Last week I decided to take a break from the books and instead book a plane ticket. It had seemed like months since I’d last spent some quality time with my family (which, it sorta had been!) which was why every part of me was telling me that it was OK to skip a week of school and head to the sunshine state – so I did.
We kicked off our vacation as the Caulfield’s do best… finding possibly the ugliest rental car there is. While four years back we thought our orange mini van was bad, 2017 did not disappoint as this time around we were lucky enough to score a monster 18-passenger vehicle … all aboard! (But seriously, you should have seen the look on my sisters face, it was priceless. Ecstatic? Not exactly.)
Our resort on the other hand, was perfect for out family. Using our timeshare through RCI, we booked a week at the Vacation Villa’s at Parkway. For a last minute booking, this place wasn’t bad. The rooms were nicely done and spacious, kitchen was updated, and both rooms were attached and had their own balconies. The downside, however, was compared to other resorts I’ve stayed at in Orlando/Kissimmee, this resort fell rather short in the amentities. For how big the resort was (20+ buildings with hundreds of units) there were only 6 small pools scattered about the property and one tiny fitness room with four treadmills, one elliptical, and a bike. Not quite satisfactory for a family who likes to stay fit, but we made do with what we could!
Day one was spent lounging by the pool and relaxing. It felt great to take a break from my studies and de-stress before I returned to finals. My brothers, however, bored and curious, decided to get themselves in a bit of trouble back up in the room which is where the “grape” story comes into play. I’ll leave that story for them to tell.
Each morning I got up early enough to beat the heat and go for a run around the resort and surrounding areas. One thing I do like about the touristy Kissimmee area is the wide bike/walking path that traces the Bronson Memorial Highway that goes along all of the resorts. Getting up and running is my favorite way to kick off the day, especially in the perfectly warm temps.
While being at the resort was fun and all, my favorite days of the trip were spent at Clearwater Beach. Being that Orlando is landlocked, we had to drive about 2 hours to reach the white sandy beaches of Clearwater, but let me tell you, it is worth it. These beautiful beaches extend for miles along the coastline, outlining the Gulf of Mexico’s stunning blue water and just a short walk back onto the streets you can find several fun shops and restaurants including Ron Jon’s Surf Shop. Parsailing, jet skis, banana boat rides, and perhaps a visit to see Winter – the famous Dolphin from the movie Dolphin Tale at the Clearwater Marine Hospital – as you can see, Clearwater is full of fun.
For those seeking to sneak a little shopping in (much like myself!) Orlando has several great options when it comes to shopping, especially when we’re talking outdoor outlets. Two of my favorite shopping destinations are the Orlando Premium Outlets on International Drive as well as Vineland Premium Outlets, although I prefer the location on International Drive as it has a HUGE Victoria’s Secret outlet store where you can score any and all of your favorite buys for less than $30 a piece (Plus, you can still buy their awesome swim – line here too!). Along with VS, the outlets have many other common brand name steals like Kate Spade, Micheal Kohrs, Steve Madden, and Nike (where I found the cutest pink tennie’s that I nearly refuse to take off!)
All in all, it was a fabulous trip full of gorgeous weather, family bonding and lots and lots of sunshine! For now, it’s back to reality until the vacation countdown begins once again, but this time… for Europe!