-friendly TradeWinds Island Grand offers:
  • 48 pet friendly suites
  • Pet Play Zone with doggie drinking fountain, fire hydrants, photo op display, grass and shade. This secure area is our leash-free zone within our pet-friendly area
  • Designated dog walking zone along our meandering waterway
  • Beachside hammock for ultimate relaxation
  • Doggie Accessory Center equipped with bowls, leashes, toys and towels
  • Rinse and drying station for quick washes
  • Paw Court Bistro room service menu
  • Pet sitting and walking services available upon request
  • Fido’s Fabulous Adventure Package, that includes two nights in a spacious Pet Friendly Suite and a Bow Wow Pet Amenity--a TradeWinds eco-friendly tote bag stuffed with toys, a pet food scoop that doubles as a bag clip, collapsible water bowl, treats from Gone to the Dogs Boutique, The New Barker magazine and a TradeWinds signature bandana
I think the coolest thing is their "water park!" I've never seen a resort quite like this. They have everything! I could spend a week or two having a wonderful time and never hear my kids whine or complain. If you are going to the Tampa, Florida area, check them out. They are a short drive away on beautiful St. Pete Beach!!! If you like a smaller resort feel, Guy Harvey Outpost is a short walk away! It's a perfect place to stay if you are interested in diving and fishing!

Disclosure: I was given a stay in order to complete this review. A favorable review was not required.

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