in january, our family made a trip to florida. there is magic in a warm weather escape in the middle of winter. our last was a trip to the dominican republic a handful of years ago. I’d nearly forgotten how restorative it feels. the warmth, the sunshine, the change of scenery, the movement of the ocean, the palm trees, the tropical beverages. all of it. this is how we spent our winter escape to florida.
shortly after the new year began, we set off for seven days in the florida sunshine.
we flew direct from des moines, iowa to orlando, florida. it was parker’s (our youngest) first airplane ride, which is more nerve-racking for the parents than for the child. in my opinion. we loaded our carry-on bag with so many snacks, a fully-charged tablet, and hope for the best. I’m happy to report, the little ones were troopers. it helped our flight departed right around nap time, and shortly after takeoff, both were asleep on our laps. they woke before we landed, but were easily satisfied with snacks + a movie. these are our favorite travel snacks.
four days at the beach
the first part of our seven day trip were spent with the husband’s parents. they have a beautiful beachfront place we’d yet to visit. it is a two-hour drive from orlando, near port st. lucie. we rented a minivan at the airport and began our road trip.
for four days our itinerary was simply to relax + see the island. we walked the beach, picked sea shells, shopped a farmers market, visited a local brewery, dined al fresco (a lot), took a boat ride, watched dolphins, and listened to the ocean. it was AMAZING!
the best change of plans
when the husband + I originally planned this trip, we intended to spend it all visiting his parents. a few weeks before our departure, we started talking logistics. if our flight leaves from orlando at 8:00AM on thursday and we’re 2 hours from the airport, we’ll have to leave REALLY EARLY. we couldn’t, or rather didn’t want to, do that with two little kids. so, we booked a hotel in orlando for the evening before our flight. but if you take two little kids to orlando, you should probably visit disney world. so we did. on day five, we drove our rented minivan back to orlando.
two days with disney
we arrived in orlando around noon on tuesday, and headed straight for disney springs. we had an adventurous lunch at the t-rex cafe (it’s basically the rainforest cafe for dinosaur fans), complete with life-size dinosaurs + simulated meteor showers. afterwards, we soaked in the whimsy of what was previously called downtown disney. we rode a carousel, visited the disney store (where the boys each picked a stuffed animal + a hat), split a chocolate fudge sundae, picked out a keepsake ornament, and called it a day.
we stayed in a marriott hotel not far from disney. tip: book a hotel with a kitchenette. before checking in, we stopped by the grocery store. I picked up enough food for dinner that night, snacks, and breakfast. our plan was to restock our travel snacks (plus bring a few for our day at disney) and have our last two florida breakfasts in our hotel room. when traveling, especially with little kids, it’s nice to have some comforts of home + routine. even if it is just eating their favorite yogurt, fresh fruit + some almond milk in their pajamas before we start our day.
our visit to magic kingdom
on thursday morning, we woke with excitement that rivaled christmas morning. we paid $25 to park in the disney lot, took the tram, and made it to magic kingdom shortly after 9:00AM. many safety protocols are in place, like temperature stations, mask mandates, and social distancing reminders in all lines. we rented a double stroller for $30. it wasn’t the most comfortable of accommodations, but parker happily rode around in it and later in the day, they both took a 45-minute nap. making it worth every penny. while it felt crazy visiting disney world during all of this, we didn’t wait in a line longer than 15 minutes. we’re considering this a big win. I want to believe our little ones are capable of waiting in longer lines, but I have my doubts.
I’d always heard to take your kids to disney when they were older, so they’d remember. I agreed with this sentiment. it’s not a short or inexpensive trip by any stretch, so it made sense. what I didn’t factor in was life. it rarely goes as planned. our boys are ages 1 and 3. (almost 2 and 4). the husband + I went back + forth on the visit to disney world. we ultimately said “yes” for a handful of reasons. we knew we’d have a blast. our little ones love all things disney. the husband had never been. there are a handful of parks, so we could visit others later. we don’t know when we’ll have the chance again. and most importantly, experiencing the awe + wonder through the faces of our little ones. it was magic.
this trip may have created my favorite formula for family vacations going forward; 75% no itinerary, 25% non-stop play.