My husband didn’t even need to ask if the rest of us wanted to join him on his work trip to Destin, Florida. We came with him on a similar trip 3 years ago, but this one was 100 times more amazing for several reasons: #1) The kids are older. #2) We were joined by another fun family. #3) We were there for much longer. #4) This trip included a hotel on the beach with an awesome swimming pool, followed later by a 4 bedroom home in Sandestin. #5) Sydney taught herself to swim on the first day. #6) We were there in July instead of October and we could actually swim in the ocean.
We started off the daunting 15 hour drive on a happy note with a snack bag stocked full of cheetos and other equally messy, super unhealthy treats.
Sydney was already picturing what our beach experience was going to be like. She wasn’t far off!
We made it all the way to Birmingham, Alabama the first night. We had our first experience using hotwire, and it was awesome! Got a great hotel for only $54 + tax. My hotwire experience changes later (stayed tuned).
The next day, we slept in a bit since we weren’t in any hurry, and took off for our destination. Along the way, we saw a full rainbow. I’m pretty sure it was a sign that we were about to have an amazing week!
We made it to our hotel in “Destin” around 3PM. We stayed at the Ramada Plaza at Ft. Walton Beach. The room was nothing fancy, but the location was EVERYTHING. I would stay there again in a heartbeat. We hopped on the elevator, and if you turned right, you’d be directly on the beach. If you turned left, you’d be directly at the pool. There was a delicious little BBQ place at the pool where we had lunch one day, and there was a little house on the beach that served drinks throughout the day. Also there were several kid activities every day, as well as movie nights at the pool every Thursday and Saturday.
Here’s a pic of Ben on our balcony that overlooked the pool. To say he is happy would be an understatement.
Even though we didn’t swim that evening, we still needed to go for a walk on the beach. It was surprisingly cool that night, as there was a cold front coming in, and it was pretty windy. Here the kids are happy, but chilly 😉
Our first dinner was at the Back Porch in Destin. We’d eaten there a couple times already 3 years ago. It was as yummy as ever. We also saw dolphins jumping out of the water while we ate. Not too shabby!
On our way home, we pulled over off the side of the road to watch the fireworks from Harborwalk. Though we never actually made it to the Harborwalk, we had an amazing view of the fireworks! I’m not sure if they do this all summer long or just for the month of July, but they were shooting fireworks off every Thursday evening.
The next day was sunny and we woke up ready for the beach! Our very first day on the beach, we found a hermit crab!
I brought my old (original DSLR) camera to the beach, but ended up taking most pics with my phone. My next phone I get needs to be a super sweet camera that also makes telephone calls, but for now I will use my iPhone 4S. Here’s a pic of our hotel from the beach side. That’s the little walkout shelter house that served drinks and played music.
Here are a couple pics I did take with my camera on the beach before I decided it wasn’t worth bringing since I was taking most of my pics with my phone anyway. This one of my daughter just says, “It’s the first day of vacation and there are endless possibilities!”
About 5 minutes later, that little bucket housed the hermit crab. From that moment on, she thought she was Sydney Cousteau.
Ben loved laying in the sand, rolling in the sand, throwing the sand, covering himself with sand. He was constantly covered in sand from head to toe. And he was happy.
Every other day of our of our 7 day stay at the Ramada consisted of a couple hours at the beach, followed by a couple hours at the pool, followed by dinner at a restaurant. Life was good.
We tried several places for dinner (some were hit and miss), but I definitely recommend La Famiglia in Destin (original location) if you enjoy Italian food. Here’s a pic of me right before filling my belly with pasta for dinner.
And speaking of food, several mornings were spent eating delicious taquitos from What-A-Burger. Dear Missouri, please get a What-A-Burger so that I don’t have to gorge myself every time I go to a state that has one!
One of the weekend days that we had Matt with us, we visited a small science center in Destin. It wasn’t much, but it was cheap, and the kids loved it.
And my favorite day at the beach was the day our whole family went out after dinner. No sunburns or sunscreen to worry about, but still warm enough to swim.
And Matt found a whole sand dollar when he was out snorkling!
