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Trip Report Thank Heaven for Little Girls.

fractal

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
A few years back my son and I took a trip out West and along the way spent a few estrogen free days in Disneyland. This year was the girl's turn, even if that wasn't part of our original plans.

Planning vacations as your children get older can be a difficult task. Demands from college, high-school, camps, activities, and even part time jobs end up leaving very few open spaces on the calendar. Lately it seems that mid July to mid August is our sweet spot for getting away and so it was again this year. Based on a great deal on a condo found by my wife Val, we came up with a somewhat last minute plan to visit Clearwater Beach Florida...and oh yeah, we decided to drive down from Pennsylvania. I also had an eye to sneak away to WDW for at least a day during our week stay.;)

My son Sterg had to bow out of the trip. He's starting college at Penn State this year and since he's on their swim team he needed to stay behind and train. See what I mean about other demand? Don't feel too bad for him however, he has had a few nice trips of his own over the last six months. It may have also saved his life as I'm sure having to deal with him for 18 hours in a car would have stirred some primal blood anger in me.

Without Sterg it would leave myself, my wife Val, my 21 year old daughter Alex (about to become a college senior) and my 13 year old daughter Toni. Not quite "little girls" anymore but as most Dads will attest to; they are always little girls. Anyone who has read my previous reports knows that Val is not the biggest Disney fan - but how could we be so close to WDW and not go? After much deliberations on the scale of the Yalta conference we hammered out an arrangement to make one day on our trip "Chris, Alex and Toni get to go to Walt Disney World" Day. Where there is a will...

The big day came - we departed on a Saturday at 3pm in the afternoon after loading up our trusty stead/Ford Explorer. Leaving Sterg home by himself for a week brought it's own set of issues but he was all smiles and willing to play photographer as we said our goodbyes...

At this point we had no idea what we were getting into...



Sterg's long arms came in handy here...



Alex and Toni settling in for a long voyage and adventure while Sterg makes sure we say our goodbyes to Prince our dog.



We were on our way to Florida!
 

RandomPrincess

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Can't wait to read all about it!
 

MouseDreaming

Well-Known Member
Hooray! More great pics coming my way! Congrats to Sterg, on his new life journey. It really does get harder as they get older. Summer school, driver's ed, practices, camps, college visits. We didn't get a trip to anywhere in this year. Makes me miss when they were younger, sometimes.

Can't wait for more!
 

fractal

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
The last and only time I had driven to Florida before this trip was when I was 9 years old. I distinctly remember my parents arguing for the first 2 hours of the trip over directions during that pre-GPS era. That was also the first time I went to Walt Disney World (among other stops). I remember the wonder of Magic Kingdom but don't really remember the long drive down. I was hoping that it was because the drive wasn't so bad vs. my brain eliminating painful memories.

Val started the drive; we went through typical arguments over what music to play, when were we going to stop, I can't believe you have to go to the bathroom again, etc. Much of it was a blur as we rambled down I-95.



Our first major stop was at one of the zillions of Cracker Barrel located along our route.



It was almost 10:30 and as I walked into the restaurant and took in all the smell I uttered. "Man am I famished!"

Toni looked at me with a confused look "What does that mean?"

"Famished - it means really hungry!"

Thankfully it wasn't long before we were seated and ordering.



Toni brought along these little plastic babies for some strange reason; even named them. She placed them on the pegs in that table game to keep us company while we ate.



Cracker Barrel hit the spot! After dinner we were back on the road, this time with yours truly doing the driving.

A few hours later Toni yelled from the back "DAD, you have to go back to Cracker Barrel!"

"Wait, what?" I replied

"I forgot my babies on the table"

To give you an idea on how much she has me wrapped around her finger, I almost took the next exit.
 

TheMouseFan

Well-Known Member
So excited to see another TR from you! Can't wait to read more! I was looking through some of the throw back Thursday pics awhile ago, and I can't believe how much the kids have grown!! I was thinking it was funny how much the girls still look the same, just more grown up, and how much Sterg has changed!!
 

fractal

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
We hit Florida in the wee morning hours and took I-95 down to I-4 and drove right by Walt Disney World.

Can't we stop here?



Alex had to drive for a few hours as I was starting to hallucinate behind the wheel.



By late morning we were in Clearwater Beach. After a quick change we headed to the beach until our strict check-in time of 3pm. I found it interesting that we had no physical interaction with the rental agency. Everything was done online and through email. The sent us a passcode to get into the condo parking area and another code for the door of the condo. No keys to pick up and drop off. Also no early check-ins or late check-outs.

Ah, the path to the Gulf of Mexico.



As the girls were setting up the towels and tanning themselves I could not help but to get the camera out.



Managed to hold still enough to take an HDR shot...



Each section of the beach seemed to have different colored umbrellas set up for rental. With the hot sun beating down they were worth the price.



The sand was powdery and nearly white, which kept it from getting hot. Unlike the Jersey Shore sand we had no trouble walking barefoot on the beach.

