Thursday, August 1, 2013

Family Vacation... Time to Reconnect!

The Perfect Family Beach Vacation
10 Tips to Bring your Family Closer Together

Today it's more important than ever for families to connect in a meaningful way.  Research shows that the average parent spends less than 20 minutes per week in MEANINGFUL conversation with their child. That's no wonder, as the typical time that families have to engage is over the dinner table and the average American family eats dinner together less than once per month.

When kids are young, you have your best shot at engaging with them, teaching values, and setting the foundation of your relationship with them... a foundation you will need to see them through the difficult teen years.

Why not use your family vacation time as a way to RECONNECT with your spouse, and your kids? Unplug, de-stress and get to know each other on a deeper level.

Here are some ideas on ways to accomplish that.

1) HOME BASE! Choose a location for your vacation that allows you to "cocoon" together if you want, but also has plenty of options for group activities.  Let's use the BEACH as an example and a good spot would be a place like Moontide in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.  What makes Moontide perfect is... it's right ON the beach, it has the amenities that many fine hotels have, yet you also have a full kitchen and a washer dryer.  Best of all, this type of location can save you money.  The rates at Moontide (and many places like it), are less than many hotels, yet the kitchen and laundry facilities can save you a LOT of additional money and time.  Moontide is a "Vacation Apartment" and has 1-3 bedroom condos so kids and parents can have their own rooms.  Whether it's Moontide, or a place like it, look for a place that is like a "home away from home."

2) UNPLUG!!  Make your vacation mostly technology free.  Set pre-determined times that everyone can "plug in" and contact friends, check email, etc., (perhaps a half hour after lunch and a half hour before dinner), but, except for those times ... everyone's laptop and cell phone gets put away - especially Mom and Dads!

3) READ.  Kids today are not spending as much time reading as they should.  Reading engages the brain unlike a "passive" activity like watching a movie.  An ability and love of reading is the key to lifelong success as someone who reads can always teach themselves what they need to know to succeed.  Reading is a way to share values.  SO... if your kids are little, spend at least an hour each day reading to them.  If they are a bit older, set aside an hour for everyone to spend reading (perhaps after lunch and at bedtime) and then make what everyone is reading part of your dinnertime conversation - ask the kids what they think about the characters they are reading about.  It's a great way to learn what your kids think and for you to talk about values.

Alternatively... with older kids... why not have the family WRITE stories while on vacation?  A fun way to do this is to rotate.  Each person writes a chapter of a story one day... and the next it is passed to another family member to add a chapter, and so on.  At the end of the vacation you will have as many stories as family members... and each will be a unique window into your psyche.  These stories will be treasured memories in years to come.

Here are some reading suggestions perfect for a Florida vacation ...  

"The Pink Motel" 
 The Man Who Rode Sharks
"Strawberry Girl" 
The Yearling
"The Cracker Kitchen: A Cookbook in Celebration of Cornbread Fed, Down-Home Family Stories and Cuisine."

4) COOK together!  The advantage of staying at a place like Moontide for a vacation is having your own kitchen and being able to make healthy food and save money.  Use this as an opportunity to teach cooking to the kids.  Take a cookbook with you and try new recipes.  Make it a challenge to find new, healthy dishes that everyone likes and put the newly discovered recipes and photos of you making them, into a scrapbook to take home with you.  It will be both a memory of your vacation and something you can build on once you are home, for a healthier lifestyle.

5) BOARD GAMES & Cards.  When's the last time you played an old fashioned board game or card game as a family?  Board games allow you to TALK to each other - unlike most video games.  Make sure to pack a few that are educational... Chess, Backgammon, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, etc.  Google "educational board games" to find more.  If you are staying at Moontide, they also have board games, you can borrow, in their community room.

6) BEACH Games. The beach provides lots of opportunities for exercise that is FUN.  Body boards, surfing, horseshoes, beach volleyball, "surf racing" (running in knee deep water is safe and excellent exercise), etc.

7) CRAFTS.  Why not use your family vacation time to make holiday and birthday gifts?  There's a ton of ideas you can find on Pinterest... and craft time is creative, fun, a way to interact with the kids AND, best of all, will save you a ton of money come the holidays when you have those gifts already stored in your "Gift Closet."  Just pick projects that will travel well for the trip home.  If you have a lot, just pack them up and ship them UPS instead of taking on a plane.