Another thing my kids love about vacations, is sleeping in hotels with mommy or daddy sleepovers. Sydney loves to cuddle her daddy 🙂
Another nice thing about staying at the Ramada Plaza at Ft. Walton Beach, was that it is within walking distance to the Boardwalk. We walked there to have dinner and then walked along the beach back home. Dinner was at The Crab Trap and I highly recommend the shrimp alfredo pasta! On the way home, we even spotted some jumping dolphins!
I also probably ate more gelato this past week than I have in the last year. So yummy.
Here are the yummy drinks on the beach I was talking about earlier…
And Ben making sand angels…
Also, as I mentioned earlier, Sydney taught herself to swim the first day. She went from not wanting to put the goggles on her face, to diving in from the side and swimming across the pool. It was amazing to watch!
Here’s a pic taken just before dinner at Marina Cafe in Destin. It was by far the priciest place we ate, but I had some of the best scallops and salad of my life. Don’t order the steak here, though, definitely order the scallops or some other seafood dish.
We took one day in the middle of our stay to check out Destin Commons Mall, but mostly to meet up with some friends that we used to go to church with in Ohio. I’m so glad we were able to make that happen! Especially since Mike was about to be deployed that week and will be gone for several months. Meanwhile, Janeen has 3 boys under the age of 7 and the 4th boy will be born while Mike is gone. Please pray for them!
So the day before we were supposed to check out of the Ramada and be on our way home, the guys decided they needed to extend their work trip another 2 days. Who am I to complain?? We tried staying at the Ramada, but they were booked solid. In fact, every hotel within a 10 mile radius seemed to be booked solid. Luckily, the guy Matt was working with/for on their project had a wife who worked at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Since we had the option of staying with another family, and had access to a generous discount, we opted to rent a 4 bedroom house at Villa Lago at the Resort. The house was amazing and it was within walking distance to the Villages at Baytowne Wharf. It wasn’t on the beach, but it was within walking and driving distance to several pools. It was nice having a living room, kitchen and our own individual bedrooms. We actually just sat and watched HGTV for awhile and enjoyed the home.
The kids each got a night staying in this awesome pottery barn-esque bunk bed room. And each room was equipped with a huge closet, dresser, TV and it’s own bathroom.
I had to break out my camera and take some better pics of this place. I loved everything about it, from the layout to the decor.
Our backyard was a golf course. It was fun to watch people golfing while we sat and watched TV or ate breakfast.
We decided to drive to a pool the next day, which was just down the road at Le Ciel hotel on the Resort. We were not disappointed.
And our last evening was spent at Baytowne Wharf. We walked there and back quite easily. Dinner was probably my least favorite, but it was a fun little village of shops and activities (though kind of pricey). The kids watched a free magic show by Captain Davy and we had MORE gelato and a carousel ride.
Here is a pick of our friend’s fried seafood platter (gulp)…
And here’s some pics from the evening…
And alas, all good things must come to an end. We finally headed back home after being in Destin for 9 days. We made it as far as Paducah, KY the first night. I used hotwire again and actually booked the hotel we had been looking at for $25 less! Score, right? Except when I showed up, they had me in a smoking room. Unless the facility is entirely non-smoking you may very well get booked a smoking room. Thank goodness she was able to change it for us because I was not gonna sleep in a smoking room and we would’ve been out the $100. Lesson learned for next time!
On our final driving day, we made it to St. Louis by 2PM. The zoo was right on our route and we weren’t quite ready to be done with our vacation yet. SO, we stopped by and told the animals “hello.” Sydney was quite happy to be there, she just takes the zoo (and all things animal related) QUITE seriously.
It’s good to be home. I have a lot of catching up on reality to do (and no, I don’t mean reality shows, though that’s kind of true too).
Sydney’s top 5 things from vacation: mini-golf, Baytowne Wharf, finding sea creatures at the beach, learning how to swim, bowling
Ben’s top 5 things: mini-golf, Baytowne Wharf, fireworks at Harborwalk, Krispy Kreme, making new friends
Til next time!