I tell you, it really pays to have good friends. Last year Todd's friend offered up his RV for us to use on our spring break extravaganza to the Grand Canyon. This year another of Todd's friends (the brother of RV owner, actually) offered up his condo in Florida for us to use. My oh my, Todd's got some amazingly generous friends.
With the free lodging we decided that this year we would splurge and fly the kids down to Florida so that we could use the two extra days we'd have used driving for relaxation instead. This would be the very first time any of our kids had flown. Tommy had a mini meltdown when we told him that we were flying. He told us he was gonna stay home. He did NOT want to fly. After a few lessons on the science of flying and a book or two about flying (plus talking with all of his friends who have flown) he started to feel better about it.
When the big day arrived Tommy was nervous but he put on a brave face. Joey, who has forever been obsessed with flying and all things planes and wants to be a pilot, was beyond excited. Grace and Ben were both nervous and excited. And me? Well, I used to love flying until I had kids. Then I became a nervous wreck. But having my kids with me made flying so much fun again. Of course, I still had to have my ritual cocktail before the flight took off.
The kids were so excited to be at the airport watching all the planes. And, of course, Joey had to school us all on the types of planes and engines, etc. The flight was extremely smooth and the kids loved it. Even Tommy!
We arrived at our condo pretty late and by the time we checked in it was way past bedtimes. We pretty much went straight to bed. But the next day was all about swimming and lying by the pool. The weather was perfect all week, right around 90 degrees and sunny. We basically hung out at the pool swimming and playing football the entire week. It made for a nice relaxing vacation. As much as a family vacation can be relaxing, that is. 😉
I have learned over the years not to pack any workout clothes when I go on vacation because they never get used and end up taking up needed space in my suitcase. Go figure that the first time I don't pack the workout clothes I wake up really wanting to go for a run. Joe suggested I wear his shorts, Todd lent me his sunglasses, and I used my regular non-running shoes. It made for a very odd outfit but it worked. I got in a great run and can now say that I have gone for a run (on vacation!) in which I had to keep an eye out for gators. That was a little spooky, if I'm honest. Definitely a first.
We did take one day out of the week to visit our favorite, Universal Studios. We much prefer Universal to Disney. It fits our family perfectly. And everyone there is so amazing friendly and happy. The workers are amazing. As we were entering Universal we were trying to get a selfie in front of the sign and were struggling a bit. I had to lift Grace up a bit so we could see her in the pic.
There were workers standing there with their cameras to take pictures and one of them came up and asked if she would like us to take a picture of us. With MY camera! I was shocked! Here these people are put there to try and make money taking photos and she offered to take our family's pic for free on my phone! So nice! And we got a great pic!
Once again we had to visit Harry Potter's world at Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. So much fun. We drank frozen butterbeers and ate delicious fish and chips. We even had amazing dessert. So good. And this time we actually got to see the dragon spew his fire AND we caught it on camera! Score!
Ben also went on a huge rollar coaster (The Hulk) that he has been talking about for 2 years. Last time he wasn't quite tall enough. We also got to see an adorable animal show. It showcased famous animal actors like the pug from Men In Black, the bird from Ace Ventura, and quite a few other amazing animals. It was a highlight of my day. We spent all day and into the night at the park (and really only left slightly early because Ben began to have a very upset tummy). We were exhausted after our exciting day. Good thing we had another relaxing day sitting at the pool the following day.
We decided that we'd had plenty of time by the pool during the week and we took one more trip down to Clearwater to see the Clearwater Aquarium and Rescue where Winter, the dolphin, resides. My kids are animal (and dolphin) lovers (like myself) and we love the movie Dolphin Tale. When I told them that we could see Winter and Hope (the dolphin that inspired Dolphin Tale 2) they really freaked out. I was just as excited as they were.
It was so amazing to see these two wonderful creatures playing with each other. AND I had a really special moment with Winter. I was standing at an observation window watching Winter swim and I caught her eye and she came swimming over to me RIGHT UP NEXT TO THE WINDOW. I put my hand up on the glass and she put her nose right on my hand. I open and closed my hand (like I was making a mouth) and she open and closed her mouth along with it. It was amazing. I feel like we bonded. She actually did that twice. She swam away for a while and then came back over to play with me some more. When other people saw Winter coming up to me they all rushed to my window and then she didn't do it again. But I was seriously excited. We had bonded.
After that high we took a little stroll along Clearwater's beach. It is a beautiful beach with incredibly soft sand. It was a bit too windy (which made it feel cooler than it was) and the water was too chilly for swimming but Grace and I had fun finding shells. We didn't stay long but long enough for me to snap some pics.
The trip back to our condo took twice as long as it did on the way down. It was crazy traffic but it was still worth it to me. I flipping love dolphins and it had been a great day regardless of the three hour drive home.
Our last day of the trip was spent relaxing (again) and doing laundry and packing for our 6 a.m. flight the next morning. A VERY early flight for a family (had to get the kids up just before 3 a.m. so that we could leave by 3:30) but it got us back home by noon on Saturday. Just enough time to get everything unpacked, buy groceries, make dinner and relax a bit. Sunday the boys and I had rehearsal (for Fiddler on the Roof) at school all day so there wasn't too much time to unwind. And school and rehearsal have been crazy manic this week as the play is this weekend. Rush, rush, rush. Back to the grind.
Good thing our vacation had so much relaxing time.
I wish we were back there right now...