A couple of weekends ago, my family and I traveled to Florida to attend a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event for my upcoming deployment. This was also a weekend which was chock-full of milestones for my son.
The weekend began with his very first airplane flight. Leading up to the day of departure, my wife and I weren’t sure exactly how he’d handle it. We’ve all been on that flight with a screaming child and my wife and I definitely didn’t want to be that family who couldn’t sooth their little one.
Thankfully, our son loved the flight. Before the plane even took off he was exploring the seatback table in front of him, playing peek-a-boo with the world outside using the retractable window shades, and providing some early morning entertainment for the flight crew and other passengers around us.
I’d also be remised if I didn’t give a huge shout out to JetBlue and their staff for helping my family sit together on a very full flight (returning too!). They even gave our son his very own plastic set of flight wings to commemorate his first flight.
After a bit of curious uncertainty with the take off, our son went right back to being himself. Normally, our son is like the Energizer Bunny who keeps going and going and going, but since it was an early flight, we downloaded some episodes of Chuggington to our tablet and let him watch some T.V. rather than bouncing around and disturbing people.
When we landed, we our son tried his best to pull everyone’s luggage (I mean everyone on the flight, not just ours) off the baggage claim carrousel, but his little toddler strength just wasn’t enough to overcome the sheer power of a heavy bag on a mechanized belt. This ended in a hilarious spectacle of him getting dragged along with the bag for a few feet before succumbing to defeat.
The event didn’t start until the next day so I scheduled our flight in the morning so we had the rest of the day to explore Florida and play tourist. Once we gathered all our bags, checked out our rental car, ate lunch, checked in to the hotel, and took our afternoon nap, we took our son to SeaWorld for the first time.
We chose SeaWorld for a couple of different reasons. First, because I am in the military, they offered us free admission and who can say no to free? Also, they were the only park other than Disney (which would’ve cost us close to $200 just to get in the park) which was open past 5 p.m.
It was totally worth it though, besides seeing some cool animals like sharks, walruses, and so many different kinds of fish, there was also absolutely no lines. It was awesome! We got to walk right up to every attraction and every ride and hop right on. I can only count on one finger how many times that’s happened to me at an amusement park.
The next day, my wife and I attended classes. We tried to put our son in the daycare they offered, but he wanted absolutely nothing to do with that and didn’t want to leave us. So, we took him with us to the classes and were pleasantly surprised how well behaved he was during them – he didn’t run off, he didn’t scream or shout, and he didn’t bother anyone else in the classes.
After the classes were over, we spent the afternoon in the hotel pool which also featured a lazy river. It was so hard to get him out! He loves the water and riding around on a tube getting sprayed by jets of water and under mini waterfalls was heavenly for him. He also really, really wanted to go down the waterslide they had, but unfortunately he was too little and he couldn’t ride on our lap.
That night, we decided to go to Disney Springs for dinner. If there were something we’d have to say was negative about our trip, this would be it. It wasn’t that our time there was bad, it was just really busy and crowded, unlike everywhere else we’d been that weekend so far.
We wanted to go to the T-Rex restaurant for some Jurassic themed eating, but with a two-hour wait for a seat, that was simply out of the question. Instead, we went to the Rainforest Café which was still really awesome – especially when the giant volcano erupted with fireballs shooting into the sky.
The next day, we had a couple more classes before being released for the day. I’d moved our flights to later that night so we could spend a little bit more time in the warm weather. That afternoon, we decided to go to the Crayola Experience.
Our son had a blast here. We started out making some custom crayons with his name on them. Then, he played around with some other kids in the jungle gym before we melted down some crayons to make a wax racecar and play with some colored dough. We wrapped up the trip by purchasing crayons – A LOT of crayons!
After the Crayola Experience, we hopped on our flight home and called it a trip. In total, we were in Florida for three days but it honestly felt like we’d been there for a week. With some good planning and lucky timing, we were able to accomplish a lot fun family activities and give ourselves a nice little vacation!
If you find yourself in Florida this winter, make sure to check out the Hilton on Destination Parkway. This is the hotel we stayed at and there are so many things to do both at the hotel and within a ten minute drive that it’s really an ideal place to stay.