Our three boys’ birthdays are all in August, within five days of each other. Each year we decide to do one fun group thing, like a party or a weekend camping. In 2020, it was impossible to do anything as the whole world shut down. But this blog is not to be about a worldwide pandemic. No one wants to ready any more about that, am I right?! I am happy to say that we did have a vacation for their birthdays, just not camping.
With 2021, came a renewed sense of urgency to celebrate our boys’ birthdays in a unique and memorable way. For Christmas 2020, we gifted them with duffle bags and an itinerary to go camping at a famous campground in Southern Wisconsin.
However, closer and closer to the summer we were looking at aspects of camping (as the mosquito infiltration was horrendous) and finances were looking clearer than they have been in a decade. Against our kid’s dismay, we decided to cancel our camping trip and step it up to a bigger surprise.
Published November 22, 2021
Updated March 26, 2022
This page might contain affiliate links. In the event of a sale, I will be awarded a small commission (at no extra cost for you).
Planning the Vacation
Samuel, our oldest, loves math and science. He has a fascination with NASA and SpaceX and all things outer space. As this year was his twelfth birthday, Tyler and I decided to surprise him on his birthday with a day at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. We were able to find tickets out of the county airline that flies to Florida daily at unbelievably reasonable prices.
My parents helped finance our plane tickets for the kids’ birthdays. It was the biggest blessing, and we were so excited they gifted us with the tickets. Honestly, we would have never decided to go if my mom, Wendy, hadn’t offered the gift. Thanks mom!
Within the day or two after booking our flights we went to search for things to do, with the six of us, in Florida. The big surprise was Samuel’s day at Kennedy Space Center, and we also went to the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Legoland, Cocoa beach, Clearwater beach, Medieval Times dinner, and so many other fun places!! It was honestly the best week, and the neatest part was that we were able to finance it completely without any debt. In this blog I am going to explain why we decided to pay for our family vacation with all cash. From our Air B&B to the van rental to admissions and food, we paid cash for everything.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
After we purchased our airline tickets, the biggest job was to find a place to stay. One of my aunts has talked a lot about her experiences with Airbnb, so we went onto the site to see if we also could find a deal. After logging in, setting our filters, and searching for a centrally located place to stay, we found the perfect place to stay. We required a place to sleep six, with two bathrooms, a stocked kitchen and laundry available on-site. As a bonus, it had two pools and hot tubs to use. For literally $81 a day, we had a condo that was less than an hour drive to each of the events we had planned.
Samuel’s Birthday Surprise
On Samuel’s birthday, we then traveled to Kennedy Space Center, and spent the 100+ degree day enjoying learning about rockets, astronauts and space. It was seriously the most fun day. We got to see the Apollo rockets, do a simulation, see the Mars Rovers, see models of each rocket. Additionally at the Kennedy Space Center we got to visit the Hall of Fame and learn how astronauts stay safe in space. If you are ever in Florida and want to have a day of fun and learning, I highly recommend heading to K.S.C!
Walking around on Vacation
At our condo, we spent as much time as we could at the pools. Even going to a local store to get $1 pool floaties! The neatest thing about these pools was that they were heated by the pond that had a natural hot spring. Pipes brought water from the pool to the pond, warmed the water, and traveled back to the pool. It was hot outside, like 100 degrees with the heat index daily and the water in the pools was so pleasant!
Our Airbnb had two pools and we spent a lot of time just relaxing and playing. When planning our days, we left a few completely free of plans so we could just relax and enjoy each other.
While in our condo, we decided that one way to save money was to grocery shop and make as many meals as we could. We were literally a block away from an ALDI, which was just my favorite thing! Because of the pandemic, we did wear masks anytime we were not in an open-space, and it also caused us to not want to eat out often. Flying with kids to a different state was a lot but going out to eat would have just been hectic.
One meal I made was Zuppa Toscana Soup. Our kitchen was stocked with essentials, and it was awesome to be able to make meals to save money so we could do more things with our kids. Like buying pool floats! Click the link below for my blog post with the recipe for my Zuppa Toscana soup. The only thing I did differently was to use canned potatoes instead of raw. Even with the canned, the soup still turned out delicious, with no change of flavor!
Sushi for Sam
For Samuel’s birthday dinner, he requested sushi. And we were more than willing to splurge on this amazing dinner! We ordered the sushi online, and it turned out to be from a food truck. As surprising as food truck sushi was, it all was simply delicious.
Legoland on Vacation
On another day, we traveled to Legoland! Again, it was 105 degrees with the heat index, and we seriously felt like dying. However, the amount of people there was amazingly small. Never once did we have a wait for a ride longer than 5-minutes! We ate delicious ice cream, went on ALL the rides; some twice, and just had an all-around fantastic time.
As there was SO much to see, it was difficult to get pictures of the kids standing still. Our favorite ride, by far, was the triple decker bus, with a close second being the fight of the Duplo as it was a refreshing water ride on this unbelievably hot day.
Zoo and Botanical Gardens
The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens was a special day! Our good friend Tina gifted us with the means to buy the tickets for this day at the zoo. We were able to spend hours walking around looking at the stunning flowers and plants, seeing all the adorable animals, and learning about how Florida is trying to prevent bears from becoming dumpster divers!
Each of the kids were able to feed a giraffe also! That may have been the most memorable moment, until Levi found the cheetahs! As they are his favorite, he was SO excited to see one having a nap!
Being from Wisconsin, seeing the wide range of florals and plants was simply amazing. From tiny yellow flowers to massive hand-sized blooms, this botanical gardens sure had a wide variety to look at. What was the neatest part was that there was no empty space.
Between animal areas there were flowerbeds and a walkway with trees and a stream. We even saw what we thought were bananas and leaves as big as Levi! I could have spent more time exploring what each plant was, and learning new flowers, but the kids just ran from animal to animal and learning about their habitats.
Medieval Times Dinner
My favorite part of the vacation was our Medieval Times dinner. Not only was it in the air conditioning, but we had the best time watching a fun show. After the day at the Zoo, coming to witness a spectacle of a Medieval show. We ate delicious roasted chicken, the potatoes were fantastically seasoned, and the kids especially loved eating the entire meal with only their hands! Even though our knight did not win, we were able to have an awesome time as a family!
And as a bonus, we did not have to clean up the kitchen! I just wish I would have gotten a picture of the meal before it was devoured… but it was just so delicious and after a day outside, we were all very famished. I do have to give it to Medieval Times as they created such a beautiful building with an engaging arena while watching the show.
Even though we did not go camping for our boys’ birthdays in 2021, we did have a memorable and enjoyable vacation. I am already looking forward to how we can celebrate their birthdays in 2022. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for later this week when I share the second half of our vacation surprise to Florida for our boys’ birthdays.
Copyright: All content and photos on Monica's Scratch Kitchen are copyright protected. Please do not use them without written permission. Thank you.