I recently came across an article by Parents about vacations and their long-lasting impact on families. According to the article can impact their brain development (new sights, sounds, environments) and acts as "happiness anchors."
My husband and I both work hard from home. We don't take weeks of vacations each year. But more and more we are seeing the importance of getting away as a family. Its a time for all of us to slow down, laugh more, play games, and try new things. My personal goal for our family is that we find a way to do this once a quarter on long weekends.
It helps that we are past the crazy baby stage (our kids were poor travel-sleepers those first few years!) and we don't need to stuff pack-n-plays and strollers in the back of our car. It also helps that we now live on the East coast and have family in driving distance (for this trip we stayed with my brother who lives in Orlando.)
I usually try to have some kind of practical tips in an article like this. But what I want most is for you to encouraged--family getaways don't need to be weeks long or extravagant. Its about spending quality time with one another.
Last month was a busy work month for me. I can always tell when I am maxed out--cooking becomes a footnote and I don't even think about baking. And when I scroll through my camera photos I have only 1-2 silly ones of the kids during the week. So while it felt like I was cramming for finals right before we left for Florida, I am 100% happy we did it. It gave all of us time. And time is such a gift.
We stayed the night in Jacksonville, FL on our way to Orlando and while driving through on the interstate decided on a whim to stop by the beach (about 15 minutes off the main road.) Our oldest has Aspergers, and in the past unexpected change in plan doesn't go well with his processing. We asked him what he thought about detouring to the beach. He thought about it and said "sure!" That, my friends, was an unexpected gift.
Later that evening we met up with my brother, sister in law, and cousins at Disney Springs. We ate dinner at D-Luxe Burger (a good chorizo burger and milkshakes) and walked around. It had been 5 years since our last visit, and I was really impressed with the area! We window shopped and stopped by stores like Amorette's--the desserts were gorgeous!
We spent the following day at Legoland. Our kids have asked to go for years! While it wasn't full of big rollercoasters, there was an abundance of things to do for elementary-age kids. We went on a Friday and the park wasn't crowded, so we only had to wait 5-10 minutes per ride. I also liked that there were things to do for the kids (lots of sensory friendly activities) while we waited for rides.
On the downside, the food we ate for lunch wasn't great, maybe it was just the restaurant we picked. Our kids were so excited to do the driving school and in reality they got to drive slow cars for about 2 minutes (but they were happy!) Be sure to check out the Imagination Zone when you need to cool off--kids can build and test cars and gliders and play a few video games.
I had read on some mommy-travel blogs that the Chima ride gets you pretty wet--so I packed extra clothes and had planned for us to do it last. But our oldest had it in his head that we needed to ride it first thing, and in that moment I threw my planning out the window.
This week he is still talking about how much he loved the Chima ride, and I'm still thinking about the wet shorts and shoes I walked around in for hours after!
Our last day in Orlando we went to Epcot. I hadn't been since I was a child and other than the giant sphere and the countries, I couldn't remember any details. It is the International Flower and Garden Festival through May 29th and the landscaping was beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised by all the fun family attractions they had there, and a lot of them were educational.
Our kids were really entertained at the Animal Encounters building with an aquarium, the ride Seas with Nemo & Friends, and the interactive Turtle Talk with Crush. The Gran Fiesta Tour at the Mexico Pavilion was fun. And we got to meet a lot of characters including Anna, Elsa, Mickey and Minnie Mouse. We tried Soarin' (a really cool flight motion simulator), and to be honest it was pretty scary for our 7 year old. But our 9 year old loved it!
My other favorite thing we did at Epcot was the Living with the Land ride and lunch at the Garden Grill. On the ride we toured a beautiful indoor greenhouse where they grow peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, bananas, and corn and farming was explained. After the tour we ate upstairs for lunch (the salad's ingredients are gathered from the garden downstairs) and the kids met more Disney characters.
On our way home Sunday we stopped in Savannah to show our kids around the city. Lee went to SCAD for his MFA and I grew up close to Savannah--but as a family we haven't lived near Savannah so our kids aren't very familiar with the city. We took them to our favorite pizza place--Vinnie Van Go Go's in City Market (they approved!), and to the church where Lee and I married in Calhoun Square.
Most of all last week I was reminded to enjoy the little things. The unexpected water rides, watching our son in pure joy chasing birds and bubbles, letting go of bedtimes (still hard for me!), and feet in the sand. Slowing down and enjoying life once in a while is refreshing for the whole family.