8) EXPLORE!  Before you go on vacation, give the kids an assignment to come up with places to visit during your vacation.  Have them write up a "report" on each and why it would be good to do, or visit.  Look for ways to explore history and nature.  Outdoor activities that involve exercise, etc.  If you are staying at Moontide, you are a short drive to Daytona Beach, St. Augustine, Cape Canaveral, even Orlando.  Use Google and put together a list, then have the family vote on their top choices to narrow it down.  Don't "over-schedule" yourself, leave yourself plenty to do on your next trip!

9) FAMILY TREE.  Put together a family history tree.  Teach the kids about their relatives... perhaps expound on it by including some history of the area where key relatives grew up. This is a great way to teach the kids about their roots, about family values and there are also ways to incorporate this into craft time!

10) ALONE TIME.  Do you have multiple kids?  One thing that kids repeatedly say they remember is one-on-one time with their individual parents.  It's hard for kids to open up to a parent around siblings, or even the other parent.  Consider scheduling "individual" things to do with each child... and give each child time alone with each parent.  Get the kids to contribute a list of things they would like to do with each parent and write them down on individual pieces of paper... "Go canoeing with Mom" or "Surfing with Dad" ... then each day, make it a breakfast treat for each kid to draw out a piece of paper for the day.  The ones that are left over after vacation will help you continue this into your regular lives.

More on "connecting" with your kids...

We hope that you like some of these ideas... and that you can use some of them to have a perfect, relaxing and FUN family vacation or family reunion.  For more info on Moontide... on New Smyrna Beach in Florida, visit the blog.

To inquire about special rates or deals, use promo code - "Connections."


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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Florida "White Christmas" at Moontide!

Christmas in Florida
... Nothing like digging your toes in the sand instead of the snow!

When Bing sang about a White Christmas... we know he really had New Smyrna Beach in mind.

The sand is white, the ocean is blue, the breeze is refreshing and the sun is WARM.  What more could you want?  Plop a Christmas Tree in the sand and sit in it's shade while you unwrap presents.

New Smyrna Beach is the closest beach to Orlando, so if you want a beach holiday that still gives you great access to the theme parks, you can't go wrong.

There's a lot of reasons to pick Florida, and specifically Moontide, on New Smyrna, as your destination for the holidays this year... but we'll let you hear directly from some happy "snowbirds" ...

"We went for Christmas last year and it was so good we have booked again. The atmosphere is great and we were lucky with the weather last year so hope it as good this year. I shopped for our Christmas meal on Xmas eve and this took 15 mins, sure beats queuing in Tescos! We went to Epcot Christmas Eve for the fireworks, this was excellent and Downtown Disney is a great place to be on Christmas night. Not sure about restaurants for Xmas dinner though as we ate in our apartment. Yes, the parks do get busy and you need to get there early, but it's worth it."

"We went on 16th last year for two weeks, first week was great and hardly any crowds at the theme parks, 2nd week was very busy, so just try to do alot of parks at the beginning of your holiday if you want to avoid the crowds!"

One of the great things about a "vacation apartment" at Moontide is that you have a FULL kitchen ... saving you lots of money eating out, but also allowing you to have a traditional Holiday meal "at home" while still on vacation.  Picture dining as you overlook the ocean!

New Smyrna Beach, and Moontide, are just a short drive from Orlando, and other great Florida destinations.  If you arrive early enough... drive down to Christmas, Florida and mail your cards from there!  Also... Fort Christmas has a "Cracker Christmas" with pioneer demonstrations, homemade crafts, exhibits and barbeque.  It's usually the first week in December.

You can get great rates at Moontide ... with only a 4 day minimum stay, but also avail by the week or month.  Use promo code "connections" to check on any deals or specials that might be avail, though closer to the holidays you're just going to be happy to get your reservation in early enough!

Other great things to put on your agenda while on your Florida holiday get-away are the "ICE" show at the Gaylord Palms and the "Polar Express Experience" at SeaWorld.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional is one of the more popular holiday traditions at Disney. It's also one of the most beautiful and spiritual celebrations. With a choir and orchestra, and a retelling of the traditional Christmas story, you'll find it full of tradition. Dinner package tickets go on sale this month - July.

Don't miss out on the "Nights of Lights" just North of Moontide in America's oldest city...  St. Augustine.  From Nov 17th to Jan 31st, St. Augustine glows with holiday magic - from the ground to the rooftops. One by one, tiny white lights make the oldest city twinkle in the night. Find their calendar of events here.

