Panama City Beach: Visiting with Littles
So very beyond grateful for our little getaway this week that served as a belated 30th birthday trip for me and a much needed opportunity for my family to relax and unplug. I am by no means a Florida expert, but I have traveled there quite a few times. So, for those of you interested, I've taken some time to share the details of our trip along with some tips on where to stay, eat and travel with a little one.
Where We Stay
We love staying in the Panama City Beach area for three reasons: (1) It's much more affordable than many of the nearby towns such as Rosemary Beach and Seaside; (2) Yet, you can still quickly drive to any of the neighboring towns for a visit to shop and eat. (3) The resort we stay at is so family friendly with multiple pools to keep kids busy. My in-laws own a unit at Splash Resort and this is where we stay. It's honestly so perfect for a family getaway with multiple pools, a splash pad, snack and drink bar, lazy river, amazing views of the ocean from the condo, 3 balconies, a Dory themed kids room, free chair rental, and so on (send me a DM if you want their booking link).
Where We Eat
Honestly, eating out in this area is a tiny bit complicated for me due to my current dairy/soy/gluten free diet, but we figured it out! The first thing upon arrival is make a grocery haul to the nearest Whole Foods which is 45 minute away from the condo (yikes, I know!). But we get enough during our one haul that we only have to go once. This Whole Foods is honestly one of the best I've ever been to. They have Cedar's Hummus and Daiya Frozen Pizza (safe for me!) flavors that we don't have in Nashville. They also have a sizeable wine a beer selection.
Within walking distance of the condo, there's a great little hole in the wall type joint called Mike's Cafe and Oyster Bar. They offer the traditional southern seafood selections: shrimp, catch of the day, cheap happy hour and fried food. However, it's really great food and they've always been very knowledgeable and accommodating in regards to my dietary restrictions. I can order raw oysters and the steamed shrimp meal that comes with corn and potatoes and it's super yummy!
We branched out during our most recent trip because my parents were with us and watched Jonas one night so we could have a date night! Thanks to recommendations from friends we ended up at George's at Alys Beach for dinner which was only a 15 minute drive from our condo. There were several "safe" menu items I could enjoy and the Jerk Crusted Gulf Snapper I ordered was so delicious. Josh was so overwhelmed by how amazing their menu looked that he took forever to make up his mind and order. After dinner, we walked next door to Neat (a bottle shop and bar I've followed on Instagram for a while) and it was so perfect. It had the best sophisticated beachy vibes and a killer cocktail menu.
A word on coffee because it's important. There are no awesome coffee shops near enough to the condo to make a quick stop every morning. So, bring your own coffee to brew! There's a Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks within a 5 mile radius. But for really good coffee you have to drive a bit further. Our favorite is Amavida in Rosemary Beach but that's 7 miles away.
What We Do
To be honest, I'm the type of person that enjoys doing nothing but laying on the beach, reading, swimming and chilling while we're on vacation. But now that we have an increasingly more active baby, those days are over for a while. We still spent the better part of two days at the condo's pools (Jonas loved the lazy river and splash pad), playing in the sand and taking beach naps.
However, if the weather is bad during your visit or members of your group are tired of the beach or sunburnt, there are other options. I'm not yet well versed in all the activities (i.e. mini-golf, go karts, etc.) since Jonas is only 9 months old. I'm sure I'll update this post each time we visit with more tips. Currently, our favorite non-beach activity to do is visit Seaside. It's about a 30 minute drive from the condo. We love to grab coffee and breakfast there, then spend the morning walking around the picturesque squares, taking pictures and shopping. My favorite place to stop (and my saving grace) is a food truck called Raw & Juicy Life that offers all kinds of vegan goodness. Their smoothies are amazing and Jonas and I shared a cacao and fruit chia pudding this trip. So, so good. There are so many cute clothing, toy and gift stores to browse. My favorite shops this visit were Duckies where Jonas got to pick out a toy and Focus Lifestyle Boutique where I got two pieces I can't wait to wear.
Gear We Pack for a 9 Month Old
When visiting Panama City Beach we drive from Nashville. It's a 7+ hour drive which is hard with a little one, but when you're in PCB, you really need a car to get around especially if you have a little in a car seat. Alternatively, you can hop on a 55 minute flight from Nashville to PCB and rent a car or Uber if that's a viable option for you!
In addition to our normal toiletries, swimsuits and clothes, here's what I would suggest to pack with a semi-mobile baby in tow:
- All the little toys and snacks for the long drive. If he wasn't napping, Jonas was only interested in a toy, snack for about 10-15 minutes before wanting something different. So bring lots of options.
- Pack 'n Play. The condo has a tile floor and tons of ways for a crawling/kinda standing guy to hurt himself. So, having something for him to safely play in is helpful. Also, there is no crib in the unit for bed and naptime.
- Some type of high chair. We use a Bumbo seat with a tray when traveling so Jonas can join us during meal time.
- Changing pad for all those nasty road trip gas station bathroom diaper changes. Also, to use in the condo since there is no changing table.
- Stroller is helpful if you plan to go shopping or visiting a neighboring town like we do.
- A carrier such as the Ergo 360 is a must for beach walks
- Swimmer diapers. Duh.
- Rash guard and protective sun hat because the sun gets pretty harsh. Jonas got sun even though I covered him in sun screen, put a hat on him and kept him in the shade most of the time.
- Baby float to enjoy the pool
- Sand toys - the little buckets and shovels I brought were Jonas' favorite things!
If you read all of this, I applaud you and I hope it was helpful! I'm obsessed with the beach and love talking about it. So, this was an easy topic for me to write about. I will update this post each time I discover new things in the area but please let me know if you have any specific questions I did not address. Also, feel free to send any travel tips and tricks my way!