My Travel Bag for 2019

Someone did a study a while back and quoted something like hard-sided suitcases were a sign of declining civility. What bunk! Hard sided suitcases were the standard until the sloppy seventies came along and some poor sop decided that a duffel back should be used for traveling rather than as something to carry to the gymnasium or on safari. No, even on safari people used gorgeous leather trunks and cases. HELLO?? Out of Africa, people.

To prove my point, I give you the Singita Sabora Luxury Safari tent. NO ONE is going to throw their backpack on THIS bed and live to talk about it. So if you don’t want to be fed to the lions, consider the many alternatives to grubby, stained, sloppy duffels.

Singita Sabora Tent Safari Camp.jpg

If anything, hard sided suitcases seem smart. And the choices are endless. Even UO is getting in on the game. New-ish darlings, Away, seem to have stolen people’s hearts. And Rimowa is always a classic. But a Louis Vuitton trunk is where it’s at. The ULTIMATE in luxe travel gear. However, it’s just not practical when you’re a woman on the go. And who has TIME for managing all those people to CARRY the thing?


I may not be able to lift a trunk, but I can definitely carry my own bag just like these toughies can. So after a whole year of trial and error on multiple journeys, I’ve finally chosen two travel bags for different types of travel. Both of them are on the small side, so click away now if you’re not in the market for minimalism.

MUJI Hard Carry Suitcase 35L

So, if you’re a guy or gal who uses packing cubes, or vacuum bags, this case is a dream. If you’re someone who just throws it all in there and goes, this is going to make you look put together and classy. It’s different than the Away suitcases and I prefer it above all others because of this:

It will not roll away. Commuters, well-seasoned travelers, multi-city visitors know that surfaces around this incredible world are not even or level or smooth. It’s got four double wheels all right and they’re quieter than a whisper in a vaccuum sealed room. BUT THERE’S ALSO A WHEEL LOCK. Thank God, because I didn’t lose it around a curve in the L-Train in Manhattan, and it didn’t go rolling into the elderly woman beside me on the ramp in Grand Central. It stays put with the gentle push of a button. No furtive glances and pulled attention. Click it and stick it, y’all.


It’s secure and the TSA secure lock is on the side rather than the top, so you’re not going to scrape your knuckles on the thing or mistake it for the handle.

It’s smooth moving with four double wheels that are as silent as the grave. (Mentioning “grave” along with suitcase reviews might seem morbid, but hey if you’re going to “head west”, let’s hope it’s as silently as these wheels.) They’re like the Toyota Hybrid of roller wheels. You’ll never be clicking or clacking your way through a last minute museum visit or restaurant stop.

Muji 35L Suitcase.jpg

It’s scratch resistant. With a polycarbonate shell and a ballistic nylon overcoat, the surface has a concave-convex texture, which prevents scratches and keeps scratches unnoticeable. One note about this material, it breaks down in constant heat, so store your suitcase in a climate controlled area. I know, but still.

It’s lighter than the Away. I tried the Away suitcase with a battery and without and this Muji case, even at a couple liters less capacity, seems larger. Which means this gal with old lady shoulders can actually get the thing into the overhead compartment (“Wheels first please, madam.”) without having to ask the burly dude, in the seat I really wanted, to get up and help me with it. Although, I might ask anyhow, because sometimes I just feel like using my lady powers for personal gain. (Don’t hate.) Doors, heavy things, jewels. I draw the line at furs though. Faux only! Oh gosh, how did we end up here… onto one other bag.

TSA Luggage Lock Muji 35L Suitcase.jpg

Mother Lode Weekender Junior

I know I just went on and on about not carrying a duffel bag, but this is different. No, really. It’s a suitcase AND a backpack. The thing has never ending space. Just think of it as a weekender to fling in the back of a car or truck to hit the road with.

It comes in seven colors but I chose black. Obviously. I’m a Scorpio. The orange one has the best detail photos though, so check this out.


Hidden Laptop Compartment where it’s padded and safe and you can have your entire bag opened and people won’t know it’s safely stowed inside and out of view.

Junior version fits under the seat for when you fly super cheaply and don’t purchase overhead bin space. The Junior is 19” high and the regular Weekender is 22” in case you’re deciding on size.

