Our home away from home
Yes, we went to Florida...again. I know, I know.
There are so many great places to go in the United States, why choose the same destination time and time again?!
Well, we enjoy it.
Honestly, we know what to expect and that helps us right now in this season of life. We knew we needed to get away before we were completely engulfed in all the decisions that come with building our home, not to mention the busy fall season full of birthdays and holidays and then with the hope that we will be able to move into our new home soon after the new year.
Simply put, we needed time to get away and re-group as a family.
Also, have I ever mention how stinkin' hard my husband works? When you own a business, the weight of making sure the ship is still running when the Captain is not around is a big thing to shoulder. The other part of that is the fact that he does not leave his work at the office. In the almost 11 years we have been married, he has always worked in the evenings and on the weekends to make sure he not only meets but exceeds the expectations of his clients. Not to mention he truly enjoys what he does so working is just a big part of his life. All that to say, to spend quality time we have to remove ourselves from our home and do things that will keep us busy!
It is an added bonus that because we homeschool we can go during slower times of the year and still get our school work done. My kids did not love starting off a day at the beach with some school work or getting it in before we could go to the theme park, but I constantly and lovingly reminded them of how much a privilege it is to be homeschooled and it is also a responsibility that can not be taken lightly. Besides, there is a lot to learn in travel, studying the different aspects of the beach and taking advantage of the educational resources in a new environment.
So Hello, Florida.
We always choose to fly. We drove the 20+ hours to Orlando when Gwyn was just 4 months old and it was too much, mostly on Josh. He is not a fan of driving long hours. Flying is also just a great investment in maximizing our time together.
This time when we got into Orlando, we drove straight to Siesta Key. We spent a day there in February and loved it so much, we knew we needed to go back and spend more time there. I am a weather nerd, so the weeks leading up to our trip I studied the weather and it appeared to show a lot of rain.
I am a firm believer in praying for family vacations. It may sound silly, but really it is another opportunity to show your kids how our Heavenly Father cares about all the details of our lives, and then we love to journal our "God Sightings" so we are constantly humbled and filled with thanksgiving to God.
When our plane was landing in Orlando, I looked out our window and saw large bodies of water everywhere as if it had rained for days on end (no it was not the ocean). The first day we ate out in Siesta, our waitress had made a comment that it was the first beautiful day in a long time because it had been raining so much. Thank you, Jesus. ;)
If you have never been to Siesta Key, you must visit! The beach is a soft dusty white sand, it is not super crowded and there are so many cute little shops and places to eat. (Although, clean eating while on vacation should be a whole other post, what do you think?)
Since we were doing our first ever extended vacation, we wanted to make sure we had several down days where we could just rest and enjoy time together. Typically when we go to Florida, we see how many days we can pack into the parks (because we love them so much) but then we are more exhausted when we leave Florida than we were when we got there.
I am a nature girl at heart.
I love the beach, the mountains, hiking and all things nature. I love being in awe of God's creation and the perspective that comes with how small we as humans and our problems are in respect to the greatness of a creator who took the time and put all the details and specifications into each species in the ocean and on land as well as the pure beauty of creation for our pleasure. It blows my mind. I had mentioned in an Instagram post how I had recently listened to a Matt Chandler sermon and he was talking about "The Glory of God". He mentioned how humans love to go to places that make them feel small. We enjoy the mountains and the ocean because it is there where we can truly experience the Glory of God. Isn't that the truth?! What a loving Gift from God to create spaces for us to enjoy His presence and to feel His Glory this side of Heaven.
All that to say, Siesta Key is amazing. You should visit. Here are some pictures from our time at the beach.
We also headed up the coast a bit to Venice Beach to see if we could scoop up some fossilized shark teeth. It was amazing how different the sand was just a short distance away. We didn't get any shark teeth, but we really enjoyed our day!
After spending 4 days at the beach, we packed up and headed to Orlando! Also known as my husband's favorite place on Earth. ;)
We have a resort that we love to stay at called The Fountains Resort. It is conveniently located near the parks and Whole Foods. ;) It also has several nice pools, activities, a game room, frozen yogurt and Starbucks if you like that kind of thing. Truly, if all we did was hang out at our resort while in Orlando, it would still be a wonderful vacation. However, they also offer fantastic deals on park tickets. The past couple times we have been able to grab a 7-day pass for both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios for the price of a 2-day pass, which is a big deal for us because we can not do one without the other and it is impossible to fit in both parks into 1 day. Since we frequent those parks, we have come to learn a few tricks along the way.
1. The best time to hit the parks— Parking is free after 5:00 or 6:00 (depending on the time of year) this is always a great time to go, especially if you get a pass for several days. Most people tend to try to be the first ones there and then they are exhausted and leave by 5:00. Wait times for rides are always much slower in the evening, both in February and September I am talking 30 minutes max for some of the bigger rides, but 5-10 minute wait on a majority of the rides. Plus, if it is hot, the evening is best anyway.
2. Wheather permitting— If there is a chance for rain, go to the parks anyway! Chances are the rain wont last all day and there are SO many rides indoors that it won't ruin your day. Plus if it is a warmer time of the year, rain and clouds help cool it off so much!
3. Best way to keep food costs down— We load up a backpack and the stroller and only eat out maybe once a day. You are allowed to bring all the food and water bottles you can manage to carry around.
4. Best shows on park— Don't miss the Superhero parade and meet and greet at Islands of Adventure, or the Superstar parade at Universal Studios. Both are a lot of fun for kids and adults.
5. When you want to skip the admission line—If you are going to Universal Studios first and already have your tickets and do not want to wait in line, OR let's say you stepped out of the parks to eat at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium (because it is super yummy, reasonably priced and a fun experience) you can get back into Universal at a secret entrance where nobody is ever waiting! In between Hard Rock and the Universal entrance is the entrance for the Blue Man Group show. Go through there and on the right hand side of the building you will see a little kiosk with a ticket person happily waiting to scan your tickets. This was a big time saver for us on busier park days or special event days.
There are so many reasons to love Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures. For starters, we love the atmosphere, the fact that there is always a new ride to try and there is something for all ages— toddler through the biggest kids at heart.
Here are some fun pictures from our time in Orlando for you to enjoy. :)
Remember how I told you about praying for the details of our vacation?
We had absolutely PERFECT weather the entire time.
I honestly think it might have been less busy the end of August-beginning of September than it was in February both at the beach and the parks. The Lord absolutely guided every step of our trip and we are so thankful for that time. All the way down to being a part of a large Hurricane evacuation road trip home because sweet Irma cancelled our flight. ;) It was a crazy long 29 hour drive home (traffic was a beast, not to mention every hotel in our path was sold out through the entire state of Georgia). However, we were very thankful we still had our rental van, and my cousins opened up their home to us in Georgia for the night.
Now we can officially check off "hurricane evacuation experience" from our bucket list.
If you ever have questions about traveling to Orlando I love helping out any way I can! I am in no way an expert, but we have made the trip by car and plane with grandparents, babies and toddlers and have tried nearly every park as well as several beaches. We do not know when we will be back again, but I can assure you we will learn something new and the experience will be completely different than the past.
Thank you for bearing with me on the long post, 2 weeks of vacation is a lot to catch up on, and I am positive I did not fully capture everything. Also, If you are ever curious what it is like to get pinched by a crab and then bit by a velociraptor, you can ask my hubby, I am positive he will be able to tell you exactly how that feels. ;) Maybe I will even share it on Instagram this week, make sure you are following along!
Now that I have finally caught up on this re-cap of our end of the summer trip, it would be really nice if Fall would show up in the Ozarks.
Have a great week!