If you follow the Mom With A Map website closely or keep up with us on social media, you may have noticed we have been M.I.A. for the last few weeks. Yep, even people who travel for a living take a summer vacation!

Here’s the short version recap of our beach trips:

  • 17 Nights away from home
  • Roughly 1,720 miles driven
  • 2 different beaches, 2 different states
  • 1 baseball game, 2 National Parks, 1 major bucket list item NOT crossed off
  • 10 cousins (23 people total) in one house during Trip #1
  • 13 families served on our mission trip during Trip #2
  • 11 inches of hair donated in the middle of it all
  • 9 loads of laundry- and counting- that I’ve done since returning

For those interested in the longer version of our travel, here goes…

We left home on the afternoon of the 4th of July. That may seem like an odd day to travel, but I will highly recommend it for several reasons. First, since most people had to work on Friday it seemed like a lot of the celebrations took place the night of the 3rd. So we didn’t miss anything. Secondly, the roads were empty. And finally, for the last 3 hours of our drive we got to enjoy fireworks going off in all directions.

On Friday night we attended the Tampa Bay Rays Baseball game. Somewhat recently we’ve made it our goal to go to as many MLB stadiums as we can throughout our travels. This marks 10 for Miller, 11 for Mary Grace and myself, and Brent is sitting at 12.

While this wasn’t the nicest or the most famous stadium we’ve visited, it might be my kids favorite. They LOVED the Rays touch pool in the outfield. We could have easily spent most of the night out there!

Another unique dimension to the evening was the opponent- the Yankees. I was shocked to see way more Yankees fans in attendance than Rays fans! I’m ashamed to admit, Miller was one of them. Because of a few friends, he’s jumped on the Aaron Judge bandwagon. Hopefully it will be a short-lived obsession.

On Saturday we moved from Tampa to Anna Maria Island (AMI) with a quick in route stop at DeSoto National Memorial.

I really need to do a whole post dedicated to AMI. This was the 3rd time our family vacationed there, and we enjoy the area more and more each time we go.

I’ll refer to this as Trip #1 and it was all about family. We shared a house with 23 of Brent’s sisters, cousins and their families. The week was all about quality time and soaking up as much sun as possible.

At the beginning of the week we experienced some crazy weather as Tropical Storm Barry began to organize. One night lightning struck just outside our house (we later found out from the cable company because they had to run a new line!) Thankfully for us, Barry eventually rolled out and we ended up with pretty nice weather for the last 3 days.

A week after we’d arrived on AMI it was time to pack up and move to location #2, The Outer Banks (OBX).

Trip #2 was a mission trip through Lighthouse Family Retreat. I’ve shared a bit about this organization with my email subscriber list and social media followers. But basically this organization serves families living with childhood cancer.

We had to complete quite a bit of training prior to arriving in the OBX. One of our last trainings addressed some of the symptoms the treatment children on our retreat may be experiencing. Mary Grace promptly reminded me that she wanted to donate her hair prior to arriving for this trip.

Let me just say for anyone wondering…on a Saturday afternoon driving through rural backroads between Florida and North Carolina it’s about impossible to find a place to get a haircut!

Always up for an adventure, and proud to support her beautiful heart- we made it happen! But it wasn’t without a little craziness!

(Look for a post coming soon on that whole fiasco!)

Our time serving with Lighthouse was incredible!

A friend of mine that served alongside our family this week summed it up far better than I ever could:

“Once you “Lighthouse” you are never the same. You serve with everything you have, you give till there is nothing left, you are tired, hot and beyond exhausted. You love with every bit of your being and the result is complete strangers become some of your closest family.

This year people came hopeless, broken, hurt, scared and angry. Childhood cancer sucks! What it does to these sweet precious ones and their families is unimaginable. What they have been through, no one should have to go through.

But….hopefully through one week at the beach with their family they were able to breathe a little deeper, smile for a moment, maybe even laugh and experience hope!”

Our schedule for the week was jam packed. In fact, during the week we stayed in OBX, I spent a grand total of 3 hours actually on the beach. There were a few things in the area we were hoping to explore so after saying “see you later” to all of our new friends, we headed in the opposite direction of home.

It’s normal that after 17 days on the road our family still looks for more adventures, right?

The first stop of the day was at the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium. They are kind enough to provide everyone from Lighthouse free admission with our badges. We honestly went not expecting too much. However, this aquarium impressed the heck out of us! We highly recommend it to anyone traveling in the area.

Next, we headed to Beaufort visit the Cape Lookout National Seashore Visitors Center. As always, we love collecting stamps in our Passport To Your National Parks book. If you are new here, read this post to learn more. We are obsessed!

At that point we realized a major fail in our travel planning (or lack of planning) for the day.

Originally, we were going to catch a ferry out to one of the barrier islands to see the wild horses. I think this is something on a lot of people’s bucket lists and after seeing a friend’s pictures from the day before, I HAD to do it. (You know I get major picture FOMO!)

But I didn’t really think any of this through- as was pointed out to me by A LOT of well-meaning people. Apparently when it’s over 100 degrees, you shouldn’t just pop over to a deserted island for a couple hours. Our car was packed Tetris-style so we didn’t have access to bathing suits, towels, sunscreen, etc.

We ended up getting sold on a boat tour instead. I *thought* we were going to see wild horses and dolphins, but evidently I didn’t read the fine print close enough. Per our captain’s narrative, the dolphins are NEVER in that area during that time of day. And the horses are NEVER down by the water in that kind of heat.

Major bucket list fail.

Instead we had a nice little historic boat tour of Beaufort. And by “historic” I mean the captain shared who owned the biggest yachts. And which celebrities regularly visit the area. Not quite what I paid for, but it was really nice to be out on the water!

Beaufort charmed us and we will absolutely make a point to come back. Hopefully next time the wild horses will cooperate with my schedule!

We arrived home in a bit of denial that our wonderful summer vacation days were behind us. And it’s taking us a couple days to re-enter life! I’m beyond grateful for the time away- the opportunity for us to all unplug from work and the business of home. But we’re back…and I have a lot of exciting stuff to share on Mom With A Map over the next month!

Including…a big announcement coming soon!

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Has your family taken a summer vacation yet? If so, where did you go? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

You may also enjoy reading:

Las Vegas With Kids: All The Things You Want To Know

There’s More To Waco Texas Than Just Magnolia Market

Travel Journal: My New Favorite State

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