How to have a spontaneous vacation (and survive it)

The poor gator we brought back home with us. Yes, it's totally real.

As you have no doubt been reading ad nauseam, we took a little trip down to Naples, Florida last week. It was completely a spur-of-the-moment thing, turned out to be fantastic --and was absolutely worth it.

I learn a lot every time we take a trip anywhere, and this one was no exception. Thought I'd share a few things I learned with you, in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Don't be afraid to say yes. When your husband says, "I am going to be in Florida for an extended business trip, want to come?" Say yes, even if you are afraid you will not get cheap flights at the last minute. Say yes, even if it is the last week of school and you will have to pull your kids out, forcing them miss most of the fun parties, field days, and concerts. Say yes, even if it seems like an insane thing to do.

For when you sit under that beach umbrella with your husband, watching your babies play in the surf, you will both turn to look at each other at the exact same moment and say, "IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT."

Besides, airfare will be surprisingly cheap. And kids won't necessarily care about the parties at the end of the year. Family memories and time together will last a lifetime. They are only this age once.

2. Do not be afraid to check the rates of very fancy hotels that you think you cannot afford. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton for $119 a night, people! That's cheaper than most of the crappy hotels NOT on the beach. It was five-star service at a two-star price. I would have been content to stay anywhere, but the Husband's tolerance level runs a wee bit higher. We hit the city of Naples off-season, and had the beach and hotel wait staff to ourselves. It was heaven.

[I'm also slightly afraid that my children are ruined for life. You can't stay at the Ritz and then ever stay anywhere else without being terribly disappointed.]

3. Do not be phased by emergencies that come up. During our five-day stay, we had one emergency room visit, one urgent situation requiring help from a physician back home, one child pass out due to heat stroke on a hotel boardwalk, and a supposedly waterproof mitt failed - leaving one child's cast soaking wet and full of sand.

For most people, these events would absolutely ruin the trip. For us, it was pretty much normal fare for a vacation.


But a few doses of antibiotics quickly took care of the ear infection that sent us to the ER. Some ice, water, and juice took care of the heat stroke. A late night conversation with our physician back home solved an otherwise nightmare situation. The soggy, smelly cast was removed when we got home and replaced with a removable brace. We took it all in stride, and figured it wasn't worth getting upset about.

Slightly annoyed maybe. But not upset. We were back on the beach and in good form - hardly the worse for wear.

4. Give yourself permission to put down the camera and watch your babies play with your own two eyes. Pictures are treasures that can help preserve the memory, but it is also important to be a part of making the memory yourself. So many times I miss things because I am busy photographing them instead of doing them. This trip, I did not make that mistake, and I have no regrets for the small number of pictures I took.

Instead, I made sandcastles with Hannah and hunted for seashells. I dove through waves with McKay and Chase. I raced the Husband (and lost) on a kayak in the middle of the ocean, laughing as the salty water shot up around us.

And not once did I feel anything lacking.

The trip was heaven and I'd do it again. And again. And again.

How's tomorrow, in fact?