This time last week we were landing in sunny Fort Meyers, en route to Sanibel Island. My parents had decided to take a little get-away, and when I realized I could get things covered at the studio I completely invited myself – and my two kids – right along. Someone once told me that “vacation with kids is not vacation, it’s a change of scenery.” And while last week certainly was exhausting (cue the sleep regression and teething all in one fell swoop), experiencing a change of scenery in the form of 82 degrees, palm trees, and beaches with my little people and my parents sure was special.
Sanibel Island offers a decent amount of things to do if you’re on vacation (or simply going for that change of scenery) with your young children. I hope that the below points will serve as useful information if you find yourself on this beautiful island.
1. FLYING: YOU CAN’T GO WRONG WITH PRESENTS
This point can serve for any vacation where airplane travel is involved. I am not one for spoiling my kids, but presents on the airplane was pure genius. What constitutes as a present? Well, one item my son got to unwrap was a small box of raisins. Yup, just as he was getting fussy and disruptive, my mom turned to him and said, “do you want a present?” He sat so quickly in his seat and carefully, slowly, meticulously pulled away the many layers of tissues paper to find his very own box of raisins. Then, he ate them one by one. The whole process took an entire 30 minutes. Not bad. I have to give full credit to my mom on this one, for she knew to come prepared with these little gifts the moment things got dicey. A small board book about airplanes, another book about sea creatures, and a few additional wrapped-up snacks kept my toddler happy and occupied for the entire flight. Who knows what the parenting experts would say about this but no one is worse of for the wear, and we (by ‘we’ I mean my family and our fellow passengers) had a peaceful flight down to Florida.
2. BIKE RIDING
From what I saw, two companies on Sanibel Island rent bikes: Finnemore’s and Billy’s Rentals. We rented from Finnemore’s, and they dropped the bikes off at our condo along with helmets and a lock. They picked the bikes up on our last day as well which was hugely helpful. We got a toddler seat for my son which turned out to be a highlight of the trip. I’d never ridden with him, and going for a bike ride with my boy was the best way to spend time together! We also got “trailer” for my daughter who is 7 months old. They told us at Finnemore’s that we’d be able to fit her car seat in the trailer, but when the bikes arrived it was clear that the trailer was not designed for the car seat use. Because I got nervous about safety, we ended up not bringing her on any rides. I don’t think there were any options for riding with a baby much younger than one; however, if you have toddlers and up, bike around Sanibel Island! Bike lanes and wide sidewalks run through the island, and it was a wonderful way to explore.
3. J.N. “DING” DARLING NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
You know when you take a nature walk and you read that you might see certain animals? Well, here you will. What do you want to see most when you go to Florida? An alligator of course. And we saw one, living in its natural habitat. Something about seeing that alligator made me realize how unique this refuge is; it’s not everyday that we see a creatures like this just swimming along! This refuge has a great trail for walking as well as an area for cars and bikes with informative volunteers along the way. We all loved this place, and even spent a significant amount of time in the incredible museum. Check out their website here and don’t forget to double check the hours and admission. Whether you’re with young children or senior citizens or both, everyone will enjoy this outing.
4. COVERED PLAYGROUND
You know that time before dinner but after the nap? That’s a challenging time in our household. Fortunately, we found this awesome covered playground, right on Periwinkle Way which is a pretty accessible road on the island. To be honest, I was nervous to take the kids outside in the afternoon heat, but much to my surprise, the covered structures that shaded the playground really did keep the heat out. We spent a solid hour swinging, sliding, and climbing, all without overheating. Had we stayed a few more days, I know we would have been back to this playground again.
5. EARLY MORNING SWEATING
While vacation with kids might really just be a change of scenery, try to sneak away for some alone time to recharge. I found that early mornings worked the best, before the day got too hot and while the kids were rested and happy. Take advantage of the bike paths for a walk or a run, or enjoy the white, sandy beaches and breathe in the ocean air. Recharging alone, even for just 30 minutes, gave me that vacation feeling.
I felt nervous and unsure whether Sanibel Island would be a fun place to travel with young children, but after spending five days on that special little island, I can’t recommend it enough!