I killed two birds with one stone… Get it?? So yeah, anyway…
My husband is awesome! He planned an amazing Mother’s Day weekend for me in May. I thought it only fitting that I planned something half as good for him for Father’s Day. He works in sales so he doesn’t have weekends off like I do. Luckily, he was scheduled off on the week before Father’s Day so that would be the perfect time for us to celebrate.
Planning started weeks ahead. I knew I had to do something really fun. Thinking of the things he loves, baseball was on the top of my list. HIs favorite team is the Cincinnati Reds (I married a Midwest boy), but they weren’t going be anywhere close to local anytime soon. The next best team was the Tampa Bay Rays. They are relatively local – only 2 hours away – and from what Ryan has told me, they are a pretty good team this year. So I had settled on my idea. We would go to Tampa the weekend before Father’s Day to see the Rays play. I checked the schedule and found out that the Saturday evening game was immediately followed by a concert with Martina McBride. This was perfect. (Martina is one of his all time favorite singers. She’s his ‘older woman’ crush!)
This weekend couldn’t possibly get any better, right?! Baseball and Martina??
If we were going to go to Tampa, I figured we might as well make a night of it and get a hotel room. I figured we could spend a little time in the pool with the kids and then go to the game. So I started searching different websites for hotel deals. While searching on Groupon, I came across an amazing deal! 1/2 price tickets to Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry concert! And….it happened to be the very weekend that I was planning our little getaway! Not only was it the same weekend, but it was Friday night, which meant we could do the concert Friday night, and then the Rays game and Martina on Saturday night.
I could not believe my luck! So I bought the Groupon tickets, used my last 3.5 hours of vacation time (that he didn’t know I had, and surely didn’t know I was secretly using) at work so we could get an early start, and set to work on finding a hotel. (Let me tell you, hotel planning is no fun!) Because the concert Friday was in Tampa and the game Saturday was in St. Petersburg, I thought that we should get a hotel somewhere between the two cities. Logical right? Apparently not! But I found a hotel in Clearwater, pretty close according to Google Maps to both locations.
Now that I had the weekend all planned out, I had to figure out how to pull it all off without my husband finding out. This was no easy task. My husband is a planner. He doesn’t like not knowing what is going on. To say it in as loving a manner as I can…he’s a control freak! (Sorry honey, you admitted it!) Knowing that I had some big surprise planned was killing him. It was pretty awesome!
Now for the hardest parts: packing his stuff without him noticing and ensuring he did not get called in to work. These things may sound easy, but believe me, they are nearly impossible! Any time we have plans when my husband has time off, something happens at work and he has to go in. Usually he will go in during Friday while I’m working, but this weekend that just wouldn’t work. I secretly contacted his boss and explained what I had planned. That tickets and reservations had been purchased and made and under no circumstances was he allowed to come in to work that weekend. His boss promised me that he would make sure nothing got in the way. That’s one tough task down, only one more to go.
I had to pack for the trip. We would be gone for 3 days total, and I had to get everything for him, the kids and myself without him seeing any of it. Usually this would not have been too difficult. He normally works the late shift on Thursday nights, so I could pack then. He wouldn’t miss his favorite cargo shorts or shoes in the 3 hours I was at work. But this particular week was the kids last week at school before the summer. Our son’s Pre-K graduation was Thursday night and my husband took the early shift that day to be there. Which meant that there was no time to pack! CRAP! I decided that I would use my lunch breaks Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to pack. I made a VERY detailed list of the things we were going to need, and on those days during lunch, I packed as much as I could so that he wouldn’t notice and hid the bags in our daughter’s closet. No way he would check there!
Friday finally came and I got up and got ready for work, insisting that I would be home a little after 4pm, but that I would try to get off early. I really played up how I did not have any vacation time left and I would try to convince my boss to let me skip lunch and leave by 3pm. When my husband left the house to get a quick haircut, I grabbed all the bags and loaded them into the car. The kids and I left for my office to meet him so he could head back home and I could get to work. By 11:30 I was chomping at the bit. I had tried to convince my boss to let me leave all morning (with no success) and I couldn’t wait to get out of the office and home to pick up the family.
