There is a general look of shock that you get from people when you tell them you are going on vacation with your ex-husband’s wife and the kids you share. Yes! That’s it! The face you just made when you read that. It’s just not “normal,” right? Baa, whatevs!
Now that I’ve reeled you in with that dramatic title, let me tell you about the dream vacation I just had with my children and their stepmother, Aly.
(I don’t journal… I blog.)
Long story short, this vacation was planned for the kids by their daddy and Aly. Due to an unforeseen job transition, he was unable to go, leaving an adult spot to fill. I’m not sure who suggested that it be me, but I am forever grateful! Plans were finalized and we counted down the days like school girls texting back and forth about bathing suits, restaurants, and photography.
We were 95% successful in keeping the destination a secret from the kids so, we set off to the great unknown on Sunday morning… only 3.5 hours later than I originally wanted to leave. I take full responsibility for that, by the way. I’m a terrible procrastinator.
Brennen and I drove the almost 900 miles in about 15 hours.
FIFTEEN LONG HOURS.
You can’t imagine the delirious excitement seeing the palm trees!
We woke up the next morning ready to go! Destin was only 35 miles away and it was almost time to check-in to our condo. Aly and I had read reviews and gathered tips and hints from our friends and we requested to be on the 7th floor or higher for “the most spectacular views.” The kids wanted the room key, of course, and as I walked towards the door, all I could hear were screams of excitement. I knew they were looking at a view I had never seen in my life. I walked through the door, dropped our things, and went straight to the sliding glass door on our patio. Before me was the most beautiful sight I had ever laid eyes on…
I had tears in my eyes.
Although we couldn’t wait to get our toes in that sand, the lunch hour had passed and we were all starving. There were lots of bright colors and eye-catching signage as we drove in, so we decided to try Fudpuckers. None of us had been there and it looked like the place to be, with it’s gator beach and souvenir shop.
From the floors to the ceiling fans, to the décor and the stairs, everything was covered in hand-written names and messages. The kids got to “leave their mark” and feed alligators all in the same stop!
After we filled our bellies with bacon-wrapped, crab-stuffed jumbo shrimp, (HELLO) alligator, (no, it doesn’t taste like chicken) and shrimp scampi, we hit up the souvenir shop for some take-aways. I highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Destin in the future. The food and atmosphere were both a 10.
We couldn’t get back to the condo fast enough to get our suits on. Imagine the eye rolls and anxiousness as we tried to slather kids in sunscreen!
But, it was worth every minute!
We sat our pale, happy selves right on that beach for the rest of the day!
tip: Bring a portable speaker or radio for beach jams!
Tuesday’s schedule was completely clear, as we planned to sit on the beach again… all day long. We enjoyed the vibrant shades of emerald, crystal-clear water while rocking in the waves.
We played beach volleyball and snorkeled while Brennen worked on her skim boarding skills. ( you can see her skills here )
We rode a banana boat pulled by a jet ski and laughed the entire time! It was the most fun! I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. The kids learned how to boogie board and became experts at jellyfish spotting. We were all stung multiple times, a couple being worse than others, but nothing major that required attention. The jellyfish that stung us were tube-like in shape, and a dingy yellow-ish color. We learned that the clear, jelly blobs with purple tentacles that would wash up onto the beach with the tide wouldn’t sting us and that you can pick them up and hold them!
We watched all of the flashlights up and down the beach the first night, and the kids couldn’t wait to go “crabbing” Tuesday night. We were prepared with nets, buckets, and flashlights! Probably the only disappointment of the entire trip – NO crabs… NONE! We dug holes and walked the sandbars, but we never even saw one stinking crab! Either we just don’t have the touch or they weren’t out that night.
Wednesday morning meant new adventures! To start the day, a dolphin cruise on the Screaming Eagle! We drove to the harbor, boarded the boat, and set out to find dolphins!
tip: Look at all of your options! There are snorkeling dolphin excursions, as well as jet-ski tours!
It is truly unbelievable looking down into that beautiful emerald water and seeing the bottom! We saw several dolphin pods and lots of bait fish! The schools were huge!
After our cruise, we headed back to pack up for our highly anticipated pontoon rental for Crab Island! We rented an awesome 115hp, 24ft pontoon that I had the pleasure of captaining. Avery was truly terrified! She had no faith in me whatsoever!
Our arrival at Crab Island was so full of fun!
Crab Island isn’t even an island (anymore) at all! It’s actually an underwater sandbar! It’s as clear as ice and the sand is so soft!
When we first dropped anchor, there were jellyfish everywhere! The kids had to survey the situation…
Again, Avery was scared to death, but Chase and Brennen were ready to hop in! We walked over to the inflatables, dodging jellyfish and checking out crabs. Chase and Brennen started catching the jellyfish in their nets!
Eventually the current came and it completely changed the color of the water to more of a pea green, but it took all of the jellyfish away! It was a workout trying to walk/swim against it, but it didn’t slow us down! There is just so much to do at Crab Island! We decided to try a paddle board, which proved to be a little harder than it looked! The kids did great, but Aly and I failed miserably! I will save the videos for America’s Funniest!
After a couple hours at Crab Island, we drove over to one of two beaches within eyeshot. We were told that there is an abundance of shells and crabs there, and oh man, they were right! The kids had so much fun there! They snorkeled for over an hour hunting for treasures.
tip: Bring frozen corn for snorkeling!
Chase found a blue crab as big as a dinner plate! He scooped him out from his hiding place, but he was too quick for us to net him to check him out up close.
The pontoon rental was only for half of the day, so it was time to get back before we knew it. We all agreed that this was the highlight of our trip and next time, a full day rental is a must!
It was only six o’clock so we headed back to the beach at our condo. I don’t know that I have ever been more relaxed in my life. This was certainly a bucket list item marked off!
tip: Bring your own beach towels and chairs!
Our final day in paradise started off with the most anticipated activity yet… PARASAILING! The kids had watched from the beach for three days as people parasailed all over the ocean, begging to try it. They had no idea that Aly had planned that before we ever arrived! The kids got to go first!
Aly and I went last and I streamed a live video to my Facebook ( you can see that here ) from 500 feet above the ocean! It was an unforgettable moment!
tip: Women, when parasailing, wear shorts. You’re welcome.
We spent our last night in Destin trying our hand at sunset beach photography.
The colors were absolutely gorgeous!
tip: If you are doing your own photography – MAKE SURE THE HORIZON IS STRAIGHT!
Our final restaurant outing was to Pompano Joe’s! It was dark when we arrived, but there was live music directly on the beach next to the volleyball nets! The food was so fresh! I’d love to visit again, but during the daytime.
I decided to set my alarm and watch the sunrise on Friday morning. I got up at 5:30am, walked down to the most peaceful scene, and sat for almost two full hours inhaling my final moments there.
Destin, I will be back!