We missed the last week of Parker and Mason’s preschool to escape the madness of crowds and the exorbitant beach rental prices to go to Destin before the summer out-of-school rush. This would be Sienna’s first trip to the beach because we skipped our beach trip last year due to all the extra expenses that occurred during our move into our new home. So, we were all pumped for the trip! Parker had remembered going two years ago, but Mason didn’t. He was just fourteen months old. Dan’s parents had planned to join us mid-week, but due to a death in the family, they weren’t able to meet us this time. It was just the five of us for our first family beach trip in two years!
So, naturally as soon as we got to the beach house, the boys wanted to go to the beach! Seven hours in the car was enough to drive us all stir crazy, so we were excited to feel the sand between our toes and see the waves! It was a little overcast, but it was still hot, so we went for it!
Sienna was so cute in the water. She would squeal with excitement running towards the water, then quickly turn around and run the opposite direction with a look of fear on her face. The waves and color was so different the first part of the week. The waves were rougher than usual and there was a strong rip current, and the water was darker than we remembered. We weren’t sure if it was because it was overcast or what, but fortunately it went back to normal mid-week.
The waves were rough by gulf coast standards, and reminded me of the east coast beaches I grew up on. The boys didn’t mind a bit though, it took them no time at all to get wet and enjoy the water. No pics here of it, but they also brought their new boogie boards, and they loved learning how to use those for the first time, riding the surf in! Sienna had fun too, but for some reason had a hard time staying on her feet. She looks like a drunk baby in this YouTube clip!
Our second day, Sunday, was Mother’s Day. Since it was a little overcast still, we went to breakfast out and then went over near Silver Shells (near the Back Porch) where we’ve stayed before because we remember a nice playground by the beach and a few fun gift/candy store. We were still on East Coast time, so we couldn’t really venture out much since most things were closed because it was still early. The kiddos enjoyed playing on the playground and eating treats from the gift shop before heading down to Harbor walk to walk around and see about booking our snorkel boat tour later in the week. We had lunch at a favorite touristy restaurant Harry T’s that has nice views of the marina and yummy food. We also enjoyed shopping in a few of our favorite stores, feeding the fish, and enjoying the day.
After lunch and naps, we decided to hit up the pool. The boys had been practicing all spring with their swim classes, but completely froze up when we got to the pool! What gives? We still had fun splashing around. I brought my camera, but didn’t take the time to take pictures.
The beach house we stayed in was very nice. It was upscale, but not exactly what was described in the description. The listing for the beach rental on VRBO said OCEAN VIEW, and there wasn’t. It also said we would have access to the garage (which is great with kids because you don’t have to worry about them running out into the road when you’re loading up the car) and it wasn’t accessible. A few other disappointments included remote controls without batteries, and TVs that didn’t work. We had to have the management company come out and turn on the TV because we couldn’t figure it out. We own a media room in our current home, and my husband and I are very tech savvy, but it wasn’t clear. Apparently you were supposed to use the remote that was labeled “FOR TV VOLUME ONLY” to turn the receiver on, that was located in a different room. Ridiculous. There weren’t instructions to be found. Also, there was a gas leak in the kitchen, and the owner said “that’s common to have that odor because it’s a large range”…what? No. So, after requesting again that we don’t feel safe cooking here, they finally got someone out there to inspect the stove on Wednesday, and they did in fact find a leak. Scary! That was after we were cooking breakfast and half the power to the kitchen shut off while making pancakes on the griddle. Needless to say, that breakfast was ruined, and we weren’t happy campers. They left minimal soap for cleaning, no sponges to wash dishes. Enough detergent for one load of laundry. We’ve stayed at MANY VRBO places, and they always provide enough detergent and soap for your entire stay. Our expectations were high since it’s labeled as such a luxury place.
In full disclosure, we did in fact get a small reimbursement for our troubles, but it wasn’t after receiving a rude and unprofessional email back from the management company about how it “wasn’t their fault the power went out, …” among other things. It has enough dining space for about 20 people, but the living area is very small, and can only seat about five people comfortably. The kids bedrooms are on the bottom floor, and the master is on the third floor. This was a challenge for us because we had three small kids on the bottom floor near the exit of the home by themselves. So, the layout of the house was less than ideal. That was no fault of theirs, but still something to consider for next time. Honestly, we’re really not ones to complain, like-ever. Overall, we still had a great vacation in spite of all of the house issues! As a matter of fact, it had one of the coolest showers I’d ever seen. It had two shower heads, and a third ceiling rainfall shower head. It was perfect for after the beach. Since our kids are so young, after a beach trip, we all just strip down and had a family shower. It may sound crazy to some, but that’s what you do when you have little ones, and we all just need to get clean at the same time! The kids LOVED it!
The next day, we went to the Gulfarium, which is Destin’s version of an aquarium. We had been here once before with the kids, and decided to see it again. They really enjoyed it. We packed a lunch and ate it there. I’m not sure if we were allowed to do that, but we did. After the aquarium and naps, we went to the beach for the rest of the day. We certainly knew how to pack in the fun! The kids slept well that night.
On Tuesday, we went on our boat snorkel tour we had planned. We’ve done this every time we’ve been to Destin. It’s not super easy with little ones, but it’s certainly do-able. The fun and excitement certainly outweighed the hassle. Actually there really wasn’t much of a hassle at all! The boat ride was from 9-12, which was great because it didn’t interfere with naps at all. We packed a lunch, and the kids came prepared with their swimsuits. We brought a change of clothes, but we didn’t even use it. They provided wet suits and Dan used them, but I didn’t. I just thought it would be too hard with getting it on and off and trying to keep an eye on the kids at the same time. Plus, they said the water was in the 70′s so that was warm enough for me. The boys had wet suits with built-in life preservers.
