Secret Vacation

Without a doubt, coaching football this past year was a great opportunity. But for at least three months, it was time-consuming. Practices, meetings, games, etc, took up a significant part of my week, meaning that I had dinner with my family maybe once or twice per week.

But at the end of the season, I knew that our family needed time together, to re-connect. And I also knew that I would be getting my coaching stipend as a lump sum at the end of the year. I decided that we would use part of the stipend for a family vacation, because sometimes you just need to Make the Vacation Happen.

And the trip was very affordable due to some deals and discounts we had:
  • The hotel was a 50% off bargain found on Groupon (and a $50 credit that we had)
  • For LEGOLAND, we had BOGO coupons from our free Lego magazine subscription
  • And from a credit card that I signed up for last year, we had $235 to go towards our Disney World tickets
Even more, this trip would be the vast bulk of their Christmas presents. Creating memorable experiences lasts longer than than any toys we could get them. 

The Big Secret

While Joanna and I planned the end-of-year vacation, we wanted to make it a surprise for the kids. We told each of our kids a part of this trip, and made them think that was the entire surprise, and that they had to keep the secret from their siblings. Honestly, I think this was completely for my enjoyment.

In late November, we had them reveal their secret:

The Arrival

On Sunday, December 9, we left home towards Orlando (making a stop to worship with friends at Community Bible Church - Savannah). As is customary for our family, our trip down I-95 includes a stop at the Florida Welcome Center for fresh juice and tourist brochures (everybody gets a map!).

To our kids' pleasure, we were given a room on the 7th floor, and to their double-pleasure we had a kids' suite room that included a bunk bed. They took turns sleeping on the top bunk, bottom bunk, and roll-away. And the Holiday Inn was the fanciest hotel they've ever stayed in. Nothing but the best,Clark.


We timed the vacation so that we would be in LEGOLAND on Elijah's 9th birthday (Monday). We were there from park opening (10 AM) to closing (5 PM), and had a great time. Elijah named it the best birthday he's ever had.

We loved the rides, the shows, and the incredible MiniLand creations. Here's Elijah and I on the Project X roller coaster:

Here's Sender (and Elijah) on the Driving School course:

And here are some other pictures of the fun:

In front of a GIANT Lego dinosaur

Star Wars in Mini Land

Mini Land was incredible!

Read for Driving School

Pirate Show in the bay

Ahoy, matey!

The White House (notice Santa and the Reindeer being arrested by Secret Service)

Magic Kingdom
Though not the main reason, one huge benefit of homeschooling is the flexibility we have with vacations. For example, the day we were at Disney World was projected to be one of the lowest crowd days of the year. Couple that with the threat of rain (though it rained only briefly late in the afternoon) meant that we had virtually no wait times on the rides.

I think our longest wait was about 8-10 minutes, and for most rides it was a matter of a couple of minutes. From 9 AM - 7 PM, we did 22 different attractions / rides, with most of them multiple times. Three rides on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, 2 times on Splash Mountain, twice on Space Mountain, etc.

Though it was our 13th anniversary, Joanna and I did not wear the anniversary buttons. However, we did let Sender get a birthday button. After all, both Hannah (5th at Magic Kingdom) and Elijah (9th at LEGOLAND) have had birthdays at parks, but we will never go to Disney on December 23.

Some photos of our fun:
Start to the day

First Ride = Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Before the big drop on Splash Mountain

No King Arthur in our family

Pool and Downtown Disney
After two full days at theme parks, we all slept past 8AM on Wednesday. After a good hotel brunch (kids eat free!), the three kids spent some time in the pool. What a nice December weekday morning!

Then, we headed to Downtown Disney. With tired legs, they were not too excited about walking around, especially without the anticipation of more rides. But they did enjoy the toy stores, especially when we told them that they could pick out a souvenir. They all got something from the Lego store.

So after all that, we came all this way for Lego? Well, at least their new toys kept them completely entertained on the trip home on Thursday.

We had such a great time together as a family.We ate, we rested, we smiled, we laughed. So thankful that we had this opportunity! And despite our great time, it is always nice to come back home.

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  1. Joey - this was awesome! We're excited for you guys to be able to share a wonderful blessing like that. Thanks for sharing. You guys have a wonderful Christmas! Maybe we'll see you while you're in Greenville.

    1. Thanks, Jimmy. I really was a blessing. And I hope to see y'all, too. Maybe on Sunday?

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, too.