3 Handles AND backpack straps so you can carry it like a suitcase or wear it like a backpack. The straps stow away cleanly so you wouldn’t even know it’s a backpack. Again, for when you’re popping into the shops or lunch before leaving, it’s got a good look to it.

Organized like nothing else on the market. The front flap opens to reveal an easy access section for notebook pens, and everything you want to get to in a hurry. Scarf, sweater, headphones, sunscreen. There’s even a key loop so you’re not left waiting on the curb digging through everything to find them. And because of the internal dividers, nothing shifts in travel.

These are the two bags that will be taking me through 2019 in style. Oh, and I chose black as the color for both bags because ALL BLACK EVERYTHING for me when it comes to travel. It’s just the easiest color.

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So, grab your bag and your pals and get goin’… Happy packing!

What You Need To Know About Zika

I’m not putting a giant mosquito photo here. So gross.

There’s an issue at hand that isn’t making headlines right now and I figured I’d share some resources that could help you plan. I know safety isn’t the sexiest travel topic, but Zika is still a thing. It’s in 86 countries, and many of the women travelers I know have Zika locations on their travel destination wish lists.

I did a bit of research on the CDC and World Health Organization sites to get info you can use when planning your next trip.

Facts about Zika:

Unlike malaria or other mosquito borne illnesses, Zika doesn’t have a vaccine yet. What’s worse, it’s difficult to determine whether you’ve been infected and sometimes symptoms are mild or don’t show up at all.

What is Zika?
It was first discovered in the 40s in Ugandan monkeys. In March 2015, Brazil reported a large outbreak of the Zika virus and today a total of 86 countries and territories have reported evidence of mosquito-transmitted Zika infections. 

How do you get Zika?
You can get Zika from a mosquito bite. Once infected, you may feel feverish or get pink eye or have headaches. Beyond the initial period that you have the virus, it can be transmitted sexually or through fluid exchange for months after you’ve been infected. Men can transmit Zika for six months after being infected (Zika lives longer in sperm) and women for two months.

Transmission can happen through vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and sharing of sex toys. Crazy, right?

Want to get pregnant?
Women of a reproductive age who intend to get pregnant should avoid areas with risk of Zika.

Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with risk of Zika. If you must, please talk to your doctor about ways to protect your pregnancy.

If you or your partner travel to an areas with risk of Zika, you should use condoms from start to finish every time you have sex or not have sex for the entire pregnancy, even if neither of you have symptoms or feel sick.

Click here for sexual transmission information from the CDC.

“Zika causes microcephaly and other congenital abnormalities in the developing fetus and newborn. Zika infection in pregnancy also results in pregnancy complications such as fetal loss, stillbirth, and preterm birth.” In simpler terms, babies are born with smaller heads than normal, shorter limbs and in some cases, have been born with neurological problems and unable to hear or see.

Where is Zika?


Africa: AngolaBeninBurkina-FasoBurundiCameroonCape VerdeCentral African RepublicChadCongo (Congo-Brazzaville)Côte d’IvoireDemocratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa)Equatorial GuineaGabonGambiaGhanaGuineaGuinea-BissauKenyaLiberiaMaliNigerNigeriaRwandaSenegalSierra LeoneSouth SudanSudanTanzaniaTogoUganda

Asia: BangladeshBurma (Myanmar)CambodiaIndiaIndonesiaLaosMalaysiaMaldivesPakistanPhilippinesSingaporeThailandTimor-Leste (East Timor)Vietnam

The Caribbean: AnguillaAntigua and BarbudaArubaBarbadosBonaireBritish Virgin IslandsCubaCuraçaoDominicaDominican RepublicGrenadaHaitiJamaicaMontserratthe Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a US territorySaba; Saint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint MartinSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSint EustatiusSint MaartenTrinidad and TobagoTurks and Caicos IslandsUS Virgin Islands

Central AmericaBelizeCosta RicaEl SalvadorGuatemalaHondurasNicaraguaPanama

North America: Mexico

The Pacific Islands: FijiPapua New GuineaSamoaSolomon IslandsTonga

South America: ArgentinaBoliviaBrazilColombiaEcuadorFrench GuianaGuyanaParaguayPeruSurinameVenezuela

What to pack if you have planned travel to a Zika destination:
Long pants and long sleeved shirts
Mosquito repellant with DEET
If possible, sleep with a mosquito net at night.

