Sunny Fort Lauderdale hosted the North American TBEX15, a travel blogger conference held in Florida for bloggers around the world. Europe and Asia also hold TBEX conferences. It was my first time attending a convention of this magnitude and so close to my home, Vero Beach, I knew I could not miss it. In all, over 700 were in attendance to share blogging knowledge, network, and learn valuable skills to make our jobs and sharing more proficient. Dozens of vendors came together to meet us and share with us their products and services.
TBEX hosted pre-conference activities, in which I took part in a 5 part exploration of Hollywood, Florida. I had been to Hollywood previously and absolutely loved it. Of course when you are staying at the Diplomat Hotel, what’s not to love? Our tour consisted of a visit to the Anne Kolb Nature Center, beach Broadwalk where we rode bicycles for 4 people, lunch at Ocean Alley Restaurant and Beach Bar, a close-up of the local street art, and a stop by the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. It was a really fun and educational time and I am glad to see that Hollywood is booming. In fact, they are in the process of separating themselves from the Greater Fort Lauderdale area and coming into their own. I loved the changes to the city and was impressed with its art and cultural offerings. Hollywood has really developed into a thriving community that does not have as congestion with traffic as its neighbors.
After our Hollywood tour, I met up with some bloggers at a place I had been dying to try, Chimney House Grill & Cafe. Chimney House is a quaint little cafe with a great ambiance and a killer Latin American menu. We ordered a pitcher of delicious red sangria, which was smooth and rich, and for dinner, I opted for Mahi-Mahi en Salsa de Coco. The fish was tender and light with a flavorful, tropical sauce, served with rice and tostones. I loved everything about it!
The two day TBEX event featured classes all day long held at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center. Upon arrival for the conference, I parked my car at the Convention Center because it was $10 cheaper per day than the hotel’s rate. The Hilton Marina Hotel, the host hotel for TBEX15, was only about a 10 minute walk from the conference, but identification was necessary upon entering each time as this is a major cruise port and checkpoint area. While an inconvenience, I appreciated the efforts to keep everyone safe.
The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina was a good choice for our stay. The lobby offered a coffee/snack bar and there were on-site restaurants. The outdoor pool was fabulous, but unfortunately we did not have time to try it out. I loved our hotel room which featured a lovely view of the marina and all the glamorous boats.
Later that night, the Florida Museum of Discovery and Science hosted our Opening Night Party with some fabulous hors d’oeuvres and entertainment. They had staff members allowing us hands on time with baby gators, huge snakes, horseshoe crabs, and other Florida wildlife. I was actually brave enough to touch all the of above, a first for me!
The first day of TBEX began with an amazing keynote speaker, Carol Cain of Gone Girl Travel, who kept us in stitches with her unique and witty way of storytelling that brought us from laughing hysterically to wiping the tears from our eyes. The classes on that day reiterated basic blogging techniques and I really did not learn much, but repetition is never a bad thing. It was wonderful networking with fellow bloggers that I chat with online and participate with daily in online threads. TBEX had nice hospitality arranged for us and we were always being offered cute little snacks and drinks. We had a great lunch buffet served at the Convention Center that was better than average.
Later that day, Cheap Caribbean sponsored a margarita happy hour and then buses took us to the Diplomat Hotel for the Welcome TBEX party. It had been a very long day and was pouring the rain, so my roommate and I opted to take a cab nearby to the Boatyard Restaurant for some unwinding and gourmet eats. Boatyard was the perfect choice as we were both happy with our delicious meals and needed the quiet time after a full day of networking. I had a succulent crab cake and bowl of corn chowder, finished with a peanut butter mousse and jelly dessert that was out of this world!
Day two of TBEX offered a wider range of classes and seminars to choose from and I was happy with the ones that I selected. After another opening program, bloggers then split into the classes of our choice for topics such as branding, pitching to companies, managing social media sites, and productivity tools to get our jobs as bloggers, writers, brand ambassadors, and media done. Again, our lunch was provided, but we were quick to get back to work. The day concluded with a speed networking event, the same concept as speed dating only between bloggers and brands/companies. It was very fun!
Fort Lauderdale was a nice getaway and I loved that I got to spend time with so many like-minded people. I took away a lot of blogging knowledge and formed some invaluable friendships. I enjoyed the choice of accommodations and thought TBEX did a nice job of keeping us in delicious eats and activities, though I felt there should have been something at the close of the conference on Friday night. Other improvement areas would be to get information to us prior to a week in advance. Otherwise, a job well done and I am looking forward to TBEX16 in Minneapolis next year.