From the time our oldest was about four-weeks old, we have been traveling with kids. As our family has continued to grow, we have continued to travel! We take day trips. We visit out-of-town family members. We spend extended weekends in the mountains – and we even venture to the beach! In this post, I want to share our best tips for traveling to the beach with kids.
Taking kids to the beach is no easy task! In fact, it’s probably going to leave you needing another vacation – just for you – but I promise that all of the work will be worth it!
In order for things to run smoothly, it’s important to begin with a little prep and planning – my two favorite things – so let’s get started!
Packing and Preparing to Leave:
Whether we’re heading to the beach or the mountains, we typically use VRBO or Airbnb to find a great place to stay. In this stage of life, we are looking for condo-style accommodations that have kitchen amenities, an on-site pool*, and an in-unit washer and dryer. We always choose a non-smoking facility and prefer to stay in places that are listed as pet-free. #allergies *In addition to an outdoor pool, we love when an indoor pool is also available. It can be especially helpful on unexpected rainy days.
Before leaving town, we search the following things: “things to do”, “top ten attractions”, Yelp’s restaurant recommendations, etc. Especially when we’re traveling to a location where we’ve never been, we like to go ahead and get an idea of what we’re going to be doing, where we’re going to be eating, what days are going to be best for certain activities, etc. We definitely like to stay flexible and somewhat relaxed and spontaneous, but with a tentative idea in our head of what our time away is going to look like. Doing so saves us lots of time and frustration when we get there.
Just before we get in the car, I allow each kiddo to pick one small toy and a few books to take with them in the car. My only rule: the toy cannot be battery-operated to where it sings, beeps, flashes, talks, you get the idea! I do this for many reasons, but the main one being that this is a great time for listening to Adventure in Odyssey or Boxcar Children stories, Scripture music, etc. I also pack other toys and books for them to enjoy when we get there! No matter where we are heading, I like to pack books, activities, etc. that fit the occasion. For example, if we’re taking a beach trip, our ocean-themed memory game/dominoes, our picture books about under-water animals, our seashore water color book come along with us. These kinds of things come in handy in the car, during down time at the condo, etc. Has there ever been a time when I’ve left such things behind at home? Sure! There are plenty of things to keep kids busy at the beach, but with little ones, having a few go-to items on hand has been helpful in a multitude of different situations! You can find more ideas for that here.
Quick Tip: Some people will wait until they arrive to buy inexpensive sand toys, etc. at a local dollar store and then just leave them behind at their hotel/condo. Depending on your travel situation, this could be a huge help to you, but we usually just bring ours along in a plastic tote.
Speaking of packing, I suggest under-packing clothes and over-packing diapers, wipes, etc. Because we usually stay in a condo that includes a washer and dryer, I know I can do laundry, so I try to pack light – except for when it comes to diapers and wipes. I have these supplies stashed all over the place….in the diaper bags (which stay in our car all the time)…in the suitcases…in the pool bag (which also stays in our car throughout the entire summer season)…in various totes/bins – When traveling, these supplies are always in reach, and this has been a life-saver many, many times! I’ll spare you the details. 😉
You know what else I pack? Books – for me. I love to read – but I also pack other things for me to work on…my calendar, my lists, small projects I need to tackle, etc. Having some additional downtime to accomplish these kinds of things is relaxing for me. It is typically how I spend my time while my kids are napping/in bed anyway – so I continue that while they’re sleeping when we’re on vacation. You may prefer to leave everything behind, but I feel great about working on little tasks while I’m away. When I was teaching, I never brought work along with me to do, but I knew I would be able to tackle it later. At this stage of life, I take every chance I can get to mark tasks off my to-do list. (There’s a little glimpse into my personality.)
Laundry on vacation? Reading and tackling my to-do list while my kids are asleep in the condo? You may think I sound insane but hey, I’m just giving you an open and honest peek in to what has worked well for us over the past few years. As our kiddos get even older, our vacation routines will change, and I’m sure that instead of tackling my to-do list, I will spend afternoons in the condo praying that God will protect my children as my hubby takes them hang-gliding…or parasailing…or to the live alligator exhibit.
While En Route:
When hitting the road, we plan ahead for lots of breaks – stopping before everyone is about to wet their pants…stopping before everyone is starving to death saves us lots of drama. We don’t get this right every time, but when we do, it keeps things running smoothly for sure.
If possible, we like to travel during nap time so our littlest kiddos will grab their naps while we’re driving. When this happens, we don’t stop at all! We keep on drivin’ – and it saves us loads of time! Thankfully, my kids have always slept great in the car. I realize that not all kids do this, but this has worked for us.
When We Arrive:
Upon arrival, we attack the condo with Lysol spray and Clorox wipes. I’m sure you can imagine this scene. David and I always assume that the previous tenants were overcome with a terrible stomach virus and this drives our crazed cleaning spree. I’m sure we could sell tickets to this show.
Quick Tip: A couple of other great things to pack: rubberbands/ponytail holders for securing cabinets/doors that may need to be off-limits to little ones and masking tape to cover electrical outlets (unless you want to bring your own outlet covers). I see all of the empty nest mothers rolling their eyes at such things, but these ideas have been a huge help to us when traveling with a group of kiddos.
After we disinfect the entire place (hahahaha! That sounds so crazy!), we get our groceries organized for the week! Whether we’ve packed all of our food or stopped at a grocery store on the way in to town, getting the kitchen organized at the onset helps make for a smooth week for this mama. We live in our kitchen area – even on vacation!
Yes, we typically pack a good bit of food – eating breakfast and lunch in the condo and then going out for most dinners, but eating a couple dinners in during a week-long stay at the beach! I don’t want to spend my whole time prepping food, so sometimes I will even pack a couple of make-ahead freezer meals.
While We’re There:
When traveling with little ones, we try to find a balance. We want to limit the number of activities we plan for each day. We want to include “break days”. We want to pace ourselves a bit. Tired children are cranky children, and the same goes for adults…at least in our house. So no matter how excited we might be about our destination, we want to make sure that our kids stay on their sleep schedules (for the most part) and that they are not stretched way beyond their limits.
I am convinced that as long as the kids stay rested and you have plenty of snacks on hand, your trip will be a success! Snacks for the car….snacks for outdoor activities….snacks for indoor activities….you get the idea!
Before heading out to the beach – or other various activities, apply everyone’s sunscreen. This gives it time to soak in, and it is also much less stressful than doing it when you arrive at our activity. For me, there’s nothing worse than trying to get sunscreen on wiggly children who have already managed to get themselves covered in sand! Tackling this in the condo before we walk down to the beach has been a lifesaver for our sanity.
When we set up our beach canopy/umbrellas, we like to attach a colorful flag banner to our setup. If one of our kiddos were to lose their bearings/wander off/get lost, this marker is intended to help them find their way back to our space. I would love to think that would never happen, but just in case, it’s there and we make sure our little ones know what it looks like.
While we are away, I do a little bit of laundry each day; and before leaving to head back home, I make sure most all of it is done. Before hubby and I head out on the balcony to sit and chat after the kids go to bed, it’s easy to toss a load in the washer and then switch it over to the dryer when we came back in for the night. You may think I am crazy, but it is worth it to me to not have to do all of the laundry when I get home.
While this mama is on vacation, she’s still planning/organizing, cooking, cleaning up, and doing laundry – It just helps our trip flow smoothly. I will tell you: In this stage of life, [family] vacation isn’t exactly relaxing…but making memories as a family? There’s nothing like it! The good, bad, and ugly – It’s all worth every second!