 
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disneygirl1

Well-Known Member
Wow! I can not believe how big your children are getting! Great start! Can't wait to read more. We originally were going to drive to Disney from Philly this fall since we have a baby in tow now, but that idea went out the window pretty quickly.
 

fractal

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Can't wait to read all about it!
Not a full fledged WDW report but we had a long full day in the World.

Hooray! More great pics coming my way! Congrats to Sterg, on his new life journey. It really does get harder as they get older. Summer school, driver's ed, practices, camps, college visits. We didn't get a trip to anywhere in this year. Makes me miss when they were younger, sometimes.

Can't wait for more!
Thanks! Yes, I am holding on to their childhood as long as I can.

So excited to see another TR from you! Can't wait to read more! I was looking through some of the throw back Thursday pics awhile ago, and I can't believe how much the kids have grown!! I was thinking it was funny how much the girls still look the same, just more grown up, and how much Sterg has changed!!
Thanks @TheMouseFan ! We just commented about how Toni was almost as tall as Sterg when we went in 2007 and 2009. Now he's taller than me.

You're one strong dude! I probably would have whipped it around, I'm that wrapped too.
It's like we are brainwashed. :D

Wow! I can not believe how big your children are getting! Great start! Can't wait to read more. We originally were going to drive to Disney from Philly this fall since we have a baby in tow now, but that idea went out the window pretty quickly.
Thanks for reading and yes, getting big (and expensive!). We drove to Hilton Head when Alex was a baby and she screamed for the first 2 hours. I literally thought I was going to lose my mind. :) The upside to driving was the forced interaction with the kids as they are stuck with you. We had plenty of funny moments in the car. Of course, that could also be another downside.
 

fractal

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Clearwater Beach Florida is a town full of contrasts. In some ways it reminded me of Wildwood NJ as there is a strong younger generation/party element but we also saw many families and older couples. The south end of the island is dominated by large hotels built (or being built) on the beach with the older "beach style" motels of the 50's and 60's (again reminiscent of the Jersey shore) in their shadow a block or two off the beach. We didn't get a chance to explore the middle and northern part much but it seemed to be less "built up".

Our condo was a block from the beach but we had to walk several blocks for access. A small inconvenience. It was relatively new and modern and huge. A large master bedroom with full tub and shower and two other bedrooms and another full bath. A condo like this in a Disney resort would likely cost close to $1,000/night - we paid Value room rates. :) Here are a few pics of the kitchen and family area.







And speaking of contrasts; Alex and Toni decided to sleep in the same room with two double beds vs. splitting into separate rooms which I was happy to see. As the oldest child, Alex is extremely reliable,selfless and considerate. She is studying to work in the Healthcare field - towards being a Nurse practitioner which would be ideal for her personality as a natural caregiver. Alex has been working summers in a nursing home and just loves taking care of the elderly there. I don't know how she does it, but I do know she usually thinks of others before herself. She is very organized and a great time manager. She is also always willing to help with chores around the house and work extra to make some money.

Toni, on the other hand is more of a free spirit. She loves the moment and living for it. While also a good student, she enjoys more "girly" things like dancing and singing vs Alex's "Tom-boy" persona. Alex is just fine in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt while Toni has no problem dressing up. Toni is also more concerned about her self then the rest of the world and is not afraid to express it. She is and likely always will be a child at heart. At almost 14 she shows fewer signs of being a "nasty teenager" than my other two children. Most of all, she is always a joy to be with.

The sister are different and this sometimes leads to nasty fights. They will usually begin with Alex playing adult and calling out her younger sister for some selfish act and Toni always quick to argue back with little regard if she's right or wrong. Although we had a few of these outburst during the trip, for the most part they got along just fine - especially when they ganged up to make fun of their poor Dad. :D Like when I pulled out the tripod to take a long exposure shot of our back view.

"Alex, look at "Pops" whipping out the tripod" Toni would say.

"Ha,ha, Dad going hard with the pics" Alex would respond for all to hear.

I would then answer with something smart like "wait until I break it out tonight at the restaurant to take pictures of you two".

Here's the view.



And here again are the two little devils.

 
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MinnieM123

Well-Known Member
Yea! Another fractal family vacation TR!! :happy: (Too bad Sterg couldn't join you on this vacation trip, and also your mom. She was a riot in your last WDW TR!) :joyfull:

I'm really looking forward to more pictures, as you have one of the best cameras that takes incredibly sharp pictures; you also have a real talent for composition. :)
 

AliceJaina

Member
You're pictures are amazing, as usual!
We just did a similar trip last week. We drove from northern Virginia to Jacksonville beach(which was far enough with a 2yo and 7yo) Talked our selves into a couple days in Disney.

Can't wait to read more!
 

HouCuseChickie

Well-Known Member
YAY!!!! A Fractal trip report!!!!

I can't get over how much the kids are growing up. That's awesome that Sterg is starting at Penn State and on their swim team. Penn State is such a nice school...had a tough choice between Penn State and Syracuse back in the day.

The condo looks fabulous (great price point as well) and all of the beach pics make me miss my parents' time residing on the FL gulf coast. Also glad you had Alex take over at the wheel. That's the worst when you start to get road weary and you're fighting to push on.

Can't wait to read more!
 
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