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Do you make it a point to take family vacations?  Last year with the house being built, we didn’t do a family vacation other than one night to Niagara Falls (which I am proud to say finally broke the vacation vomit streak of 4 years.  We used to say, “It isn’t a family vacation until someone pukes.”)  And now with two different trips under our belt, I’m praying good health continues to follow many more of our travels.

Earlier this month, we took a trip to wonderful and warm Florida.  This was the quickest decision we ever made on such a trip.  (You know I’m the planner!)  But back in December, after seeing airfare month after month go on sale for $78 round trip Cleveland to Orlando, it became irresistible.  And what started as a 2-night, quick trip to LEGOLAND for just me and the kids, became a full week of fun with Dan coming as well.  That is what good airfare will do!

We made all the arrangements, conserved our luggage space, used every reward dollar to our name, stayed at a referral time share and made use of discounts and coupons for pretty much everything.  It was a lot of work, but well worth the savings.




We stayed at Orange Lake, a Holiday Inn Vacation Club Resort.  The property was enormous and beautiful.  It even had its own lazy river ride.  We attended a time share presentation and actually learned a lot.  Our kids were in their child-watch program, so when we realized that after two and a half hours, the meeting still wasn’t over, we got up and excused ourselves.  We didn’t feel too bad about it because they had told us the meeting would last two hours and they were aware our kids were in child-watch.

The highlight of the resort to the kids:


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Each kid sleeping in his and her own queen bed.  What kid gets this on vacation?  Our villa had two bedrooms which was a first for us.  It dawned on me one morning while brushing my teeth what a treat it was to be in the bathroom alone.

[I should interject that as far as Disney trips go, I think the best way to experience Disney World is by staying on property at a Disney hotel.  This was more of a Florida trip than anything and our two days at Disney World were not consecutive.  There are so many wonderful advantages to staying on property of which we could not take advantage.]


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The first fun day was spent at LEGOLAND.  I had the opportunity to write for them (you can see my post here).  If you have kids who love LEGOS, add this spot to your travel destination list.  It really was a lot of fun!  As you can tell by their run to the entrance, my kids were a bit excited.


Legoland Florida Tips to Make Your Trip Awesome (14)


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Our next special day was a trip to the Magic Kingdom.  Oh, how I love that place.  I think I would like to live there when I grow up.  The fun, the creativity, the attention to detail…all things that I love.


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Where’s the castle?  It was an especially foggy start to the day.  But soon the sun came out and we were thankful for beautiful weather.


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Alice and the Mad Hatter spent quite a while chatting it up with my daughter in Fantasyland.  She was particularly thrilled when Alice noticed her during the afternoon parade and made a point to wave, blow a kiss and point her out to the Mad Hatter.  Disney makes everything special.


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This picture makes me chuckle because this . is . life.

We are finally at my most favorite spot on earth.  We’re ready to take that picturesque image of the kids in front of Cinderella’s dreamy castle but it wasn’t going to happen.  The sun was so bright that the kids had no chance of opening their eyes for me to capture the perfect shot.

And isn’t that the way things go?  Nothing is perfect this side of heaven.  We can either be disappointed or choose to celebrate our blessings.  After all . . . picture or not, we were still standing in Disney World.  🙂


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Our next adventure took us to Epcot.

I don’t know what it is but I love getting back shots of Dan and the kids walking.  They are precious to me!

Many times in the parks, we split up to be able to do more things in the short time we had.  It worked out really well, especially when my daughter and I were going to Akershus to eat lunch and meet the princesses.  She is the perfect age for this!

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Dan holding Snow in Florida.

The final day of our trip held a surprise for the kids.  We went to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see Winter and Hope, the stars of Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.  We love these movies and it was a fun treat to surprise the kids with one last adventure.

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We were blessed to be able to see Winter while she was out in the bigger tank.  She doesn’t wear the prosthetic tail all the time, just when exercising.  What is amazing to me is that the gel that was made to help her keep the tail on without irritating her skin has now helped multitudes of human amputees live pain-free with their prosthetics.  Isn’t that awesome?  The aquarium was a very educational and fun visit.


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The picture above is from a stranding presentation on what is done if a dolphin is found stranded on the beach.  I don’t think we have to worry about this in Lake Erie, but my daughter loved being involved and caring for the {inflatable} dolphin.

Favorite Memories of the trip:

Dan dancing with my daughter and fighting light sabers with my son…anywhere and everywhere.  He is such a fun dad!  Take a look.

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My son getting chatty with the girl on the ride at LEGOLAND.  He is just like his daddy and will talk to anyone.


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My daughter’s pure delight on Test Track at Epcot.  She told her Grandma she would scream in her place.  This was our first time at the parks without my mom but the final picture from our last trip still tops the charts.


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The moment when:  I was holding a spot in line for a meet and greet with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in England at Epcot’s World Showcase.  My daughter with her gorgeous Snow White dress and tired little feet went to sit across the courtyard and rest for a few minutes.  It was a good distance away but in clear view.  When she sat down, she turned around … and winked at me.  It just caught me off guard and made me laugh.  I am really enjoying being her mama.
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The fact that in most every picture with my son, he is pretending to hold a light saber.  Apparently Jedi’s are pretty serious too…


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I loved trading pins at Disney World.  It was the first time we went with multiple pins to trade.  Next time, I am taking even more!  (Find out where I got my pins in order to save a lot of money.)

All the UNO we played, including at the airport while waiting to head home.  It was fun to be at the stage where we could kill time waiting and play a game together.  The kids seemed so grown up.

We also had the change to visit some Ohio friends who are living in Florida and spend a night at their house.  It was great to catch up and see their kids.

What a wonderful trip!  The fun and warmth were perfect to renew my perspective…to notice how fast the kids are growing up, the importance of spending quality time as a family and sharing in adventures.