Safe Travel Zones:

As of 1/2019 the CDC has listed the following as safe travel zones and some of them are pretty spectacular.

American Samoa
The Bahamas
Cayman Islands
Cook Islands
French Polynesia
Isla de Pascua, Chile
Marshall Islands
New Caledonia3
Saint Barthélemy

I get it. I do. Some of those Zika countries are the hottest destinations right now and others offer incredible travel deals. But be aware, be informed, and be prepared. Here’s to you being a healthy tourist.


This is the jerky Aedes mosquito.

For more information or an updated list on Zika, visit

LIVE at Grand Central Station

Did you know that there’s a tennis court in Grand Central Station? Or that American financier, John W. Campbell’s office is now a ‘secret’ bar? Some of the original chairs are still available to sit in, and you can find the best black and white cookie to take with you on your trip.

I was on my way to LaGuardia and Ariel Viera from Urbanist joined me in a live video. We went behind-the-scenes of this iconic New York City landmark.

Watch here:

Visiting the Deli Llama


Lake County just got a new sandwich place that is super delicious. The menu above should say it all. The Deli Llama. Tons of gluten free, carnivorous, and vegetarian options.

Take a trip up to Tavares from Orlando. It’s just around the lake from Mount Dora. Lake Dora, that is. On old 441 about ten minutes from Downtown Mount Dora. Downtown Tavares is cute, walkable, and has those lakeside breezes. The Deli Llama in an old gas station, but the decor makes the place feel like home the second you walk in.

They are going to start serving coffee in January so watch out coffee lovers…you may have a new destination on your hands.


This is the Hot Mess sandwich. I got it to go so the photo presentation isn’t perfect. The taste however, was. Hot capicola, house-made turkey, house-made pimiento cheese, dressed arugula, and cherry peppers. It’s got some heat to it.


The Deli Llama

124 E Alfred St, Tavares, FL 32778

11AM - 8PM Monday through Thursday
11AM - 10PM Friday
11:30AM - 10PM Saturday
Closed Sunday
(352) 508-5044

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Schlumberger Jewels Bedazzle

I gave myself an early Christmas present of seeing the Jean Schlumberger show at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida. I got to experience one of the Gulf Coast’s best museums, was able to stand inches away from Guerrilla Girls, Monet, and Kara Walker and a wander through a divine little sculpture garden after tucking into yummy butter toast and a cup of hearty tomato basil bisque. There’s so much more to this museum than I ever imagined.

Here’s why you need to go to the St. Pete Museum of Fine Arts before March 31, 2019.

The Cafe. Do NOT skip going to the cafe. It’s probably one of the best kept brunch secrets in the entire city. A lovely menu with seasonal favorites and generous portions. Excellent coffee. Fantastic view of the water. Sit on the veranda if it’s nice. If not, the seats by the windows are fantastic people watching.

Super cool that you can buy a ticket online and have a year to use it. Buy one for friends. Grab a couple for visiting parents. I love that low pressure purchase.



Dreamy lounge area in case it all just gets to be too much. I imagine slinking into this lounge wearing a silk dress and furs and needing someone to provide smelling salts. It’s stepping into the feeling of Tiffany & Company in New York City. It’s like sitting in a velvet lined box. People were silent or whispering. The jewels demanded it. The Schlumberger show is only on until March 31, 2019.

It may seem like you have a bit of time to check it out, but we both know you’ll put it off. Don’t. You’ll regret it.


Bunny Mellon must have had one heck of a jewelry vault. The woman knew how to inspire. Her friendship with Jean “Johnny” Schlumberger produced jewelry that is so much more than jewelry, it’s the story of the natural world told through precious stones and metal. Her all time favorite piece was the Pisces brooch with red enamel. Look at those little golden fish lips!

