January 09, 2011

MY Happiest Place on Earth

Sept. 11-18

I don’t need Mickey ears, wild rides, over priced food, and silly characters.

Give me sun, beaches, sand, pools, and my little family and I have my happy place.

I LOLOLOLOVE Florida!! It is my favorite place to vacation. Since the first time I went there when I was 16 I loved it. Every time I go I  have so much fun! Every trip is always better than the last. Whenever Ryan decides it’s time to go on a family vacay, and asks me where we should go my immediate response….Florida.

So when we were planning our trip this year I of course voted for, and convinced the kids to vote for Florida. And Ryan being the pleaser that he is started planning. He always plans such fun vacations.

This year we decided to fly into Panama City and stay three days at Fort Walton beach, then headed back down to Panama City Beach where we spent the remainder of our trip!

About a week before we left I started stressing that maybe this vacation would be a disaster. I kept telling Ryan, I am so afraid that this will be the trip that will ruin Florida for me. Because EVERY trip can’t be the best! He of course rolled his eyes at me. But I really did worry. I mean seriously, I have been there 8 times and  every time we have gone it has been the perfect trip and they kept getting better. So eventually there has to be a bad one, and I was afraid this would be it.

So, when we landed and we had picked up two out of our three bags, and then the luggage carousel stopped, and we were still one bag short, I thought..Here we go, the beginning of our terrible trip. Starting with the bag that had ALL of the kids clothes in it, LOST!

Ryan talked to the airline staff. They informed us that it would probably be found by tomorrow and they would deliver it to our hotel.

I was so worried because we had been promising the kids for days that we would go to the beach and swimming the first morning we were there. I knew we wouldn’t have their bag by then that had their swimsuits in. I knew they would be crushed. When I mentioned this to Ryan he says, “So we go to Target in the morning and buy them new suits.” WHAT?? I was not about to go buy two new swimsuits at FULL price when they had four in a lost suitcase, two more at home in drawers and three more each in a bin in my basement in next years sizes. I tried to convince Ryan that we would just change plans a little, make tomorrow a shopping day, then we would have swimsuits and go to the beach everyday for the rest of our trip. Ryan didn’t buy it! He is a sucker when it comes to our kids and he wasn’t about to break the promise we have been promising our kids for a week. I tried and tried to convince him, but guess who won? First thing the next morning we were at Target dropping twenty bucks on two swimsuits.(and they weren’t even that cute). It was hard, but I did it. And honestly, it was sooo worth it!

When we got dressed in our full price swimsuits, we headed down to the beach first. As we walked over the little walkway and saw the beautiful white sandy beach, Hallie stops and said, “It snowed last night!” We all busted up. We then explained it was the sand and quickly ran into it.

The kids loved the beach, playing in the sand, and looking for sea shells. We were actually quite disappointed with this beach because they were experiencing really bad kelp in the water. It was not fun to play in because it was slimy and gross and you couldn’t see much. So the kids didn’t play in the water too much at Fort Walton.




After spending time at the beach the kids wanted to go to the pool. So we went! Ryan and I kind of decided that this trip would be mostly for the kids, so they got to tell us what to do. AND they did!  We stayed in a hotel on the beach, which I think is the ONLY way to go when going with kids. We literally spent our days going from the pool to the beach to the pool to the beach to the splash pad to the pool to the beach. It was awesome, and the kids loved it! And so did I.


DSCN0291 DSCN0008 (In their full priced swimsuits. cringe)

We took the kids on their first kayak ride in the ocean. Once we got out into the ocean a little the kelp wasn’t so bad, and we could see into the water. There were jellyfish EVERYWHERE! It kind of creeped me out. I was so afraid our kayak would tip and we would all die by death of jellyfish stings.


Just as we were getting ready to go back to shore we looked out a little past our kayak and we saw a couple dolphins jumping! It was awesome. They were so close. And that is why this is my happiest place on earth!

Fort Walton highlights:

Searching for sea shells

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Splash pad at the hotel

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Beach and pool hopping

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Eating ice cream and pina coladas on the boardwalk



Seeing dolphins everyday

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The fish nibbling on your toes

Feeding the alligators



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3 different pools at the hotel to swim in:

DSCN0239 DSCN0109 DSCN0040 Night swimming:

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DSCN0226 I made sure I got my feet in this picture, so that we could have a family photo. :)

We did take a break one day from our pool playing and beach bumming to do a little shopping at some outlets nearby.

In Panama City Beach we also had tons of fun.

We took the kids on a little snorkeling excursion. I think that was my favorite part. Eli was in heaven. He swam all over the place, pointing out fish and other creatures.  He spotted a stingray and followed that thing everywhere. He also held every creature that we found, minus the stingray.

After we had been snorkeling for awhile we noticed that there were only two other people still in the water. Everyone else on the excursion were done and were sitting in the boat. Ryan and I looked at eachother and wondered if they had told us to come in and we just hadn’t heard them. Come to find out they hadn’t-everyone else were just done so they went to rest on the boat. LAME!!

When they did finally tell us to come in Eli said, “Mom, can we have just 5 more minutes?” I thought that was cute. I had to explain to him that we had to follow the rules, and our  time was up.

To finish off the excursion they took us to a little inlet where dolphins are. We saw tons of dolphins. They were jumping all around the boat. Of course, I couldn’t get one good photo. They also caught a jelly fish which they let people touch. They were the non-stinging kind, who knew? I thought all jelly fish stung.

Other highlights of Panama City Beach:

Watching the little white crabs burrow in the sand

Pina coladas by the pool

The kids found a lizard in the pool and played with it for awhile. Then while it was sunbathing on the pool deck it was stepped on and squished.

