It was raining when we woke up, so we had some quick decisions to make. We considered going to Key West, but decided against it based on the weather and our friends' advice. We really wanted to do an airboat tour, so I did some research and the tour that interested me most was on the other side of Florida, in Everglades City. We originally planned to do some hiking in the morning and then drive to the airboat tour, but because it was almost 2 hours away, we booked the airboat tour for the next day and crossed our fingers that the weather would cooperate.
We struggled with our plans to hike in the Everglades. It was pouring rain and truth be told, our kids aren't really very hardy. Also, I somehow managed to not pack their rain jackets but we decided to go so we made a quick run to Wal-Mart for Benadryl (I started getting hives for some reason), water shoes and ponchos.
A Little Rain Never Hurt Anybody
With ponchos in hand, we drove to the North Eastern entrance of the Everglades where, after scouring the Internet, we decided to start with the Anhinga Trail. It was raining pretty hard when we got there, so we got our money's worth out of our ponchos while we walked the half-mile loop and saw SEVEN alligators! Our kids were pretty stoked to see each and every one of them... so much so that they named each one. First was Joe, then Fred, Bob, Frank, Willy, Mary, and the last one got named Awesome Baby.
When we finished the trail, my good friend Google helped us cherry pick our next trail, the Pinecrest Trail. We saw so many amazing little snails! You might think snails are not all that interesting, but these snails were different. They had the most beautiful and unusual white, brown, and black shells that literally looked like they were hand painted. The rain had mostly stopped by the time we were halfway through the trail, but that meant that the mosquitoes came out in full force.
Josh usually gets the brunt of the mosquito bites, but this time, they seemed pretty keen on Lia. I couldn't stop myself from laughing because every 2-3 minutes, she would start flailing her arms and legs, screaming at the top of her lungs. Mind you, she was wearing her giant poncho at the time so she looked hilarious. I do think she enjoyed the snails, but she was pretty mad about those mosquitos!
After our second hike, we loaded in the car and kept driving the 38-mile road through the park toward Flamingo. The Everglades are interesting... because so much of the park is water, there are a lot of areas that are only accessible by boat. Because of this, once you reach Flamingo, you have to turn around and go all the way back because there's no other way out.
About the time we were halfway to Flamingo, I realized we made a critical error. We assumed there would be somewhere to get lunch... and there was not. It was about this time when everyone in the car was whining about being hungry so we booked it down to Flamingo where we thought we would find a visitor’s center and restaurant. Turns out, however, they were both closed.
We laughed a little (you know, the kind of high pitched laugh that means you're trying to stay calm?) and headed into a little convenience store where we pieced together the most ridiculous lunch of Gatorade, Lunchables and microwave macaroni & cheese. It's a good thing we're flexible! (At least, that's what I kept telling the kids when they gave me sideways glances while eating their "lunch").
Now, I will admit that I didn't do my research about the Everglades ahead of time. (That's pretty obvious by now though, isn't it??) So you can imagine how freaking happy I was to find out that you can rent canoes and kayaks in Flamingo to do a self-guided boat tour through the Everglades!
Out of the Blue Canoe
We got ourselves a canoe, which Max was pretty nervous about. I kept telling him they wouldn't let us canoe if it were dangerous, but the canoe guy didn't help by saying (quite loudly) that that wasn't true. We got some life jackets, put on our sunscreen and paddled down the "back country" as they say in the Everglades, searching for signs of crocodiles.
We learned that crocodiles live on one side of the dam and alligators live on the other, and while we never saw any crocodiles on our two hour ride, we had a really great time. We consider this a “win” given that we are not the best canoe-ers. It is really hard to get three kids to sit directly in the middle of a canoe and not lean to one side, but I think the idea that crocodiles might be in the water kept them somewhat centered in the boat.
When we finished our canoe trip, we loaded into the car and booked it out of the Everglades. We decided to head to Naples where we figured we could spend the morning at the airboat tour and squeeze in some time at the beach. The weather in the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area was looking pretty terrible and we had our hearts set on getting in another beach day during our trip.
I booked another hotel on Priceline and this time we had a great experience (thank goodness!). As soon as we got checked in, the kids got their second wind and were playing some game they made up called “Momo the Shark”. We let them play for ten minutes or so and then scooted them all off to bed.
An Unfortunate Discovery
Josh had been feeling somewhat sick all day and by late evening, I could tell he had a fever. We got news from home that day that Max & Ava cultured strep at their last doctor's appointment and it was pretty obvious that Josh had strep throat, too. Urgent care isn't open that late in Naples and I was not about to sit at the ER with three tired kids so I made a call home to our doctor and got an antibiotic for Josh. He went to bed as soon as he took his first dose.
I soon found out that my hives had turned into a rash thanks to... you guessed it, strep. Oh you guys, traveling with sick people is not fun. I was so thankful that Max & Ava were not actually sick at all and I had just finished antibiotics for a sinus infection, so all I got of the strep was the rash.
When thinking about travel, we have expectations that the whole trip is going to be great fun and nothing will go wrong. Sometimes we're lucky, but sometimes the worst happens. And more. And it's ridiculous. We managed to scrape together one amazing day even though it rained, Josh had strep throat, I forgot to pack a lunch and Lia was grumpy. (Every time we were in the car, Lia managed to get mad at Max for something like looking out "her" window or breathing too loudly.)
When we retell these stories, we'll laugh about the hectic trip out, hiking in the rain and needing to get ahold of emergency antibiotics. Because the memories we made more than make up for the craziness!!
Total - $2500
Airfare - $1380
Car rental - $160
Food - $185
Hotel - $245
Beach toys - $15
Ponchos & water shoes- $30
Everglades Pass - $10
Canoe rental - $20
Antibiotics & Benadryl- $10
Remaining funds - $445