You know that feeling when you get home from a nice, relaxing vacation and you’re very aware you should really start tackling that accumulating list of “to-do’s” but you just can’t help but savor what’s left of your little break from reality? I am feeling it! *Sigh* I really should be unpacking suitcases, but instead I am sitting here, writing, to you about how I don’t want to. Procrastination much? *Double sigh*
Last week our family of five left for a 20 hour road trip to Florida, along with my parents and my brother. Eight people, 6 suitcases, 4 road maps, 2 cars and 1 mission – to unwind, reconnect and pursue an adventure together. While some families do a big spring break trip like this every year, this was a new experience for us. We typically do not ever go on a trip of this magnitude. But we had been planning this excursion for over a year, putting away money a little at a time, and waiting until the kids were old enough to really appreciate the memories we would make. Let me just say that every family should do a trip like this at least once in their lifetimes – preferably with grandparents or aunts and uncles in tow – the extra sets of eyes and hands make it much more enjoyable with little ones and the shared cost makes things like meals, hotels, gas & lodging much more affordable.
And although I’m not really one who loves divulging every little detail of my family’s privacy, I will share a few candid moments from this tropical adventure and hopefully a few helpful pointers should you choose to do a trip like this one day.
Our destination was Cape Coral, Florida, which is in the southern portion of the state, on the Gulf side. We choose this location due to its close proximity to the areas around it that we were planning on visiting – mainly Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. We rented a house that was listed on VRBO.com which was definitely the way to go vs. renting a hotel all week. This house was perfect for us, had an outdoor pool covered with a screened lanai and even a washer and dryer so we could keep up on laundry. It was located right on the water, one of the many channels that run through this area.
The house was so cute. It was very tastefully decorated in vintage beach decor – it even had a shiplap wall! Right up my alley. I especially loved the wall hanging cup holder with all the eclectic coffee mugs – such a fun idea!
As I’ve mentioned here before, my husband is from Minnesota, therefore happens to be a huge Minnesota Twins fan. It has always been a “bucket list” item of his to attend a spring training game, and the Twins happen to practice down in Fort Myers, so we bought tickets to see them play while we were visiting. Our tickets were very affordable and we had great seats. They ended up winning 14-5, against the Baltimore Orioles. It was a fun game, but HOT, with very little shade. Right off the bat, I got my first farmer tan of the season (no pun intended!)
The men on the trip got to go do a little ocean fishing with a guide one of the mornings while we were there. They actually did quite well with their catch for the day and boy was it delicious!
Another day we spent driving out to Sanibel Island to visit one of the beaches along the Gulf side. Our kids have never seen, nor swam in the ocean before, and they really enjoyed our time here riding the waves, collecting sea shells and making sand castles. We even saw a starfish, although didn’t capture a pic before it was tossed back into the water. I really can’t describe how beautiful the ocean is. It’s such a breathtaking view to see nothing but crystal blue water and white sand for miles and miles.
Probably the biggest perk of this trip was on one of our last days in Florida, driving up the coast to Clearwater to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This is a place where they rescue and rehabilitate injured sea animals, with the hope to release them back into the wild whenever possible. It is also the place where the famous Dolphin Tale movies were filmed, featuring the real-life dolphins, Winter & Hope. Being such huge animal lovers, our family was really looking forward to going here. Aside from some parking issues – we got to the aquarium on the island, only to be told parking was full there and had to turn around and go back and park on the mainland, then take a trolley back to the island – we did enjoy our time here. It was nice to be allowed to get so close to the dolphins & turtles and we even got to touch a sting ray. But you could tell that first and foremost, this place is a rescue rehabilitation center, with people who have a job to do every day, and it was kind of sad to see the way it has been turned into such a tourist attraction. On one hand the proceeds do go to help the center, but it was probably much more charming and authentic prior to all the attention from the movies. If you ever end up visiting here, I would also recommend purchasing your tickets online ahead of time.
On our way back home, we decided to drive up a different way than we came down. My brother really wanted to make a stop through Mississippi on the way home, to visit Brett Favre’s hometown of Kiln, MS. Unfortunately the day we drove through Alabama and Mississippi there were some pretty major thunderstorms and torrential rains. It did clear up shortly after we arrived in Kiln so we could snap a few pictures. All I can say is, “been there, done that” and now I really believe that it’s incredible to see how such a talent could have come from such a small, poor little town as Kiln. I know that they suffered a lot of damage during Katrina, but it didn’t appear as though that area has fully recovered from that even now, years later. Kind of sad actually.
Overall, this trip couldn’t have been more fun-filled with memory making opportunities. I am blessed to have a family who enjoy each other’s company and continue to take the time out of our busy, hectic lives to spend time together. And now, even though all that’s left of my sunny days in Florida are my crazy tan lines, I still have these great memories to revisit again and again. Best of wishes on your spring break adventures wherever they may lead you!