What You Should Know to Avoid Traffic on Your Beach Vacation

Each year, almost 5 million people pack up and head to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for their family vacation. With so many people all heading to the same destination, it’s no wonder that traffic tends to get a little backed up–especially in the summer months. If you and your family are planning on making a trip to the Alabama coast this year, check out this post for tips on how to get to and from the beach while avoiding the traffic.

The Mobile Bay Ferry

If you’re staying in the Fort Morgan area, the Mobile Bay Ferry is a great way to save time on your arrival
and departure trips. Known as “The Gulf Coast’s Most Scenic Drive,” the ferry runs across Mobile Bay from Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan. A one-way trip only takes 40 minutes across the bay, and the ferry’s departure point in Dauphin Island only takes about 40 minutes to reach from Exit 4 off of Interstate 10. Driving the same distance could easily take three hours or more during the busy summer months. Plus, you’ll save gas money by avoiding all of the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The ferry runs year round and a second ferry runs in the busy summer months to handle the additional traffic.Click here to see the year-round schedule, and this linkwill take you to the directions page on the Mobile Bay Ferry site. One-way tickets are $16 for a vehicle and single passenger. Each additional passenger is $4.50, and children under 12 ride for free. The ferry schedule can change due to inclement weather, so it’s a good idea to always check the ferry schedule before taking this route.

The Foley Beach Express

The Foley Beach Express is the favorite way for locals to get to the beach during summer season and for good reason. You’ll find significantly less traffic and red lights on the beach express compared to Highway 59 (Gulf Shores Parkway). The Beach Express currently runs from northern Foley all of the way to Canal Road in Orange Beach, but construction is underway to extend the Beach Express all of the way to Interstate 10.  There is a toll bridge that charges $3.50 per vehicle to cross over into Orange Beach, but if you’re heading to Gulf Shores there is a back road route that will take you and your family back to Highway 59 only a half mile away from the Gulf Shores bridge. This route will add a couple extra miles to your trip, but you won’t encounter the same bumper-to-bumper traffic that you would by taking Highway 59.

Traffic Times to Avoid

Most people finish the workweek and kick their vacation off on a Saturday.  Then they make the return trip home on the following Saturday. Unfortunately, that means that traffic to and from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is heaviest on everyone’s favorite weekend day. If your schedule is flexible, you can save significant drive time and stress by altering your travel plans by a single day. Coming in on Friday means the interstates and highways are much less congested, and you’ll be settled in and ready to hit the beach by the time Saturday morning rolls around. Since that’s the time most people are packing up to head home, you and your family will find that the beaches are less crowed on Saturdays as well!

 

Tanger Outlets: Your Ultimate Shopping Survival Guide

For many people coming to the beach, a visit to Tanger Outlets in Foley has become as essential a part of the trip as packing sunscreen and renting a beach umbrella. It’s a great way to shop all of your favorite brands in one location. More than 120 name brands, including Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Coach, Michael Kors, Bose Factory Store and Oakley Vault, have outlet stores there.

As most serious outlet shoppers already know a little upfront preparation is likely to make your outlet shopping experience more productive and enjoyable. So here’s our outlet shopping survival guide.

Tip One—Dress for Success

Dress for the weather and for easily changing clothes in a dressing room. You will be outside for a large part of the day going from store to store.  Also, wear comfortable shoes and carry a light purse. This will most likely be a marathon—not a sprint!

Tip Two—Getting there and parking

Even though Tanger Outlets is located only nine miles from the beach, plan on taking 20 to 30 minutes to get there from most locations in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.

There are numerous stoplights, and during the high season, traffic can back up at the mall entrance. There is a back entrance to the outlet center from S. Juniper Street. If traffic is really backed up on Highway 59, the back entrance might be a better option for getting in and out quickly.

There is plenty of parking, so you usually don’t have to worry about finding a parking space except on shopping holidays like Memorial Day Weekend and Black Friday. Also, if you are unable or unwilling to walk long distances, there is usually plenty of room to move your car around the shopping center once you get there.

Tip Three—Make this Your First Stop

Your first stop should be Tanger Customer Service located where you’ll find discount coupons as well as information on current sales and promotions.  You can also check the coupons page on the Tanger Outlet website for printable versions of current offers and promotions.  This can save you serious money on your purchases for the day. You can also pick up a map of the stores so you can see where the stores you want to hit are located.

This directory has the outlet stores conveniently grouped by categories (Apparel, Footwear, Specialty, Accessories, Housewares & Home Furnishings and Services) to help you find what you are looking for and to make sure you don’t have to backtrack to find one of your must-shop stores.

Tip Four—What’s to Eat?

It’s not uncommon for serious shoppers to spend the entire day at Tanger Outlets, so the question invariably comes up, “What are the food options?” There is a food court, but the choices are somewhat limited—especially when it comes to healthy options. It’s basically a choice between Pizza, Mexican or Chinese. However, there are a couple of other options for quick snacks including a freestanding Starbucks, The Fudgery and Peachwave Self-Serve yogurt.

