My family just returned from our extended Florida vacation. We spent a few days near Disney World followed by 3 weeks in a condo on the beach in Daytona Beach Shores. I will review our accommodations and activities in the upcoming weeks.
Overall, our trip was fantastic! Re-entry has been tough, though. Here are my takeaways from our extended trip:
Disney World is More Fun with Older Kids
Don’t get me wrong, Disney is good for all ages! Even babies get something out of Disney. And it’s precious to see pre-schoolers open their mouths in awe at the characters and the magic inside Disney parks.
But, trapesing through the parks with older kids is just easier and less stressful. I even noticed a big difference in our visit to Animal Kingdom on this trip compared to our days at Disneyland last summer. My 10-year-old was suddenly up for all the thrill rides, and there was only one ride my 7-year-old refused to ride. We were in the park starting from the early Extra Magic Hour at 8 a.m. through the 10:30 p.m. closing time (with a brief afternoon swim break).
A 30% Chance of Rain in Florida Really Means 100% Chance of Getting Soaked
Following the hour-by-hour precipitation predictions in Florida was useless. When the forecast called for even a bit of rain, it always came in buckets. I made the mistake of leaving our umbrellas in the room too many times. I should have known better.
Abundant Space is Necessary for Extended Trips
There is no way we would have survived together this long in a regular hotel room or even a bigger hotel suite. Our vacation condo had three bedrooms and three bathrooms, and we utilized every square inch.
Two kids shared a bedroom with two twin beds, and my oldest had his own bedroom. We also had a huge living room sectional sofa as well as a large balcony to spread out. We definitely needed to go into our own corners sometimes.
Vacation Over-spending is Hard to Manage, Even in a Condo
Before we left for this trip, I had laid out a budget for our time in Florida. We would eat the majority of our meals in the condo and eat out just a few times.
Well, we blew through our budget quickly. Groceries were more expensive than I anticipated in Daytona Beach Shores. Also, waterfront restaurants with fresh seafood beckoned us, and we were weak.
Staying Oceanfront Is the Best Way to Really Experience the Beach
My family has visited the beach by driving in for a day trip, by staying overnight in a hotel several minutes from the beach, and by staying directly on the beach. While the distance from the beach doesn’t matter that much if you’re visiting for just a day, nothing beats a direct oceanfront location for a longer trip.
Sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, incoming storms, dolphins and pelicans, fireworks every Saturday night and on July 4th. We had a front row seat to it all. Ghost crab hunting with flashlights after dark is convenient.
We ended up accumulating quite a bit of stuff to take down to the beach. Multiple chairs, boogie boards, balls, sand buckets, Barbie dolls. Thankfully, we just had to carry our stuff to the elevator. If we had to carry all that stuff across the street or load it in the car each time, we never would have made it to the water as much as we did.
We went to the beach every single day during our three weeks in the condo. The beach was different every time! The tide, clouds and light were constantly changing, and the wildlife surprised us all the time. One night, tons of small fish in the tide pools swarmed our feet. Another night, hundreds of sea snails came in with the tide. We even found some dead jellyfish on the shore one day.
Our Favorite Experiences Were Free
Before our trip, I researched things to do around town and places to venture out for day trips. And while we enjoyed our excursions, our favorite things were free and required no advanced planning.
Boogie boarding, playing in the sand and staying in the pool until it closed at night were our favorite and most memorable experiences. And they didn’t cost a dime.
My 10-year-old woke up very early with me one day to watch the SpaceX rocket launch from the beach. Priceless!
I need to remember this for future vacations. Sometimes, less is more.
Problems Don’t Disappear on Vacation
In my mind, I envisioned our extended vacation as a break from the stress of daily life. And while that was true to an extent, I found that my problems from home followed me to Florida.
I broke my finger and had to make a visit to the ER right before we left for our trip. I worried about the medical bills that would be waiting for us when we returned.
Despite the best of circumstances, my kids still managed to find things to argue and whine about. They fought over who got to press the elevator button, and they complained about being bored. They grumbled when it was time to leave for the day.
Some stressful family situations didn’t go away, they were just temporarily masked. Peaceful walks on the beach gave me more time to worry about stuff.
There’s No Place Like Home
We love the beach and Disney. Living in Florida would be a great fit for my family. But at the same time, there’s no place like home.
We missed our beds and our dog. My kids missed playing with their friends. I missed my classes at the rec center and good Mexican food.
While living in Florida might be in the cards for us for the future, I’m confident that right now we’re right where we’re supposed to be.
While I wouldn’t trade any of the 25 days we were in Florida, for future trips I think 10-14 days is a more manageable trip length. We may never get to experience a trip this long again, so I’m grateful we had the opportunity this summer.
Here are the best 7 minutes of our trip in a music video:
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.