Little waves hit the sand. In the water, sting rays threatened but not so much we stayed out of the ocean.
I would sit on the beach, wet sand slipping through my fingers to make a drip castle, then dig the requisite moat around it and see if it would hold against the encroaching water.
These were the vacations of my childhood. Beach time was usually followed by pool time at the 55-and-older condominium in St. Petersburg, Florida, where my grandparents lived. And at least occasionally our crew of four noisy kids got fussed at by the older folks who had retired there for peace and quiet.
I don’t remember a lot of whining on vacation except the time my dad took us on a bike ride to Clearwater that, at least in my memory, was 40 miles long.
But I’m sure we did whine about other things. And fight. And generally have no idea how lucky we were to go to the beach every year.
I don’t know how relaxing those trips may or may not have been for my parents, but I know vacationing with kids is a very different experience from vacationing without them. Both types of trips are worthwhile.
We haven’t taken too many trips since COVID, and none on an airplane. Beach vacations with my extended family are nice, but I miss the new experiences travel can bring. Just before the pandemic hit, we were set to go to the Grand Canyon — plane tickets purchased, Airbnb reservations made — then we were forced to cancel everything.
Our boys were most disappointed about not riding on an airplane.
We pulled out the suitcases anyway and set up a faux airport at the house. Check your bags here, please, then head to the plane train that takes you to the concourse, otherwise known as the front porch. Take your seat by the window, ready for liftoff, make vroom sound and shake chairs for turbulence.
This spring break, we finally took our first real family vacation — destination Miami.
We packed our suitcases, got a ride to the airport and quickly got a lesson in managing expectations.
There’s a lot to take in at the airport between all the cars and people and the station to check your bags and the escalator down to the plane train and the windows overlooking where the planes park at the gates. It can be exhausting.
Then there’s the waiting game. The grown-ups know flights can get delayed, and that’s not much fun. The kids — worn out from their day thus far — thought a flight delay of an hour and a half was the worst thing in the world. I mean, the worst day ever. Worst.
Meanwhile, as we waited for our flight, the gate was packed with more than 100 folks on standby because flights across Florida had been canceled earlier in the day. And our flight was already overbooked. We weren’t the ones having the worst day ever.
That wasn’t the last time those words were uttered, though. We’re going to go see alligators instead of the beach? Worst day ever. We’re going to explore the design district on foot? Worst day ever.
Once they actually got to the Everglades and the unique shopping areas, fun was had. Looking back on the vacation, I think they’ll remember the best times and certainly not think it was the worst vacation ever.
We saw alligators swimming and smaller lizards everywhere, so much public art from colorful graffiti murals to sophisticated sculptures, fancy cars like Lamborghinis and homeless sleeping on sidewalks, and beaches lined with palm trees or overlooked by a historic lighthouse.
I love travel for the way it can broaden your perspective. Miami is such a diverse place with its people, its plants and wildlife, the things to do there and the foods to enjoy.
We learned to manage expectations, laying out plans for the day with our kids and helping them understand that plan B can be fun, too.
By our last day, having caught up on sleep and perhaps better understanding what to expect each day, the boys actually enjoyed climbing more than 100 stairs up a lighthouse to look over Key Biscayne. And that evening we walked around the Wynwood neighborhood, known for its street art, and just enjoyed the sights and tastes of Miami and one another’s company.
We learned about ourselves and the world — and I’m grateful for the opportunities to travel once again.
Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.