Right IN New Smyrna Beach you have the "Christmas on Canal Street" Marching bands, decorated floats, dancers and even troupes of horses will travel the Canal Street Historic District to bring the “Lights and Sounds of Christmas” to this seaside town. Visit the New Smyrna Beach Visitors Bureau web site for thing to put on your calendar!

Are you a SPACE buff?  NASA is located at Cape Canaveral, just south of New Smyrna Beach and this year, in 2013, you could be in for a treat as the newly discovered comet "C/2012 S1 ISON" is expected to pass close to earth in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  It might be as exciting as the Christmas of 1965 (when two astronauts on their way back to orbit spotted something in space they couldn't identify. Frantic, they radioed Mission Control. After several minutes of tense silence, engineers at Cape Canaveral began hearing the faint jingle of sleigh bells followed by a harmonica rendition of "Jingle Bells" ... played by none other than the two "frantic" astronauts).

Learn more about happening at NASA here, and about the 2013 comet here.

Mount Dora is a great place to visit during the Christmas season.  In fact, Mount Dora, and the Lakeside Inn, are so charming during the season that word has it Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made a special effort to bring the family for the holidays year after year.  If you want to feel like you are back on the set of "It's a Wonderful Life" - plan to spend an evening in Mount Dora and make reservations at the Lakeside for dinner.  

All of these destinations are just a short drive from the beach and Moontide.  Whether you are planning to stay a few days, or a month or more, start by checking availability... NOW is a great time to start planning your holiday season!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things to do in New Smyrna Beach - Party like a Local!

Downtown Arts District

Party Like a Local!
What to do in New Smyrna

FIRST SATURDAY - Enjoy an Art Stroll
Canal Street  
New Smyrna Beach from 10am - 5pm
The galleries located on Canal and Douglas Streets are home to delightful monthly solo and group exhibitions, artist talks and LIVE music.  The "First Saturday" Art Stroll/Gallery Walk is THE community gathering spot for a eclectic mix of art lovers, patrons and artists. Call Lola for more info: 386-690-8666

(Florida National Guard Fitness Challenge)
On The Beach Just South of Flagler Ave  New Smyrna Beach 
June 8, 2013  Registration 11am   Event noon - 3pm

Are you ready to challenge yourself the way our nation’s finest do? We can’t heeaarrr yooouuu!!! 

Beach Boot Camp, hosted by the Florida National Guard will let you learn what it’s like to “get fit” the armed forces way! Located directly on the beach just south of Flagler Avenue, participants will be able to engage in variety of different individual fitness challenges, as well as a beach obstacle course based upon the actual US Army PT test! 

Run for fun, or compete in a variety of age / gender divisions (M/F, ages 12 and under; 13-18; 19-35; 36-50; and 51 and up) The course includes a shuttle run, pull ups, low crawl, tires, push ups, and sit ups. There’ll be t-shirts for all competitors and prizes for top finishers! And Florida National Guardsmen will be standing by for “extra motivation”, just in case you need any! There’ll also be armored vehicle displays, and a Health and Wellness check with free blood pressure screenings! 

Registration for this free event will be on a walk-up basis the day of the event.

Canal Street New Smyrna Beach - 4 to 8:00 PM

Sponsored by the East Coast Cruisers, every second Saturday of the month, the family friendly classic car show offers food and entertainment in a historic setting. Call Pat Teehan at 386-547-7319 for additional info or click here.

On The Beach, just south of Flagler Ave New Smyrna Beach
June 15, 2013 from 8am - 3pm

Sand and water: These are the key elements in sand art, and something in no short supply here in New Smyrna Beach! With sand so fine it squeaks when you walk on it, and beautiful clear water, it is the ideal combination for a fun, creative day of sandy shenanigans!

Come on out to the beach just south of Flagler and join the competition or simply soak up the fun!  Amateur teams will consist of families, friends, co-workers and community groups. All competitors will create their own sand sculptures in 10’ X 10’ plots of cordoned beach. Prizes will be awarded for individual adult, child and team categories, judged by both professionals and local celebrity judges!

 Sand art professionals will also create magnificent sculptures, showing off one of our area’s most valued natural resources! This is a free event, however spaces will be limited (Download Registration Form now.)

Surfari Club Amateur Surf Competition
Saturday, June 22nd 8:00am - 5:00pm

Catch a wave at this always-radical family-friendly amateur surfing event on the beach at the Flagler Avenue beach approach! The spirit of this safe event is fun and beginners are welcome. If the waves do not allow for a successful competition, it is moved to the inlet area in North Beach. Come meet some of your favorite pro surfers, get free surfing lessons and meet new friends while taking in the festive surroundings.

