Another spring break has come and gone.

We spent the week on Anna Maria Island, Florida, just outside of Tampa. Although we planned our trip independently, it turns out AMI and the surrounding communities are one of the most popular destinations for families from Indy area Catholic schools. Our girls were very excited to learn how many of their friends would be staying nearby. Easy access to folks we know changed the entire week for us.

Our first two days the weather was subpar. Each day it was cloudy and breezy. Sunday it was rather cool – in the low 60s – so we only spent a couple hours shivering on the beach. Monday was a little warmer, but still very cloudy. As you might expect, the clouds gave us pale Midwesterners a false sense of security, and there were a lot of nasty sunburns early in the week.

The other downside to these first two days was that we could not crank up the heater on our pool, which was locked at 82. We are big wusses and keep the heater on our pool cranked between 90–95 until it truly gets hot in June. Eighty-two degree water plus clouds plus breeze meant we couldn’t really hang in our pool, either.

Fortunately on Tuesday the sun finally came out and we spent a ton of time on the beach the remainder of the week. Wednesday it was crazy windy, almost too windy to be on the beach as we were constantly scoured by blowing sand. Having already lost two days of sun, we stuck it out and accepted that every sip of beer would be a bit gritty.

C hung with three of her closest friends all week, one of whom had a birthday on Friday. That got kind of crazy, as the birthday girl talked her parents into taking the group to two different dinners and parasailing on Thursday. Another mom in that group also booked a henna artist so the girls could all get designs done. We barely saw C for most of the week other than to give her money as she set off with her pals.

M had some friends who were staying about 10 minutes south. She spent every day with them.

L had two different groups of friends that she bounced between, although she spent more time with the boy group. I guess she was more interested in going to the candy store once a day to buy sweets and baseball cards, digging huge holes on the beach, and trying to capture lizards than whatever the girls were up to.

That meant S and I pretty much had the days to ourselves. We hooked up with one group of St P’s parents and spent most of our beach days with them. I knew several of the families pretty well, a couple others very casually, and two more I could nod to and say hello but didn’t really know at all. It was fun to get to know some people I knew well even better, and to expand those rather casual friendships.

There were at least four other groups of St P’s parents scattered up and down the beach. I didn’t do a lot of mingling, mostly because they were all 10–15 years younger than me. A couple of the moms coached for me, so I did make sure to check in with them.

Getting around the island is pretty easy. We rented both a car and a golf cart, generally using the car only to get M down to her friends and for grocery runs (and for the round-trip to the airport). The rest of the time we ran the golf cart all over the place. Highly recommended if that is ever an option on your travels. AMI is ideal for using a cart rather than car. Our house came with bikes that the girls used daily as well.

M was sad that you have to be 25 to drive a golf cart. Since we were on a side street we let all three girls have turns buzzing up and down it in the evenings when there was no traffic. They took to calling it our “whip,” which I thought was hilarious. L did pretty good, going a little too fast but generally keeping it under control. C was kind of a mess, which does not bode well for her beginning the drivers ed process this summer.

All week were were comparing/contrasting our surroundings with Captiva Island, where we have stayed three times. There are certainly a lot more people on AMI and many more things to do. The big negative is that evening meals are kind of a disaster. If you don’t get your name on a list before 5:30, you will be waiting at least two hours for a table. And because there is a strict 10:00 PM noise ordinance, a lot of restaurants stop serving around 9:00.

We got carry out our first three nights without issue. But the next couple nights we had to make last minute scrambles when every place we called to put an order in was so busy that they weren’t answering their phones. We ended up making dinner at home one night and just eating leftovers from other meals two other nights to avoid the hassle. It’s hard enough to wait two hours for a meal when you’re sunburned and tired. Throw in Covid and a lot of folks not being super observant of mask rules and the last thing you want to do is sit with hungry kids and have a few drinks hoping a table opens up for you.

So our only real meal out was lunch Friday at The Ugly Grouper, which everyone told us we hd to go to. We had a fantastic lunch without anyone sitting near us. Kind of ideal. The manager came over and talked to us as we ate. Turned out he was a Purdue grad and had managed restaurants in Indy. So the typical “How’s your meal, how ya doin?” conversation turned into a 10 minute exchange.

The other slight negative of the week was we could never get all our girls together in one place for a family picture. They probably took a collective 1000 pictures on their own but we couldn’t get them dressed and presentable and all in one place to get even one family shot. That’s a bummer, but I guess they have the pics to prove they were there.

Travel was pretty easy. We had a late afternoon flight down, so the Indy airport was no busier than normal. And we must have had just the right flight coming back because it took us five minutes to check bags and then about as long to get through security in Tampa. A couple friends who came back later Saturday evening came in during some heavy storms and said there was horrible turbulence on the way in, and then they had to sit on the taxiway for over an hour until the lightning had passed. Sounds delightful. Some other friends who were driving back got stuck in Georgia when the interstate was totally shut because of a large accident. They were parked in one spot and throwing a football around for two hours as they waited for the road to re-open.

Our flights were full, people seemed to be wearing masks. And, honestly, people mostly seemed to be following the mask rules on AMI. We did hear from others who braved the crowds more often than us that plenty of people were not being as cautious.

So, a very good spring break. If memory serves, this was the sixth time we’ve gone someplace warm for the week (Captiva twice; Orange Beach, AL; Mexico twice). Every trip has its minor annoyances, but once again we were lucky that it was a pleasant, relaxing, refreshing week.