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When friends or family live far apart, it can be hard to stay truly connected. Of course you can text, Facetime, or follow each other on social media, but as the weeks and months go by, that helps less and less, and you feel further and further apart. This summer we discovered how powerful a beach vacation can be when it comes to reconnecting with loved ones you haven’t seen in a long time. We took the perfect vacation to bring together kids and adults, families and friends, and it left our hearts so full that we just have to share with you the secrets we learned to reconnecting by getting away together.
Daily Mom is a group of amazing women from all over the country who work together to bring you the best in all things parenting and life in general. We love to travel; seeing the benefits of travel in our personal lives and for our kids, we try to share travel tips and our favorite destinations with our readers to encourage them to go out on adventures as well.
My name is Kristen, and I am one of the editors at Daily Mom. This summer, my son Elliott
and I traveled to the Bradenton area, on the west coast of Florida, to meet up with my fellow editors, Elena and Dani. Elena was joined by her daughter Lexi, and Dani came with her crazy crew, son Eli and daughter Hannah.
I expected to have a wonderful visit with my friends who I don’t see very often, but it ended up being so much more than that. Our friendship was strengthened. Our kids connected and became more like cousins. There is something about enjoying life together, face to face, that feels so amazing, and when you can do that in one of the most beautiful areas in the world, it’s even better!
The key to reconnecting in a meaningful way is to remember that everything is better when you’re together!
When traveling with extended family or friends, booking separate hotel rooms in the same hotel may seem like the most logical option. You will be close by but still have your space. However, we found that you don’t need space when you are reconnecting with loved ones. For our trip to Bradenton, we stayed in a lovely home on the bay from Anna Maria Vacations. The Waterside House fit our large group with space to spare. The kids loved the room on the second floor with two sets of bunk beds. That room was like home base for them. There are many vacation home rentals on Anna Maria Island to choose from.
All their games started there. They ran in and out of that room the whole trip, and hearing the sounds of their laughter and silliness together was a joy. If we had stayed in our own hotel rooms we would have missed out on that extra play time that happened in the spaces in between our beach time, meals, and other fun. Waking up together, hollering how much time we had until we had to leave for our dinner reservations, setting the kids up with a snack to watch Moana after a long swim in the pool out back… all that stuff made for some amazing memories and made us feel like family.
Experience New Things Together
New experiences bring you closer. There is something uniting about trying something together. All your eyes are opened to something unique at the same time. As parents, watching our kids take in something new is especially rewarding. There is nothing like seeing how they react. You never know what experiences will start a new interest for a child. The Bradenton area has so many opportunities for firsts for families. We had two fun experiences that our kiddos just soaked up and wouldn’t stop talking about.
On our second day in Bradenton we went on a dolphin cruise on a Paradise Boat Tour. All our kids had been on a boat ride before, but this boat ride was different. We saw so many dolphins, and actually a couple manatees too. Throughout the entire ride our captain and our guide taught us about the animals and the area itself. Seeing these amazing sea creatures so close and learning interesting facts about them was a very enriching experience. All the kids got a turn at driving the boat as well. In about an hour and a half the kids saw animals in the wild they had never seen, learned about them and why we need to protect them, and they got to drive a big boat. Pretty cool for a weekday morning!
On our last night in Bradenton we drove downtown and went to a Bradenton Marauders Baseball Game. This was the first professional baseball game for all our kiddos. They fed off the atmosphere and excitement right away, and started cheering for the teams on the field. I wish we could say we were all cheering for the home team, but Elena and Lexi live in the Fort Meyers area, and the Fort Meyers team happened to be in town. So while some of us cheered on the Marauders, Lexi and Hannah chanted “Go Red Team” the whole time.
Elliott went for the home team and even talked me into getting him a bright yellow foam finger so he could cheer with that thing proudly raised in the air. A local resident at the game who had just caught a foul ball saw me taking Elliott’s photo. He called us over and gave Elliott the foul ball. That dinged up baseball is now a treasure for my son and has sparked a real interest in watching baseball. He may even start playing on a little league team next year!
Make A Personal Keepsake Together
Special vacations with loved ones are worthy of souvenirs. Kids love little trinkets. However, we discovered that a personal keepsake can mean so much more to everyone. Tucked into a little corner of a neighborhood, we found the Shiny Fish Emporium. Inside this adorable gift shop you can paint sand dollars and take one home as a memento of your trip. Making a personal keepsake means more than just picking out a souvenir. When we look at our sand dollars we not only remember our beach trip, we remember the kids painting the sand dollars together. That was such a cute moment. To see all four of them together in their smocks, with their focused faces and little hands carefully holding paintbrushes, creating their own designs with such thoughtfulness, it was the sweetest! After they finished painting, we left the sand dollars to dry and returned a few hours later to pick up these artistic masterpieces which had been coated in glitter and strung with a ribbon, making them perfect for the kids to hang in their rooms when they got home.