For more information and registration, please visit

for more great NEW Smyrna Beach events!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Moontide loves beach weddings!

Veronica and Teresa can put you in touch with local caterers, photographers, or wedding planners.

Want to do it yourself?  With Moontide you have your own 1-3 bedroom, luxury apartments ...with FULL kitchens.

The community room opens right onto the beach and holds 35 seated, more standing up, so is perfect for a small to medium sized reception.  It also has a "catering kitchen" to help you arrange whatever delights you've prepared upstairs!

You might combine your wedding with a family reunion!  Moontide only has a 4 day minimum stay and rates are lower than many hotels!

Call Moontide today to check into having your dream beach wedding... you can get more creative ideas on our PINTEREST page (click) and here is a great article we found to make your planning easier...

How to Plan the Perfect Beach Wedding
... by Rebecca Kinnear

DWH A-List Planners know a thing or two about planning perfect beach weddings. We solicited their best advice for an oceanfront affair — everything from choosing the right gown to windproofing your decor — to keep you worry-free while exchanging vows on the sand.

Skip the big dress. Let’s face it: A ballgown belongs in, well, a ballroom. “You may be able to get down the aisle in a full dress and long train,” notes Paulette Davis of Bahamas Wedding Planner, “but walking on the beach and taking photos won’t be easy. If a large dress is a must, make sure it can bustle easily.”

Think light. “Dresses with lace trim can be difficult because they pick up debris from the beach,” says Kate Bentley of Happily Ever After Wedding Planning & Design in Key West, Florida. “Instead, choose a lightweight fabric like chiffon or charmeuse so your gown flows in the ocean breeze.”  (read more)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Smyrna Balloon Fest 2013 - a World Class Airshow Event!

April 5th, 6th and 7th in New Smyrna Beach will be the home of the 5th Annual Balloon & Sky Fest… hosted by the Balloon and Sky Fest Foundation (501c3) of Central Florida.

This is a a full weekend of Hot Air Balloon, Aviation and family activities and benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs as well as other area youth organizations.

A wide-ranging event, with a variety of activities, the festival features “Balloon Glows” Friday & Saturday night, balloon passenger flights Saturday and Sunday morning and FOUR world-class air shows (two night and two day shows) with dozens of warbirds on static display; rides in helicopters, airplanes, a classic DC-3, and a WW II B-25 bomber.

Kids will love the 2-acre 4-H Animal Encounter; a hands-on, up-close experience with a wide variety of animals. 

Under the watchful eyes of the 4-H Club members - and an on-site veterinarian to ensure animal safety - the animals will stroll, watch, interact, perform - and sleep - all weekend in New Smyrna Beach.  Kids of all ages will love this venue, and everyone will learn more about Earth's living creatures. 

Horses, ponies, goats, sheep, geese, cows, plus birds of prey, amazing marine life displays and old-fashioned hayrides for all to enjoy and pony rides for the youngsters, plus a display of antique tractors.

Event Chairman Arlen Stauffer says…  "This is a huge event for Central Florida, and there really is something for everyone here."

"Inspiration Village is a place where NASA, Embry-Riddle, our military, the Boy Scouts, and radio-controlled airplane experts will work to entertain and inspire our visitors.  4-H Clubs from all over Florida are bringing their best animals to Balloon & Sky Fest so there will also be two acres of animal fun!"
Other show highlights include world champion Patty Wagstaff and the 300-mph jet school bus and we’ve gotten word that the festival may even have a B-2 Stealth Bomber flying by each day!

You, and your family will share in special ceremonies honoring veterans during the air shows, shop with hundreds of food, business and arts & crafts vendors; and enjoy live music on stage all weekend.

Even the music has a little something for everyone with musical genres from jazz, soul and soul, to Celtic Folk, Country Western and even Ska, with “Teflon Don” of Orlando.

This is truly a world class, airshow event, attracting visitors from all over the US, and the world! In 2012, more than 40% of Balloon Fest attendees came from outside of Volusia County. This is good to know for companies considering becoming vendors and sponsors (Food vendors spots are sold out for 2013, but other slots remain avail as of publication date).

David Bart, Balloon Fest Executive Director, points out…  "For 2012, our economist calculated an economic impact of our event at more than $10 million for this area.

