If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll know that last week we were on vacation! You can even follow the hashtag #torlonevaca2k16 to see the pictures I posted through out the week. 

I actually had quite a few inquiries about our location & experience that I thought I’d share with you our adventure (and some pictures of course)

Our Florida vacation has been a bi-annual event since before our littlest Munchkin was born.  My Italian Stallion (as my hubby so detests loves to be called) is the youngest in his family. He has 2 older siblings each of whom have spouses and three children. Along with his parents, this makes 17 of us in total.

His dad purchased yearly and every-other-year units at a Hyatt resort back in 2006. It’s called The Coconut Plantation. It hosts a lazy river, tiki huts with comfy hammocks, pools, playgrounds, fitness areas, club house and a private beach.  Those that stay at the Plantation also have access to the Hyatt Regency which can be traveled to via the trolley. There they have waterslides, a rock wall, “cool” pools and are in the process of building an entire water park on the grounds to be opened in November of this year. 

It’s a unique environment because when it was first being built, they developed all the incredible amenities first…with the expectation that the “housing” units would come next...Enter a family of bald eagles who made their nests in the exact area where the condos were to be built.  Therefore, out of the 19 buildings planned to accommodate the resort fun spots, only 3 were constructed, due to animal protection, etc...This means that it is never crowded and the lazy river is truly a relaxing ride. 

My family always looks forward to this sweet "fiesta". I so appreciate it not because of the fun trip to warm weather & awesome amenities, but for my girls to spend time with their cousins & family.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the immeasurable amount of gratefulness I have for the opportunities that are afforded us.  Vacations weren’t the norm for my family growing up…I often wonder what my daughters’ perspective will be about finances, time, etc in the future.  It’s a sacrifice to plan this vacation every other year…with regards to finances & time off of work. Yet, for us, even if it means that we may not be able to spend our moneys in other places throughout the year, it is an investment we are willing to make. We have tried to help our girls see that sacrifice as well, so that they learn to appreciate these amazing opportunities gifted to them.

First let me get some "technical & logistical" information out of the way...

On vacation, noone wants to lug around 5 million lenses and a big ole camera everywhere...at the same time, although the iphone cameras have come a long way, there is a distinct difference between the quality and control in an iphone versus a dSLR camera.  That said, I did bring along my sweet "Missy" (Nikon d800) and I always take my 70-200/2.8 lens with me in these situations because "momma don't like to get wet"! I brought her sister, the 24-70/2.8 this time and I used it mostly for the regular "documentary" type images from the trip...(you'll see below with our birthday surprise and rock wall climbing)  Finally, I HAD to bring along a prime lens (these are my all time favorite). I chose to bring my 50/1.4 so that I had options in low light situations and for family portraits (see the night swim and big family pics).

With regards to "documenting life"...my mindset for vacationing isn't to spend my entire time behind the camera...Therefore, I do "force" the family to come together or "lightly pose" them so that I can get the "gist" of the moment AND be able to enjoy the moment myself as well.  I don't normally like to "stop the activity" for a cheesy grin, but, I will stop it to cram as many people in as I can, take the shot, and then put the camera away for another hour so that we can fully enjoy our together time (with me included) 

As for the logistics: although we hate that "dad" has to be away on business trips frequently, there is a perk to this...it means that he racks up the mileage points for both flying and rental car.  We save these during the time in between trips and therefore our family gets to fly for "free" and receive a "free" rental car as well.  Therefore, our trip typically costs us the amount needed for groceries & eating out along the way.  It's still above the norm, but works to our advantage in the long run.

Now that that is out of the way...onto the FUN stuff...
Here are just some quick shots of our time together...

We arrived on Saturday and spent Sunday morning over at a beach on Sanibel Island...I even had my own personal "sherpa" to carry all our stuff!!!

the kids enjoyed searching for shells and playing in the sand...

The highlight though is continuing our drive in order to reach The Coconut Plantation...and getting settled onto the Lazy River...

A majority of our time is spent here, on the Plantation grounds...there are water balloon activities, swimming, snow cones, HAPPY HOUR, and so much more to enjoy...

However, after a couple days of this, we take a break for some "new adventures"

After taking the trolley up to the "big hyatt", the cousins all like to perform their "jumping feats" into the "cool" pool...This is the point at which my feet start burning on the brick pavement trying to capture every jump, pose and water splash!

 and then the kids all want to see themselves immediately...

We then take the trolley over to the docking marina and hop on a pontoon boat that takes us to a private beach area...here the fishing, sand castle making and relaxing reading takes place under the umbrellas & bright sunshine...

While at the Big Hyatt the kids also enjoy the rock wall...please disregard my "gru-ish" laugh...we were ECSTATIC that she finally made it to the top of that thing!!!

My MIL's "half birthday" was also celebrated this trip...we were able to surprise her during one of our shared dinners during the week...
 The night swim is another tradition...we bring glow sticks for all the kids to wear while the adults cover in towels to avoid the noseeum bugs...

One last tradition is the firepit with smores...Nana typically reserves one of the area firepits and we congregate around eating more sugar! 

This year, since the entire family is rarely all together anymore, I became that "annoying aunt" that forced everyone to take pictures!  

Yes it was hot.
Yes, I was a sweaty mess.
Yes, the bugs ate us.

but, WE GOT A PICTURE (or 2)!

 That's our vacation in a nutshell...I took over 1000 images, so these are just a few "documentary" ones to give you the "gist"... 

Please be sure to stop over to Instagram and Facebook to see more pictures soon! 

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