My buddies and I try to get away for a fishing trip once a year. Our wives are all pretty understanding (I think some of them secretly look forward to it) and we try to make it as much fun of an adventure as we can. Part of that comes from trying some place new every year. Typically, it’s a cabin on a lake or nearby a river, but this year we decided to really mix it up by heading down to Key West to do some fishing there.
Before we left, I did a little research to see what kind of fishing we could do. Five minutes later I discovered it might be shorter to list what we couldn’t do. There were private all day charters that went out to deep water, party boats they stayed closer to shore, and even flats fishing, regarded by some as the pinnacle in sport fishing. Naturally, we tried them all.
Over the week, we saw more fish then we could imagine, and the stories of the ones that got away were amazing. Some of the fish was catch and release, but we made sure to get plenty of photographic proof, so our wives knew we actually fished and didn’t spend the whole time walking up and down Duval Street. And the fish we could keep, it turns out, we could take to several Key West restaurants where they’d make us dinner with it. It’s a great feeling to be on an outdoor dining patio, palm trees overhead, laughing and joking with some of your best friends eating fish you caught earlier that day.
I was fortunate enough to attend a supplementary high school program my last two years. It was great because it helped me focus on my studies and the small size made everybody very close. At my traditional high school graduation, I marched with almost 200 students. At my other school, there were 26 of us. With a class that small, not only are we able to keep in better touch, we can also have more fun reunions. This year it was Key West, Florida.
We schedule one every five years and we have a small list of requirements. The location has to be relatively easy to get to. With an airport of its own and a highway back to the mainland, everyone had a simple time making arrangements. There has to be plenty of places to stay and eat. Key West just opened two new resorts and remodeled another four hotels, giving them the highest number of rooms they’ve ever had, and there are over 300 Key West restaurants to choose from. Finally, it had to be a place few if any of us had visited and be a destination vacation we wouldn’t normally think of on our own.
In hindsight, what made Key West the best choice was not anything on that list, but the wide range of activities to choose from. Between all the ocean activities, the history, the arts and entertainment and the beaches, we didn’t feel the pressure to do everything together. We could all do our own thing and still get together every night for a meal to catch up. We vowed we’d never repeat a locale, but five years from now, we may have to rethink that rule.
The joke at our house is that our front door should be a revolving one. Both my husband and I have busy careers, plus we volunteer in our community. Our children are active as well, playing sports and joining clubs, and it is not uncommon that even in the summertime, we will go from early in the morning until late at night when all four of us will see each other at the same time.
Planning a family vacation around such chaos can be hectic, but that is why I try and stay on top of it with email alerts for travel deals. Additionally, I sneak in some research when I can on where good, unique destinations are. I figure if we only get a few days to travel as a family, I want to make sure it is something that can’t be replicated just anywhere. That was how we ended up on our first trip to Key West.
The stars aligned and there was a four day period my kids didn’t have anything planned and my husband I could take off a couple of days. It was a very early morning drive to the airport, but that meant we were choosing from several Key West restaurants for lunch that day. When we weren’t enjoying the fresh seafood, we were out on the water watching it swim around, and we got to spend a few stress-free days as a family.
I’m not sure when we’ll be lucky enough to have time to travel together again, but I was glad to discover that we could make a quick getaway to Key West, and I know for a fact that we’ll make it happen again.
When my wife and I got married, we were both fresh out of college and just starting our careers, so money and time was tight. We had a simple ceremony followed by a reception in her parent’s back yard, and our honeymoon was a weekend getaway. Although we never regretted having something so small, we talked from time to time about what we would have done differently if we could have.
Flash forward about twenty years and our upcoming anniversary. We wanted to do something special so we decided to renew our vows. This time, we were going to do it the way we wanted, and that meant by making it happen in Key West. That had been our dream honeymoon destination back then, and we had been fortunate enough to vacation there a few times over the years.
Even though we were already married (obviously), we still hired a wedding planner to take care of the logistics. Then we went through our old guest list and re-invited everyone who had been there the first time, plus some new friends we had made over the years. I’m not sure if it was because they wanted to support us or just wanted a tropical island vacation, but most of them said yes.
We had a blast. We got to say “I do” on the beach as the sun set, we took our friends to several of our favorite Key West restaurants, and we even got to spend the night in a honeymoon suite. We may have been one of the older couples having a tropical island wedding that weekend, but we felt like newlyweds all over again.
I’ve got a group of friends from college that have tried to stay pretty close even though we’ve all moved to various parts of the country. Social media and video chats help, but there’s nothing like spending time together, so every couple of years we try to plan a vacation together. More often than not, we end up making that vacation in Key West, Florida.
Surprisingly, it is pretty easy place to get to. Several different airlines fly there, and there is always the option of driving down from the mainland as well. There is also plenty to choose from when it comes to where to stay. The first couple of times, most of us ended up in hotels or resorts, but lately we’ve been renting out houses or condos. That way, we save a little money and have the comforts of home, including a kitchen. Of course, nobody really likes to cook (and clean) while on vacation, so thankfully there are plenty of Key West restaurants to choose from. No matter what our mood is at the time, or even if we are in different moods, there is always the perfect spot. That goes for our last night, when we have a big blowout final meal.
There is nothing like sitting around on an outdoor dining deck, watching the stars while enjoying fresh seafood, with some of your best friends in the world. At some point during the week, inevitably a few people will say, “Hey maybe next time we should go to…” but by the end of the trip, everyone agrees that the next time, we’ll be coming back to Key West.