Spring Break Tampa or Bust

In true Hampton last minute fashion, I decided last week that maybe we’d take a little road trip for spring break. It is smart and responsible to book Florida spring break trips only a week before they occur, and I am smart and responsible. Using completely random specifications for our location of choice–“Places that Rhyme with Grandpa”–I ended up finding hotel availability in Tampa which, thankfully for us, turns out to be a really fun place to visit. It’s a big enough city to feel very different from where we live. “Is this New York?” Lainey asked. “No, New York is a lot bigger than this. This is Tampa,” I explained. “I’m going to call it New York Tampa,” she decided.

Heidi and her kids joined us (husbands stayed home to work) for a 2-day, full-speed adventure that we’ll remember for a long time. Knowing we’d only be gone for two days, we decided we’d fill it to the brim, leaving early Tuesday morning and coming home late last night. My van smells like ketchup and my kids smell like sunscreen because we skipped baths last night and slipped right from car seats to bed sheets, but we are full and happy and thankful.

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Adorable fun and easy-to-play car scavenger hunt 

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My Spontaneous Kid Trip Saviors:

* Packing Light. I’m an overpacker by nature, but I’m slowly learning how easy trips go when you pack only what you need. I wanted to be able to slip in and out of the hotel with all three of my kids without a hotel luggage rack or six trips to the car, so I brought only one small suitcase for all of us.
* Backpack. We’ve been using a backpack for everything these days–traveling, day trips, beach excursions, etc. I put everything we need for the day in a backpack, skip bringing a purse and clip it to my stroller with a Mommy Hook.
* Double Stroller. Nella and Dash both nap in it when we’re out and about, and it works great for hauling stuff in and out of places. We didn’t get one until last summer (for Michigan road trip), and now I can’t imagine not having one when traveling.
* Hotel Baby Crib. Skip lugging your own Pack ‘n Play around and call ahead to the hotel to have a baby crib set up in your room–saves so much work.
* Spontaneity and a Go-with-the-Flow Travel Mate. If you’re laid back and messy and you’re taking a road trip with a Type A planner, you better sign a friendship contract and have it notarized. Road trips with Heidi have always been a breeze because we share the same travel philosophy and are in it to have fun and make memories.

We are also sentimental, and as our kids get older, these trips become more special. So many times this week, in the midst of both the chaos and the sweet moments of travel calm, we said to each other, “This is it, man. We’re in it. Living the dream. We’re going to look back on this and miss it.”

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After all our exploration–the aquarium, the downtown roaming, the skipped naps, the pool party, the late night hotel dance fest, the pizza, the giggling, the aching calves from pushing heavy strollers, the museum, the park, the never-ending quest for adventure–we finally made our last stop last night at an ice cream shop in Ybor City before making the drive home. We finished our ice cream and then wandered a bit outside, hesitant to end our trip. We walked along railroad tracks, following a flock of lost chickens and finally reconvened in a parking lot where we made the kids huddle for a made-up thrown-together cheer where we all put our fists in the middle and jumped up with some ridiculous “Spring Break Tampa, WHOO!” chant that the kids mumbled through while Heidi and I gave our embarrassingly enthusiastic all. Moms be crazy. We’ll do the same thing at fifth grade spelling bees and middle school sleepovers, high school homecoming games and college Meet the Parents weekends, hiding it from the kids but never failing to play it out in our heads. We’ll be proud and forever thankful for the adventures we shared, the road trips we endured, the short time we had with them before they flew out of the nest to explore more of the world without us.

I watched the video below this morning and smiled at a line I hadn’t noticed, fitting for this sweet adventure we call raising kids: “We’ll hate what we’ve lost but we’ll love what we find.”

A little video of our road trip adventure:

ETST on Vimeo, Song: Featherstone by The Paper Kites

Thank you all who gave Tampa recommendations on Instagram. We definitely want to return to explore more, but loved the following:

Florida Aquarium: The kids loved it so much, they’re already asking to return. Bring the kids’ bathing suits as when you’re finished with the exhibits, there’s a fantastic outside water play area. 

Glazer Children’s Museum: We spent hours here, and it’s great for all ages. The little ones found plenty of age appropriate things to play with, and the bigger kids had a blast as well–flying planes, exploring weather and their favorite–an hour in the theater creating their own plays with sound effects, lights and costumes. Bring bathing suits again as there are fountains for play in front.

Curtis Hixon Park: Riverfront park directly in front of the children’s museum. There’s a huge grassy area for the kids to run around. There were two additional museums here that we wanted to explore but didn’t have time

Tampa Pizza Company: The best thin crust pizza ever and staff that were so kind and patient with the kids. Right downtown, walking distance from museums

The Sheraton Riverwalk: Loved the location–tucked right downtown so the kids got the city feel. Walking distance to park, children’s museum, restaurants. Riverside view, great pool.

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Leave a Comment
  1. Glad you enjoyed your time in Tampa and I’m glad the weather warmed up for you. We live in north Tampa and really love the city. So much fun for kids!

  2. I feel that its great when plans come out all of a sudden and you decide to go with them, those turn out to be the best trips!

    Im glad you had fun!


  3. So glad you had fun! I grew up in st Pete, and remember when the aquarium opened; and how much we loved it. And, is your yellow swimsuit a popina one? Cute!!

  4. I want to go on vacation with you and Heidi!!!! It looks like you all had a blast!

  5. Beautiful, as always. Where did Lainey’s “Don’t Believe Me” t-shirt come from? This is a must have for all girls everywhere!! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Two Moms, six kids, jumping on beds, running through fountains, ice cream & pizza, a pool, aquarium & children’s museum…love you two! You’re awesome & fun!!!

  7. This looks like solo much fun! Carpe diem!

  8. Thanks for being my FL tour guide. We have to fly into Tampa because rates are too high.

  9. There is no such thing as too much time with girlfriends and their children and yours. Do it as much as possible. They will never forget it.

  10. Grew up in Tampa and love visiting. If you go back, Lowry Park is worth a visit if it’s not too hot out. And we used to love the Museum of Science and Industry when we were kids, although I hear it’s pretty busy during holidays and weekends, so beware. For food…check out Aguila Sandwich Shop for The.Best.Cuban. sandwich you will ever have in your life. Seriously.

  11. I’m going to need one of those boring posts on how to pack everyone’s things into one small suitcase! I’m traveling with my 7 month old in a few weeks by plane and am terrifed of my overpacking nature!

  12. @Unknown Yes, Jantzen…from Popina.

  13. @cwhittingham,
    Lainey’s shirt is from Passive Juice Motel ( Love their positive message tees and unique designs. :o)

  14. @Megan Landmeier

    Take a day and enjoy that city! It’s worth it!!

  15. I love that sheer curtains in a hotel window are just as awesome for kids as a museum or aquarium!

  16. Love the song you used in the video. Such a fun way to capture the memories! The final moment is hilarious… Dash and Nella trying to escape the crib!

  17. How wonderful! I loved watching your little video, sweet Lainey singing in her stage show! Thank you for sharing.

  18. this looks like such a blast!
    Loved watching the video and would love to know how you compiled it and planned for it (ie: is this a congomeration of iphone videos and pics). Thanks so much for sharing!

  19. wow… I so love all your posts! but this one… when you say ¨do you realize we are leaving the dream?!?!¨you got me there… you are truly awesome! oh, and your friend is the coolest too!

  20. Thanks for this! I live near Orlando and could use a ncie trip to Tampa… we usually go to Clearwater for some fun in the sun.

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