Boogie boarding- Hallie did it once and didn’t want to do it again. We tried and tried to convince her with all kinds of bribes, but she would not do it, not even for a treat. Finally, I remembered that the night before when we were at Target (I know shocking), she saw a backpack that she really wanted. She had begged and begged for the bag, but I didn’t buy it. So I told her that if she boogie boarded again we would go buy the bag. That was the ticket. She agreed and boogie boarded a few more times. As soon as she was done, she said, “let’s go get the backpack.”



Eli on the other hand was a champ. He loved boogie boarding and did it over and over again. He’s a pretty good boarder.


Our plane home didn’t leave until around 1:00, and so we kind of took our time getting to the airport. We went to breakfast and then decided to head toward the airport, a little earlier than we normally would have, but decided we had nothing else to do, good thing.

Ryan typed the name of the airport into his gps and we headed to the airport, or at least we thought we were headed that way. As we got closer we thought it was really weird that they didn’t have any big signs pointing to the airport. When we arrived at the GPS’s destination of the airport. There was no airport. Just an empty terminal. It was actually quite eerie. There was an airport looking building and runways, but no planes, or cars, or people. Weird!

We finally found some people and they explained that this was the old airport. The new airport just opened a couple months ago. (which is why it wasn’t in our gps). They started to explain to us how to get to the new airport. They kept explaining and explaining. Finally, I asked, “How long does it take to get there?” They looked at each other and then at us and say, “oh…45 to 50 minutes.” WHAT??? Our plane was leaving in about 55 minutes. They looked at us and said, “good luck!”

We sped out of there and booked it to the airport. On the way Ryan says, “You aren’t going to like this, but you need to be prepared to plan on flying home by yourself. I may not make the plane.” He had to go return the rental car. I figured that was fine, our kids are good travelers so I wasn’t too worried. And I knew it would be easier for just him to be able to find a plane home, than it would be for all 4 of us.

We pulled up to the curb, and start looking for the Sky Cap. We had about 15 minutes before our plane would leave and had 4 bags to check, two carseats, and 4 carry-ons. The easiest and fastest way to get all that checked would be with a Sky Cap. We looked and looked and guess what? This airport doesn’t have a Sky Cap! AWESOME!! I started running through my head the many bags we had and I did not know how I was going to carry it all by myself. I get out and Ryan just starts piling on the bags.

Luckily the kids carry -ons were rolling backpacks (that we had just purchased as their boogie boarding rewards), so I had Eli pulling his bag and our small rolling suitcase. Hallie had her rolling suitcase and Eli’s small booster seat. I pulled our two big suitcases, my carryon backpack on my back, Hallie’s carseat slung over one shoulder and Ryan’s newly purchased golf bag(without the clubs) over my other shoulder. And we start running to the check out gate. I kept urging the kids to run faster. People were looking at us and laughing(but no one offered to help). I wished I would have taken a picture because I am sure we were a sight to see.

I finally make it to the check out desk, and I tell them, “ I don’t know if we will make our flight”, and I give her our information. She looks up our flight and says, “Yeah, it’s not looking good.” So what does she do?? Takes her sweet freaking time checking us in. I was dying.

We finally get cleared there and we run as fast as we can to the security gate. We are running and I make a quick right to the security line and Eli tries to make a quick stop and totally falls and slides across the floor. Hilarious!! Everyone in the airport was laughing at us.

Again, I talk to the security guy, he just saw us booking it across the airport, sees Eli falls, and I tell him I am afraid we may not make it, and what does he do? Takes his freaking time looking at our tickets too! He starts asking the kids questions and what not. I am thinking; seriously??!! I have a plane to catch!!

We book it through security and run to our gate. We get there just as they are boarding the C passengers. They told us to check in at the gate before we boarded. So I get there and she looks at our tickets and then looks at her computer and says. “Eli, Lessley, Hallie…who’s Ryan?” I explained that he was my husband, but we were running late and he was returning the car, and that he might not make the flight.” She looks at me all sympathetically, and says, “oh, I hope he does, honey.” I just shrugged. At this point things weren’t looking to promising.

The kids and I boarded the plane, of course we were all the way in the back. Third row from the last. I noticed the seat across the aisle wasn’t filled so I stuck my bag on it to save it just in case Ryan made it.

The flight crew went through and were closing up the over head bins, and checking seatbelts and making sure bags were under seats, and everyone was seated on the plane. I was sure Ryan had missed it. Then a stewardess comes by and asks the lady next to my bag if that was her bag. I say, “Oh. That’s mine. I was saving for my husband, he had to return our rental car, and I wasn’t sure if he would catch the plane in time, but I guess he didn’t.” And I grabbed my bag. The stewardess says, “I am so sorry.” All the people around us start whispering, “oh no. Her husband missed the plane.” It was actually kind of funny. Then just as I look up the stewardess says, “Is that your husband?” I look and sure enough Ryan is walking down the aisle. I said, “yep!” And everyone starts clapping!!! It was hilarious! Seriously, a scene from a movie!

It was a relief that he made it. I was especially happy after we landed in Texas, and found out that our 1 hour layover turned into an almost 3 hour layover. And we didn’t arrive home until almost midnight. I was exhausted, Ryan was exhausted, and the kids were out!!  And ornery! I carried Hallie, her bag, and my bag, while Ryan carried Eli, Eli’s bag, and his own bag. If I would have been alone, there would be no way I could have got all of us, and our carry-on’s , and our luggage out of the airport.

Ryan took the kids out to the truck where his dad was waiting while I took the luggage out. It was a LONG day!

But it truly was my FAVORITE vacation ever! We were able to relax, and also had so much fun with the kids. They were old enough that we were able to play with them instead of just take care of them. We didn’t have to change diapers, make bottles, worry about strollers or diaper bags. It was awesome!!

I love the beach, I love, the sun, I love my family, and I love Florida.

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