People come from all over the country to take rides in our balloons and, while they're here, thay also ride in a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter, an original American Airlines DC-3 , and a World War II B-25 bomber!"

This is a true all-family all-weekend fun festival.

If you’re coming from out of town and looking for a great place to stay… New Smyrna hosts many excellent spots.  Of course there is Moontide Vacation Apartments... 1-3 bedroom, luxury apartments with full kitchens for less than you'd pay for many hotels.  Right ON the beach, Moontide will truly give your family a "home base" and the full beach experience.

Additionally, up the road in Daytona Beach, there is the 5 star, award winning August Seven Inn, a luxurious bed & breakfast, just a 10 minute walk from the beach.

Both Moontide and August Seven get booked up fast... so call now (use promo code "connections" to check for any special rates, if avail)... follow the above links to their websites.

For the New Smyrna Balloon Fest... Admission is just $5, and kids under 12, all Boys & Girls Clubs members, and all Veterans get in free.

VIP Passes are available with lots of additional perks and amenities.

Visit the OFFICIAL web site for more information!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Florida Beach Weddings; Beautiful & Budget Friendly

Budget Beach Weddings: Top 10 Reasons They're a Great Idea!

We can probably think of 100 reasons for you to have a beach wedding at Moontide on New Smyrna Beach, however, we'll give you just our top 10 for now.

Get creative!
1) Beach weddings are, by nature, more casual affairs. More casual means less bankroll, less stress, and more sand between your toes.

2) Your wedding and reception are at the same location, making it easier for guests, creating less stress and meaning you aren't paying for two separate venues and worrying about transportation costs between the two.

Combine a Family Reunion with YOUR union!
3) Family hasn't been together in a while? Your beach wedding can be combined with a family reunion.

4) Moontides "community room" is perfect for your reception. It opens right onto the beach itself, so you can have the ceremony down at the waters edge, then just walk up a bit to pop the champagne!

5) Your wedding party will appreciate the casual nature of your wedding and it's lack of impact on their pocketbook. Bridesmaid's dresses are generally sundresses that can be worn again. Often Groomsmen simply color coordinate in matching board shorts and shirts.  Even your wedding dress can be unusual. We've seen more elaborate wedding dresses on the beach and we've seen white bathing suits with wraps for the bride as well. Suit your personality.

The Goofy Groomsmen!
6) Spend as much as your wish (or as little), decorating for the ceremony. A short ceremony doesn't even require seating for the guests... just mark off an "aisle" and make an "arch" for the bride/groom to stand. Even if you buy color coordinated beach chairs, you'll spend about the same as you would to rent them and you can give them to the guests as take-away gifts. Another idea... buy color coordinated beach towels and let guests sit on the sand. Look on the internet and Pinterest for ideas that are beautiful, and inexpensive.

Great idea for wedding photos
7) For food, Moontide's community room has a "catering kitchen," meaning it doesn't have cooking facilities, but it has room to coordinate and organize your reception food. You can hire a caterer, or do something simple yourself and go for a cold seafood buffet accented with tropical fruits and Pina Colada Punch. You'll spend a fraction of what you would have spent at most wedding venues.  

8) The beach itself is your "ambience" ...forget fancy centerpieces, banks and banks of flowers or ice sculptures (obviously)... whatever you choose for your "theme" is going to be budget friendly.

9) If you're thinking of a destination wedding... no better spot than Moontide. Your attendance is sure to be up, as guests will want to make a long weekend of it and combine it with a family vacation.  Moontide's beach apartments are 1-3 bedrooms with full kitchens. No worrying that everyone has to be "entertained" all the time... if the kids get a bit bored... send them back up to the room to watch movies and munch on homemade popcorn.

10) Save on the Honeymoon!  Come on... your wedding is already being held at Moontide... where the whole world wants to come for vacation! Instead of cutting out after the wedding ... just book yourself an apartment a little further away (on a different floor) from the rest of your guests... but hang out for the weekend enjoying the company of family and friends. Take the money you save by having your honeymoon right here at Moontide and put a downpayment on your dream house instead!

We can think of lots of other reasons to have your wedding at Moontide... but we'll just give you two more... Veronica and Teresa! They are your "secret weapon" and will give you all kinds of great tips, as well as helping out with some of the details.  In fact, I bet they'll make your wedding so special... you'll want to come back EVERY year to re-enact it!

Check out Pinterest for lots of great wedding ideas!