Our girls trip to Florida in January!
I've been meaning to write this post, and it was a walk in the literal 1 degree Wisconsin temps this morning that made me wish I was back in the Florida sunshine, and a great reminder to recap our adventure here!
2 weeks ago my sister-in-law Renee and I took our girls (ages 11,10 & almost 2) on an extended weekend getaway to the sunshine state to combat the Wisconsin winter and allow ourselves to relax and recharge a bit. Traveling to Florida in January is always a bit of a gamble because sometimes the temps can be down to 40 degrees and raining, while other days it's 80 degrees and toasty warm. I'll always be the one to vote for the highest temps possible, and we lucked out enough to have steady temps in the 60's, but it did get pretty chilly at night. We were comfortable in sweats or shorts and a hoodie most days, but definitely bundled up with layers and blankets when nightfall was upon us! Thankfully the resort we stayed at had heated pools and hot tubs throughout the property so the girls could swim, and somehow convinced me to get in a few times too. The tough part was getting out of the water because that's when the cool air hits you!
But overall it was a great trip.
We live in Green Bay, and our flight was out of Chicago at 7:30 am, so we decided to leave at 2 am (about a 3.5 hr drive) and head straight to the airport. We flew Frontier because the tickets were a hella deal, but there's always the additional charges that come with flying budget i.e. paying for luggage, the drive down to Chicago instead of our local airport, tolls, parking at the airport, no water or snacks provided on the plane itself unless you want to pay $3 for a bottle of water, ya know, things like that. On that note, they did allow me to bring my stroller and check that at the gate for free, and they say you can have a free "diaper bag" when they usually charge for an extra carry on backpack. Any airline that you are flying, I would check their site on all of these terms prior. If we could do it all over again though, I may look for higher priced flights out of Green Bay on my beloved Delta or United even if the price point is higher just to streamline trip and avoid the drive- the downside is that direct flights to Orlando from Green Bay are limited so we would most likely end up connecting in Chicago anyway. We rented a car upon arrival so we would have the flexibility to take our time and go and come as we please from the resort. I checked a light, 5 point harness Cosco seat for Lillian so I didn't have to haul her big heavy convertible seat around (this was also free to check at ticketing).
I think the main question I've gotten about the trip aside from what we did was "how was it with covid?" So just a disclaimer here, my response here is nothing to do with anyone's mask stance, just my experience on the trip. Both airports (Chicago & Orlando) had mask mandates, and the majority of people seemed to comply but there also wasn't any enforcement that I saw. The airline was hardcore on the mask mandate, it had to be on at all times, and not just on but firmly over your nose. Before takeoff on the flight to Orlando they went over the intercom and threatened to put people on the no flight list & eject from the plane more than once, but on the way back on the flight to Chicago they mentioned to have your mask on a few times before takeoff but that was it. Both had the caveat that you can remove it while eating or drinking, so of course there was the one person sitting there with a sucker in her mouth because she was "eating"; there are ways around everything I guess. The resort had a similar stance, and it's similar I think throughout the country. There are signs that masks are required (in gift shops for example) but since the majority of the resort is outside facilities they were not required outside or when eating and drinking. There was one morning that I walked to the coffee shop with Lillian and I didn't have one so they offered me a disposable one and it was a simple fix.
Our resort was called the Orange Lake Resort located in Kissimmee, Florida, about 15 minutes from the airport. I've been an IHG junkie from my corporate travel days so I actually had some points leftover that we were able to use towards the trip which was an added perk! Like I mentioned above, one of the nice parts of the resort were the various heated pools throughout the property (even though I still wished the water was even warmer). The older girls had a blast swimming to their heart's content, and I bought a life jacket at the gift shop for Lillian so she was able to jump and swim and play as well, and my mama mind was able to relax a little bit. The resort is not all inclusive, but you are able to charge anything to your room throughout the resort so you don't need to carry money or credit cards with you which was also nice. I linked the resort above if you want to check it out in more detail-- there were so many amenities we didn't take advantage of such as the kayak/jet ski rentals, shuffleboard & outdoor games, a full golf course, tennis courts, arcade etc.
We pretty much just ate, drank and swam the entire time!
Our room was more like a condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, dining area, kitchen as well as a washer and dryer for laundry. We even had our own little screen porch attached to the back with a table and chairs. The "room" worked out great because we were all able to spread out and have some privacy in our own spaces, and we also were able to do some grocery shopping at the resort for food, drinks and also for any leftovers from the restaurants (pizza!) we wanted to take back with us.
On the first day, my older daughter mentioned that we have been to Florida a few times but never really went to the beach because we are doing theme parks and more touristy things. Lightbulb idea moment from auntie Ray that the ocean wasn't a far drive, so one of the mornings we took a drive to Cocoa Beach so the girls could experience the ocean in person. It was a super simple drive, pretty much a straight shot east and only about an hour to get there. The girls found seashells, then we went up on to the pier to have lunch at their restaurant which was over the water and a beautiful view. There were surfers all around us, and the food was fabulous! Since it was pretty chilly out, after a few hours the girls were ready to get back to the hotel and hit the pool again, but it was a great experience for all of us.
On our last day, we had to check out at 11am (the usual checkout is 10 am but ours was extended), and our flight wasn't until 5:30 pm, so we loaded everything up and headed to Disney Springs on the way to the airport to spend the day prior to departure. Unlike the rest of the Disney parks, Disney Springs doesn't have admission fees or tickets to purchase for entry. There are all kinds of stores, entertainment and restaurants you can explore, or just spend your time hanging outside and taking in the sunshine. We went to an awesome restaurant called T-Rex, that was kind of like a dinosaur/prehistoric version of Rainforest Cafe. Lillian was in awe (the older girls were impressed too!) so even though it was a bit pricey, it was kind of like an entertainment spend in itself to walk around with her and look at all of the dinosaurs.
Overall the trip was great. I will have to say, if you're comfortable traveling right now, and don't mind wearing a mask, do it. I've been to Florida a dozen times at least, and it was DEAD in comparison to how it usually is. Sure, it's always a little slower in winter because of the weather fluctuations, but it was so nice to not be fighting crowds the entire time.
Even at the resort the girls had the entire pool to themselves on a few occasions.
Note: A few quick tips for traveling with a toddler:
-At the time of our trip, Lillian was under 2 so she was a free "lap seat"
-She did not need a mask because of her age, 2 and up has the requirement
-Download any movies, shows etc. on to your device prior to the trip.
You may not have wifi (I learned this the hard way).
-Portable charger- even if you're fully charged, those movies suck the juice quickly!
-Bring snacks, and more snacks, and something to drink, and snacks.
-Hand sanitizer because planes are gross and well, snacks.
-Diapers & wipes, just in case (an obvious need, but doesn't hurt to mention). I changed her right before and then after the flight because again, planes are gross and I wanted to avoid that if possible. We lucked out!
-Collapsible stroller. The one I use for traveling is the Maclaren Quest . It's a bit booshie for a travel stroller, but I love that it can lay back flat for napping and changing diapers without having to use the gross changing tables.
Did I mention I think airports and planes are gross?
- I also had colors and paper but that lasted about 67 seconds.
-Snacks. If all else fails, snacks.
The girls had so much fun they want to make it an ANNUAL GIRLS TRIP-- WAHOO! So looking for any and all ideas! <3
My goal for 2021 is to travel at least once a quarter, so I'll be sharing more adventures over the coming months!! I'd love to hear your experience traveling this year, feel free to leave a comment below! I'm alw