I’ve always been fascinated by haute couture of the 50s and 60s. The fashion houses that were inspired by brilliant muses like Slim Keith and defined or destroyed by Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland. They, along with other women like philanthropist Bunny Mellon had style. The kind of unique style that would stop conversations when they entered a room. Not narcissistic, but incredibly vain. And they all wore Schlumberger jewelry. Jackie Kennedy is famous for wearing his enamel bangle bracelets. Slim Keith had a cross made of gold and amethysts.


Inches away from DV’s favorite piece. Dianna Vreeland, former editor-in-chief of Vogue, had a piece commissioned by Schlumberger in 1941 and it stayed on her bedside table until she died. The ‘Trophée de Vaillance’ brooch is out of the Tiffany archives and on display. And it is magnificent. It seems to glow from within. Like a military trophy, the platinum and gold breast plate and tunic is set with diamonds.  Behind that is an oval shield encrusted with faceted amethysts and rubies, with a blue and gold enamel border. Blue and grey enamel longbow, arrows, spear, pike and axe project from behind the shield, while a ruby-set star pommel projects from within the armor.



Oh how I love her. The use of shadow and light and images of past placed on past. Brilliant.


Then head outside and walk along the water, or grab an ice cream cone and stroll along the avenue. Looking for a posh place to stay after being inspired by those Mellon jewels? Visit the Vinoy Renaissance Resort just a block or two away. It’s pink! And pure luxury.

Museum of Fine Arts St. Pete

C255 Beach Dr NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 896-2667


Monday–Saturday: 10:00 am–5:00 pm
Thursday: 10:00 am–8:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm–5:00 pm


Tuesday–Sunday: 11:00 am–3:00 pm

Tickets: HERE

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Mini Bar Donuts in Jacksonville Beach

I headed to Jacksonville for a weekend with my lady gang. If you’ve not been to Atlantic Beach, then definitely put it on your list. It’s two hours from Orlando and north of St. Augustine. Outside of Jacksonville proper and a bit north of Jacksonville Beach is Atlantic Beach. A small beach town with a bustling maker culture. Mini Bar Donuts is one of the latest stops I made.

First, you have to know that these are TINY LITTLE MINI DONUTS that are just one or two bites. Fluffy cake is hand topped or filled and decorated while you wait. Order at one end of the counter and pick it up at the big orange VW Bus counter. Clever design with a step up and view window for kids to take a peek at all the kitchen work happening on the assembly line.

Puffy, flavor-packed, mini donuts and a great treat to grab for brunch, business meeting, social meet-up, date, or road-trip. The best coffee in the city, Bold Bean is served here. You cannot leave without grabbing a cup of this liquid gold. Don’t miss the mural outside. You don’t really notice it until you leave so be sure to look up.

Check out the pics to get a feel for the place.


If you’re wondering about the menu. It changes a bit seasonally. You’ll always find favorites like:

Vanilla Icing + Fruity Pebbles

Maple Icing + Bacon

Powdered Sugar + Raspberry Jelly

Chocolate or Vanilla Glaze + Mint Chocolate Chips



1300 Beach Boulevard
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
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Discover a Secret Island in Grant, Florida

The Indian River Lagoon is the most bio-diverse lagoon in the Northern Hemisphere and an indispensable refuge to the nearly one million neighboring Central Florida residents. Today, we're going to explore the lagoon in a couple of kayaks.


If you don't have your own kayak, I recommend checking out Island Paddle in Grant, FL. They're a Florida nonprofit Citizen Support Organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration and enhancement of the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve spoil islands and education of the importance of the spoil islands as valuable educational, recreational and conservation resources.

Island Paddle is located in Grant Station, which is right across the street from the main boat ramp in town. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards or try out one of their tours: Sunrise Paddle, Paddle Board Yoga, or Mullet Creek Paddle Tour.


Once you're out on the water, you can paddle at your own pace to reach one of the many sandbars and islands on the lagoon. Be careful when you're swimming too far out from shore because the lagoon contains brackish water. That means it's a mix of both salt and freshwater, so you may find some bigger fish and alligators. Always watch out for boaters when you're in the channel.

