After 3.5 hours of driving south from Montgomery (And finally caving to eldest daughter’s request for blue slushies, and then face-palming about 15 minutes later when one of the twins poured his onto the seats, and then face-palming again 45 minutes later, when everyone shouted how badly they had to go potty, and we were in the back-country Florida roads with no stores in sight. Solution? Diapers in the car. You may think it’s gross now, but someday you’ll be there. Or you’ll just will say no to slushies. Or you may consider another family’s no-stopping method: kitty litter.), we made it to the emerald sand of Miramar Beach, Florida. It really does look like sugar, but I did not advertise that to my sugar-loving kids, who only one summer ago needed no encouragement to start scooping sand in their mouths.
Before the trip, I thought we’d need several mini-excursions apart from the beach to keep kids amused, and so I researched fishing trips, boat cruises, and water parks. (FYI—for our lodging, I price-compared VRBO.com, Airbnb.com, and local seafront skyscraper condos, and found the best value for a large family of 6 with VRBO.com. For 3 nights in April for a ground-level condo [also helpful with young kids], we paid $530.) But when we got there, and began swimming in the ocean and the pool at our Seascape condo, what did my kids really need? Not more excursions, just more time with us in the water.
And since we have one swimming 6-year-old and three still-learning paddlers, it helped to get life-jackets with arm bands (We went with Paddle Pals; they allowed good head movement). Once they were suited up, two kids swam solo fearlessly, one paddled happily within arm’s reach, and the eldest popped up for air long enough to get a breath before diving back underwater for the other side of the pool.
And so our middle-part vacation went, rotating between the beach, the pool, and our condo for meals and rest. This Slow Movement philosophy for the beach (no other places we had to be at) worked perfectly.
In terms of animal sightings, at 7:15am on Tuesday a pod of dolphins cruised some two-hundred yards off the beach (Kids’ response: “Cool! Now let’s throw clumps of sand into the water.”), lots of friendly dogs and owners let us pet them (maybe just the dogs), and while the brown anoles (small lizards common around Florida) were too speedy to catch, the plump toads came out at dusk, and my eldest daughter triumphantly nabbed a pair, shouting, “Toad-eeee!”
One thing I wished we had, but have no real use for outside a beach, is a giant umbrella. So, we created our own makeshift canopy using towels and buckets. It did the trick!
With four kids napping at the beach on Wednesday (first time this has ever happened), my wife and I threw a Frisbee back and forth by the surf. Eventually I swam out to the sandbar, and we played from there, which is most amusing when you have to dive for the disc in the waves. One thing I liked about this beach in the Gulf of Mexico versus the Atlantic: lack of jellyfish. I saw one blob the size of a racquetball washed up on the beach in the morning, but no active ones in the water. While there were cases of riptides, overall I felt the waves here were smaller (good for kids), and not as high as the Atlantic (better for body surfing). And not as cold as the Pacific, because of the movement of the brisk ocean currents traveling south from Alaska.
For the fourth day, Thursday, we hit the beach at 9am, and since people were either in school or sleeping (or both), we basically had it to ourselves. After 40 minutes though, the kids were clamoring for the salt-and-sand-free waters of the heated pool. Sigh. Well, they’ll appreciate the waves more when a two-foot one won’t knock them to the sand. I have to admit though, a heated-pool was one item I didn’t give much thought to beforehand, but really enjoyed once we found it. As the pool temp. was a balmy 86 degrees, we could swim nonstop!
At the happiest moments, and there are plenty of them, it’s hard to beat a family road trip to a hot destination during a cold spring.