Tip Five—Something Extra for the Kids

If you have young children with you, build in some time to stop by the Family Fun Park just outside the food court. The park includes a covered playground, a carousel and an interactive water fountain.

Tip Six—Best Price Guarantee

Tanger Outlets has a “best price guarantee.” So if you purchase an item and find it advertised at a lower price within the next 30 days, you can bring a copy of the ad along with your sales receipt to Shopper Services, and they will refund the difference.  This will ensure that you’re getting the best prices anywhere when you shop at Tanger!

Located at 2601 S. McKenzie Street in Foley, Tanger Outlets are open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Leave us a note in the comments to let us know what your best shopping tip is and any great deals you’ve found going on at Tanger!

Marine Life on the Gulf Coast: What to Expect

“Mom, are there going to be sharks in the water?” When I was growing up, that’s one of the questions that I regularly asked when my family was headed down to the coast for a beach vacation. Now, I live on the Gulf Coast and see the beach nearly every day. So, what I see on a regular basis is the same thing a tourist might expect to see while visiting the local beaches.

Marine Mammals

Dolphins are fairly easy to spot in the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, AL, area. As a matter of fact, I just spotted one while working on this blog post. You probably won’t see them every day, but if you keep an eye out, over the course of a day or two, you are likely to see one. Also, if you are really interested in seeing one of these fun loving and playful animals up close, you may want to go on a dolphin cruise. There are several companies that will take tourists, or locals, out for guaranteed dolphin sightings.

Nesting Sea Turtles

The Gulf Coast is the birthing ground for a host of sea turtles that are hatched every year. Between May and November, Share the Beach volunteers, http://www.alabamaseaturtles.com, actively search for sea turtle nests in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, and Dauphin Island. When they find the fragile nests, they mark the buried eggs with neon tape and a sign indicating they are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

If you time it just right, you might be lucky enough to watch the baby sea turtles hatch and make their way down to the water to embark upon their first sea voyage. I haven’t seen too many turtles during day-to-day life, but volunteers for this year found and marked 82 nests along the Alabama coastline.

Truth be told, I still haven’t seen any sharks in the Orange Beach or Gulf Shores area. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I hear the locals say that shark feeding time is during dawn and dusk. So, if you want to go in the water when the sharks are least likely to be there, then I would recommend going during the middle of the day.

Watch Out For These Guys

When it comes to being attacked by marine life, you may want to beware of crabs. They might grab your foot from time to time. Also, make sure you don’t get too near the stingrays or jellyfish, both of which are native to the Alabama Gulf Coast.

The ocean is fun, and people who are fortunate enough to visit the Gulf Coast will see a variety of marine life. I hope you get the chance to visit the area, enjoy your stay, and keep safe. Also, pay attention to the beach flag system, which indicates water conditions, including dangerous marine life.

5 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Spring Break Vacation Rental

March is finally here and that means more and more families will be heading to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach for Spring Break. With so many vacation rental options available, deciding where to stay can be a daunting task. Here are some tips to help you and your family pick the perfect rental for your Spring Break vacation.

1. Heated Pools Warm-up Spring

Spring weather on the Alabama Coast can be a little unpredictable. The temperatures may be in the 80s one day and in the 60s the next. Even if the sun is out, the water may still be too chilly for taking a dip. That’s why finding a property that has a heated pool or even a heated lazy river is a must for a spring vacation. There are several properties along the coast that have a heated indoor pool, but if you want to be able to swim AND work on your tan, you’ll need to stay somewhere that has a heated outdoor pool as well.

2. Rent Gulf Front for Easy Beach Access

Properties that sit directly on the Gulf of Mexico not only have the best views; they also have the most
convenient beach access. If you don’t want to have to pack the car to drive to a public beach, then a Gulf-front rental is the way to go. And if you rent with a property that provides beach chair rentals, you’ll have even less to carry. Just grab some beach toys and a cooler with snacks and a few drinks, and you’re ready to hit the sand.

3. Onsite Dining Means Less Stress

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are very popular Spring Break destinations, and the restaurants in the area typically have long waits during March and April. Look for a property that offers at least one onsite dining option. This will allow you to grab a bite without having to get out of your bathing suits or take a number and wait an hour to eat when the kids are already hungry.

4. Onsite Amenities and Activities

Look for a property that has a lot of onsite amenities and planned activities. There are some local resorts that have so many onsite amenities that you could stay for several days without having to leave the property for other entertainment. Some also have planned free planned activities for the kids, which can save you money in the long run if you do not have to hit the arcades or amusement parks every day.

5. Middle of the Action or Privacy?

Do you want to be in the middle of the action or you looking for privacy and seclusion? If you want to be near shops, restaurants and entertainment options, then choosing a property in the heart of Orange Beach or Gulf Shores is the way to go. However, if you are looking for get away from the noise and distractions in your life, then check out a resort on Fort Morgan Road.