At 11:30 I left work and ran a couple last minute errands to prepare. My husband thought I was coming home to have a quick lunch with him and the kids since I “couldn’t leave work early”. When I walked in the door he was speaking to the maintenance man and was completely shocked that I was home 15 minutes early for lunch. I ran around the house grabbing last minute items, waiting for the maintenance man to leave. Once he was gone, I told him to throw on some shoes because it was time to go. He was visibly flustered, much to my excitement. After a few minutes of confusion and a quick lunch of mac & cheese (our son picked out the meal), we were out the door and getting into the car.
I let my husband drive and gave him strict instructions to follow my directions and don’t make any turns unless I told him to. As we drove past a few cities that he thought we might be going to, he checked them off, knowing that idea was out. We passed the Orlando attractions and Disney and kept heading west. By this time I figured he must have known we were headed to Tampa, but he still seemed lost.
When we headed into Tampa, he seemed to know where we were going, but as we drove through and didn’t stop he told me how lost he really was. That every idea he had thought of, was completely wrong. Score!!! We finally arrived at the hotel and I checked us in. I had originally decided that I was not going to tell him anything we were doing until it was time for the activity, but knowing how bad he would be stressed out, I decided to tell him everything once we got to the hotel. I told him we had to get ready for the Friday night events and that when he got out of the shower, I would let him know what the weekend held for us.
When he got out of the shower, I had laid out his Ray’s jersey and his cowboy boots. He noticed the jersey first and asked if we were headed to a game that night. I told him the game was tomorrow and it took him a while to notice the boots. But then he noticed and was thoroughly confused. (Now here is where the funny lives. He had spent all week leading up to this trip telling me how much he DIDN’T like The Band Perry. And when we passed the Amphitheater on our drive he told me what a horrible place for a concert that would be! My anxiety had been on overdrive for 2 weeks!) Since he had finally noticed the boots, I asked him if he was ready to know why I had been having anxiety attacks all week. I told him about the concert and where it was and his face lit up and he started laughing. He was very happy about the concert, and felt bad that he had given me such a hard time without knowing it.
We got our best country clothes on and headed back out towards the concert. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for dinner, because when traveling you ALWAYS eat at the Barrel. It was here that I declared to all our friends via Facebook that we were ‘going out with our boots on’.
We asked some locals how to take the back roads to the concert so we could avoid the insane Tampa rush hour traffic and made it there early. The weather was perfect, despite my husband’s earlier insistence that this was a horrible place to see a concert in the summer.
The Band Perry put on a fantastic show and my husband took back his earlier dislike for them. And Rascal Flatts was great as well. The kids really enjoyed the first half of the concert, but started burning out during Rascal Flatts. So after a beautiful sunset, great music and a little dancing, we called it a night and headed for the hotel.
The next day we woke up and went to the mall for a little shopping. We decided to do a little sightseeing before the baseball game so we hurried back to the hotel and got ready to go. We drove past the stadium and found the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. It was amazingly beautiful for a bridge. The bright yellow cables that span the bridge look like rays from the sun. After the bridge we drove back towards the stadium and stopped along the bay to explore and take some pictures.
Finally it was game time! We had great seats inside the stadium. The Rays won 8-0!! After the game was a concert by Martina McBride but we decided we were ready to call it a night and head to the hotel for one last night. We made our way through the rain to the car and then the fun started. After crossing an 8 mile or so ling bridge, my husband accidentally got off on the wrong exit. So we got back on the highway…the wrong direction…and crossed the bridge again. And then he did it a second time. All in all, we drove over the bridge 4 times in 90 minutes just trying to get back to the hotel!
The next morning we decided to get up early and make a pit stop at Universal Studios to try and ride the new Transformers ride before its official opening. Unfortunately the line had a wait time of over 2 hours and after 45 minutes when the line stopped with no plans on reopening…we called it quits. We hit few other rides in the park and then made our way home.
It was an amazing weekend and the perfect Father’s Day surprise vacation!!