The island we explored had so much plant life! I encourage you to download a plant identification app on your phone and see how many different types you can find. You're sure to encounter animal life as well. Frequently, there will be porpoises that swim right up to your kayak but we weren't so lucky today.


Rule one of being out in nature: leave no trace! Explore as many islands as you wish, as long as you help preserve their natural beauty. I like to bring a trash bag with me to clean up any litter that I find.

Happy exploring!


 Tina Fleming is a partner at Townie Tourist and an Orlando-based travel and lifestyle blogger at Tina In The Sun. She's a cat mom, self-proclaimed foodie, and moonlight singer in an a cappella group called Geekapella.

Explore Historic 'Green Gables' and Melbourne, Florida

If you haven't ventured south to Melbourne, Florida you need to put it on your day-trip list.  It's about an hour and a half south of Orlando on the Atlantic Coast and I was amazed by what I found there.  First, let's talk about a visit to Green Gables

Green Gables was the winter home of William T. Wells and his family.  Wells was a metallurgist who was known for his patent on the manufacturing of rustless iron.  In 1894 Wells and his wife Nora, sons Stanford and Prescott, and daughter Gladys traveled from New York to find a healthier climate for Nora's health issues. 

Melbourne was the perfect mix of friendly neighbors, great fishing, and outdoor activities.  In 1896 Green Gables was completed on the high bluff facing the river just north of town. 

This Queen Anne style house was the first of its kind and unique to a property like this, the house has remained family-owned to this day.  However, after the 2004 hurricane season it was deemed uninhabitable. 

The house is now used for events and parties but needs extensive repairs and restoration. You'll see some damage in the photos. 

The Wells family contributed to the expansion of Melbourne both architecturally and culturally.  Mrs. Wells built the first auditorium in the region and stage boasted perfect acoustics.  She arranged the Chautauqua of the Tropics and had musicians, actors, poets, and lecturers come to visit and perform.  The Wells' dedicated a portion of their land to the public which became Wells Park and the main branch of the Melbourne Public Library.  They also provided the means for the first pubic high school.  They were generous and progressive and left a legacy that remains today.

This 122 year old structure is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has an unparalleled view of the Indian River.  What a spot to experience the beauty and history of Brevard County.

Green Gables 

To arrange a tour or visit, reach out by email at the address below.

Mail: P.O. Box 1086, Melbourne, FL 32902

Address: 1501 South Harbor City Blvd, Melbourne, FL


Click below to watch the Townie Tourist walk through Green Gables. 👇👇

Daytrip - Exploring Melbourne, Florida


Melbourne is an easy hour and fifteen minutes from downtown Orlando, and tolls and highways make the trip simple.  (The alternative is a longer scenic route takes you through Fort Christmas which is another great stop on Hwy 50.)

Get to town and head first to the Historic Downtown area.  Drive slowly over the railroad tracks and park.  You won't want to miss the following:

Jacqueline's Bakery - 906 E. New Haven Ave, Melbourne, FL 32901 

This is a family-owned, French bakery and cafe. Chef Jacqueline uses European style butter, French traditional flour and American artisan flour (both non-GMO) and everything is baked from scratch.

Things to try:

  • Continental Breakfast - tartine, croissant, orange juice, coffee

  • Apple turnover

  • Quiche Duxelles

  • Vegetarian Baguette (ask for it with butter instead of hummus) Trust me.


Russian House - 822 E. New Haven Ave, Melbourne, FL 32901

You might not realize this but there's a very large Russian population in Melbourne. Perhaps because of its proximity to the Space Coast.  Scientists maybe?  Who knows.  All I know is that a visit to the Russian House can take an hour just listening to stories from the old country and playing with nesting dolls.  The food, drink, trinkets, art, books, posters, and more are worth a visit.

Walking up and down this Main Street area is a good start. If you've got your fill of this first stop, hop back in the car and head a little closer to the coast.

EGAD - Eau Gallie Arts District - About a half-mile down the road is the Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD) which is full of art, galleries, murals, and so much inspiration. Also...pie.


Joan's Perfect Pie - 1478B Highland Ave, Melbourne, FL 32935

Fresh pies, baked daily.  Joan runs a tight ship and her pies are hefty and delicious.  Choose savory or sweet and you won't be disappointed.  All of the fillings and dough are handmade and the crust is an all butter crust; brown and flakey. 

