This may seem hard to believe, but this July, we took our first “real” vacation as a family. A vacation with all five of us (plus my mom). A vacation that required planning and saving. A vacation that took my husband and children to a place that they had never been to before.
We went to St. Petersburg, Florida, which may not seem like THAT big of a deal, but it involved a lot of firsts for my family. It was the first time Elysa and Calvin had been to the beach. And while Daniel and Delanie have both been to the Atlantic Ocean before, they had never seen the Gulf of Mexico. It was the kids’ and Daniel’s first time on a plane that actually took them somewhere. Daniel went on a plane when he visited Kitty Hawk as a child and Delanie went on a small plane at a tiny local airport with Girl Scouts. They went up, flew in a circle, and came back down. That hardly counts, right?
Beach life looks good on Sir Calvin
My mom’s cousin, who we’ve always been very close with, was getting married on the beach at a resort in St. Pete. Ordinarily, going to a destination wedding isn’t something we would even consider. But this time? My mom and I really started thinking about it and it became more and more of a possibility. We can do this, right? We can afford this if we start saving now.
Admittedly, the initial plan was for just my mom and I to go. Cheaper, less stress, etc. But then the guilt started catching up with both of us. We decided to make it a big family vacation. So between my family and my mom, we pooled the money together and paid for five round trip plane tickets to Tampa, Florida and a suite at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete.
The Brewer men, digging in the sand
Now, if it had just been Daniel and I, a resort is probably not the route we would have taken. We’re low maintenance. Give us direct access to the beach and that’s really all we need. The kids, however, really loved everything that the resort had to offer. Several pools, a huge inflatable water slide on the beach, paddle boats, movies in the pool every night, etc. And the fact that their cousins were there made the experience that much more fun for them. They had a blast.
She was young and wild and free
But let’s be honest, a vacation with kids isn’t really a “vacation” for the adults. The packing, preparation, and traveling alone makes you question your sanity when you decided that this trip was a good idea. I did the packing for myself and three kids. Expecting my husband to handle any of that would have resulted in the kids getting down there without any underwear. Then we had to wake up at the asscrack of dawn to catch our flight. Again, I was responsible for getting myself and three children ready and out the door. And then there’s an 11 year old with flying anxiety and a three year old who just suddenly stops walking in the middle of the airport because he wants to be carried and you nearly trip over him in the process. All before you’ve even boarded the damn plane.
This basically sums up Delanie’s opinion of sand… skeptical.
And even once you’ve reached your desired destination, you’re still on mom and dad and grandma duty from sun up to sun down. You’re making sure they don’t drown or kill each other in the pool. You’re making sure the waves don’t drag them away or that they don’t get eaten by a shark (or stung my a stingray, which was a more realistic concern). You’re telling the three year old over and over not to throw sand. You’re applying copious amounts of sunscreen and helping with swimsuits and floaties and providing them with food upon request because swimming makes them hungry. I never got to lay on a hammock and read like I had hoped. Daniel and I really only got a couple of opportunities to walk on the beach alone at night. And no, “walking on the beach alone” isn’t code for something more exciting, we really just love doing that. Don’t get me wrong, my mom helped out a lot, particularly with Calvin. But with three kids, there’s always something to be done.
This was around the time that we spotted a legit stingray. Yeah…
When we got home, I sort of felt like I needed a vacation to recover from our vacation.
But the exhaustion and work were absolutely worth it. My kids experienced five days of pure joy. Swimming, running through the surf, searching for shells, chasing dwarf clams as they buried themselves in the sand, eating sno cones, barreling down the breathtakingly fast water slide, and spending almost every moment with the cousins that they don’t get to see often enough. They made memories that they will keep forever.
Six cousins, all dressed up before the wedding
And you know what? Having these moments with them was enough to make it a completely enjoyable vacation for me, too. Combing their curly, beach tousled hair, smelling the salt water and sunscreen on them, putting them to bed at the end of a busy day and watching them pass out cold within a matter of seconds. Just to get up the next morning and do it all over again.
This. This is what makes it all worth it.
Calvin keeps asking when we’re going back to Florida. Daniel and I are in no hurry and neither is our bank account, but with Daniel’s grandparents recently moving down to Port Orange (Florida, on the Atlantic side), beach vacations might not be quite so few and far between for our family.
Who am I kidding? Stormy beaches are the real reason I came.