Our Florida Vacation

Normally we take a big trip in the summer, but this year, we opted to do that in January! I realized I didn’t have a chance to put that on the blog, so here it is! I love reliving trips, so this is perfect timing!

December 31, 2017
Off to Florida!
On New Year’s Eve, we hopped a plane bright and early (actually, it was BEFORE the sun peeked above the horizon, so “bright” may not be the best descriptor!) and headed to FLORIDA! We landed in Orlando and played at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. (It was a destination in and of itself. We loved the lazy river going through the property. If you’re feeling adventurous, you should ask my husband about how easy it is to “just drive around and see the town” from there. Answer: You can’t. Sorry. You’re either dumped into Universal Studios or back onto an Interstate that leads you away.) BUT, because we were “on property,” we got early admission into Harry Potter World the next day, which is an absolute MUST if you ever go there.

That night, our resort hotel threw a New Year’s Eve Party! (You may or may not be able to tell how exhausted we are in this photo! We’ve been up a LONG time!)

New Year’s Day 2017
Harry Potter World at Universal Studios
We spent the entire day at Harry Potter World. We arrived before the sunrise (I’m sensing a theme here!) and left just as the park was closing. We did take a siesta back at the hotel room for an hour or so before ending the evening. To say it was “magical” wouldn’t do it justice. If you like the world of Harry Potter at all, you need to go. (And I don’t say that about amusement parks.) It was absolutely fantastic. The attention to detail was incredible.

As you’ll see in the photos, Claire went as Luna Lovegood, one of her favorite characters in the Harry Potter series. (She went as Luna for Halloween, and she’d constructed and collected various pieces of the costume for months in preparation to that! It was great that she got to use it again!) Seeing how everyone there reacted so positively to her was heart-warming. That moment when you get to see your child completely in her element made my heart smile.

Claire as Luna

Luna and the Train

Hogsmeade at Dawn (literally)

Claire and I stepping through the brick wall 9 3/4. (I love the trick of the mirrors and glass, and I’m glad Dad got a picture for us!)

The Dragon on Gringott’s Bank is amazing!

Guess what!? It periodically BREATHES FIRE!! It scared us half to death, but from that moment on, I was adamant about getting a picture of it at night!


…so I did! *swoon* (Yes, you can feel the heat from it!)

January 2nd
Kennedy Space Center
That morning, we drove to Kennedy Space Center and spent the entire day there. It was amazing! We want to go back! (When we go back, we could spend another whole day there and see completely different things. There’s no way to see it all in a day!)


JoAnn doing the Space Station Crawl

Pano at NASA

January 3rd
Beach Day!
Indialantic Beach/Melbourne
My husband has been to this area for work and told me I’d love it. He was right! It wasn’t crowded, and the miles and miles (and miles!) of beaches were amazing!

If you look in the reflection of her sunglasses, you can see me lounging, too. (We heard it was snowing at home when we were taking these pictures. Bliss!)


Beach Run

Sunset from our balcony in Indialantic

January 4th
Marathon Key (roughly half-way to Key West)
Today’s adventure was to explore the first half of the Florida Keys. I’d arranged to stay at Marathon Key, which is roughly halfway down the Florida Keys. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it was quite the adventure! They were more civilized than I’d imagined islands cut off from the mainland, attached only by an Overseas Highway to be.

We did send this picture to one of Claire’s aunts (who happens to LOVE this brand…), just to let her know how far from civilization we were going to be!

January 5th
Key West
Today, we ventured the rest of the way to Key West (and back at night). We had fun there, but it was a little too touristy for our liking. (Yes, I realize the irony of that statement.) That said, we had a great time, and I’m glad we went! On the way out of town, we ended up sitting for a LONG time while they cleaned up a traffic accident. (I was aware this could happen, as you’ll see below…)

We stopped along the way to stroll along the pedestrian bridge…

…but could only go so far.

Excuse me, sir. I believe Florida is a hands-free banana-phone zone.

Climbing the Tower in Key West

We made it!

Pano from the Tower in Key West

We explored some gardens. These doorway roots were neat!

We were some of the last to leave Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, so we helped take the flag down for sunset! It was quite an honor.

Watching the sunset

Photo of the Photographer

I always thought the sun was bigger than this.

Key West Sunset

We tried to touch the monument at the southernmost point, but the line wrapped around for blocks! The wait was over an hour! (People said they’d been waiting 3 hours!) What!? I don’t think so. So, here we are the Southernmost Point…Kinda. (This was taken from our hotel in Fort Lauderdale.)

January 6th
Fort Lauderdale
Because we were staying in the Florida Keys, and the only way back to the mainland by car is via the Overseas Highway, I didn’t want to risk missing our flights due to unforeseen issues there. I found the perfect solution: book a stay at a hotel in Fort Lauderdale near the airport (and beach!) and then we wouldn’t be rushed.

Little did I know that tragedy would strike. Just as we were arriving Fort Lauderdale and nearing our hotel, rescue personnel and law enforcement vehicles were zipping around us. We didn’t think too much of it, because we were back “in the big city” now. We check into the hotel resort, and our rooms aren’t quite ready yet. They told us where the poolside restaurant was, and we were welcome to swim and eat and they’d text me when our room was ready (pretty standard). As we were waiting for our food, all the TVs in the bar area flipped to coverage of the shooting at the baggage claim in the Fort Lauderdale Airport. The people at the table next to us and left that area just 20-minutes prior. Goose-bumps!

I started texting/calling people back home to let them know that we were okay, and that we were close to this, but were not scheduled to be at the airport until tomorrow.

Because of this tragedy, the airport was closed, as were many of the streets near our hotel. The good news is we were planning on beaching and exploring on foot, so we didn’t have to worry about getting trapped with the car.

After some fancy footwork with the airlines, hotels, and car rental place (not to mention things at home that needed to be delayed), we were booked on a flight out of Orlando in a couple of days. (The earliest flight out of Fort Lauderdale wasn’t for another WEEK. We love Florida, but that wasn’t going to work! We had a couple days of wiggle room before Claire started school again, but not that long!) The Southwest agent I was working with said there were three spots left on a flight out of Orlando on Sunday. I had her book them before even giving me the details.

This was a sobering end to our fantastic week. The silver lining is we weren’t in harm’s way, and we got an extra beach day the next morning because of it.

We got to eat at Bubba Gump’s!

We had fun with the Big Beach Chair on the beach at night.

January 7th
Bonus Day in Florida!
There were a lot of moving pieces to organize, but we did it. Today was filled with a bonus walk on the beach in Fort Lauderdale before we drove the three hours back up to Orlando (where we were luckily able to get a room near the airport).

I have a funny memory of checking in to that hotel. It’s a chain my husband uses a lot for business travel, so we always get treated really well there. As we’re checking in, we’re chatting with the lady at the counter and tell her about our extended stay and additional road trip. She gets back down to business and says, “Okay, I’ve got you in one room for two nights…” I gasped out loud. “WHAT!? Do you know something we don’t know!? Our flights are for tomorrow!” She looks down at her computer and she gets a sly smile and says, “Didn’t they tell you that your flight was changed again?” …and then she adds, “JUST KIDDING. I meant I’ve got you in a room with TWO BEDS for ONE NIGHT. I had you goin’ there, didn’t I?”

It felt good to laugh.

Morning Hike on the Beach

Extra Beach Day? Don’t mind if we do…

January 8th
We were a day late and at a different airport, but we made it.
Our new adjusted flight left at the crack of dawn, and we were exhausted, but we refused to let that ruin the memories of our vacation. We were fortunate and had such a fantastic time in Florida!

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