Outdoor Mural Installs - Be sure to check out all the public art murals around this district.  You can find a list here.

Foosaner Art Museum - 1463 Highland Ave. Melbourne, FL 32935

This free museum is a complex that contains three buildings: a 15,000sq ft gallery space; the Renee Foosaner Education Center with spaces for drawing, painting, pottery, and printmaking; and the Harris Community Auditorium for lectures, meetings, and performances. 

The permanent collection is over 5,000 works on paper, paintings, sculpture, and industrial design of the Modern and Contemporary periods.  Click here for the hours and installation details.

Hungry for more?

Chez Quan's - 1470 Aurora Road, Melbourne, FL. (321) 622-6979

This place has to top your list for what to eat for lunch or dinner.  What happens when you mix Thai and American and Latin all together?  Chef Adam can show you.  And you want him to.  A simple cement floor and bowls full of love.  It's always a good idea to show up for Wu Tang Wednesday. 


There's so much more to explore so look for a second installment happening Fall 2018.

Visit Mini Animals at Lil' Bit of Life Farm


Lil’ Bit of Life Farm’s message is "Healing with a little help from our friends".  Owner Tracey Rinehart has poured her heart and soul into developing her mission to provide healing with four-legged friends.  "Horses train us to have balance, feelings of strength, coordination, confidence, grace, and peace." Tracey’s first horse, Bailey, taught her these very things, and she wants to share.

Also home to the G.R.I.T.S. 4-H Club, the organization is service oriented assisting living facilities and businesses in the Lake County area.  Our visit to Lil Bit of Life Farm was timed with a few events in mind.  Tracey had just gotten some ducks, there were new baby pigs, and the goats were about to give birth.  We saw it all in our tour.


Check out these activities held at the farm:

  • Horsemanship - No riding involved. The experience is a hands-on course in learning how to care for your mini friend. You will bathe, groom, hoof care, and walk them while building a friendship relationship. Memory, fine motor skills, judgment, and focus are improved.

  • Obstacle Course - No riding involved. Designed with obstacles and patterns with you and your mini leading the way. Build relationship and trust. Learn positive leadership skills, team building skills, and build self-confidence.

  • Teaching Kindness - This program focuses on teaching empathy and compassion through interaction with small animals. The lesson plans are based not the principles of Humane Education. You will work with small farm animals, including goats, bunnies, and minis.

“There is something good about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.”

The benefit to Lil Bit of Life Farm is so much more than just the experience of meeting Tracey and her animals.  It’s the difference that they make in Mount Dora and Lake County. 

Schedule a visit to the farm:

Groups large and small are welcome!  There’s plenty of parking and the farm is easy to navigate. 

  • Birthday Party entertainment

  • Day Camps for Youth (5-13) on scheduled days

  • Photos for daycare and pre-school with a miniature horse

  • Schedule an hour of quality family time with a mini

Lil' Bit of Life 

(407) 461-3091
Mount Dora, FL

Hotel Palms in Atlantic Beach, FL

I don't have a ranking for must visits in Florida, but Hotel Palms is at the top of my list right now.  I can't express to you how much one night there was able to relax me.  It's my new Shangri-La.

The Hotel Palms is a modern, beachside motor court hotel established in 1947.  Three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and walking distance to shops and restaurants of Town Center.  Average rates start at $149 for a double queen room. 

The place has been renovated in a modern style that is cool and unique.

Check out the video tour I did with Ryan Montez and see for yourself.


Here are just a few things the Hotel Palms has to offer:

Beer and wine lounge w/ local craft beers
Private courtyard
Customizable Unlikely Local itineraries
Outdoor shower
Patio seating
Outdoor fireplace
Breakfast delivery
Complimentary wifi
Local coffee brewed fresh each morning in the lounge
Malin + Goetz toiletries
Salt and Stone sunscreen & lip balm (available for purchase)
Breakfast delivery
Complimentary wifi
Free beach cruiser and foam board rentals

Hotel Palms
28 Sherry Drive
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233