While modern technology like our smartphones is the way we connect when we are far apart, once we are together those little devices distract us from the people right in front of our face. We are so programmed to text and scan through our social media that when we finally get the opportunity to be together in real life we forget to unplug. During our time in Bradenton we got to enjoy real conversation. We could look each other in the eyes as friends, moms, and co-workers. These beautiful women who I normally only text with and see on Instagram were right by my side, and so I left Instagram alone and enjoyed being in the moment with my people!
To make sure this happens on your next vacation, plan fun activities that pretty much force you to unplug. The beautiful gulf beaches in Bradenton were the ideal setting for some screen-free fun. You can’t mindlessly check your phone when you are teaching your kids to swim in the salty waters on the Gulf of Mexico. You won’t text when you are dancing on the shore with your friends or building a sandcastle with the kids. The white sands and the warm blue waters are all the distraction you need to pull you away from your biggest daily distraction.
Get active when you travel. We played mini golf at The Fish Hole Miniature Golf. While not all the kids made it through every single hole, they all had fun there. The course was shaded and beautiful. Elliott fed the fish in the koi pod. Lexi really got into the game! We had a impromptu photo shoot in this giant chair at the end of the course, and the kids freaked out when they realized they got to choose a little plastic fish to take home from a big bowl on the way out.
Back at our rental home we had kayaks and paddle boards from Beach Bums Rentals. This company will deliver whatever you rent from them straight to your rental home and pick it up when you are done. How easy is that? After mini golf we put on our suits and went exploring the Sarasota Bay. I paddle boarded for the first time, and I have to be honest here and say that I felt pretty bad ass. I asked the kids if I looked like Moana and they just laughed at me while I sang “How Far I’ll Go” very badly. The kids kept wanting to switch from kayak to paddle board. The water in the bay was so shallow that they were able to walk between Dani and I and switch “boats”. We will never forget our time in the bay, singing Moana songs, laughing at each other, and just soaking up the beautiful scene all around us.
Make Every Meal Count
Make meals special. Think of all the great conversations that can happen over a good meal. Skip the gross chain restaurants and fast food. Bradenton has amazing local restaurants, and even the fine dining is family friendly. A vacation should be a break from the ordinary. You don’t need to eat the same boring food you always have. Make meals part of the adventure. Choose places where you can try new things, and encourage the kids to do the same. One thing we adored about dining during our trip to Bradenton was that we could choose nice restaurants with outdoor seating and this allowed us to enjoy the picturesque settings and would give the kids a little room to be kids. We laughed over every meal and ate until we just couldn’t take another bite. The kids played in the sand at the beach front restaurants.
There was not a place we visited that didn’t please everyone from start to finish. We ate incredibly locally sourced and sustainable meals. We had plenty of healthy options, and we also made sure to splurge a little with some cocktails and fabulous desserts along the way. Looking back on our time in Bradenton, I remember all the meals with the same fondness as I remember the kids squealing with delight as the waves crashed over their little feet, because during every meal we slowed down, sat still, and just had a moment to be in the moment.
For more details on each place we ate at, read The Best Beach Vacation in Bradenton.
Take Lots of Pictures Together
We are photographers. We love the beautiful images captured on our Canons, and Bradenton provided some gorgeous backdrops for us. We all had our cameras (and multiple lenses) with us on this trip and will look back on the photos we captured for the rest of our lives. Photos help you feel close to loved ones far away. When our kids are missing each other, we can show them photos of when they were together. Before our next trip together we can show our kids the photos to get them excited about being reunited with their friends again. Here are some of our favorites!
Together is better. Together is real. While we all treasure our long distance relationships with family and friends, that real together time, that face to face, no screens, no distance time together is the best. If you have loved ones you haven’t seen in a long time, plan a trip together right away! Don’t wait for a holiday. Holidays are so busy and distracting. Plan a getaway like we did. Bradenton was the perfect scene for a vacation that was enriching and entertaining, and our relationships were strengthened at the same time. You will part ways feeling closer with your loved ones than ever before. Time together really shows you what is important and allows you to recommit to staying connected when you are far apart again. Beautiful Bradenton gave us the gift of time together and spoiled us with its beaches, fun, food, and more. Bradenton brought three moms from different states together with their kiddos, and for a few days we got a glimpse at how wonderful together can be, and we are forever grateful for that.
Want to plan your own vacation in the Bradenton area to reconnect with loved ones? Of course you do. Here are all the details on planning The Best Beach Vacation in Bradenton.