The first stop was the snorkel area. There were kayaks there as well, and that is what Sienna and I did together most of the time. We didn’t get any pictures of it, but it was super fun. She was SO incredibly happy and content with me paddling the kayak while she watched the water. It was a gorgeous day. The boys had fun riding the waves to shore. Dan also took them both out on the kayak, and they enjoyed that as well. We didn’t do a lot of snorkeling there because the recent rain had made the water pretty cloudy, but it was fun nonetheless.
Our second stop, we went into shallow waters looking for hermit crabs. It was awesome. We had our little net poles ready and we found SO many hermit crabs. There were entire colonies of hermit crabs, all different sizes and shells. It was awesome. The boys were so intrigued and loved every bit of it! We even found a medium sized blue crab! The boys were tall enough to stand up in the waters and just walk since it was so shallow, and they were picking up all kinds of interesting things from under the water. It was a great lesson about nature! At the end, we brought our “fastest” hermit crab on the boat, and they had a hermit crab race. So much fun! We enjoyed eating a packed lunch as we headed back to dock. The kids had a great time, and were very well behaved because they weren’t bored one bit!
That evening we had dinner at Fudpuckers. The kids have always loved seeing the alligators at this place. It was Sienna’s first time, and both boys had gotten alligators there, so it was Sienna’s turn to pick out her alligator! It’s a fun family touristy place, and the kids love it!
On Wednesday, it rained. and rained. annnnnd…. well, rained some more.
We got the wild idea of going to see a movie. We thought we’d go around Sienna’s nap time, and pray that she would fall asleep in the stroller. So, we did just that! We went to the theater to see Legends of Oz, and Sienna got through the previews eating lots and lots of popcorn. Once it was time for the movie to start, I took her out and put her in her stroller and after some crying and strolling, she fell asleep. I snuck her back in and joined the guys to resume my viewing pleasure. It actually couldn’t have worked out better! Sienna’s first movie was a big hit even though she slept through most of it!
On Thursday, we decided to take a little road trip up to Seaside to visit. It’s only about 40 minutes from where we were. It was nice, and very pretty and cold. The rainy weather on Wednesday had made the temps drop to the 60s and even though it was forecasted to warm up, we were all quite chilly. We walked around a few of the overpriced clothing and toy stores and four stores, one lunch with meltdowns, dozens of pictures, and one stroller nap later, we were on our way back home. Seaside is pretty, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just not enough for little kids to do there. They really need a little playground in the center courtyard for the kiddos, or just more kid things to do in general. Since it was chilly, the beach wasn’t appropriate.
On the way home from Seaside, we decided it had warmed up enough to go to the beach, so that’s what we did. We headed back to our beach house to get changed up and we walked to the beach about a block from where we stayed. The boys got to skip their naps and they were super excited about that. The waves had calmed down quite a bit, and the water was super calm! We were so excited that the Destin beach waters that we knew and loved had finally returned! If you look at the pictures at the beach from the beginning of the blog, there is a clear difference. Parker was so comfortable with the water that he decided to practice lots of swimming! Mason was great too!
Next to Destiny by The Sea, the community where we stayed, there was a great seafood place called the Crab Trap. The food was great and the drinks were strong! We loved it so much the first night that we eat there one more time before we left, too. So yummy! When we first arrived at our beach house, we were missing the old area where we stayed near The Back Porch, but it turns out that we found new things to love about the new area that we stayed in, and it turned out to be very nice.
One thing we did this time, that we didn’t last time we were in Destin, and I recommend to anyone who has kids is USE THE CHAIR AND UMBRELLA SERVICE! The first few years when we went to the beach, we were carrying an infant, toddler, four chairs, an umbrella, camera, cooler, towels and beach toys! It was such a pain. This time we just brought a big Ikea blue bag stuffed with beach toys, towels, and a small soft cooler with drinks and snacks. Sometimes it was a boogie board and my camera, but that’s it! Without the chairs and umbrella, it was so much easier to hold the hands of the kiddos or pick one up if needed and get to and from the beach without much trouble. Anything that makes our life a little easier on vacation is a win-win for us!
Our last day in Destin, we spent the morning at Destin Commons doing a little shopping, going to the cool Bass pro shop, and let the boys play in the spray ground area they have. It wasn’t super warm, so we weren’t going to let them play initially, but they didn’t seem to mind the cold, because they jumped right in! Sienna took an early nap, so she missed the spray ground fun, but the boys more than made up for it. I didn’t bring my DSLR, so these are just iPhone pictures, but it captures the moments we had at the Bass pro shop and the fun morning we had at the spray ground.
After a deliciously diet splurging meal at Johnny Rockets, and an afternoon nap, we hit the beach one final time before we headed home the next morning. Seven days seems like a lot, but there are so much to do in Destin, and we were sad our vacation was coming to an end. It’s no doubt that it’s a little different when you have young children all vying for your attention, and the new atmosphere and testing limits of rules can be mentally and physically draining, but it’s still worth it to make memories with the family, even if it is less than perfect at times. Hanging on to the fleeting moments that will soon be behind us as the children grow up and are no longer as dependent on us as parents, but gravitate towards their friends and free time. Holding on to the less-than-perfect mounts for as long as we can, because they’re our real memories. For that we are thankful and they make my heart full!
Lastly, here are a few iPhone pictures of our days on the beach and having fun at the Crab Trap for dinner one night! Another great vacation to remember in Destin!